I’ve been reading Huston Smith’s World Religions for ordination studies. The book is well-written but dominated by recent academic perspectives of the topic. It offers a general overview of the larger faiths, but I wouldn’t base my practices on it.
In the Hindu section, Houston outlines the primary Yogas or paths to union.
In brief, these are:
– Hatha yoga is the path of the body
– Karma yoga is the path of action and perception
– Bhakti yoga is the path of devotion
– Gyana or jnana yoga is the path of the intellect
When I first read of the paths decades ago, I thought we were each on one path or the other. And that it was necessary to follow only that path to make progress. As they said, we fail if we try to follow the dharma of another.
Huston observed that karma yogis have 2 styles, devotional and intellectual. A devotional karma yogi acts from devotion, seeing action as a service. A Gyani karma yogi does one’s duty while favouring detachment from doing.
This observation of a natural blend is superior to my early concepts. The paths are not separate. We’re each a blend of laws of nature and thus typically a blend of paths too.
After some early confusion about my path, I came to recognize this. I have a strong intellect but the primary path is one of perception, Karma. Action in service is also key, which is devotion. And I practice asana from Hatha.
At distinct points of the journey, different yogas have become more prominent. When there is a heart opening, devotion becomes stronger. Unity stage needs the intellect. And so forth.
The Yoga Sutra encourages Raja Yoga, a blend of practices to bring it all along and make the most progress. This approach has served me well.