The Four Main Paths of Yoga
Sarah Beckett, Guest
So there are so many yoga, we will call paths or systems or whatever, being taught today. Very popularized, all kinds you know, innumerable Hatha yoga systems. Everybody that’s a profound or renounced teacher puts his name on it. Or someone with a new idea, hot yoga you know, just heat up the room until you almost die and get in there and work out real hard, (laughter) sweat like a pig and that’s hot yoga. It’s not yoga. It’s not it. You know, it’s good for what it is but that’s not yoga.
So Hatha yoga is the real term to describe the asanas, the bodily positions, and the poses that are so beneficial to the physical and also addresses the mental to some degree. But that Hatha yoga system is just one part of a bigger system. So really no matter what names they put on it there’s four main yoga paths. There is Jnana yoga which most people have never heard of. There is Ashtanga yoga which is very popular but it’s not really the full Ashtanga yoga system as designed. And then there is Karma yoga and finally there is Bhakti yoga and these are the four systems of yoga. They do not all lead to the same place and that is what we must discuss.
We’ll discuss the systems in a little detail and then find out what the destination of that system is. Equipped with this understanding you can choose what system you want to follow. Just like if you go to the airport there’s all kinds of planes going west. So you go to Toronto. Okay we’ve got ten flights going west, where do you want to go? I don’t know, just west. No, you know, okay I want to go to Vancouver, I want to go to Seattle, I want to go to Los Angeles, whatever. You see, you have a destination in mind, you choose the plane to get on and it takes you there. Logical, right? It’s the same with yoga.
All the yoga paths lead to the Absolute Truth but the Absolute Truth encompasses three aspects. You’ve got to follow this now, this is a little bit complicated but that’s alright. Life is complicated too, don’t forget that. So the Absolute Truth is comprised of three aspects. The three aspects are known as Bhagavan, Paramatma and Brahman. Big words, don’t worry I’ll explain it in enough detail that you can just get the concept. So Bhagavan, Paramatma and Brahman.
We will start at the top, Bhagavan. Bhagavan means the Supreme Lord. There is an original Supreme Personality. You are a person, I am a person, and all living entities are people. See the spirit soul that we’ve established we are can take residence in many, many different bodies. There’s a person living in this tree body right here. There’s people living in the pond in aquatic bodies, there’s grass bodies, there’s deer bodies in the forest here and bugs and all kinds of bodies. We are in human bodies. Innumerable bodies. But just the same idea there’s a person living inside that body. You see, a butterfly just went by. Person in a butterfly body. So the souls are the people but all those people come from the Original Person, Bhagavan, and the Supreme Lord. And He is known as the Adi Purusha.
Adi means first and Purusha means enjoyer. We are all enjoyers. We are all trying to enjoy. I gave a lecture the other night in Waterloo about everybody is looking for happiness kind of thing because we are by nature, enjoyers. But there is a Supreme Enjoyer, the Adi Purusha and this is the Supreme Lord, Bhagavan. He is unlimited. Everything comes from Him. He is the Cause of all causes. You can’t limit God. You can’t say, oh that’s impossible, God couldn’t do this, God couldn’t do that, you see. God can do everything. There is nothing He cannot do. Everything is easy for Him, He can create, He can destroy, He can do this; everything. So He has created us, He has created the material realm, He’s created everything.
He also can and does expand Himself into innumerable forms all coming from the original. So one of those expansions is the expansion within the heart of all of us. Every living entity, we all have an expansion of Bhagavan within our hearts and this is known as the Paramatma aspect of the Absolute Truth. Paramatma is also known as the Super Soul. So within our bodies there’s us the spirit soul and then there’s also the Super Soul. The same in all bodies. This is also known as the Chaitya Guru, the Lord in the heart. The localized aspect of the Supreme.
And then there is an effulgence that radiates from Bhagavan, the Supreme Lord. Just like our identity or our little being, the spiritual sparks that we are, give off an effulgence. Spiritual energy is effulgent. It’s not dark. It glows. It radiates light and that radiation coming from us inside the body is known as our aura. Anybody ever heard of the aura? Some people make such a big issue about the aura, you know, through Kirlian photography and so on. Now they can photograph your aura. You go to these esoteric fairs and there’s always somebody taking a picture of your aura. You go and pay your money and get your picture and you know, if it’s a big aura you show it to everybody. Wow, look at my aura. You see this? Can you believe it? But if it’s a little one, thank you very much. Put it in your pocket, don’t show it to anybody. Everybody’s got an aura. As long as the soul is in the body, there’s an aura there. Dead bodies don’t have it. Take a picture of them. Wow, no aura because the spiritual spark has left, you see.
So we have our tiny little auras but Bhagavan, the Supreme Lord, big aura. That effulgence emanating from His form is known as the Brahman or Brahmajyoti. Anybody ever heard of that? The clear white light sometimes it’s called, the white light. Some people go on, you know, journeys into the astral dimension, etcetera, and they see some blinding light. Sometimes they bump into the Brahman effulgence. Like the sun gives off an aura, an effulgence, and that’s the sunshine.
So there is this aspect of the Absolute Truth known as Brahman and the Brahman is the light of the spiritual world. Just like the sun is the light of the material world, the Brahman effulgence is the light of the spiritual world.
So let’s recap that. We’ve got Bhagavan, the Supreme Personality. He expands Himself. He comes into the material world and accompanies us on our journey through many, many life times as our constant companion, the Lord in our heart. He is there right now. He knows everything about us, our desires, our feelings, everything. He is all knowing, all cognizant, Paramatma. And then there’s the Brahman effulgence. These are the three aspects and all three combined make up the Absolute Truth.
Coming back to the idea of the yoga paths, these yoga paths are designed to take the journeyer, the follower of the path, to either Brahman, Paramatma or Bhagavan. So they don’t all go to the same place. They go in the same direction, they all lead to the spiritual dimension but there’s different aspects, different parts of the spiritual dimension.
About the Author
Sarah Beckett is a writer and yogini.