A complex motorway interchange with many exits

How many ways?

(Tap or hover over green words for translation.)

A popular modern prakriyā is that self-knowledge, which is mokṣa, can be gained in four different ways. Each way is called a ‘yoga’, different from the other three. One is jñāna yoga, the second karma yoga, the third bhakti yoga and the fourth is haṭha yoga. We are told that each yoga is meant for a different type of person. Obviously, jñāna yoga is meant for the intellectual, while karma yoga is for the extravert; bhakti yoga is for the emotional; and haṭha yoga is for the one who is not any of these three. The absurdity of this prakriyā becomes obvious when we inquire into the nature of self-knowledge.

When modern Vedānta talks about mokṣa it is thought that mokṣa can be gained by doing karma (action). What is not seen is that knowledge does not take place without an appropriate means of knowledge, and that knowledge is not the result of action.

The śāstra presents two committed lifestyles (niṣṭhā-s) for mokṣa. One is a life of saṅnyāsa, a commitment to the pursuit of self-knowledge to the exclusion of any other puruṣārtha. This is jñāna yoga. A saṅnyāsī does not have obligatory duties. The very Veda which enjoins obligatory duties releases a saṅnyāsī from those duties and lets him pursue knowledge. The other lifestyle also involves a commitment to the pursuit of knowledge, but along with karma as yoga. A karma yogi is equally a mumukṣu (one who seeks freedom); but he pursues knowledge along with his obligatory duties. Therefore, a karma yogi has obligatory duties, whereas a saṅnyāsī does not.

If there is a third person called a bhakti yogi, does he have obligatory duties or not? If so, he is a karma yogi. Is there a karma yogi without bhakti? Is there even a saṅnyāsī without bhakti? And what does a bhakti yogi do? If he does daily pūja-s, it is kāyikam karma; if he does kirtana, that is vācikam karma; if he does meditation invoking the grace of the Lord, then it is mānasam karma. In fact, he is only a karma yogi. Similarly, haṭha yoga may be pursued as a discipline by a saṅnyāsī as well as by a karma yogi, or even by one who is not a mumukṣu. That is why Lord Kṛṣṇa says in the third chapter of the Bhagavad Gītā,lokesmin dvividhā niṣṭhā — there are only two committed lifestyles for mokṣa.” One is jñāna yoga, a life of saṅnyāsa, and the other is karma yoga. Both the saṅnyāsī and the karma yogi pursue knowledge.

Top of page