Karma Jnana Bhakti Yoga

The message of the Gita is for every soul, every living entity. When one takes up Gita, there are three distinct paths described namely Karma Yoga, Jnana Yoga and Bhakti Yoga. Although these appear to be 3 distinctive paths, it cannot be denied that all the three paths overlap and there are shades of different aspects of Yoga which form cusps among the three primary forms of Yoga. Moreover it is simply not possible that following a particular form of Yoga, you are doing it in the sense of the classical definition of the word. One tends to follow shades of the other forms of Yoga, although one may be primarily focusing on a primary yogic practice.

At the preliminary stages of dealing with life, most of life is automatically programmed. Life is run by our pent up tendencies, our instincts, habits and our undeniable hypocrisy. That means, there is no order in our life and life goes on in circles, in the same complaining mode. Everything is managed by Karma, a series of automatic actions and results, run by Nature. Here it is all “Karma” without the Yoga. Unless there are life situations that go out of control, situations where the challenges are so severe that act as a wake-up call for the individual, one is happy to go about life haphazardly, in a cyclic manner.  When one takes up some form of Yoga it is usually Karma Yoga. When man starts doing activities consciously, when there is some sort of understanding that there is a higher cause for everything that happens, Yoga is introduced into one’s life. This is when man starts to develop a deep sense of interest in the laws of Karma. He is more interested into looking at the cause and effect chain, as one progresses with life. When one undertakes a deeper study of Karma, one also realizes that the chain of Karma comes into fruition, irrespective of one’s conscious effort to deal with things. He realizes that it is life that gets someone into some situation and makes him undergo things which may either be very pleasant or something atrocious. This is when man looks at the possibilities of working his way through Karma, through a scientific approach, whereby one is able to allay the Karmic “accidents”.

This is when the Bhagavad Gita comes to help. All the Vedic Scriptures allude to this fact that Karma can be consciously burnt and can also be transmuted into something fruitful and pleasant. Although Karma can never be totally avoided, its quality and effect can be altered to such an extent that Karma, may never seem as a punishment. The Book of Secrets of Karma, is undeniably the Srimad Bhagavad Gita. When Karma is directed to a place that is “not” the ego, the results of Karma do not hurt, and this is what the Gita exhorts. All of us get injured by Karma, because we get connected to Karma through the inner hard shell of the ego. When Karma attacks, it attacks our False Self, which spirituality terms as the ego. The ego is a conglomeration of thoughts, emotions and concocted value systems that we have unconsciously built in this lifetime as well as our previous ones. Karma and the results of Karma are directed towards this hard shell of the ego and that is what causes pain. Even pleasure is hyped or pumped up by the ego, hence an ordinary situation for some, may appear pleasurable to certain other people. This is because the false self is hard and manipulates the situation to cause amplified effects of pain or pleasure.

The Gita advises us to accept Karma but direct it towards another universal entity which is our real Self. Some call this, the real Self, as our Higher Self. Others call it the Supreme Being or the Lord. When one learns to disassociate with the Karmic fruits or take any credit for the Karma, one has successfully diverted the painful missile of the Karmic law. Gita recommends a two pronged approach to deal with the hard shell of ego. It asks the practitioner to consider the Supreme Lord as the goal and as the one who shall accept all Karma and results of Karma as the first approach. The second approach is to consider within our heart, our own position as puny compared to the entire creation and give all credit to the Supreme Being. With these approaches taken up as valid practices, one should perform Karma. If someone performs Karma, he does it not for “oneself” or “me”, the ego. Instead he is performing it for the Supreme Being, who is somebody else, who is not “me”. This Supreme Self is the highest, strongest and the Loftiest version of my “small self”. With this approach, Karma becomes Karma Yoga. When Karma Yoga becomes deep, Karma shall have got transmuted as higher energy that shall then take one’s attention towards higher possibilities. If the ego is punctured with Karma Yoga, then one is available for a higher possibility.

This means that there is reserved energy for uplifting consciousness. Karma Yoga transforms the inner possibilities as well as the outer outcomes of Karma. When Karma is thus transmuted by Yoga, one starts getting relieved from the ordinary bindings of Karma. One starts to move up the ladder of consciousness. One becomes interested in deeper value systems and will want to conserve energy for higher attainments. When Karma Yoga matures, one shall automatically get relieved from the rut of selfish motives. One will then not be interested in earning name, fame or wealth of the world. He would be worried about the true purpose of life. One shall then be looking at the Vedic scriptures, trying to elevate his goals, far above the mundane pursuits of politicians, cine stars or businessmen. The Scriptures shall automatically emerge as the area of exploration for the successful Karma Yogis. One starts to ponder about the various value systems within Sanatana Dharma and how it has its effect on the inner light or consciousness. The practitioner starts looking at Jnana, knowledge and takes up meditation and contemplation, to weed out vestiges of worldly undertakings that one had once taken up. This shall be the undertaking of Jnana Yoga. It is always seen that although action or Karma is carried out even in this stage, it is taken up as an extension of the knowledge fulcrum. Here Karma acts as an extension of Jnana Yoga.

With sufficient maturity attained through the activities in Jnana, when the various life processes are viewed by the Jnana Yogi, with the eye of wisdom, one will be able to see with clarity, that true knowledge, lies beyond the field of Knowledge. This is the time when the Yogi, is able to witness the universal spirit which is operative within nature. At this time, along with the understanding of the scriptures, the Yogi, takes up devotional service. He glorifies the Supreme Spirit in the depths of his heart and also undertakes severe practices of chanting the Holy names of a Personified God. This is perhaps the zenith of Jnana Yoga and an entry point into Bhakti Yoga, the science of devotional surrender. When the person undertakes shelter under a Personal God, he develops a deep attachment, a deep connection with the unassailable entity and himself enters the domain, whereby, Knowledge, Karma and all other aspects of life shall lose all meaning, as a means to an end. The practitioner would have ended his search for deriving meanings. Even in this elevated mood, the sadhaka, spiritual practitioner may undertake activity or may continue to study the scriptures. But now these activities are undertaken only as a mood enhancer to the goal of Bhakti, which has by now, transformed into the practitioner’s primary mood of service. Having undertaken Bhakti, the practitioner has reached the very zenith of goal seeking and goes deeper into his love affair with the Supreme Being. At this stage there is nothing more to achieve for the practitioner, either in this lifetime or in any other.

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