Spiritual facts are revealed only in the super conscious state of the mind. Various methods and techniques are used to bring the mind to that super conscious state. In that state, the supreme truth is discovered. Various techniques and yogas (methods of union) are in practice for this ultimate discovery. However, only four of them are very important. They are Karma yoga, Bhakti yoga, Raja yoga and Jnana yoga. Different forms of yoga are adapted according to the different natures and temperaments of man. Mind is based on three forces of nature, namely Sattva, Rajas and Tamas, which means balance, activity and inertness. A man’s character depends on the dominance of these forces in him. According to his character and nature he selects a spiritual method for realization. Sometimes he combines one or more methods to attain liberation. By any means one has to attain liberation and the method he selects is of less importance, provided it is correct.
The method of realizing divinity by performing work for work’s sake is called Karma Yoga. Karma yoga mostly suits the people who find it difficult to concentrate the mind in meditation. Any action that makes us go forward is a good action and is our duty. Every duty is holy and devotion to duty is the highest form of the worship of God. Mental strength improves when duty is done with devotion. Birth and position in life and in society largely determine the mental and moral attitude of individuals towards the various activities of life. One works according to the ideals and activities of the society in which he is born. These ideals may differ among societies and even in the same society it differs with time. Forgetfulness of this leads to fanaticm, intolerance, and brutality in the name of ideal. Bhagavad Gita says, “To work alone have you the right and never to the fruits (of works). Don’t be impelled by the fruits of works (at the same time) don’t be tempted to withdraw from works” (2, 47). When one concentrates on the result, he naturally fail to concentrate on the present work, this in turn affects the result. At the same time when one concentrates on the work, naturally the result will be successful. Performing one’s duty for the sake of work, without attachment for the result makes the mind detached. Even if there are moments of failure he will not be disturbed by the result, because he has thoroughly enjoyed the work. The result is dependent on many factors, mainly the past karmas. If a person indulges in bad action now, he attunes himself to the vibrations of evil accumulated in the past and these act upon him and promote his degeneration all the more. If a person does a good action now, he tunes himself to the vibrations of good actions accumulated in the past and these act upon him and promote his success, and strengthen his mentality all the more. Therefore, the action is more important than the result. However, unfortunately everyone works for the sake of the result like money or professional status and not for the sake of work. All the actions are the combination of both good and bad, with one dominating. To overcome the effect of karma, one should concentrate on the work, when the period of time for the negative karmas get exhausted the positive results show its light. ‘The most practical man would call life neither good nor evil’, Swami Vivekananda. No action is perfectly pure or impure; it is the mind which makes it pure or impure. Only a wise and strong mind can work for work’s sake. Satisfaction of work is the greatest reward. Each one is gifted with a unique quality and this quality makes a person distinct. One should discover and develop his own capability and use it for the development of others is the real success. Practicing karma yoga brings renunciation which is the most important quality for the discovery of truth. A detached person’s mind is unchanged in all conditions. Misery comes through attachment. When the mind concentrates on the work alone, it gradually merges in the Atman. He does not see difference between himself and the others. In diversity he finds unity.
Bhakti is an instrument for liberation. It is based on the dualistic principle. The realization of the Supreme truth through devotion and love towards a personal God is called Bhakti yoga. It is the most natural way to reach the Supreme. Different aspects of the Supreme truth are praised through Bhakti. Iswara is the highest manifestation of the Absolute Reality. It is the idea of omnipotence. Some cannot understand the Supreme Reality without a concrete idea or a form, especially children and emotional minded people. They relate to God with a form and attributes. By sincere devotion, their understanding of God improves gradually. The concept of God differs with different people. A bhakta’s various emotions are directed towards God and he renounces everything for the sake of God. Personal God is the same Absolute looked through the haze of maya. A bhakta views God through his five senses.
Brahman is the subject. It cannot be objectified. However to understand about Brahman, the Self, in the preliminary stage the Supreme power is objectified and that is the personal God. This objectification is an attempt to reveal one’s true nature. When one is conscious of one’s individuality and practices a devotional attitude towards Brahman, then Brahman presents Himself as the personal God. Personal God is the Absolute Himself and not a being different (either inferior or superior) to him. A distinction is made only because devotion is practiced only in relation to a personal Being. According to his mentality, a bhakta selects the form to be worshiped, the rituals, the mantras and everything related to that form. This mode of devotion helps him to understand about the Supreme truth. Understanding leads to liberation. Perfect understanding of God in the higher stages of bhakti removes the distinction between the bhakta and the Bhagavan. Getting emotional before God for personal gains are the preliminary stages of Bhakti. To have a perfect understanding one can relate to God through various relationships. They are
Santa bhava – Calm and gentle way of devotion.
Dasa bhava – This is assuming God as the master and himself (bhakta) as the servent.
Sakhya bhava– Assuming God as a friend so that it gives a sense of equality with God.
Vatsala bhava – Loving God as the child of the devotee.
Madhura bhava – In this relationship, the devotee develops a passionate love for Him. The devotee assumes that God is the only male and all the souls are His wives. In devotional philosophy this is considered the highest and most passionate form of devotion.
When his bhakti reaches the perfect state, he is of the same nature as the personal God. He knows that he is one with Brahman, the Absolute and projects himself as the personal God.
These are the two methods that are commonly used to attain liberation. These two methods prepare one to easily pass on to the final stages of liberation, which is meditation. They can meditate with perfect mental concentration and reach the Supreme conscious state with ease. The other two methods are Raja yoga and Jnana yoga.
(also vide PREPARATION TO DISCOVERY- PART II)
The complete works of Swami Vivekananda, Vol V, Advaita Asrama, Kolkata
The four yogas of Swami Vivekananda (condensed and retold), Swami Tapasyananda, Advaita Asrama, Kolkata