When I first began on the spiritual journey, I studied a number of eastern texts outlining aspects of the path. One common understanding was that there was a series of Yogas, each suitable for different types of people. Those more devotional would follow the Bhakti path. Those more intellectual the Gyan path, those more inclined to doing and experience the Karma Yoga, and those more physical, Hatha Yoga.
As I had a strong drive to understand, I identified myself as Gyan. But as this was the path of discrimination, it was not for the distractions of the world. A proper Gyan would have to become a renunciate and monk. For a time, I considered how I’d be a monk until I reread the descriptions and saw the perceptual part of the Karma Yogi path. I was big on perceptual understanding, so perhaps I was more Karma Yogi. Those who know me would laugh that I ever considered being a monk. More Yogi Bear. (laughs) I was just making a story rather than any real understanding.
At some point, I concluded I was probably a blend. Karma Yogi like many westerners with a Gyan tendency. But also like many westerners, I saw devotion as not my thing and not part of my journey. Yet at a certain point I was faced with dealing with the heart. I could not progress unless I did some clearing and opening. Plus, learned something of surrender.
At first it seemed that the higher states were prominently shifts of each of the primary yogas. Karma to approach Self Realization, Bhakti for God Realization and Gyan for Unity. That obviously implies all are required. Then, closer up it was clear that the primary wakings required something of each. Without surrender, there is no shift. Without understanding, the mind won’t let go. Without preparation, there was no readiness.
Soon it was clear that each of us may have natural leanings or orientation, but we have to deal with it all. Body, heart and mind. Nothing gets left out. For unity, a union of all aspects.
In the recent BATGAP interview with James Swartz, a Vedanta teacher, he finally puts that concept to rest. More like Patanjali’s limbs of Yoga, all forms of Yoga are required for our evolution – at least to some degree. The concept was so lodged in there that in spite of all the exceptions, I still hadn’t fully dropped it. One of my teachers was wrong on that point.
If we have a resistance to a life arena, and in the west a big one is often our emotional baggage, that’s the area we’ll have to deal with one way or another if we want to really “get it”. As James mentions, we can spend our entire meditation processing reactions, only to reenliven them when we step back into activity. Unless we deal with the roots, we’ll just spin our wheels.
If I use the word devotion, blind faith may come to mind. Or Indian pageantry and gods. Strangeness to many westerners. But this is not the only form of devotion. Many are uplifted by the poems of Rumi, Blake, or other western visionaries like Traherne. We can also observe many clear exponents of understanding like Yogananda also writing devotional verse.
Plus, as James observes, even the devotion to self-knowledge is Bhakti. A good friend of mine surprised me with that one. And that in turn eased my concepts around devotion, allowing the heart to further open.
Amusingly, when I then go back and look at Patanjali’s Royal Yoga, it blends all the primary Yogas. I see this message was staring us in the face. All the limbs together, all the Yogas together. An understanding that has to be repeatedly brought to light against the minds tendency to segregate and identify with separateness.
It’s funny how we are. Here’s a primary concept I ran into that didn’t fit. And was repeatedly shown to be incorrect. And the correct understanding was right beside it. But so many people continue to carry and reinforce the idea, so it remains.
Together. Always together.