The four paths of Yoga, namely Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Rāja Yoga, and Jñāna Yoga like the branches of a tree.
These 4 paths of yoga can be adopted in yoga philosophy, each one is attractive to different temperaments. These 4 paths are described as taking us back to our true self, according to human nature’s instincts, different thoughts, feelings, and goals.
Karma yoga involves the active aspect of the mind; In Raja Yoga, the mystical aspect; In Jnana Yoga, the intellectual aspect, In Bhakti yoga, the emotional aspect.
Shankara (Acharya) mainly focuses on Jnana Yoga. Ramanuja (Acharya) emphasizes only Bhakti Yoga and the importance of Raja Yoga in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. In 1980, when Vivekananda preached about the four yoga paths, information about Karma Yoga was received.
The Four Paths of Yoga Explained
The practice of yoga provides a path that leads to the truth that we already know in our hearts: that we are beyond body, mind, emotions, and intellect.
Yoga philosophy explains four paths:
- Raja Yoga – Royal Yoga
- Jnana Yoga – The Yoga of Knowledge
- Bhakti Yoga – The Yoga of Devotion
- Karma Yoga – The Yoga of Action
1. Karma Yoga – The yoga of action and selfless service
Karma yoga is directly related to the actions of a person.
This path of Yoga is also known in Western culture as the ‘discipline of work’. It is one of the four important parts of yoga. It teaches to do any work without being attached to selfless activities and duties and without worrying about the results. Mother Teresa is an example of a famous Karmayogi.
This is the main lesson that is taught to the Karma Yogi. It is for those who seek the spiritual path and want to meet with God. It can also be practiced in your regular life by conducting your duty in an honest manner without worrying about the consequences. Also, It is the path of spiritual growth. Basically, the action that we do is action and the result is its reaction.
A person’s life is governed by his karmic cycle. If that person has good thoughts, good deeds, and good thinking then he will live a happy life whereas if that person has bad thoughts, bad deeds, and bad thinking then he will lead a sad and difficult life in today’s world it is very difficult to live such a selfless life. Because human beings start worrying about the fruit before doing the work. This is the reason why we are facing problems like high stress, mental illness, and depression. Karma Yoga gets rid of all materialistic paths and leads a happy and successful life.
In short, the people who follow Karma Yoga lead a selfless life while doing good deeds, stay away from selfish tendencies, and are always ready to serve others. Mother Teresa is an example of a famous Karmayogi.
2. Bhakti Yoga – The yoga of devotion
This is the path of devotion and love of God and in this, the same sentiment remains for the entire creation. The creation includes animals, birds, humans, and the whole of nature.
It is also known as ‘spiritual or devotional yoga’. It is associated with divine love as it is the greatest path of spiritual enlightenment through love and devotion.
A person in this yoga path sees God as the supreme manifestation and embodiment of love. Its main features are chanting the name of the Lord, singing his praises or hymns, and engaging in worship and rituals.
This is the easiest and most popular. Bhakti yoga is associated with the purification of the mind and heart and can be achieved by many mental and physical yoga practices. It gives courage even in adverse situations. It basically gives a feeling of kindness and focuses on purifying the divine with divine love.
Examples of Bhakti Yoga are singing, dances, chanting, puja, and listening to Divine verses as well as devotional rituals.
In short, It is said in Bhakti yoga to focus on the Supreme Father, the Supreme Soul, in this age one has to concentrate all his energy, thoughts, and images in devotion. Along with this Bhakti Yoga gives us tolerance and acceptance.
3. Rāja Yoga – The yoga of meditation
It is the “Royal Path of Yoga” or the “Ashtanga Yoga Path” and includes, among other things, the yoga methods that we are well-acquainted with in the form of asanas, pranayama, meditation, and kriyas.
According to Patanjali Yoga Sutras, yoga is done to keep the mind under control. There are two practices under Raja Yoga:
Bahiranga Yoga – This yoga provides rules and regulations to keep the level of behavior (Yama and Niyama) and body and mind (Asana and Pranayama) under control.
Antaranga yoga includes Dharana (concentration), dhyana (meditation), and samadhi (consciousness—directly related to the mind).
Raj means emperor, in this a person acts with confidence, being independent like an emperor.
Rajayoga is the path of self-discipline and practice. Sage Patanjali has told 8 major parts of Raja Yoga, if the first phase of these 8 limbs is successfully done and if a man has the will, then it is also possible to reach the eighth stage.
These eight limbs are respectively – Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana, and Samadhi.
Asana yoga is of utmost importance in Raja Yoga and it is also simpler than other organs. Where has Patanjali said that in order to know God, to know the truth of oneself and this birth, one has to start with the body.
If the body changes, then the pictures are changed, if the picture changes, then the intellect will change, and when the picture is completely healthy then only the soul of a person is able to do yoga with God.
All these organs also have appendages. At present, individuals follow only three parts – asana, pranayama, and meditation.
Even among these, the number of people who meditate is very less, many people try to become proficient in the first five limbs only. They do not include the eight limbs of yoga in the process, due to which the full benefits of yoga are not available.
In reality, the yogi, by following the eight limbs, connects himself with God.
At present, most yoga practitioners practice Raja Yoga and among these asanas, pranayama, and meditation are the most popular.
4. Jnāna Yoga – The yoga of will and intellect
This is the path of philosophy. The central point of this path is to attain the ability to discern the difference between reality and unreality (Maya). The ultimate aim is to attain enlightenment through study, practice, and experience.
There are three stages of Jnana Yoga:
Sravana – the first display of knowledge
Manana – the power to contemplate
Nididhyasana – It is the last step to understand the epics well. Steps to be engrossed in meditation to attain the Truth.
The ultimate goal of Jnana Yoga is to be free from all worldly desires to be saturated / to understand the soul’s ability to separate reality from the body.
The most difficult and most direct branch of yoga is Jnana Yoga, in this yoga, the intellect is developed by working on the intellect.
In Gyan Yoga, after studying the texts in a serious and detailed way, understanding life in a proper way and leading the intellect on the path of knowledge.
It teaches a person to distinguish between the permanent conscious and the temporary materialistic world.
It is advisable to practice Jnana Yoga under the guidance of a competent Guru to achieve the goal and do it in the best possible way.
According to Vivekananda, under Jnanayoga, one has to first deflect negative attention from all those things which are not real, then meditate on that which is our real nature – i.e. Sat Chit and Ananda.
These four yoga paths are closely related to each other. However, each is attractive to different temperaments.
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