Skip to main content

Four Paths to Divinity: Karma, Jnana, Bhakti and Raja Yoga

For spiritual seekers, there are four paths that are prescribed in Hinduism. These are Karma Yoga,  Bhakti Yoga, Jnana Yoga and Raja Yoga.



In the picture above, my son and I are sitting by the Ganga. Mother and son are offering prayers with a lot of love. We are also talking about the importance of basking in the divine energy flowing all around us.

Why have paths to God? Isn't prayer good enough?
'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 and based on the circumstances and the place you are currently at. More importantly, simply wanting to reach Mumbai or booking your tickets isn't enough. To reach the destination, you have to act. 



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.

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 our spiritual goals.
2. Identify our vasanas that we aim to control while on the path of spirituality.
3. Be aware of the pitfalls in our 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.

If you have any questions for me, I'd love to hear that too. So, don't forget to ask. 

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

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

There are very few mantras that are as powerful as the Maha Mrityunjaya Mantra. [ALSO READ: How to NEVER EVER GIVE UP on the spiritual path]

Mahamrityunjaya Mantra: Benefit of chanting this mantra
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. 
But at the age of two, my son was taught some mantras by my mother who explained what it means to him and he became very enthusiastic about chanting the mantras. Following this, my mother taught him the Maha Mrityunjaya Mantra and he took to …

The Ugly Truth about Caste in Kerala

This post on Kerala's caste system has not been written with an intention to ridicule or glorify any caste as such. I do not ever judge or like to be judged on the basis of my caste. I do not support any form of caste discrimination because I know exactly how it feels to be treated differently because of one's caste. It isn't a great feeling.  

First Question is always "What is your Caste?" In Kerala, one of the first things you are bound to be asked by even new people you've just met is, "What is your caste?"  This is not a tirade against any caste but my experience, personally. And just for information, I have never used my caste name 'Menon' to this day. That is something I have learned from my father - who has never used 'Menon' in his name because he believes his destiny is shaped by values, vision and actions, not  by his caste.
As some one who is a Menon by birth, I can also tell you frankly that it often feels like a curse to be…

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! [ALSO READ: How to NEVER EVER GIVE UP on the spiritual path]

Earth Angels have amazing super powers in: MusicArtsWriting HealingManifesting miracles for others such as controlling weather conditions &  becoming invisible at will
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 this world. But y…

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…

Top 10 Skincare tips for Summer

Come summer, and we women worry a lot about how the sun lashes out on our skin. True, skincare tips for the summer are plenty but what about the hushed secrets - yes, those tried and tested family secrets that are passed on from mother to daughters? [ALSO READ: How to NEVER EVER GIVE UP on the spiritual path]




Here are some that are totally easy to do. Best of all, these are effective and bring on a feel-good factor in the peak of summer.

1. Replace water with rosewater. It keeps your skin luminous and fragrant throughout the day. It's a good toner too.

2. Cleanse your skin by combining these ingredients - honey, milk, rosewater/rosepetals and turmeric. Add a dash of olive oil and yes, it feels wonderful.

3. Almond oil body baths are a must-have! You will smell delicious all day. This summer, skip all those body lotions & moisturizers! You will love the way almond oil pampers your skin all day!

4. Use a mixture of almond oil and olive oil for your feet. Your feet will sparkle an…

Five ways to take charge of your anger

“It is wise to direct your anger towards problems -- not people; to focus your energies on answers -- not excuses.” ― William Arthur Ward I hear this a lot from youngsters around me: It's fine to rant, vent and lose one's temper. It's fashionable to be scornful and rude to everyone. It's great to vent. What's the big deal about getting angry? After all, if you cannot express what pisses you off, how can you call yourself human? [Also read: How to NEVER EVER GIVE UP on the spiritual path] Here's what I think: Anger is a projection of our own minds. It stems from layered fears and the need to dominate and differentiate yourself from others whose actions or reactions we want to control. It destroys us first before it goes out and delivers blows to others around. That is why spiritual seekers work constantly towards conquering anger and fear. The two are so deeply inter related. You have to conquer both and not just one of the two. 

Yet, from my experience, I can tell…

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…