Traditionally the Middle and far East have been the beacons of deep spiritual paths. So that is where Westerners have looked for answers that were not found in their own cultures. This article reveals the appeal of these traditions.
One of the oldest systemized approaches to spirituality is through the various yogas. Yoga is a word that is defined as “union.” It relates specifically with the union or oneness with our deepest inner truth which is the underlying reality behind all existence.
So the aim of traditional yoga is really the aim of every spiritual path. It means the reunification with our divine nature and our true self.
There are 5 primary yoga paths.
The 1st is Jnana Yoga which is the yoga of knowledge but it is knowledge attained not through books, but through meditation which leads to self-realization.
The 2nd yoga is the yoga of devotion which is called Bhakti Yoga which has as its aim to lead to self-realization through devotion. This approach is not as popular in the West, but it is a very beautiful path in which a person feels a very deep devotion to God. If you read the biography of RamaKrishna you will find a person who was deeply devoted to the mother aspect of God and he was regarded as one of the most enlightened people in the last century.
The 3rd Yoga path is called Karma yoga which focuses following a person’s purpose in life which is what they are designed to do. It is called following one’s dharma but while remaining detached from the reward. Karma Yoga states that one can attain enlightenment by performing all their actions in an unselfish manner as an offering or devotion to God for the welfare of the whole world.
A practice of Karma Yoga is particularly beautiful because it causes you to be mindful of everything you do. All actions are considered sacred and all actions are seen in the context of respect for all creation.
So all actions are done from a peaceful state of mind leading to liberation for oneself and others. The karma yoga path is not just outer actions but also inner attitude. It wishes support and wellness for all creatures including enemies. So it does this through deepening understanding from a centered place of deep inner peace.
This is quite different from the usual way people are polarized into their views of right and wrong; good and evil; friend or enemy which leads to greater violence and hatred.
The karma yoga path leads to harmony with nature, creation, people, and the deep underlying divine nature & presence that is masked by outer appearances.
As you may realize to live this path is a very high level of integration with the most pure and spiritual nature within us, and is only attained through a high level of surrender of all ego-driven motives.
The 4th Yoga path is Raja yoga, considered the Royal Yoga because it leads to self-realization through a combination of knowledge, devotion and actions.
And then there is Hatha Yoga, the 5th major yogic path which utilizes postures, mantras, breathing and meditation.