How the 4 yogas are the same

I’ve recently been pondering over the fact of the different spiritual paths in the yogic system, namely: Jnana yoga (knowledge/meditation), Bhakti yoga (devotion), Karma yoga (right action) and Kriya yoga (control of breath/life energy/prana). These paths correspond to the 4 aspects of a human being (in same order as above): mind, emotion, body and life energy.

It is said that every individual is naturally more inclined to pursue one of these 4 paths (he may not be aware of this yogic classification and yet following one of these paths in his own way, driven by his temperament). They also say that ultimately all these 4 yogas must unite in a person if he is to attain the Ultimate.

Now my annoyingly analytical mind could not help but poke at this statement to try and figure out how it could be true. So here goes.

Let’s start with Bhakti yoga, the path of devotion. People on this path work with their emotion. Those who walk this path with perfection, only know how to work with their emotion and they surrender completely to the Divine (see also my post of ‘The Yoga of Poets’). Do you think that devotees like this, like Rumi or Mirabai, care about the fruits of their action? How can they, they see God in everything. So they are also Karma yogis. Do they revel in sense enjoyments, looking forward to a Friday night party or even to a good evening meal? No, they see the base-ness of the material world that can’t match up to their experience of the Divine. They are Jnana yogis too. In fact they often even forget to eat and may fast for days immersed in the love of the Divine. With their tapasya and intensity they unknowingly raise their life energies to a whole other pitch. They have accomplished Kriya yoga.

I think this is how it must work anyhow and I think that the example could be replicated for each of the other yogas too. It comes down to, I think, devotion and intensity about something and the ability to perfect our attention on the object of our devotion. For those of us not capable of living one of the 4 yogas to the extreme, a balanced involvement in the 4 is often sought. These are just my thoughts so take them for what they are and feel free to share your views.

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Shruti Bakshi
Shruti Bakshi is the Founder of the LivingWise Project. She has worked for several years in banking and financial services in London, Paris and Mumbai. Shruti writes about life at the intersection of spirituality and modern society. Her debut novel 'From Dior to Dharma' was released in May 2017. International link: From Dior to Dharma
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7 Replies to “How the 4 yogas are the same”

  1. Ulingana

    Not ‘annoyingly’ analytical Shruti! Delightfully analytical in my eyes. There is so much vague stuff talked about this subject! I like the way you have expressed this so simply and concisely… a lesson for me who tends to ramble on a bit. You know from reading my blog that I came to understand more of bhakti yoga by arriving at a point of awe and worship through kriya. And a greater understanding of Karma yoga when my teacher told me I was stuck in my raja yoga because I needed to just go and do selfless service to my fellow humans! So I am with you one hundred percent. Thanks for the wisdom. Tony

    • Shruti Bakshi

      Thank you so much Tony. I’m glad to hear you agree. I often try to find logical explanations to understand some truths but I know at some point you have you drop the logic too. I’m not there yet, however! 🙂 it’s very encouraging to hear your personal example- it must be true that the 4 yogas lead to the same place but it’s interesting to understand how.

  2. yogibanker

    interesting post Shruti. I was at a yoga workshop on the weekend in Palma, and met a fantastic international yoga teacher whose mastery of asana really blew me away. I feel very inspired and devoted, although I must question whether that devotion is about my ego wanting to push and challenge myself.. He talked about Jnana yoga too, as the workshop weekend was inspired from teachings from the Bhagavad Gita. Best, Scott

    • Shruti Bakshi

      Thanks Scott, I’m glad you liked the post. I’ve sometimes wondered too how ego/will power/determination fits into things. Is it strengthening the ego more if you want to be better in the spiritual dimension? Or is the ego/will a tool to take you forward even spiritually? I tend to think the spiritual will is more an innate human longing and quite different from the will to achieve material things which I think is actually a distorted form of the spiritual will anyway…. Sounds like a cool workshop – it’s really helpful to meet inspiring people like that on the spiritual path (I got interested in kriya yoga through someone I met on a plane!). Would love to hear more about it – perhaps in a future post on your site. Best, Shruti

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