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IMGCA Article - The Mental Game of Yoga


The Four Basic Systems of Yoga - Part 2

Robert Elias Najemy

This is Part 2 of a 3-part series of articles. See Part 1 and Part 3.

There are many systems of yoga, but they fall into four basic categories. All the systems have the same goals:
1. Harmony between body, mind and soul,
2. Harmony between human beings,
3. Freedom from mechanical, unconscious, robot-like ways of thinking and living,
4. Transcendence of the limitations of the body and personality,
5. The reduction of ego and selfishness and, eventually,
6. The experience of the Divine in oneself and others.

Yoga offers various paths towards the same goals in order to facilitate the different needs, characters and inclinations of the various types of people. Each is free to follow whichever path suits him personally. Most people, however, find that a combination of the paths suits them more. There is a path for the practical person, for the doer, for the emotionally oriented, for the mentally and philosophically oriented; and a path for the development of will power, which is useful for all the paths. You may choose according to your inclinations.

1. KARMA YOGA is also called the householder’s yoga or the path of action, of activity in the world. One does not need to practice any special techniques or go to any special classes or retreat from life at all. One simply learns to SERVE, WITHOUT EXPECTING ANYTHING IN RETURN, AND TO ACT WITHOUT BEING ATTACHED TO THE RESULT OF HIS ACTION.

Thus, the Karma Yogi serves his family, helps his friends, offers whatever selfless service he can to society so as to lessen the suffering around him. He diminishes his ego by becoming free from his own needs and pleasures, so that he can offer something worthwhile to the society in which he lives. He does not worry about the others. He does not worry. He acts. There is a great difference between action and worry. Worry is worthless and brings negative results. Action with love and self-confidence can bring about great changes.

Thus a Karma yogi may run a business, fight a court case, drive a taxi, or bring up children. In each case he will use all his mental and physical powers to create the desired result, but his happiness will not depend on the result. His happiness depends on his knowing he is doing his best. His business may fail, he may lose his court case, his children may not act in the way he would like them to, but he is at peace. He has done and is doing his absolute best and will continue to do so, but without anxiety about success or failure.

He begins to feel himself as a cell in the body of humanity and starts to look around to see what he can do to make the world a better place to live; to help the poor, the orphans, the blind, the lonely, the ill. He may choose to direct his energies towards various movements such as those for World Peace or for Human rights. He corrects the world and himself at the same time. The key words here are SELFLESS SERVICE and DETACHMENT FROM THE FRUIT OF THE ACTION. The motto is «Service to Humanity is Service to Divinity». This is in alignment with the teachings of Christ in which He explains that He is in every being and that, whenever we help anyone, we are helping Him in reality. Service is the path towards human unity through selfless action.

2. BHAKTI YOGA is the yoga of devotion, love and worship of the Divine. It is the emotional path towards union with God. Yoga leaves the form of worship up to the individual. It encourages the Christian to worship Christ. The Hindus, Buddhists, Moslems and Jews will each worship in their own way. This is the path of complete surrender to the Divine Will. One tries as much as possible to have the name and form of the Divine constantly in his mind, i.e., the ceaseless prayer recommended by St. Paul, LORD JESUS CHRIST HAVE MERCY ON ME.

This path is expressed in Christ’s words «Love God with all your heart, all your mind and all your strength and all your soul». And this commandment soon leads into the second, «Love your neighbor as you love your self». Christ makes no conditions, such as; if he is a Christian, or a saint, or not if he is a sinner, or a communist, or a Jew, or a Black.

He tells us, also, to love our enemies - everyone without exception. Thus, while we must channel all our emotional energies into our worship of our chosen Ideal, at the same time we must keep our hearts and minds open to everyone else, no matter what their chosen way of worship or belief.

The Bhakti yogi soon starts to discover that God is the inner resident of each and every being in creation and consequently his or her love expands towards all. Ego and selfishness are slowly eroded by his love, which is like a light removing the darkness in his life. It is not possible to truly love God, without loving people. This path purifies negative emotions, destructive desires, the mind and the character. It is considered one of the more suitable methods of enlightenment in our present age. The methods of Bhakti yoga are prayer, chanting, spiritual discussion, repetition of the name of God and various traditional rituals, which may suit the individual.

A combination of Karma Yoga and Bhakti Yoga offer an individual in our society an opportunity to better his own life and the world around him simultaneously. It requires no techniques and no special training.

3. JNANA YOGA is the path of wisdom, understanding, discrimination and philosophy. It is the path, which few can follow. It requires a razor sharp mind that is always aware of the truth that we are not the contents of the mind, nor are we the body. Everything we see is just a temporary reality that is always changing and will soon pass.

The Jnana yogi gradually ceases to identify with his body, his emotions, and the contents of his mind. He begins to experience his Self as the WITNESS of all these changing phenomena, which are taking, place in his body, in his mind and around him. He practices non-attachment to any particular person or situation.

He loves, but is not attached to. His love is felt as the experience of unity with the other being, but not a need to possess the other being. There is a great difference between attachment and love. They are opposites. Real love can exist only when there is no attachment, no need for anything from the other, not even his presence. Only then can one love unconditionally.

The Jnana yogi seeks to experience the Truth. He has heard from others that there is a more permanent reality behind this world, in which all forms are sure to decay, die and disappear. His logic confirms to him, as Socrates' did so well, that this must be true. But now he wants to experience it. There is a great difference between hearing, believing and knowing by experience.

The Jnana yogi usually does not concentrate on Holy forms. He seeks to know the formless, the unmanifest God. He seeks to experience God as the basis of every being and object which exists in this world. He sees everyone and everything as simply a temporary projection of the one universal spirit.

The Jnana yogi constantly struggles against the tendency of the mind to identify with pleasures and pains and various emotional states which cause him to loose his awareness of the Truth - that he is an eternal consciousness which is independent of all this which is going on in his life. Life is a temporary drama in which he is playing a role for the time being, but the day will come when he will wake up, either through a spiritual awakening, or through the death of his physical body, and he will realize that all this was like a dream, that he is really not a man or woman, mother or father, artist, businessman, scientist, politician, wealthy or poor, but that he is a soul who was just temporarily playing these roles.

The path of Jnana yoga by itself is difficult, but the truths that it offers us are very useful in keeping a peaceful and clear mind for facing the various tests of life.

You will want to see part 3 of this series of articles.

Robert E. Najemy, author of 25 books and life coach with 30 years of experience, has trained over 300 life coaches and now does so over the Internet. Become a life coach. Over 600 free article and lectures at

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