Marga: The Four Paths of Yoga

Yoga Marga

The different Paths of Yoga are identified and explained briefly.

Different Paths for different personalities

Consider a lamp shop. There are different lampshades but the Light is the same. The essential Truth remains the same, but our personalities are like the different lampshades, that adorn us and make the world a rich and varied place. Yoga the practical science of self transformation and spiritual development acknowledges that different people have different innate tendencies.

Karma: Path of Action

This is ideally suited to those with many responsibilities.

Bhakti: Path of Devotion

This is suitable for persons of devotional bent of mind. Prayer, idol worship, ritual, chanting are techniques that are a part of this path.

Raja: The Royal Path

This classical path of Yoga describes Astanga, the Eight Limbs of Yoga. It is also known as Raja, the Royal Path since this system effectively covers all the above and develops a well balanced personality.

Jnana: Path of Knowledge

This is for those with an intellectual bent of mind. Thus the personality is no longer an obstacle; it is a strength.

How do I know which path is suitable for me?

When the path is not too "difficult" or "complicated" and you feel energetic, joyous and more at ease with yourself and your surroundings it is a suitable path. You may find with the passage of time that a path is no longer suitable. This may be the case if you grow out of a certain path. For example if you have been focussed only on the physical aspect of yoga you may be benefited at first. After a few years you may seek something deeper and more meaningful. Sometimes intellectual persons have had a transformation in their personalities and sought the answers in devotion.

All Paths of Yoga lead to one summit

The paths of Yoga are merely different aspects of the same One, all paths leading to the same One. 

More often than not, these paths work together, since most of us have multifaceted personalities. Often one may begin with one path and then gradually grow in to another. We are also predisposed to certain paths depending on which phase of life we currently are.

Younger practitioners may prefer the more active path of Karma. As we mature we may be attracted to the devotional path of surrender or choose to approach our spiritual development through the meditative approach of Astanga.

Many intellectually brilliant yogis started out by studying texts, contemplating and debating. They supplemented their theoretical knowledge by diving in to meditation with the help of Astanga and eventually surrendered to the One and became Bhakti yogis.

On the other hand great yogis from cave monasteries who had mastered Raja Yoga preferred to lead simple lives as householders with seemingly ordinary lives secretly enjoying the inner bliss of Karma Yoga.

The Subtle and Mystical Paths

The other paths technically categorised under Tantra are:

  • Laya
  • Kundalini
  • Hatha
  • Mantra

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