1. Karma Yoga 'the path of action'
2. Bakhti Yoga 'the path of devotion'
2. Hatha Yoga union through determination
4. Gyan Yoga 'the path of knowledge'
The essence of Karma Yoga is focussing on the quality of the action for its own sake and with enjoyment until ''the actor and the action become one''. Whatever actions we undertake leave an impression on our minds, and even our souls, so we can consciously make ourselves the way we want to be through deliberate action. Strong impressions leave a trace on the soul, so repeated actions will make an even stronger impression for good or bad. Our selves are the sum total of all our actions.
How can we make a stronger impression? We can follow a path of selfless action without thinking about the results. Repeated actions, done with great attention and commitment, will achieve far greater results than actions taken with one eye on the future outcome. If we focus 100 % of our attention on performing an action to the best of our ability and with enjoyment, the results will be optimum. If 70 % of our attention is consumed by worries or fears about the results, doubts about the action taken, weighing up of pros and cons, looking over our shoulder to see what others are doing or resenting the action as a 'means to an end', then only 30 % of our attention is on the action itself and the outcomes will reflect this. Halfhearted preparations or motivation will lead to halfhearted results.
The art of Karma Yoga is to focus on the action, not the outcome. We obtain union with the object of our attention through single-minded focus. When we become one with our goal, it is because we focus on the quality of what we do. For example, if, as students, we constantly focused on Ayurveda, we could begin to assimilate its knowledge and way of life to the point where we became Ayurveda itself. At that point there would be no need to check books, worry about practice, or doubt our abilities, as we would become pure conduits of Ayurvedic knowledge and practice. If we were to focus on any object of meditation we could come close to enlightenment.
2. Bakhti Yoga
Bakhti Yoga is the art of devotion or union through love. All great works have been achieved through human enjoyment, ie for their own sake. For example, Mother Teresa said that there are no great deeds, only small deeds performed with great love. 'Par' refers to personal love (lower) and 'Apar' to a loving attitude which does not discriminate as to its object (higher). In this case when the lover 'becomes' love (and only love), the force of love becomes incredibly powerful.
It is difficult to define love, surrounded as we are by many misconceptions about its nature. We may confuse desire with love, attachment with love, jealousy with love, fear of loneliness with love, possession with love, sex with love and romance with love. In the name of love we strike implicit bargains, not even knowing what our expectations are until they are breached. We may keep score of what we give, demanding that others reciprocate in every way. We may try to take away the freedom of partners or children or use emotional blackmail to make others prove their love for us. Even a mother's love can be contaminated with issues of possessiveness or clinging. The other side of the mass-media's promotion of glamour, passion and sex in relationships between men and women, is abuse, control, humiliation, obsession, stalking and even murder of women in the name of romantic love. In fact the very Hollywood/Bollywood stars who exemplify the former on the big screen often turn out to be struggling with far from loving relationships in their private lives.
Real love can be defined by the following qualities:
3. Forgetting yourself/selflessness
4. A lack of suffering
When we experience the state of pure love, we are completely peaceful. There is no room for other emotions, such as resentment, jealousy, suffering or pride. ''When love, the lover, and the beloved become one'', that is Bakhti Yoga. Once we become love, we may extend love to everyone and everything without restriction. The personal becomes universal.
3. Hatha Yoga
This is union through stubbornness and determination and refers to the seven stage path which ultimately leads to Raj Yoga (King's Yoga) It focusses on physical and mental purification (satkarmas), strength-building exercises and postures (asanas) , 'locks' of breathing (bandhas) hand and other gestures (mudras) and breath expansion (pranayama) as well as the concentration and meditation of Astanga yoga.
It is outlined primarily in three texts, although there is little description of exactly how to achieve the physical postures:
Hatha Yoga Pradipika by Yogi Swatmarama (15th century)
Shiva Samhita, author unknown (before 1500 CE or late 17th century)
Gheranda Samhita by Yogi Gheranda (late 17th century)
However the Goraksha Samhita authored by Yogi Gorakshanath in the 11th century is considered to have been responsible for popularizing Hatha yoga as it is known today. In Hatha Yoga Pradipika, Swatmarama introduces his system as preparatory stage for the physical purification needed for higher meditation or Yoga.
It must be remembered that Hatha Yoga (asanas included) was a life-time spiritual journey and commitment for the disciple who was accompanied by the guru every step of the way.
4. Gyana Yoga
This is union through knowledge. In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna says that Gyana Yoga consists of understanding the body and the soul and the difference between these two and it is assumed throughout the Vedas that Gyana Yoga is the best path to take if possible. In knowing the self the supreme can also be known through a fourfold discipline.
1. Samanyasa, cultivating oneself the following qualities:
Viveka, the capacity to discern between the real and the unreal.
Vairagya, dispassion, indifference to pleasure and pain;
Shad-sampat, the six virtues:
Sama, tranquility or control of mind, calmness;
Dama, control of the senses;
Uparati, renunciation of worldly activities;
Titiksha, endurance of changing and opposite circumstances;
Shradda, faith in the guru, the atman and the scriptures;
Samadhana, concentration of the mind.
Mumukshutva, intense longing for liberation.
2. Sravana, listening to the teachings of the sages on the Upanishads and Advaita Vedanta, and studying the Vedas and Vedantic texts;
3. Manana, the stage of reflection on the teachings;
4. Dhyana, the stage of meditation on the truth "that art Thou".