Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 13
Some realize the Self by the Self in the Self through meditation, others through Samkhya yoga, yet others through Karma yoga.
Others, however, not knowing thus, sit near Me [Krishna], having heard from others, they also do cross beyond death, devoted to what they have heard.
This lays out the Yogas or paths to liberation.
The first is Dhyana Yoga, the path of meditation covered in Chapter 6 of the Gita. These days, it is often taught as Raja Yoga or the Royal road. This is why I emphasize an effortless meditation.
The second, Samkhya Yoga, is the theme of Chapter 2. Samkhya is a philosophy of enumeration that is a dualist approach, teaching that all forms arise from purusha (spirit) and prakriti (nature). We might call it a branch of Gyana, the path of knowledge or the intellect.
Next, Karma Yoga is the path of action in the world. By taking the right approach to action, such as recognizing we have control over action alone and not its fruits (results), we can begin to disentangle. It’s our attachment to results that binds us to action and the wheel of karma.
Spiritual traditions speak of the value of service. Service is action without thought of personal gain and thus attachment. We learn how to do without entanglement if we understand these points.
The second verse is about devotion or Bhakti Yoga. Not by knowing but by being with. This is the theme of Chapter 12.
However, from another perspective, the first 6 chapters are the karma-kanda, the second 6 (7-12) are the upasana-kanda on devotion, and the final 6 chapters (13-18) are the gyana-kanda. In other words, it’s all intertwined.
Remember these are not exclusive paths but rather means towards liberation. Most of us are a blend. For example, meditation requires action to be integrated. The pursuit of knowledge is a devotion. And different stages of the path and life can bring a different emphasis.
In any case, I recommend the path of meditation as it supports all the others. As the Yoga Sutra itself says (1v2-3):
Yoga is the complete settling of the activity of the mind.
Then the observer is established in his own nature.
With clarity of mind & emotions and developing soma, we naturally act better, think more precisely and have a more open heart.
Key with any practice is samadhi or transcendence – that settling allows us to go beyond the mind and emotions into our true nature. However we most easily step into inner peace, no matter how foggy or empty, it will gradually culture it until it becomes clear. And then we become it (recognize what we’ve always been).
And that is liberation.