The Means of Liberation (Yogas)

The Means of Liberation (Yogas)

Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 13
Verse 24
Some realize the Self by the Self in the Self through meditation, others through Samkhya yoga, yet others through Karma yoga.
Verse 25
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.

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  1. N

    Hi David,

    I’m curious about how you would categorize what Confucious and Socrates practiced? Basically their practice constituted of virtuous actions and thoughts, as I understand it.


    1. Hi N
      I’d have to review my notes for a more accurate response but broadly, a practice of “right action” relates to Karma Yoga. Right way of being in the world. However, it’s often couched in philosophical terms and may involve analysis of right choice. This adds the intellect. And so forth.

      Key with any philosophy is the means. If there isn’t a validated means of living the ideals being preached, it remains a concept or belief. This may bring some mental certainty and confidence in ones rightness of life but how much growth does it bring? Or is it just reinforcing ego?

      Certainly there is value in morals and laws. But there is much deeper value in a practice that can bring one in tune with the natural flow of life. Then “right action” becomes spontaneous and in harmony with those around us. It doesn’t need to be “figured out” or endlessly debated.

      I argued this point with a college philosophy professor but he considered the point simplistic. (laughs) Yet the solution to our struggles is often right here.

      1. N

        Hi David,

        Yes, I guess it is also called “superior virtue” and “inferior virtue”. Right action via non-doing and doing where the latter eventually leads to the former.

        I like the idea that ego/ the personality can understand the beneficial nature of virtuous action rather than doing it because someone said so. I suppose that was the approach of Socrates, which is why I bring it up – questioning our assumptions about what anger, humility etc. actually leads to. Fx. I just had a conversation with someone about how we normally hold on to anger to gain respect if disrespected, while letting go of it actually gives more respect from self and others in most cases – but the mind doesn’t see that initially.

        An interesting thing I heard somewhere else was that right action/ virtue does not lead to happiness in the future – it is happiness. The more I understand this, the more right action happens for its own sake.

        I wonder if it could lead to enlightenment or if Socrates and Confucius just took the approach that they did, because society was at a different stage at that time.

        1. Right, N.

          We start out being driven mostly by unmet needs. We can study philosophy, morals, etc endlessly. But as long as we have fundamental unmet needs, our best intentions will be thwarted.

          By going within and touching the reservoir of happiness, wisdom, and love, our needs become met and we shed the baggage. We stop looking outside of ourselves for what we need and we can live it spontaneously.

          This is not just about understanding, although it can help in the meantime.

          Anger is an interesting one. As you mention but also we hold onto it because it’s not treated as a “good” emotion in our culture. But holding on or repressing it, it eats us up within.

          And yes, like Campbell’s saying “Follow your Bliss.” Follow where happiness leads you. When we’re unbound from the above, action naturally flows from and in happiness.

          The filmmaker David Lynch speaks to this in various ways around creativity here:

          As he notes, if this has not been our experience, it sounds like abstract nonsense – like much of this blog for many. (laughs)

          The essence of Karma Yoga is the path to enlightenment through action. It’s not so much the doing itself but our relationship to it that draws us forward.

          Philosophers also speaks from where they’re at. If they meet the need of the time, they become known – in their time or later. We could say Confucius was less awake than Lao Tzu, for example. Socrates seemed to take things further than Plato.

          But if they don’t have a means in there, if it stays on the level of mind and intellect, then their students will not reach as far.

          1. N


            Yes, I just got increased respect for Socrates when I saw Rose referring to him in one of her healing books as an ascended master in a list with Buddha, Jesus and others.

            And yes I very much agree regarding anger. And if it is suppressed it turns in on one self and becomes shame, guilt and depression.

          2. Weird – I wrote a reply several days ago and left town but there it was sitting there in my browser unpublished when I got home… 🙂

            Right – but keep in mind growth can occur after a human incarnation as well. The sages and helpers don’t stop evolving with death. But a human life is a good platform for rapid evolution.

            Yes – I’ve heard it said that under anger is fear. But as Gangaji used to demonstrate, under any emotion is either peace or happiness.

  2. I mentioned the chapter numbers that are themed for each above Yoga. There are however 18 chapters, each with a Yoga theme. Other chapters are variations like the Yoga of Renunciation of Action, or simply a theme, like the Yoga of the Despondency of Arjuna.

    1. Thanks, Paul. Quite enjoyed the talk. Interesting proposal that the flowering of Greek culture and the foundations of democracy and western thought were derived from learning techniques from India. And that the giant arena was a meditation hall that was said to provide the shield (kavach) against invading armies.

      My only objection would be to his comments on dating the Ramayana. It wasn’t the start of Kali Yuga but rather of Treta after the golden age (sat). We don’t go from summer to winter directly. 5114 BC is also India’s official take on Rama’s birth year but that’s a bit late for the Yuga timing. 6776 BC as his time of death makes more sense. This lines up with the Yukteswar calculation of Yugas which in turn aligns with the precession of the equinoxes (and the Greek ages too).

      Then you have an incarnation at the end of each age in the descent of yugas.

      Millions of years ago doesn’t make sense as it would put Rama prior to prior incarnations.

      It also makes ridiculous the common ideas of when Vedic culture flowered if that was the descent. More likely it developed about 17,000 years ago.

      Perhaps you’ve seen that satellite images discovered the bridge built in the story to Sri Lanka, now underwater due to rising seas. Also that the “mythic” Saraswati river has been found too, now dry.

      A number of recent discoveries in various parts of the world are likely to rewrite our understanding of history.

  3. N

    Ah, no worries. I just thought you didn’t have any further comments 🙂

    Good point about further evolution after death.

    Yes, I’m steadily peeling away the layers to uncover more of that peace.

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