PRACTICES - RITUALS AND THE PATHS OF YOGA
What are the four paths of Yoga and how we practice them at Śiva Ashram
The four paths of Yoga are like four limbs of one body. Although different individuals may be more attracted to one or two of these paths, they are complementary to each other and strengthen one another. They all lead to the same goal of Union with God...
Raja Yoga is the yoga of control of the mind, emotions and senses. It is often known as the eightfold path towards Ultimate realization. This includes: Yama (moral restraints), Niyama (positive duties), Asana (yogic postures), Pranayama (control of prana through breathing techniques), Pratyahara (withdrawal of the senses), Dharana (concentration), Dhyana (meditation), Samadhi (state of super-consciousness). When you apply true dedication in following this eightfold path, it is ultimately said to bring you to the supreme state where duality is dissolved, and the individual is fully emerged and united with the Divine, which is the true goal of yoga.
Here, in the sanga (community), we learn about and practice the different aspects of Raja yoga at different periods of time, giving us the opportunity to slowly and practically integrate these different practices into our lives. Meditation and Hatha yoga are however two forms of Raja yoga which we practice daily.
Jnana Yoga is the yogic path of knowledge. Jnana literally means “knowledge”, in this case referring to spiritual, supreme knowledge. Jnana yoga is a powerful means towards Self-realization of the Divine within through study of scriptures, knowledge and reason. This insightful path shows us that as we develop and shape our intellect, our vision and perception becomes more clear and more aligned with that of the Supreme. We start to see things with more dispassion and discrimination. Dispassion allows us to remain unaffected during day to day encounters, keeping us in clearer light. After cultivating dispassion, discrimination will allow us to see the real from the unreal, bringing us closer and closer to seeing God in all that is and to the realization of Ultimate Truth.
At Siva Ashram, we practice Jnana yoga each morning as we read a lesson from the Himalayan Academy Master course, written by Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami. Together, after reading, we discuss the lesson and study the insights which we’ve gathered from the lesson. This gives us the opportunity to start each morning with new understandings which improves our knowledge and perception of life.
Bhakti Yoga is the path of devotion and worship. It is giving all of your external actions and internal states unto God. It is to see everything as God and treat all as you would the Divine, until you fully realize that what is in front of you, what is inside of you, is in fact the Divine. This path is often recommended for the more emotional souls, as it is about constantly flooding God with your love and letting His love flood into your heart, until the realization occurs that this love flooding through you to God and God to you, is the same love, and that you are one.
At Siva Ashram, Bhakti yoga is more than an important part of our Sadhana. For some of us, this devotion to God is the basis which sustains our entire practice. We integrate Bhakti yoga in various ways throughout the week. Our daily sangam (community) practice of Bhakti is Pūja and singing.
Karma Yoga is selfless service, or "seva." In its broadest sense, karma yoga is spiritualized action. It is doing each and every task consciously, selflessly, excellently, as an offering to the Divine. Satguru Yogaswami advised devotees, “Whatever work you have to do, do it well. That in itself is yoga.” Work done in this spirit is a form of worship. Doing our ordinary daily duties becomes a powerful sadhana that contributes to our spiritual progress. This yoga makes us more focused, effective and fulfilled.
At Siva Ashram, Karma yoga is an important part of our daily life. Everyday we have around 3-4hours of Karma yoga, where we are assigned a task for the day. As we do our task, we try to surrender to God all of the work being done, and to let the Divine be the receiver of the fruits of our actions, learning true selfless service. Since we live as a community, selfless service is an important part of living in coherence with each other and building this energy of divine love in the sangam. Even more than this, karma yoga is a strong means in building a connection with the Divine and realizing that God is the only actor and that the work being done by you is actually His work being done through you. In this way, karma yoga can help you to see the truth of what God is, and that he is all. He is the giver, he is the receiver, he is the actor and the acted.