Paths to God, Stay Positive During CoVid-19

Prescription for Lockdown – walk the four paths to God

The lockdown imposed in many countries to combat the novel coronavirus (CoVid-19) has caught people unaware. This is perhaps the first time in the experience of all generations alive on this planet that such a situation has come about. Hence, there is no experience and prior wisdom on how to go about and handle oneself in this situation.
This series is dedicated to make use of this time available to us in this lockdown period to help us move towards a better and fulfilling experience of life.

The series began with the post on practicing compassion and appreciation for others. Then we discussed how we can incorporate mindfulness and attentive living in order to fulfill our senses and experience contentment. Also, we saw how the lockdown period can be utilized to add a new skill in our repository, thereby developing our brain and enhancing our capabilities. This is also the time to dive into the world of meditation and yoga and become stable and stronger from within.

However, this is an opportunity to do more than follow self-improvement routines as above. This is an opportunity to practice and follow the four paths to Union with God or the four paths of Yoga as expounded in Vedic or Sanatan Dharma traditions. If you are not familiar with what they are, here is a quick summary:

  • Gyan Yoga: Union with God through logical understanding and distilled knowledge (also spelt as Jnana Yoga)
  • Raja Yoga: Union with God through techniques utilizing the energy of body, breath and mind (also known as Ashtanga Yoga)
  • Karma Yoga: Union with God through selfless service and helping others
  • Bhakti Yoga: Union with God through devotion and universal love
Original Image from FITSRI

Are You a Non-believer? Then this post is just right for you.

From the moment of our birth to this day, we are learning through inquiry and contemplation on our experience of life. The fundamental quest is to understand the source of everything that we observe around us, including our own selves, and how we can utilize that knowledge for a better living.

You must be working on improving your own personal health by making a strong and stable body and mind. You are surely engaged in some work which in turn benefits others in some way. Finally, you must have someone or something you love and feel yourself devoted to.

You see, you are already practicing the four paths (see the definitions above once more), though not with the intention of being united with God. Come to think about it, the entire design of life is such that we could receive Union with God through one or the other aspect of our lives, even though we may be unaware.

In our normal lives, it so happens that almost none of us are able to practice all the paths with equal engagement. However, as you may have heard, though each of these paths is a path to unite with God, a soul needs to go through all the four paths to receive the grace of the Sacred Union with the Supreme Consciousness.

If you look closely into the definitions of the four Yoga or paths to Union, you can easily understand that the first two are individualistic and personal in nature, in the sense that one does not need the presence of another person or even recognize the existence of God to follow these paths. Hence these are the paths commonly followed by the yogis and seers living a secluded life away from society in pursuit of God. However, that does not restrict someone living within society with family and friends to practice these. All one needs is some time to get away from everything and everyone else. If you are stuck in lockdown all by yourself, then these are the paths for you to follow.

However, we shall discuss the other two paths first. Most of us are probably finding themselves in a situation where they are with one or more of their family members. In this situation, Karma Yoga and Bhakti Yoga can be followed more easily, only by changing our mindset a bit.

Karma Yoga

Karma Yoga demands selfless service and helping others.

It is not the work that earns you a paycheck at the end of the month. It is the work for which you expect nothing in return.

How to practice Karma Yoga when stuck in a lockdown with your family members? Simple. Help each other out in daily chores.

With the housekeepers off duty in most homes, it is upon the owners to maintain the house for cleanliness and doing other daily chores. Pick a task that you are not used to doing in normal times. Then do it with an intention of serving the home and those living in it. If someone points out an area of improvement, accept it gracefully and work to better yourself at it.

Remember that your intention is to serve others, so you must take feedback gracefully in order to serve them well.

Do not let your ego come in between your learning, and never expect that you will be rewarded in some way for being helpful around the house. Even if you are not seeking to reach God, this attitude of service will definitely bring in more peace and harmony within you, and make you more grounded than before.

Bhakti Yoga

Bhakti Yoga follows suit.

If you already believe in God, you can go ahead and submit all the work you are doing at home to the Divine Feet.

Contemplate on God more and more and chant the name of God in your mind with a sense of devotion and deep love.

Now that you cannot go to temples or other places for worship, realize that God resides in the hearts of all, especially yours. Only you need to recognize that presence and extend the love that you have for God to everyone as well as yourself. Show that love and devotion to your partner, to your little child, to the elders at home.

Enhance the love for your people to the level of loving God.

This you can very well do even if you are a non-believer. Take this chance to experience love with a deeper and devotion-like bliss.

However, if you are stuck all alone, then you have to lean more towards the other two paths. But you can still bring in the elements of Karma Yoga by doing all the works in the house yourself, like cleaning, cooking, washing, etc. taking your own time and in your own pace. Practice contemplation of God and chanting of mantras in devotion and love. Feel the sense of deep love in your heart and extend that to the people away from you by connecting to them over voice or video calls.

Extend the love to those affected by the pandemic, to those who do not even have the bare necessities, by donating to relief funds and emergency funds or to some organization you know who are working for them.

If possible, go ahead and volunteer.

Gyan Yoga

Gyan Yoga is based on the spirit of inquiry that is basic in humans.

This is the path to know God through the process of constant inquiry and arriving at higher and higher truths, wherein at a level there is no further fundamental truth to be known. This truth is the Ultimate Truth or God.

In this post, two branches of inquiry will be briefly touched upon, enough to arouse the spirit of inquiry within you.

The first mode of inquiry defines God as the ultimate cause of everything, the highest power that can be. Hence, God needs to be a constant phenomenon, ever-present in this Existence.

The task is to seek such a God through logical inquiry.

One can start from anywhere and anything, be it the earth, or the plants, the sun, the planets, atoms, whatever comes in mind and ask the question ‘Is this God?’ If that thing does not fit the definition and qualification as laid down for God, i.e., is not a constant phenomenon, has births and deaths, or creation and destruction, then it cannot be God. Then it gets rejected and the seeker looks for a higher cause, a cause whose effect are these temporary things.

When one arrives at some cause, it is again tested on the same principle of its permanency in Existence.

In this way one opens up layer by layer the secrets of Existence and goes to the core cause of everything, in the same way as one opens the leaves of an onion layer by layer and reaches its core.

The second mode of inquiry is made famous by the Advaita Vedanta followers. Here the three states or avastha which are the wakeful state (jagrat), dream state (swapna) and deep sleep state (sushupti) are analysed to infer that God is a fourth state called Turiya which is beyond all these three. One can see this famous lecture by Swami Sarvapriyananda for more understanding on this.

Raja Yoga

The last path to be discussed is the path of Raja Yoga or Ashtanga Yog. It has the eight anga or limbs, namely Yama (abstinence), Niyama (observance), Asana (postures), Pranayama (breathing techniques), Pratyahara (withdrawal), Dharana (concentration), Dhyana (meditation) and Samadhi (absorption).

Swami Vivekananda as well as many other sages held the opinion that through practice of Raja Yoga alone one can obtain the Sacred Union with God. It can be seen that the final step of union, which is Samadhi, features explicitly as a stage in Raja Yoga only and not the other paths. However, going through the eight limbs of Raja Yoga, a sadhak or yogi eventually develops appropriate motivation and walks the other paths as well.

In modern times, only the Asana, Pranayama and Dhyana parts of Ashtanga Yoga has become more popular and mainstream and collectively called as ‘yoga’. You can see this post where useful video guides have been presented for anyone to begin their journey in yoga.

However, a prerequisite to all these is to know how to breathe correctly. If you are breathing wrongly, none of the benefits of ‘yoga’ will show up, and more harm than good may be done.

If you follow even these three of the eight limbs with appropriate intention, the others follow suit. However, the final stage of Samadhi will keep eluding you, and that is why it is the final one.

It takes years of devotion and practice for most to attain Samadhi. It is also said that one lifetime may not be enough.

But at least, you would have moved closer to God in this lifetime if you walk the four paths as briefly discussed above.

Practicing the above four paths in this lockdown period, they can be established as core values in your life, so that even after the usual life and affairs ensue, you can still continue on the path to God Union.

After all, what could be a higher aspiration than to receive communion with the Supreme Consciousness, the ultimate source of everything.




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