Hinduism has four basic paths that lead to
union with God. These
paths are for persons of different temperaments and
natures. Some may prefer contemplation, some may be rational, some may
be emotional and some may believe in action. Each path is called Yoga
(Yoking of mind to God. These yogas are—(i) Raj-yoga, (ii) Jnana-yoga,
(iii) Bhakti-yoga, (iv) Karma-yoga
contains physical and mental exercises for
psychological discipline. This path prescribes eight successive courses—
Yama or ahinsa,
satya, asteya, brahmacharya, and aparigraha meaning non-violence,
truthfulness, non-stealing, continence (self-control) and
non-accumulation of non-essential things.
Niyama or shauch,
santosh, tapas, swadhyaya and ishwar pranidhana meaning cleanliness,
contentment, austerity, self-study and self- surrender to God.
Asana or body
Pranayama or a
drawing in of the sense-organs.
Dharana or fixing
the mind on a single object.
Samadhi or total
union with God.
or the path of knowledge stands for concentration on self-knowledge. The
Upnishads dwell mainly on this theme. They enjoin, “Know thyself. The
real Self of man is verily the same as the Great one.” Anyone who cuts
across the domain of ignorance (Avidya) with the sword of discrimination
(Viveka), reaches the goal of liberation by the shortest route. This
path presents only three steps namely-
Shravan or hearing the truth about
the real self
Manan or cogitating ( hard-thinking )
Nididhyasana or meditating.
knowledge-seeker is blessed with the Supreme realization and finds himself
one with the Eternal Spirit.
Bhakti-yoga or the Path of
Love rests on the simple truth that one can
God by loving him. All that we have to do is to love God intensely, just
as we love any other thing on earth. We should not ask for anything in
return from God. Constant love for God finishes attachment to other
things. Devotion to God brings a person nearer and nearer to God and one
day the goal of oneness with Supreme Reality is achieved.
Karma-yoga or the Path of Action allows the
man to lead an active life in the world or to perform duties allotted to
him. It is
attitude that counts and not the nature of the work one has to do. Duty
for duty’s sake is the formula. Normally the fruit of work motivates us
to engage in work. Thus the desire for the fruit sows the seeds of
action. But the law of Karma implies that everything a man does
determines his destiny. It is the law of cause and effect. If we are
able to remove the cause, our works would not leave any effect. So
Karma-yoga prescribes vigilant attention to one’s duties without any
desire for their results. This is called Niskama Karma. However to give
up all desires for the results of our action is not a simple affair. The
grosser desires may be subdued, but the finer desires like those for
name, fame, status, honour etc. are generally not forsaken even by the