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Yoga Paths To Enlightenment

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There are many paths to enlightenment generally referred to in yoga, but actually there are six main paths, and

Bhakti yoga, the path of devotion, is one of them. This path of love is a path of self-surrender, and music is one of its devotional expressions. Bhakti yoga is based on self-sacrifice, reverence, and compassion. In this path humility, gentleness, purity, simplicity, and sincerity are important virtues. It is the path of the heart. This means that the followers direct the power of emotion toward God. Many on this path start flowing tears when they hear talk of God or when they assemble for chanting. Philosophically, the aspirant on this path does not want to merge his individuality in God, but prefers to have a separate identity and to be always in the service of the Lord. The philosophy of liberation, according to this path, is nearness to God. Liberation means attaining status in the celestial plane where one can constantly remain near to God. Many follow this path, but it is not as easy to follow as most people think. Bhakti yoga is not the path of blind followers.

Jñana yoga is a path of knowledge, and is called the yoga of the intellect. This study involves not merely the cognitive intellect, but rather that intellect which has been sharpened by listening attentively to the sayings of the great sages as they are taught by a competent teacher, and then contemplating on these sayings to finally attain a state of freedom. This path is like the razor’s edge, and if one does not tread it with discipline he might become egotistical. Constant company of the sages and contemplation with the help of non-attachment are important requisites in this path.

Karma yoga is a path followed by those who believe in doing duties selflessly. These aspirants understand that all the fruits of one’s actions should be surrendered to God, who dwells in everyone’s heart. Selfless action performed skillfully liberates one from the bondage created by the fruits therein. Knowledge of karma yoga is essential to attaining liberation. By performing right actions which do not create bondage, and by attaining higher knowledge, one liberates one’s self from the rounds of births and deaths.

Kundalini yoga is one of the aspects of yoga which is practiced by those who understand a great deal about the body, the nervous system, and the various channels of energy in the human body. The special disciplines that help the aspirant to control his bodily functions and internal states are essential. The primal force, which remains in the sleeping state at the base of the spinal column, is consciously awakened and led through the sushumna to the highest of the chakras, where the Shakti principle unites with the Shiva principle. [Sushumna is the most subtle channel on which the primal force travels. Without its application, that kundalini force cannot rise. Chakras are the wheels of life used for the subtle body. Shakti is the Divine Mother who manifests the universe. She is the universal power which can function only through that Mother force.]

Raja yoga is a path of systematic discipline which leads the student upward along the eight-runged ladder to a state called samadhi, or union with the absolute Reality. This is the most comprehensive path and is a highly systematic and evolved science in which karma, bhakti, kundalini, and jñana are combined. The philosophy of raja yoga is based on Sankhya philosophy.

Sri Vidya, in which the microcosm and macrocosm are thoroughly understood, is the highest of all the paths and is practiced by only very few accomplished ones. It is a practical path, but it requires strong philosophical understanding before it is trodden. Practice based on the mere information of books could be time-consuming as well as dangerous. A competent teacher is necessary in this spiritual practice, and the principles of tantra and other philosophies need to be thoroughly understood before a student takes such a venture. This extremely rare path is followed only by the highly accomplished sages.

The knowledge of Sri Vidya is imparted stage by stage and the advanced student is taught Prayoga Shastra.* (*which explain the practicality and application of the discipline one has to follow for this knowledge) We believe in both Mother and the Father principles of the universe. That which is called maya, or illusion, in our worship becomes Mother and does not remain as a stumbling block or obstacle on the path of spiritual enlightenment. All our worship is internal and we do not perform any rituals. There are three stages of initiation given according to our tradition. First, mantra, breath awareness, and meditation; second, inner worship of Sri Vidya and bindu vedhan (piercing the pearl of wisdom); third, shaktipata and leading the force of kundalini to the thousand-petaled lotus called sahasrara chakra. At this stage, we do not associate ourselves with any particular religion, caste, sex, or color. Such yogis are called masters and are allowed to impart the traditional knowledge. We strictly follow the discipline of the sages.

Nantin Baba and I attended a gathering of Anandamayi Ma’s students, in which everyone was chanting in Bengali and Hindi. We enjoyed listening to the chants, but felt more like observers than part of the group. We were both more inclined toward meditation and were on the paths of raja yoga and jñana yoga, although we also appreciated the other paths. If a person follows one particular path it does not mean that he hates the other paths. Nonetheless one of Anandamayi Ma’s students came up to us and tried to convince us that the path of devotion was the highest one and that we should switch to it.

He asked, “Why are you not participating in the chanting?” I told him, “The horse that pulls the buggy does not enjoy pulling it, but the person who is seated in the buggy enjoys the ride and benefits by witnessing and sitting quietly. The person who is performing the action does not enjoy it as much as the wise man who is witnessing it. Some people chant, and others enjoy chanting silently. We are enjoying more than anybody else. How do you know that we do not follow the path of devotion?”

In his ignorance this student was very adamant that his path was the only one. Our discussion soon led to an argument, and Anandamayi Ma intervened by saying to her follower, “Don’t argue with these two young renunciates. One should try to understand one’s own inner worth and then follow the path best suited to him. The path of devotion does not mean dumb devotion. Devotion means total dedication, surrender, and love for the Lord. It is the path of the heart, but it does not contradict that intellect or reason which solves many problems of life. Devotion is also part of the other paths. It is not possible for the jñana yogi to attain enlightenment if he does not also have devotion. Everyone wants to follow bhakti, the path of devotion, thinking that it is very easy and simple. But that’s not true. The path of devotion means accepting the existence of the Lord instead of worshipping one’s own existence. Those who weep, shiver, become emotional, or act in a funny way cannot be called the followers of bhakti yoga. Tranquility of mind should be cultivated; then all the paths can be understood—and not before that. Purification of the mind is necessary, and is achieved by disciplining one’s mind, action, and speech. Argumentation is a state of

learning and not a state of being.”

I remember her remarkable discourse even today. I asked her, “Is it true that your path is superior to other paths and that only what you are doing is authentic? Do you think that others are wasting their time?”

She replied, “My path of devotion suits me, but do not change your paths. Those who do not have guidance become confused and often change their paths. A confused mind is not fit to follow any path. Seekers of truth should learn to search for competence and guidance by seeing certain signs and symptoms in the teacher, such as selflessness, truthfulness, sincerity, and control of mind, action, and speech.

“Students also commit mistakes when they become idealistic without observing their capacity or following any discipline. They see only what they want to see. This prevents them from learning, and then they get attached to the path which they think they are following. They become very fanatical and egotistical and even begin fighting with people. This can happen to any seeker if his inferiority complex goes on developing and creating boundaries, closing all the doors of knowledge and making him selfcentered, uncommunicative, and egotistical.”

Ma confirmed our ideas and strengthened those principles which we were following. She said, “Learning the scriptures is very good and helpful, but without satsanga such learning can also make anyone egotistical. A learned man having satsanga is very humble, communicative, and gentle in his behavior.

“Beginners often argue and boast about the superiority of their way, but one who has trodden the path knows that all paths lead to the same destination. There is no superior or inferior path. It is immaterial which path one follows, but one should carefully watch one’s own modifications of mind and learn not to identify with them.” As she stared at the eyes of her husband, which were like cups of wine full of devotion, we said goodbye to Anandamayi Ma, and I went to the quiet place where I often used to hide myself.

Source: Living with the Himalayan Masters by Swami Rama

Edited by Sat1176
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3 Schools of Tantra

There is a vast amount of literature on the philosophy and science of tantra, but it is not easily understood and is often misused. This highly advanced esoteric science has been practiced by Hindus, Jains, and Buddhists. The Khudabaksha library of Patna, the Baroda library, and the Madras library are filled with manuscripts on the subject, but this literature is beyond the understanding of laymen. Also, competent teachers of tantra are rarely available. However, properly practiced under a competent teacher, this path is the equal of any other spiritual path in self-enlightenment.

According to the science of tantra, male and female are two principles of the universe called Shiva and Shakti. These two principles exist within each individual. There are three main schools of tantra: Kaula, Mishra, and Samaya.

The Kaulas, or left-hand tantrists, worship Shakti, and their way of worship involves external rituals, including sexual practices. They meditate on the latent power within (kundalini) and awaken it at the muladhara chakra, which is situated at the base of the spinal column. Laymen often misuse this path.

In the Mishra (mixed or combined) school, inner worship is combined with external practices. The latent force is awakened and led to the anahata chakra (heart center), where it is worshipped.

The purest and highest path of tantra is called Samaya or the righthand path. It is purely yoga; it has nothing to do with any ritual or any form of worship involving sex. Meditation is the key, but this sort of meditation is quite uncommon. In this school meditation is done on the thousand-petaled lotus, the highest of all. This method of worship is called antaryaga. The knowledge of Sri Chakra is revealed in this school. Knowledge of the chakras, nadis (subtle nerve currents), and pranas (vital forces) and a philosophical knowledge of life are required in order to be accepted as a disciple in this school.

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The Seven Systems of Eastern Philosophy

The seven systems of Indian philosophy which address themselves to these issues are Vedanta, Yoga, Sankhya, Vaisheshika, Mimamsa, Nyaya, and Buddhism. The dates given for the teachers of the systems below have been determined by Western scholars. Scholars within these systems regard them as many millennia older.

VEDANTA: I am self-existent consciousness and bliss—these are not my attributes but my very being. I do not come from anywhere or go anywhere, but rather I assume many forms having many names. My essential nature is free from all qualifications and limitations. I am like an ocean, and all the creatures are like the waves. The individual soul is essentially Brahman, all-inclusive, all-expansive. The genderless Aum is its name; it is the nucleus—and the universe is its expansion. It is the absolute, transcendent, attributeless Reality, and it also eternally embodies the capacity to bring to measure within itself its own inner shakti. So this power of Brahman, called maya, emanates and gives the appearance of becoming manifold—but in truth there is no manifoldness, and the infinite never becomes finite. There is a superimposition of the finite on the infinite, which is eradicated by unveiling Reality again. Then one realizes himself to be in Brahman as Brahman. He identifies himself with Brahman and becomes one with it. Below are some of the most important statements of the Vedanta philosophy as found in the Upanishads.

1. There is nothing manifold here. From death to death he wanders who sees anything here as though it were manifold.

2. He who is tranquil dwells in Brahman, from whom the universe emanates and into whom it dissolves.

3. All this is Brahman.

4. Brahman is pure gnosis (personal experience knowledge).

5. This self is Brahman.

6. That thou art.

7. I am that.

8. I am Brahman.

The philosophy which was taught by the seers of the Vedas (2000 to 500 B.C.) was passed down through a long line of sages (such as Vyasa, Gaudapada, and Govindapada, the author of many ancient scriptures), who codified these ancient philosophies. Shankaracharya finally systematized the monistic schools in the eighth century A.D., and many acharyas after him established various schools of non-dualistic and dualistic philosophies which differed from him.

YOGA: In the Yoga system of philosophy, the individual soul is a seeker, and cosmic consciousness is the ultimate reality it finds within. Yoga accommodates all religions and all systems of philosophy as far as the practical aspects are concerned. While dwelling in the manifold phenomenon of the universe, the soul must take care of the material body, purifying and strengthening its capacity. In this system the individual must practice the highest principle of behavior and the control of the various modifications of mind through the commitments called yama and niyama. By practicing stillness in posture and breath, one then transforms oneself by having control over the senses with concentration and meditation and finally attains samadhi. The final goal of this system is to attain kaivalya [“aloneness”]. This yoga system was also known several millennia before Patanjali, who codified it in the first century A.D. by compiling 196 aphorisms, called the Yoga Sutras. The Yoga and Sankhya systems of philosophy are alike.

SANKHYA: The Sankhya system is dualistic and believes the conscious Purusha and the unconscious Prakriti to be separate, co-existent and interdependent realities. In Sankhya the conscious principle is again twofold: it consists of the individual soul (jiva) and the universal soul or God (Ishvara). (In other systems of Sankhya philosophy, the existence of God is irrelevant.) All the schools of the Sankhya system believe in removing the pains and miseries which arise from Purusha’s involvement with Prakriti, forgetting its everpure, ever-wise, and ever-free nature.

Like a rope with three strands, Prakriti has three attributes, called sattva, rajas, and tamas [tranquility, activity, and sloth]. All phenomena of the universe, including mental operations, are nothing but interactions among these three gunas (qualities) of Prakriti. These bring to manifestation various aspects which remain in unmanifested form in the cause. When the three gunas are in balance, Prakriti is in a state of equilibrium. The mental and physical universe is created and passes through twenty-four, thirty-six, or sixty states that include all phenomena and experiences.

All the schools of Indian philosophy have included something from Sankhya philosophy in their systems. This system is the very basis of Indian psychology. It gave birth to the positive science of mathematics and then to the medical system of India, for to understand the body is to understand all human nature. The founder of the Sankhya school was Asuri, and Kapila, one of the most ancient seers, is called the acharya of this science. Then followed Ishvara Krishna, who systematized the philosophy into the Sankhya Karika around the third century A.D.

VAISHESHIKA: This philosophy deals with the physics and chemistry of the body and the universe. Discussing the particular elements, their atoms, and their mutual interactions, Kanada, perhaps 300 B.C., states the subject of his philosophy to be dharma, the code of conduct which leads human beings to prosperity in this life and the highest good in the next. This philosophy discusses nine subjects—earth, water, fire, air, space, time, dimension, mind, and soul—and their mutual relationships. This philosophy was developed by Prashastapada in the fourth century A.D.

MIMAMSA: The Mimamsa system was founded by Jaimini. In this system the Vedas are accepted as selfevident scriptures revealing internal knowledge. This system believes in salvation through action. It established a detailed philosophy of the efficacy of ritual, worship, and ethical conduct, which developed into the philosophy of karma. This school challenges the predominance of grammarians and logicians who maintain linguistics and rhetoric. It is a school of philosophy in action. Jaimini’s date was perhaps c. 400 B.C.

NYAYA: Nyaya is the school of logicians founded by Gautama, one of the ancient sages. It regards doubt as a prerequisite for philosophical inquiry, and elaborates rules for debate. All the schools of Indian philosophy to this day follow the Nyaya system of logic, which was further developed in the sixteenth century and which is now called neologic, a complex system similar to the mathematical logic of the West today.

BUDDHISM: Gautama the Buddha was born 2,600 years ago in Kapilavastu at the site of the ancient ashram of the sage Kapila, who is one of the founders of the Sankhya philosophy. Gautama studied this philosophy in depth under a teacher named Adara Kalama, and he later discovered the four noble truths:

1. There exists sorrow.

2. There is a cause of sorrow.

3. The sorrow can be eradicated.

4. There are means for the eradication of sorrow.

These four noble truths are already found in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, but the difference lies in Buddha’s doctrine of anatta, or non-self. The word neti (“not this”) was fully understood by the ancient rishis (Vedic seers). The Buddha refused to participate in metaphysical speculation. He would not discuss the existence of God, and he would not answer the question of whether the Buddhas exist after nirvana. He said that such questions were not worthy of consideration. The Enlightened One, a highly practical teacher, wanted his disciples to practice the eightfold right path of action that would lead them to bodhi, the finest level of consciousness. He accepted Pali as a language for communication.

After Buddha’s para-nirvana, various groups of monks started following their own way. There then formed two major schools: Theravada, the doctrine of the elders, and Mahayana, the formal philosophicalschool of Buddhism which disappeared in India. Great volumes have been written on the major historical and doctrinal differences between the two paths. Theravadins considered the teachings of Buddha to be completely separate from the rest of the Indian philosophical developments. They retained Pali as their medium to study the scriptures, although not a great deal of philosophical speculation developed in Pali.

The Buddha remains their enlightened teacher, and great temples having beautiful statues were built to honor him, where ancient Hindu-style puja (worship) is still offered. This doctrine does not accept Buddha as a savior, however. Each person finds his own light, is then enlightened, and finally reaches anatta or nonself.

The Mahayana debated with other schools of Indian philosophy and was forced to adopt the sophistication of the Sanskrit language. One of the greatest scholars, Nagarjuna, describes shunya and calls it the void. The storehouse of consciousness, alaya-vijñana, of the vijñana-vadin school is cosmic consciousness. Hindus had begun to accept the Buddha as the ninth incarnation of God, but the Buddhists were at a loss to fulfill the spiritual call and the human need for devotion to a higher being. So there developed the thought of a higher reality that incarnates. Here the Buddha has three bodies or levels of existence:

1. Dharma-kaya—the absolute being (like Shukla Brahman of the Upanishads).

2. Sambhoga-kaya—the universe as the emanation (like Shabala Brahman of the Upanishads and Ishvara or personal God).

3. Nirmana-kaya—the historical body of the Buddha, an avatar or incarnation.

The Mahayana school still uses kundalini and knowledge of chakra in their teachings.

Visualizations of symbolic figures and elaborate ritualistic preparations are used exactly as Hindus do. Faith and the surrender to a higher compassionate being are practiced exactly as they were taught in Hindu scriptures. The Buddha’s own path was majjhima patipada, the middle way. The Buddha’s teachings were primarily for the monks, but like other ancient teachings Buddhism became a way of life for a large section of people in the world.

By following this middle path one can eradicate avidya (ignorance), which leads to tanha (craving). Only then can one gain freedom from sorrow, pain, and misery.

These seven systems deal with various aspects of reality and truth. They hold a higher transcendental

goal as sacred and agree on some basic essentials. For this reason the syncretic literature of India such as the Puranas and epics like the Mahabharata and Ramayana regard all these systems as authentic.

Edited by Sat1176
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Very interesting..i have read this before.

In Sikhi we have main above paths blended beautifully in gurbani- especially bhagti,shabad surat(sub section chakar, kundalini, dasam dwara etc), seva of satgur/langar/creation- karam yoga, gyan yoga (gyan aspect of shabad/jot-atma-paratma eka)-nirgun abhed upasana blended beautifully similar to their raj yog. Also we have shakti aspect of divine as well which is of nihangs- shastars pooja etc.

However, there are two different interpretations (both acceptable) -how these paths should be looked at from gurmat point of view, they can be looked at stages or aspects of divine.

1. Stages - (in order- bhagti, karam, shakti, shabad surat and gyan/jnana/vedanta-advait)- whatever each seeker deeper impulse is drawn towards.

2. Aspects of divine- whatever aspect of divine you are drawn towards be it - bhagti, karam-seva, shabad surat, shakti, gyan aspect. Thats what you stick to and go alll the way until you get consumed fully by one of these aspects of divine.

Main thing whichever aspect or stage you are drawn to, you have to let aspect of divine consume you fully that means any preconditioning, egoic conditioned mindset has to be gone.

One of great maharishi brings unity of bhakti and jnana path in the statement below:

Q.How to see God? (Bhagat puts a desire to see him)?

A- In order to see him is to be totally consumed(shallowed by Brahman) by him-Bhramgyan. (This statement is pure unity of jnana and bhagti/shabad surat/shakti path)

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Below are some of the most important statements of the Vedanta philosophy as found in the Upanishads.

1. There is nothing manifold here. From death to death he wanders who sees anything here as though it were manifold.

2. He who is tranquil dwells in Brahman, from whom the universe emanates and into whom it dissolves.

3. All this is Brahman.

4. Brahman is pure gnosis (personal experience knowledge).

5. This self is Brahman.

6. That thou art.

7. I am that.

8. I am Brahman.

Awesome, this is great stuff..Sikhi beleive in gnosis of mahavaks (great statements too), here is thread:

Basically, i was told these mahavaks are not jaaped in conventional sense but rather contemplated upon deeply and also these statements are lived/felt/sensed through by abiding in them functioning through them.

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