FOUR SPIRITUAL PATHS
Our personality is made of three parts: The Physical Part (The Body), the emotional part, (the Mind), and the Rational part (the Intellect). Running like a thread through these three parts is our true Self: Consciousness, Soul, or Atma in Sanskrit. The Consciousness acts as the battery energizing the inert Body, Mind, and Intellect.
We are all familiar with the term Yoga. However, the term is widely used in the West but not properly understood. Most people take it to mean the practice of improving one’s physical health through various exercises and breath control. However, Yoga has a much wider meaning in the spiritual practices of the East. The word is derived from the Sanskrit word YUJ, which means “to yoke” or "union with the Self". It is to seek and find union with your real Being, transcending body, mind, and intellect. The practice of Yoga is based on the scriptures on the practice of Yoga and is over 400 years CE. The main author was Saint Patanjali and 80% of his focus was on spirituality and 20% on the physical side of exercises.
So where does all this fit into the scheme of spiritual uplift? Great teachers realized early that because we all have distinct and different personality inclinations from birth, therefore different approaches are required by different people to direct our spiritual search. These paths are given technical Sanskrit terms namely Hatha Yoga, Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, and Jnana Yoga.
Hatha yoga (commonly understood as “Yoga” ) is through postures and breath regulation which aids physical wellness and helps us override physical issues that would be a hindrance in the spiritual journey. Thus if one has a predominant tendency towards physical activities, Hatha Yoga may be suitable as a starting point on the spiritual journey.
Karma Yoga refers to selfless actions for others. By doing so, it eradicates selfishness innate in us. This selfless action activates our internal energy centers and we radiate energy and life force. When we work for others, we have a common vision with humanity. Thus, if one had a predominant tendency towards helping others, then this path may be suitable.
Bhakti Yoga refers to devotion and love for God. Following this path dilutes our Ego. This devotion to the Higher makes us appreciate all the good we have, and thus develop gratitude.
The fourth path of Jnana Yoga refers to achieving unity with one’s inner Consciousness through spiritual knowledge and contemplation. It sparks our Intellect and initiates our Self-Enquiry to start this journey inward where our true joy exists. Meditation is simply the practice of contemplation and is a tool to achieve serenity of mind and balance. Meditation slows down the restless Mind to bring peace, which is our natural state. Sitting quietly and watching one’s breath continuously is one of the techniques of meditation.
It should be pointed out that the four paths mentioned above are not mutually exclusive. The human personality may pursue one or more of the four tendencies in different proportions. For instance, an individual who follows the path of service (Karma Yogi) can also follow the path of contemplation.
To summarize, try to know what your natural inclination is and then start the inner journey where true peace resides, away from the outside ever-changing world.