About Different Paths and Mukthi
Karma Yoga, raja yoga, bhakti yoga and jnana yoga are different paths of sadhana. Karma yoga is unselfish performance of prescribed duty in complete renunciation of fruits of action. Whatever one does is done as a service to God to appease Him. Karma must be done the best possible way which nobody else can do better. Renunciation of fruits means not expecting a particular result, neither good nor bad. Whatever be the result, he should be content with it, without elation with good result nor dejection with bad result.
Raja yoga involves the eight fold discipline prescribed in Patanjali yoga system. They are yama, niyama, asana, pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana and samadhi. These must be learnt from an adept yogi guru and must be began early when the body is young and strong.
Bhakti yoga is devotion to God. Listening to and singing the glory of the Lord, remembering, serving, worshipping, prostrating, and making friendship and self surrender to the Lord is described as nine ways of devotion. Japa or the repetition of the holy name is the easiest form of bhakti. Raja yoga and jnana yoga which demand severe penance and renunciation are difficult in kaliyuga. People have weak body and mind because they indulge in unlawful, illegal and immoral activities. For them japa with faith and devotion is the easiest way to salvation. Anybody at anytime, without any prerequisites can do japa.
Yajnanam japa yajno'asmi:I am japa yajna, the best of all yajnas, says Lord Krishna in Gita, Meditation along with japa, that is remembering God constantly while repeating the holy name gives quick results. Even the repetition mechanically, called namochhara, slowly gives good results in the long run. Therefore japa never goes waste.
God destroys sins of even wicked hearted who unintentionally remember Him. Just as the fire burns even those who unintentionally touch it. Satsanga, the company and service of sages, is an effective part of bhakti, satsanga burns the sins just as the fire burns everything coming in contact with it. It is the best way to purify the heart.
Jnana yoga demands four-fold discipline as prerequisite.
i. The discriminative knowledge of the eternal and the transient.
ii. Aversion to enjoyment of fruits and deeds on earth and heaven.
iii. Discarding fanciful imagination, control of senses, regression from the objects of pleasure, forbearance, contentment and faith in guru & Vedas.
iv. Intense desire for liberation from bondage.
With these qualifications one should approach a realised guru, surrender and serve with devotion and when guru is pleased, he should ask for instructions on Upanishads.
One should approach with offerings in hand a guru well versed in Vedas and firmly absorbed in the contemplation of the Supreme in order to know the Truth.
This constitutes shravana: listening to the sacred text from guru.
Then the disciple should reflect and meditate in seclusion on the significance of teachings which constitute manana and nididdhyasana. He should continue to serve, listen and meditate until the truth is realised. Reliasation may come at the very first instance or may come after hundred years., but he should not give up until it comes. Jnanam utpadyate pumsam kshaye papasya karmanah: Jnana or Realisation comes when all the sins are expiated. How do they get exhausted? By suffering, service and penance. When body and mind get purified and freed from lust, greed and anger, the truth shines forth in the faultless heart that the individual soul is but a false ego, a shadow of Brahma, and has no reality.
What remains is only Brahma without second entity. This is the realisation of non-dual Brahma. It occurs in vijnanamaya kosha in communion with anandamaya kosha, when outer three koshas are disjointed in deep Samadhi.(yato vacho nivartante - Taitt. Up. II.9)
Realisation is perhaps the most enigmatic of all the experiences. It is so simple and so easy after you had it, in fact it is the easiest thing in the world, nothing can be easier than that. You feel silly that you did not know it, and feel stupid to have worked so hard for it. But it is the hardest and the most difficult thing before you knew it, that you had to work so hard, sacrificing everything for years nay for many lives. It is difficult not because of intricacies, not because of non-proximity or non-availability, but merely because of some obstruction in your mind called avidya. Because you were under the spell of that maya, for hundreds of lives and you always believed that the phenomenal world is real. One may fancy that believing is knowing. Not so! one may listen from a teacher tatvamasi (Thou are that) a thousand times and may repeat aham Brahmaasmi (I am Brahma) or so'aham (I am that) a million times, even then the realisation will not come. Because listening and repetition are at mental plane under the spell of maya. One has to transcend mind, maya and intellect and ego and reach the pure consciousness, where the truth is realised. Therefore fancying of realisation from book knowledge or mental understanding is a great folly and self deception.
Like waking up from sleep, realisation is passing up from waking state to a higher state called turiya the fourth state of consciousness. In this state mind and sense organs withdraw from the world and get absorbed in Brahma. In that all embracing consciousness, he experiences perfect peace and oneness with the universe.
Absolute sincerity, total renunciation, resolute truthfulness, perfect celibacy, unconditional surrender to guru and God, and above all intense desire for liberation are the essential qualifications for realisation.
Karma yoga, raja yoga, jnana and bhakti are the different routes available to reach the goal. Generally one path alone may not suffice, and one may have to follow two or three or all the four paths. While jnana and bhakti are each complete and independent, karma and yoga serve only as ladders leading to the other two.
By yoga marga one may awaken kundalini, may reach chittavritti nirodha complete cessation of mental thoughts) and reach various levels of samadhi, and get super natural powers but unless and until the realisation of Brahma comes, immortality is not achieved.
For the realisation one has to take to bhakti, devotion or to jnana, listening to the Vedantic texts from a guru and deep reflection. In both karma and yoga one tacitly assumes that the phenomenal world is real. With this firm belief he cannot go beyond the phenomenal world and duality. In jnana the whole world is nothing other than Brahma, and in bhakti the devotee sees everything in the world as his beloved Lord. Thus seeing everything in God and God in everything both jnana and bhakti transcend duality and the phenomenal world.
Until the truth is realised, a sadhaka has to follow the path preached by the guru and Scriptures. (Muktikopanishad II.31). Satsanga (company and service of holy men), is highly rewarding to sadhakas of all levels. Being in their proximity is like living in the light of jnana, because bliss and peace emanate from them.
The company of holy men, even for a moment, serves as a boat to cross the ocean of samsara, says Bhagavan Sankaracharya.
All the sadhana before the realisation is at dwaita level. Because duality persists in the phenomenal world and the sadhaka does not see unity in diverse world. So the sadhana he does is dual in nature even though the guru and the scriptures say it is non-dual. After long and arduous sadhana, heart gets thoroughly purified and in that blemishless heart he realises his own inner self as the non-dual all pervading Brahma. Realisation is not the experience of kundalini, not the chitta vritti nirodha, not jada samadhi, not seeing of luminous stars and blazing suns, not witnessing of heaven and other worlds, not knowing past and future, not acquiring siddhis or working miracles. All these are far short of realisation, at grossly dual level. The non-dual sadhana begins after realisation because he is convinced of it now. He tries to stay in that non-dual state as long as he can. Now the ananya bhakti begins. Till now he was different from and external to the Lord, and all the time trying to reach Him as a separate entity. Now he has reached Him and become one with Him therefore the Lord is ananya, non-different from his own inner self. The world including the devotee become non-different from the Lord. The Lord alone and nothing but the Lord exists, in ananya bhakti. He begins to see the Lord in everything and everything in the Lord. He cannot hurt anyone, because some one you hurt is your own self. Naturally you don't want to hurt yourself. Love-hatred, good and bad, high and low are at dual level in phenomenal world. When everything becomes one uniform non-dual Brahma(bhuma) he sees, hears, knows none other than himself. Therefore praise or censure of others will be the praise or censure of his own self. Just as the right hand cannot punish the left hand for some fault, so the jnani cannot punish some one else. Thus the essence of sanatana dharma is summarised by the sage Vyasa in Padma Purana.
Listen to the essence of dharma and live according to it:
Don't do unto others what is unpleasant if it is done to yourself.
According to scirptures karma is of two kinds, prarabda and anarabda. The former is that which has taken into effect and is responsible for the present birth, while the later is that which is in store and will commence at a later stage. At the time of realisation the anarabda karma is destroyed, birth and death cycle is broken, the present being the last one, he gets no more births. However the prarabda karma continues as long as the present body lasts.(tasya taavadava chiram - Changdogya Up.6.14).
The realised soul still has to attend to the basic needs of the physical body like eating, sleeping, bathing etc. He has to interact with ordinary people and the phenomenal world. Mind gets fully absorbed or dissolved and so finds peace when in samadhi but loses that peace when it comes out of it. Mind being a product of maya sees the world real and different from self. Though the ego has realised its unreality it still asserts and the past memories still persist in mind. Like the crystal ball reflecting every colour near it, so does the phenomenal world reflect as real in mind when not in samadhi. So the realised soul still has to do sadhana. His sadhana is continuously dwelling in non-dual Brahma, in egoless, thoughtless state of perfect equanimity.
After continuous and long practice ego and mind eventually get destroyed and the jnani is no more bothered by hunger, pain etc. At this stage he has destroyed prarabda karma and he becomes oblivious of body and the world, always dwelling in Brahma in Supreme bliss. He is now called jeevanmukta, fully liberated even while in a body. He may live for a short while for the benefit of the world in this jeevanmukta state and then merge fully with Brahma when the body falls.
A realised soul continuing his sadhana but not able to destroy the mind and prarabda karma but dies before reaching the highest jeevanmuktha stage, still suffering pain, gets what is called videha mukti, liberation when the body falls. He too does not get any more births, because his anarabda karma responsible for future births has already been destroyed.