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Paths of Liberation

 
 

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

Raj-yoga contains physical and mental exercises for psychological discipline. This path prescribes eight successive courses—

  1. Yama or ahinsa, satya, asteya, brahmacharya, and aparigraha meaning non-violence, truthfulness, non-stealing, continence (self-control) and non-accumulation of non-essential things.

  2. Niyama or shauch, santosh, tapas, swadhyaya and ishwar pranidhana meaning cleanliness, contentment, austerity, self-study and self- surrender to God.

  3. Asana or body postures.

  4. Pranayama or a breathing exercise.

  5. Pratyahara or drawing in of the sense-organs.

  6. Dharana or fixing the mind on a single object.

  7. Dhyana or meditation.

  8. Samadhi or total union with God.

Jnana-yoga 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-

  1. Shravan or hearing the truth about the real self

  2. Manan or cogitating ( hard-thinking )

  3. Nididhyasana or meditating.

Ultimately the 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 realize 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 the 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 great men.

 

 

Article written by Sushil Kumar Srivastava, author of Book "Gauravshali Bharat"  published by 'Sahitya Sewa Sadan', Nirala Nagar, Rae Bareli
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