How many ways?
(Tap or hover over green words for translation.)
One may argue that in the Gītā there is a separate chapter entitled ‘Bhakti Yoga.’ How then can there be only a two–fold yoga? Each chapter of the Gītā is given a title based on the predominant topic therein. And each one is called a yoga with an adjective to distinguish a given chapter from the others. Again, by a wrong translation, we have eighteen yogas starting with the ‘Yoga of Arjuna's sorrow.’ This is due to lack of knowledge of the Sanskrit word yoga which has different meanings. The word yoga is used here in the sense of a topic. Anyone who looks into the Sanskrit thesaurus (amara koṣa) will find the word saṅgati (‘connection’ or ‘in connection with’, meaning ‘topic’) as a synonym for yoga. The predominant topic of the first chapter is Arjuna's sorrow; of the second chapter, knowledge; of the third, karma; of the fourth, renunciation of action by knowledge; the fifth, renunciation; the sixth, meditation; and so on. The topic of the twelfth chapter is bhakti. It is not bhakti yoga. Even if there is a mention of the compound bhakti yoga, it means only karma yoga or jñāna yoga according to the context.
Therefore, Lord Kṛṣṇa's statement that there are only two niṣṭha-s is nowhere contradicted in the Gītā. That is why Śaṅkara, introducing the Gītā, mentions two life–styles (marga-s), pravṛtti and nivṛtti. Whether one takes to a life of saṅnyāsa or leads a life of karma yoga, one has to have the required inner maturity in order to gain clarity in this knowledge. Because saṅnyāsa without inner maturity is not advised in the Gītā, a life of karma yoga becomes a necessity for gaining that maturity. The problem being ignorance and error, the solution is knowledge alone; in this there is no choice. If at all there is a choice, it is only in terms of the appropriate life–style. The contention that there are many paths to gain mokṣa is false. An integral approach involving all four ways is also meaningless because there are not four in the first place to be integrated.
When the śāstra says that knowledge alone is mokṣa, it does not amount to fanaticism. If I say that the eyes alone see colours, I am not a fanatic. There is fanaticism only when I propagate a belief, which is subject to negation, as the only truth; or hold on to one means as true while there are many equally valid options.
When the self is mistaken for a limited being (saṅsārī), nothing other than knowledge can save the person. There can be different forms of prayer because prayer is an action (karma), and action is always open to choice. There can also be a choice between a life of saṅnyāsa and that of karma yoga. But there is only one way of correcting the saṃsāritva (the life of becoming) of ātmā and that is by self–knowledge, for which we require a means of knowledge. That is why the Bṛhadāraṇyakopaniṣad states that ātmā has to be known, for which one has to do śāstra vicāra.
'Teaching Tradition of Advaita Vedanta' p9, Swami Dayananda
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