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THE VEDIC SPIRITUAL PATHS TO SALVATION

THE VEDIC SPIRITUAL PATHS TO SALVATION

By Stephen Knapp

There are four basic paths that are recommended within the Vedic system. These include:

1. Karma-Yoga – Path of Selfless Actions

2. Jnana-Yoga – Path of Knowledge

3. Raja-Yoga – Path of Breath Control and Pranayama

4. Bhakti-Yoga – Path of Devotion to God

Most religious devotees of all religions are Bhakti-yogis, whether they believe in Hinduism or not. Very good Christians who go to church everyday and surrender themselves to the image of Christ are Bhakti-Yogis. So too are devout Moslems. But Vedic culture is the only religion that explains the four paths in detail, especially the path of Bhakti or devotion, which can go much deeper in the Vedic process than ever described in any western or conventional form of religion.

Bhakti-Yoga is one of the easiest Yoga paths to follow or practice, and is especially recommended for this age of Kali-Yuga. Bhakti-Yoga comes from the root word Bhaj, which means “to be attached to”. The Bhakti relationship between man and God is described in six different forms :

1. Madhura Bhava (amorous love);

2. Kanta Bhava (love of wife for husband);

3. Shanta Bhava (love of child for parent);

4. Vatsalya Bhava (love of parent for child);

5. Sakhya Bhava (friendship);

6. Dasya Bhava (affection of servant for his master).

One of the great exponents of Bhakti-Yoga was the sage Narada. Narada states in his book Narada Bhakti Sutra: “A man who loves God has no wants nor any sorrows. He neither hates nor survives with a zeal for any ends of his own. Through devotion he attains peace and is ever happy in spirit.” In the highest aspect of Bhakti-Yoga, the devotee goes for “total Self-surrender to the will of God.” All devotional books including the Bhagavad-gita advocate this Self-surrender. Lord Krishna promises in the Bhagavad-gita, that He himself will take the burden of taking care of the day-to-day problems of a devotee who has dedicated himself to God by surrendering his free will. This promise of God is repeated many times in the Gita, in different slokas. The theme of total self-surrender is often repeated in the Holy Bible, Koran, and other devotional religions.

Like other yogas, in Bhakti-yoga the final goal is liberation. But in Bhakti-yoga, regaining one’s loving relationship with Lord Krishna is so ecstatic that it outweighs mere liberation from the pains and troubles of material existence. It provides a bliss that knows no bounds, if one dives deeply into it.

Great exponents of Bhakti-Yoga include several great saints who practiced it in India. A few of the very prominent ones are: Lord Chaitanya, Tulasi Das, and Meera Bai, the Six Gosvamis of Vrindavana, and many others.

Karma-Yoga. The word karma is derived from the Sanskrit word Kri meaning “to do”. The word karma is used in many areas of Vedic philosophy. Here the meaning of karma is work. When we breathe, it is karma. When we think, it is karma. The actions we do accumulate karma and dictate our past, present and future.

Karma is categorized by three forces. They are: Tamas, Rajas, and Sattva, which are the modes of material nature. Tamas represents inactivity and darkness. Rajas represents activity and passion. Sattva is the mode of goodness and light. Karma-yoga involves properly employing these three factors to raise the qualities of our activities.

Karma-Yoga has a lot to do with Bhakti-Yoga and Jnana-Yoga. Chapters 3, 4, and 5 of the Bhagavad-gita explain Karma-Yoga.

Karma-Yoga in brief is about attaining freedom through unselfish actions, “Nishkama Karma”. Selfish actions retard our goal. Unselfish actions take us towards our goal. So Karma-Yoga is the system of attaining freedom through selfless actions.

Raja-Yoga is a more scientific path of God-realization. In this path, God is more or less treated as Pure Energy. Sage Patanjali, the author of the Yoga Sutras, was the first to systematize the practices of this technical Yoga. Patanjali defined Yoga as Chitta-Vritti-Nirodha, which is explained as:

Yoga – means union with the divine or salvation.

Chitta – means mind.

Vritti – means modifications or vibrations.

Nirodha – means stoppage or suppression or restraint.

So according to Sage Patanjali, “The union with the Divine or salvation means stoppage of the vibrations or modifications of the mind.” In Raja-Yoga, a devotee uses meditation to try to achieve a state above the mind, free from all its dictates and interferences. It is very difficult to explain in simple terms, and thus it is rather difficult to use this system successfully in this age. The ordinary man whose consciousness is confined to the lower mind can conceive of only concrete images of objects, which are derived through the sense-organs. In a nutshell, for a perfected Raja Yogi, thinking is a voluntary process all the time, unlike most of us who think of so many things involuntarily. We think about the pros and cons of every issue, even if we do not want to think of them. This is the uncontrolled nature of the mind. Raja-Yoga is the process for attempting to control it. However, in this age of Kali-Yuga, it is not an easy process nor the most recommended.

The Patanjali Yoga-Sutras consist of 196 slokas. In his book, Patanjali has never stated or mentioned that this is the only way for God-realization, so much so that the state of mind as well as God-realization which he expounds can be achieved by other religious practices also.

Raja-Yoga incorporates eight steps of discipline to reach its goal, which are Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana, and Samadhi. These are briefly defined as follows:

Yama – means Abstinence from all vices.

Niyama – means Observance of purity, contentment, etc.

Asana – means a posture suitable for meditation.

Pranayama – consists of prolonged expiration (Rechaka); Inspiration (Purakha); Retention (Kumbhaka) of breath. This exercise is supposed to be done only under the proper guidance of a realized master or Guru. In the Pranayama exercise, the devotee is supposed to control the vital currents in the body.

Pratyahara – means retraction or withdrawal of sense-organs from sense-objects.

Dharana – means the fixing of mind on any object.

Dhyana – means meditation.

Samadhi – is the final state. He who meditates perfectly can attain Samadhi. In that state, the mind loses its complete identity and assumes a formless state, even though it can assume the form of any object it contemplates on. In Samadhi, it is expected that the devotee realizes the ultimate truth.

Mantra-Yoga is another important form of yoga that is used in addition to the other major paths. It originated from the Vedas and Tantras. This yoga brings about changes in material consciousness by the agency of sound as found in the Vedic mantras and verses. Of course, the ‘sound’ that is referred to in Mantra-Yoga is the transcendental sound which you cannot hear merely by the human ear. It goes deeper to the soul. From modern science, we know three important facts: 1. Matter is an expression of energy. 2. This energy vibrates at different frequencies in different types of matter. 3. Our sense-organs can only receive sensations made in a very limited frequency-range. For example, we can hear only the sound produced in a limited-frequency range and anything above this range is called Ultra Sound and the sound below it is called Infra Sound. Of course, by no means can one conclude that the sound in Mantra-Yoga belongs to one of the categories above. We could say that Mantra-Yoga is based on the vibratory aspect of energy and its modifications into varied matter. Mantras are specific sound formulas that are used to bring about substantial results as well as the unification and unfolding of consciousness.

Mantra-Yoga as such is not an exclusive form of yoga. Instead it is widely used by devotees who practice all other forms of yoga for spiritual upliftment and unfolding of consciousness. Mantra-yoga is actually a mystical tradition found in almost every spiritual path in the world. It may involve the softly spoken repetition of a prayer or mantra for one’s own meditation, or it may be the congregational singing of spiritually uplifting songs, prayers, or the sacred names of God. It all involves the same process, but in the Eastern tradition it is called mantra-yoga because it is the easy process of focusing our minds on the Supreme through His names, which helps spiritualize our consciousness. Man means the mind, tra means deliverance. Therefore, a spiritual mantra is the pure sound vibration for delivering the mind from material to spiritual consciousness. This is the goal of any spiritual path. Although all spiritual traditions have their own prayers or mantras, the Vedic mantras are especially powerful and effective in uniting us with the spiritual realm. However, a complete yoga process is generally a blend of a few yoga systems, such as bhakti-yoga with mantra-yoga. Therefore, bhakti-yoga also includes mantra-yoga, or the process of concentrating on the sound vibration within a mantra. This is especially important in this age of Kali.

The mantra is thus a point of meditation for the mind, but also a formula or transcendental sound vibration, like the holy name of God, that releases its energy into one’s consciousness. Thus it prepares one for perceiving higher states of reality. With constant practice of the appropriate mantra, and with the proper pronunciation and devotional mood, the mantra can reveal the Absolute Truth to the practitioner as well as one’s spiritual form and relationship that you have with the Supreme Being

5 comments on “THE VEDIC SPIRITUAL PATHS TO SALVATION

  1. Shankar
    December 21, 2015

    OM Namah Sivaya. Interesting article, however, its perspective on Raja Yoga needs to be examined a bit more. The article claims that Raja Yoga is “a more scientific path of God-Realization”. Raja Yoga is actually the antithesis of the linear, rational, logical path of most modern science.

    Science depends upon perceptions of difference which can then be quantified and debated. Raja Yoga knows that all is one without an other. Its methods or ashtangas are intended to overcome dependence on the linear, rational, and logical methods of everyday life in order to know oneself (and everyone and everything else) as the Divine.

    It is only at the extreme outer limits of quantum physics that science attains a glimpse of the focus and methodology of Raja Yoga.

    In addition, the article also seems a bit vague about Mantra usage. It details the modern science viewpoint of sound and vibration but then asserts that the sounds of Mantra-Yoga does not belong to any of the scientific views listed. One wonders why those views were listed at all.

    The article claims that Mantra-Yoga is “based on the aspect of energy and its modifications into varied matter”. However, the methodology of Mantra is to impact the nadis and chakras of the subtle energy system so that one is able to move beyond concepts of matter no matter how varied.

    Rather than trying to squeeze the various yogas into a scientific framework it might be better to invite modern science to step outside of its comfort zone and seek additional ways to engage the infinite as some quantum physicists are already attempting. As Abraham Kaplan and Abraham Maslow pointed out in the 1960’s, “If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” Science needs to quit banging and start using a bit more finesse in its approaches.

    OM and Prem

    Like

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