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

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…

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 …

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…

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…

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
Every day, the newspaper headlines are full of scary stories of people killing each other over trivial things - mostly these incidents happen when individuals lose their temper and turn violent. In traffic jams across Noida in the evenings, people don't hesitate to walk out and hit each other. No one stops anyone. Everyone likes a big, bad fight. It's great to vent. After all, what's the big deal about getting angry? After all, if you cannot express what pisses you off, how can you call yourself human? 

[Source: Pixabay] Here's what I think: Anger is an egoistic projection of our own minds.  It also stems from an expectation that has not been fulfilled.

People who get angry easily do not respond to situations rationally.  It destroys them first before it goes out and delivers blows to others around. That is why spiritual masters ask peopl…

Happy Onam: Revisiting Memories of Onam Celebrations

Everyone’s watch is set to a different time and the earth revolves slowly or fast depending on the state of one’s heart. – Anjum Hassan (Difficult Pleasures)
The scent of Onam brings with it the secrecy of pain and the tumultuous, roller coaster sense of gradually heightening excitement. Looking back, memories flood back into my mind. Like firecrackers that light up the sky in a brilliant display and burn itself out into a shimmering incandescence, these memories stored safely in my mind turn alight. The memories push through the shadowy boundaries of nostalgia and make my heart flip over with a strange, inexplicable sliver of joy and pain.

So many Onams spring to life. Onam with my parents – where my mother would be busy in the kitchen preparing all the items for the sadhya without any one’s help in the kitchen. When she used to fry the banana chips, I would sneak in to steal some from the hot plate because I didn’t have the patience to wait till it cooled. I’d take some to my father w…

Mumbai Police Movie Review: Prithviraj breaks the typical 'hero' mold, challenges sexual stereotyping

Exploring a completely different dimension in his latest film Mumbai Police, Director Rosshan Anddrews delivers a fast-paced, thriller film after his award winning fims such as Udayananu Tharam, Notebook and others.



To flesh out the script written by Boby Sanjay, Rosshan Anddrews ropes in actors such as Prithviraj, Rahman and Jayasurya to portray three police officers: Antony Moses, Farhan and Aryan respectively.
The story begins with a phone call that Antony Moses (starring Prithviraj) makes to Farhan (starring Rahman) saying that he has solved the murder mystery of Aryan (starring Jayasurya). Just as he says this, there is an accident and Antony Moses loses his memory. From then, Farhan's attempt is to take Antony through people and places that are likely to trigger his memory so that they can solve the murder of their close friend and colleague Aryan. A series of events happen, almost hurtling us towards it.
And I am taking the liberty to hand out trophies for the following:
'M…