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Four Types of Yoga

by T.N. Dhar 'Kundan'

Shrimad Bhagavad Gita has eighteen chapters. Each chapter is named after one or the other yoga. Yet there are four distinct types of yoga explained and discussed in this Divine Song. These are Jnana Yoga or the yoga of knowledge and cognition, Karma Yoga or the yoga of action and deeds, Bhakti Yoga or the yoga of devotion and dedication and Raja yoga or the yoga of meditation and contemplation. 

Actually these four sum up all the aspects of human life. We seek to know everything around us as also the secret of all those things that appear to us as mysterious. We act all the time in conscious mind and sub-conscious mind, both. We are devoted to what we do, what we seek to achieve and to the values that we hold dear. We contemplate on the problems faced by us and meditate to find satisfactory solutions to these problems. All this is true of our mundane life and the spiritual life in a great measure but the quantum may vary from person to person and between different periods of the life of the same person. To understand these topics in fuller details a close reading of the Bhagavad Gita is very useful. There may be discussions on these in other scriptures, holy books and other books in various languages of the world but if we want to have access to the explanation and exposition on these subjects at one place, we will have to turn to Gita for light and guidance.

Shri Gita has described and analysed Jnana or knowledge at length and in great detail. It has established its superiority as well. One thing is, however, noteworthy; it says that Jnana or knowledge is incomplete without Vijnana or its application. The former is pure Science and the latter is the applied Science or the Technology. The former is represented by Goddess Saraswati and the latter by Goddess Laxmi. Science when transformed into technology creates wealth and this justifies our worship of Goddess Laxmi as the deity of wealth.

The two are complimentary to each other and either of these is incomplete in itself. That is why Lord Krishna says to Arjuna, 

Jnanam te-aham savijnanam

idam vakhshyami asheshatah, yad jnatva

neha bhuyah jnatavyam avashishyate 

I am going to explain to you the knowledge and its application, both in full, after knowing which nothing else will be left worth knowing.’ 

This stipulation gives us an important advice to follow that it is not sufficient to know alone. It is also important that we apply this knowledge in our mundane and spiritual life. Whatever we know must translate into action.

Whatever we learn must be implemented and brought into practice. All our knowledge should be put to good use in our life for our own benefit and for the benefit of the mankind.

Again the Karma or action has been qualified in two ways. It should be either ‘Mat-karma’ or the actions carried out on behalf of the Divine and ‘Nishkama-karma’ or the deeds performed without an eye on the fruit. ‘Kamya-karma’ or desire oriented actions have been forbidden completely. Once we carry out actions on behalf of the Divine, the sense of doer-ship vanishes from our mind. We become humble and realize that we are only the means to carry out our ordained duties. Our deeds are not motivated by any greed or craving for any fruit. We do our duty with a sense of duty. This absolves us from the good and bad effects of the actions undertaken. We have a commitment to the deeds and not to the fruits of the deeds. We ensure harmony and poise in the face of the pairs of opposites like loss and gain, pain and pleasure, defeat and victory. We derive pleasure out of the actions and never wait for them to fructify. We strive for excellence in our actions for we are told that yoga is excellence in actions.

Coming to Bhakti or devotion, the Bhagavad Gita says that it should be ‘Ananya-bhakti’ or undivided devotion. Our frame of mind should be such that we see the Divine in everything. He should be in our mind all the time. We have to have devotion to what we seek to know, what we intend to do and what we desire to achieve. We have to concentrate on Him with unflinching faith, trust and belief. We have to surrender unto Him so that He worries about us, He takes care of us and He guides us all the time. We keep on thinking about Him. We execute His command and we entrust the boat of our lives to Him. With this attitude He becomes the boatman who ferries us across. The condition, however, is that it should be undivided, unflinching and unwavering devotion. The beauty about this devotion is that there are no doubts, no questions and no apprehensions. It gives us a commitment, a resolve and resilience, with the result that divinity manifests in our thought, word and deed. We do not hurt any one and no one hurts us either.

The fourth yoga is called Raja-yoga or the princ ipal yoga of meditation and contemplation. This one has been qualified in Shri Gita as yoga, which has to be continuous and without any break. Yoga means a yoke and a yogi gets yukhta or yoked with the Divine by meditation. One has to be yoked all the time, continuously without any let up so that the yogi can be identified as ‘Nityabhiyukhta’. Now every one of us needs two things, one what we do not possess and two protection to that which we do possess. For a Nityabhiyukhta yogi God has promised to take care of both these things. He has said in Shrimad Bhagavad Gita very clearly that He will provide them all that they lack and give protection to their possessions provided they are uninterrupted yogis. In the ordinary sense of these terms we can take it that by our continuous meditation and contemplation we shall achieve all that we need and ensure protection to our possessions from the Divine. In spiritual terms, however, these two words have a significant connotation. God has promised to take care of our yoga and kshema if we are constantly and continuously attached to Him. Yoga here would mean emancipation and Kshema is that which ensures our well-being. In spiritual parlance this would mean Paramananda or supreme bliss.

Thus we have seen that these four types of yoga have been qualified by the holy Gita. It says that Jnana or knowledge must be accompanied by Vijnana or application. It states that Karma or actions should be Nishkama Karma or actions not done for their fruits. It enjoins upon us that our Bhakti or devotion should be Ananya Bhakti or undivided devotion. Then it clarifies that Yoga or meditation should be Nitya or continuous and uninterrupted. These four types of yoga will lead us to emancipation only if these stipulations are kept in mind and implemented in letter and spirit. These formulations are applicable in our worldly life and equally so in our spiritual life.

Source: Har-Van

T. N. Dhar Kundan's Articles

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