Skip to main content

What are the Four Main Paths of Yoga in Hinduism? A simple and easy guide for you!

For spiritual seekers, Hinduism prescribes four paths, namely, Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Jnana Yoga and Raja Yoga. If you are curious to know more, do read the works of Sri Paramahansa Yogananda as well as Swami Vivekananda, as they are India's most respected monks who took the wise teachings of the Rishis to the rest of the world. 

'Independence or 'Swatantrya' is the soul of Vedantic teachings'

You may wonder "Why can't I simply pray to God and attain God?" You can reach Mumbai from anyplace but you have to plan your trip according to your unique travel needs, right? You have to also consider your circumstances and the place you are currently at to plan your travel ahead. More importantly, simply wanting to reach Mumbai or booking your tickets isn't enough. 

To reach the destination, you have to act with sincere will power and disciplined effort. 


 



In the picture below, my son and I are sitting by the Ganga. We are filled with love for the beautiful and deep flowing Mother Ganga. We felt happy just being there. We talked about mantras, especially the Maha Mrityunjaya Mantra which my mother had taught to my son when he was four or five years old.





Coming back to setting spiritual goals, your first step would be to travel to the railway station/airport. Depending on where you are located right now, the duration of your trip will be determined. So, by merely sitting and thinking about reaching Mumbai, you will not reach anywhere. It is not different in the world of spirituality. 

Spiritual seekers will be navigating through different phases.Their goals are very different in the sense that no two spiritual seekers will share the same goals because no two people share the same experience at the same point of time.

[READ: Does Maha Mrityunjaya Mantra work?]

Spiritual Goals: How to set them 

Goals can be broad goals and sub-goals that lead to several more. Each spiritual aspirant requires different techniques in the path of sadhana. Why? Each of the prescribed paths can take you to your destination. But lets not forget that every individual has different vasanas (tendencies), experiences, goals, areas of improvement and so on that make it difficult to tread any path effortlessly. 

On the path of spirituality, there are no such easy 'lifts' but you have 4 options to choose from. To identify the path one wants to tread, you need to have:

1. A clear vision of your spiritual goals.
2. Identify your vasanas that you want to improve and be more aware of. 
3. Be aware of the pitfalls in your own responses to given situations and limitations.
4. Learn to see through the traps created by the mind.
5. Master the mind and be a master mind.

While this seems pretty easy, I can assure you that it isn't. The ego plays tricks on our path to progress and at every point, we have to find ways to beat the ego at its game so that we can meet the destination point. A bit like playing 'Snakes and Ladders' where just as you move up, the snake pulls you down! In a spiritual seeker's dictionary, that is the ego. 



[READ: Why Om is Powerful and Important

Are you set to embark on any of these paths? I'd love to hear from you.

If you have any questions for me, I'd love to hear that too. So, don't forget to ask. You can type in your question in the comments section of this blog post and I'll revert.

Comments

Anonymous said…
Very interesting and thanks for your post ma'am... Came to know deeply about spiritual activities...
Vishnu said…
Insightful post Swapna. I've personally found that worship and karma yoga to be the most effective ways to experience God in my life.

I think what I could do more of see God's presence in everyday life, and not just in worship. God is love and love is everywhere so God is everywhere but going through the day, it sometimes gets difficult to recognize that! Especially with unGodly situations and people. haha

Finally, Ido have to say that I've been reading Tolle of late who is helping me consider, reconsider and shift my perspective on God. In the Power of Now, he has a line which says, "You find God by realizing you don't need to seek God". it's a powerful line in the book where he reminds us that we're there by simply being there. I'm not quite sure if this realization is possible in an instant or would require a lifetime of practice to be with God at all times.

Anyway, looking forward to your posts on this subject and the 4 different methods of divinity.
@Vishnu, It's always a pleasure to read through your insightful comments. I agree with what you have said about seeing more of God's presence in daily life and not just in worship. I can connect to that. However, a majority of people I come across and mingle with are averse to any form of worship or even acknowledging God's presence in their life. Yet many of them are totally into meditation that does not require them to concentrate on a form or name of God. Some of them have also found clear solutions to their problems and been able to heal others through the power of meditation though they may not realize they are actually practicing the tenets of Raja Yoga.

The principle underlying "You find God by realizing you don't need to seek God" is the essence of Advaita, as propagated by Sri Shankaracharya. But the paradox is that even he had explored all the 4 forms of Yoga before becoming becoming the Father of Advaita. So, the four paths of Yoga that he mastered, paved the way for a new concept of God-realization - the realization that God is not a separate entity that one has to seek. Really liked the point you have stated here.

Will write more on these topics and look forward to your insightful perspective on this.
Glad to hear from you @Anonymous and thanks for being interested in spiritual posts. These days, I feel that very few people are keen to read posts like these.
Ajith said…
just stumbled on this blog today.. beautiful...is there a part 2 for this blog?
@Ajith: Glad you liked it Ajith - there is no part 2 yet.

Most Popular Posts

Vidyarambham: How and why Malayalis celebrate writing the words ''Harisree Ganapathaye Namaha"

For Malayalis, Vidyarambham is an auspicious day on which the elders and children mark the day by writing the sacred words, "Harisree Ganapathayeh Namaha." The observance of this ritual may differ from region to region, community to community and family to family. Whatever I share here is based on how vidyarambham is celebrated in my home. 

Vidyarambham: How Malayalis observe this sacred day

In families where the children are gearing up to enter pre-school or play school and are not yet ready to join the formal schooling system, Vidyarambham marks an important occasion for an elder to introduce them to the world of "vidya" or "knowledge." The words ''Harisree Ganapathayeh Namaha" are written on the child's tongue by the grandparent, an elder or parent.  

 [Image credit: Travel Manorama Online ]

Vidyarambham: Why it matters 

An interesting aspect of Vidyarambham ceremony lies in the relationship with the person who is marking the words for the …

The Ugly Truth about Caste in Kerala

Many years ago, when I wrote this post on Kerala's caste system, I had not considered that I would receive such online abuse for writing this or that I would be seen as some one who was trying to insult other castes. The intention of writing is always to share an experience or a perspective, not to insult others.  My experience of motherhood and marriage would be different from yours. When I write about my experience, it is illogical to abuse me because our journeys are entirely different narratives. My life and yours are not the same at any given point of time.

My question is - why do you ABUSE any caste or person here? You are free to disagree but why do you ABUSE? How does that reflect on YOU?

In my article, I shared what trials I went through, without any intention to insult any community.A new book 'Ants among Elephants' written by Sujatha Gidla, who writes about herself as being born 'an untouchable in India' teaches you everything you probably want to know abo…

Mahamrityunjaya Mantra: Meaning, Benefit of Chanting and Who can Chant the Mantra

Mahadmrityunjaya Mantra: Benefit of chanting this mantra nee

There are very few mantras that are as powerful as the Maha Mrityunjaya Mantra. Do read my post: Does Mahamrityunajaya mantra really work?Of course, it does but you need to undertstand the meaning and significance of the mantra first.
This mantra is believed to have the power to remove all sufferings, diseases and bestow the one who chants it with good health and long life. It is also believed that constant contemplation of the Maha Mrityunjaya Mantra can help spiritual aspirants to overcome the cycle of birth and death.
What got me fascinated about this mantra is something personal.  I learned this mantra from my father but it is my maternal grandmother who chanted it all the time and repeatedly told me of its tremendous power to protect. However, I did not chant this mantra regularly. [ Do READ: THE POWER OF LOVE]
But at the age of two, my son was taught some mantras by my mother who explained what it means to him and he becam…

Amazing Signs You are an Earth Angel

Doreen Virtue’s book, “Assertiveness for Earth Angels” brings to life the reality of Earth Angels in very easy way. It’s an exciting must-read! 

[DO READ: The POWER OF LOVE]

Earth Angels have amazing superpowers in: MusicArtsWriting HealingManifesting miracles for others such as controlling weather conditions and  becoming invisible at will.
[MUST READ: A Dad's Advice to the Daughter He loves]
DO READ: ASK MORE, FEAR LESS.

How to Identify Earth Angels by their Traits
To know whether you are an Earth Angel, take a look at their known traits that are explained in this book:


You have a graceful and compassionate aura that inspires people.Your presence “lifts” everyone to happier spirits – it is proof of who you really are.You don’t judge others but you overdo the “acceptance” bit. So, you tolerate even those who show no respect for boundaries.You cannot stand anyone suffering or being in pain. You are constantly “rescuing people” because it is in your nature to want to see everyone happy in …

What Bhakti means: Amazing story! This Italian Catholic Girl from Argentina left home to live in Prashanti Nilayam

I have just finished reading Elissa Bressnan's book, 'Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba, My Best Friend: SNEHA - The Eight Step in the Path of Devotion.' Written with a real command over the events that began her spiritual journey and weaving it with her personal family details, Elissa's writing is lively, full of innocence and she is at her best when she is talking about her Italian roots and what faith means to many Italians. Elissa is an Italian girl, growing up in Argentina and her family worships Madonna (not the pop star!) and Saint Catherine and Saint Nicola among others. Throughout her early years, her interest in spirituality is evident and she explains it with small examples.



Some events happen in her life and Elissa finds herself in Prashanti Nilayam, where she begins to have faith in Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba in every little thing that she does, be it a thought, word or action. 

From then, Elissa's life becomes a joyful celebration of embracing 'Sneha&#…

Gayatri Mantra as Panchamukhi: Get it right or let it go

Most people do not understand the importance of chanting the Gayatri mantra because they are not aware of its power. It is only when I began to read Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba's teachings that I learned how sacred and powerful the chanting of the Gayatri mantra is.
The Vedas represent the breath of God. The Gayatri mantra is the very basis of the Vedas. Try not to undertake chanting the Gayatri mantra as a light endeavor or as a hobby. It has to be chanted with faith, discipline and purity of mind and body. Be steady with your sadhana if you want to reap the spiritual dividend associated with the Gayatri mantra  and never once hesitate once you decide to do it.
Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba said that the Gayatri Mantra is referred to as Pancha Mukhi, the Goddess with five faces that represent the five pranas or life forces. Here's more on it.


Chant the Gayatri Mantra correctly: Pause Five Times Here are some important things to keep in mind while chanting the Gayatri mantra:

1. Wh…

Anju Sundarikal Malayalam Movie Review: Dulquar Salman in full throttle, Fahadh Faasil disappoints

Anju Sundarikal, as the title suggests 'Five Beautiful Women,' is a poignant anthology of five short films that celebrate five female protagonists and their tumultous lives. These five films play on different themes and emotions, and on the whole, it is an interesting anthology.

Anju Sundarikal - Sethulakshmi The first film, Sethulakshmi, is a heart-wrenching portrayal of sexual abuse of a small girl whose hobby is to collect newspaper clippings of newly wed couples from newspapers and she embarks on getting a similar photograph taken of herself with her best buddy from school. What appears as an innocent wish is the honeytrap that leads the little girl to understand the meaning of fear. 
Each scene in Sethulakshmi seemed to tear into my heart, particularly in a scene where the photographer's hands and glance linger a tad too obscenely on the innocent, unsuspecting girl whose eyes are filled with fear. There is another scene where she is so frightened that she curls up at the…

Why chant Ramayana during the month of Karkidakam

For Keralites across the world who follow the Malayalam calendar, today marks the beginning of the month of Karkidakam. This month, which, decades ago, was known and slightly feared for its torrential rains and negative impact on the health, wealth and well being of Kerala's rural community. 
Why chant Ramayana during Karkidakam To ward off the negative energy unleashed by Nature and its possible repercussions on one's family's overall well being, the wise elders introduced the timeless tradition of every family reading the Ramayana as an oral, spiritual tradition. Thus, it goes without saying that for Keralites who embrace these traditions, the act of reading the Ramayana is as much a spiritual cleansing as it is a kind of tradition they can pass on to bond with their loved family members, particularly children.
In the Ramayana, there is no 'preaching of principles' but you are taken through the Avatar's journey as a human being. Lord Rama depicts how a man shoul…

Book Review: Mini Sukumaran Nair's B3/703, Gulmohar Park portrays a haunting descent into the vulnerability of childhood

There are books that blaze into your thoughts and here's a book that definitely stayed within me even after weeks of reading it, With its blazing red flower cover, Mini Sukumaran Nair's novel B3/703, Gulmohar Park, caught my attention in a bookshop. As a child, I grew up reading the books of Enid Blyton, RK Narayan and Anita Desai. Mini Sukumaran Nair's refreshing narrative brought back bittersweet memories of those growing up years. Right from the first page, I felt like I could curl up with this heartwarming novel. And just in case you are wondering, this isn't a novel that was sent to me for review nor do I know the author or its publisher. I just loved the book, that's it!


This heartwarming tale of childhood, family drama and tragic upheavals is narrated from the perspective of a little girl called Madhura, whose mother Vani is a maid in the home of an affluent Punjabi family and later on, through the perspective of her mother's employers, Avantika and Siris…

Does Maha Mrityunjaya mantra work?

Many people ask me this question, ''Does Maha Mrityunjaya mantra work?''. Mantras always work but the problem is that we are often not open to believing this.  The query about whether the Maha Mrityunjaya mantra works comes in different forms, sometimes by email, in the comments section or in person. Most people are curious, some are interested but few are committed to sincerely want the answer.



I am just an ordinary seeker on the spiritual path but my experiences have taught me valuable lessons and I am sharing this with you so that it helps your spiritual progress.
From what I have learned from my grandmother, who was a devout Shiva Bhakt throughout her life, the Maha Mrityunjaya mantra is a powerful mantra that has ancient sounds which provides an aura of protection to those who chant it with faith regularly and it triggers powerful energies to remove sufferings and diseases. This is why Hindus believe that the one who chants the Maha Mrityunjaya mantra will be blesse…