Knowledge and action

Is Bhakti a Separate Path? Now some say there are four paths: (i) jnana yoga or the path of knowledge for the intellectual, (ii) bhakti yoga or the path of devotion for the emotional, (iii) karma yoga or the path of action for the active or the extrovert one, and (iv) hatha yoga or the path involving physical restraint for the one who does not specifically fall in the first three categories.

Of these, the jnana yoga and the karma yoga are clear. A jnana yogi or a sannyasi is the one who is committed to knowledge and who has no other obligation. A karma yogi is the one who performs actions enjoined upon him in the spirit of duty. He is the one who bears the brunt; he is the one who supports the people in the rest of the asramas including the sannyasi.

Then what about bhakti yoga? Does a bhakta or a devotee perform actions or not? Bhakti is not really a thing. You cannot say, "I want to do bhakti". You can do something with bhakti or devotion. Lord Krishna says in the Bhagavad Gita, "Whoever offers Me with devotion (Bhaktya) a flower, a fruit or water ...". Offering is an action to be performed with bhakti. There is no such thing as doing bhakti. You can offer prostrations with devotion, and then it is allright, but otherwise it only amounts to an exercise.

According to vedic tradition, every seeker is a bhakta or a devotee. It is not thatn an abhakta or a non devotee becomes a sannyasi or a karma yogi. A bhakta alone takes sannyasa or performs actions. bhakti yoga is not a separate path. Bhakti is the attitude that goes with the performance of action or with the pursuit of knowledge and that alone makes them yogas.

Similarly, hatha yoga is not a separate yoga or path. There is such a thing as exercise or asanas and everyone can perform them. A sannyasi can do asanas; he can include asanas in his personal daily discipline if he requires them. A karma yogi can also perform exercises. So hatha yoga is not a separate path. There is only one path with two modes of coommitments: lokesmin dvividha nishta.