One Way of Describing Four Different Temperaments and Spiritual Paths


The Vedic Paths


Path one

Karma Yoga - Karma Yoga is the Yoga of Action or Service to Others. It is the path chosen primarily by those of an outgoing nature. It purifies the heart by teaching you to act selflessly, without thought of gain or reward. By detaching yourself from the fruits of your actions and offering them up to God, you learn to sublimate the ego. To achieve this, it is helpful to keep your mind focused by repeating a mantra while engaged in any activity. 

 

The important piece to remember is to take the action and then let go. We are responsible for the action, not the outcome - we act, Higher Power/God acts and in between is energetic, divine catalysis. We are only asked to take responsibility for acting purely - no matter which path we feel is ours.


Second possible path

Bhakti Yoga or Divine Devotional Love Yoga - Bhakti Yoga is said to be the easiest path to God in our current age. To fall in love and offer prayers, mantras, rituals and other activities of divine service to God/Goddess through our actions to God directly and through others.

 

This is the Yoga of surrender, completely offering, singing, loving and devoting oneself directly.


third possible path

Jnana Yoga - The Yoga of the Intellect or Knowledge - Jnana Yoga is the most difficult road. One of the reasons is that it is exceptionally difficult to see oneself clearly, to examine the contents of own's own mind and actions fearlessly. This requires tremendous strength of will and intellect. The Jnana Yogi uses his mind to inquire into its own nature. We perceive the space inside and outside a glass as different, just as we see ourselves as separate from God.

 

Jnana Yoga leads the devotee to experience his unity with God directly by breaking the glass, or the ego, dissolving the veils of ignorance. Before practicing Jnana Yoga, the aspirant needs to have integrated the lessons of the other yogic paths - for without selflessness and love of God, strength of body and mind, the search for self-realization can become mere idle speculation.


fourth potential path

Raja Yoga - Often called the "royal road" it offers a comprehensive method for controlling the waves of thought by turning our mental and physical energy into spiritual energy. Raja Yoga is also called Ahtanga Yoga referring to the eight limbs leading to absolute mental control.

 

The chief practice of Raja Yoga is meditation as well as yoga and other forms of activity which lead one to control one's body, energies, physical and spiritual sense and the mind. Niyamas, Bandhas, Yamas, and Mudras are all used to stimulate and control the subtle forces of Prana.


Ashtanga - The Eight Limbs of Raja Yoga

Compiled by the Sage Patanjali Maharishi in the Yoga Sutras, the Eight Limbs are a progressive series of steps or disciplines which purify the body and mind, ultimately leading the yogi to enlightenment. These 8 limbs are:

  1. Yamas - The Yamas or restraints (Don'ts) are divided into five moral injuctions, aimed at destroying the lower nature. They should all be practiced and developped by the letter but also more importantly in the spirit. They should all be practiced in word, thought and deed.
    • Ahimsa or non-violence
    • Satyam or truthfulness
    • Brahmacharya or moderation in all things (control of all senses). Also refers to celibacy
    • Asteya or non-stealing
    • Aparigraha or non-covetousness
  2. Niyamas - The Niyamas or observances (Do's) are also divided into five and complete the ethical precepts started with the Yama.. These qualities are:
    • Saucha or purity - this internal and external cleanliness.
    • Santosha or contentment
    • Tapas or austerity
    • Swadhyaya or study of the sacred texts
    • Ishwara Pranidhana which is constantly living with an awareness of the divine Presence (surrender to God's Will)
  3. Asanas - Postures
  4. Pranayama- regulation or control of the breath. Asanas and Pranayama form the sub-division of Raja Yoga known as Hatha-Yoga
  5. Pratyahara - withdrawal of the senses in order to still the mind.
  6. Dharana - concentration. The last 3 steps constitute the internal practice of Raja Yoga. When Dharana is achieved, it leads to the next step:
  7. Dhyana - meditation is that state of pure thought and absorption in the object of meditation. There is still duality in Dhyana. When mastered Dhyana leads to the last step:
  8. Samadhi - the superconscious state. In Samadhi non-duality or oneness is experienced. This is the deepest and highest state of consciousness where body and mind have been transcended and the Yogi is one with the Self or God."

Paraphrased from the Vedas