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Jnana – Karma – Bhakti And Raja Yoga Explained In Simple Terms

A simple and lucid explanation of Jnana Yoga, Karma Yoga, Bhakti and Raja Yoga in Hinduism.

Jnana yoga deals with the experience of self.

Karma yoga deals with the experience of the world.

Bhakti yoga deals with the experience of ultimate reality or ultimate value.

Raja yoga deals with the mind itself, the instrument of all experience.

The jnani seeks to know ‘Who am I?’

The karma yogi seeks to find freedom in the midst of action in the world.

 The bhakta seeks God as the highest value and ultimate reality.

The raja yogi seeks to perfect the mind till the mind is capable of reflecting the truth, of perceiving the truth directly.

The statement that bhakti yoga deals with ultimate reality and ultimate value needs, perhaps, a word of explanation. Whatever we take as real, assumes value for us, and what we value takes on reality for us.

A miser’s god is money; the god of many young people is a member of the opposite sex; the god of a glutton is food: these are the objects of highest value and therefore assume the highest reality to their respective ‘worshippers’. But the bhakta or follower of bhakti yoga prays with Prahlada of puranic fame: ‘That intense love which the ignorant bear towards the objects of this world: may I have that same intensity of love for Thee!’ Why? Because the bhakta realizes – at first mentally and finally with the whole soul – that God is the ultimate reality and the only value. As Sri Ramakrishna said, you can have a long string of zeros, and the value is still zero. But put a one in front, and the zeros take on value, because of the one. God is the one, and all else the zeros.

Swami Vivekananda described jnana yoga as the path of philosophy and saw it connected to the philosophical urge within humanity, but defined it broadly to include the scientific urge for truth as well. He saw bhakti yoga as founded in the human pursuit of love and value and aesthetics. He saw karma yoga as joined to the pursuit of service and self sacrifice and all efforts towards human unity. And he saw raja yoga as the field of psychology and as the science explaining the driving force behind human evolution.