What are the Yogas?

Yoga tells us there are a few fundamental ways. If you employ your physical body to reach this ultimate union, we call this karma yoga, or the yoga of action. If you employ your intelligence to reach your ultimate nature, we call this gnana yoga, the yoga of intelligence. If you employ your emotions to reach your ultimate nature, we call this bhakti yoga, the yoga of devotion. And if you use your energies to reach the supreme experience, we call this kriya yoga, the yoga of transforming energies.

Every human being is a unique combination of the same ingredients. All these aspects—karma, gnat, bhakti, kriya—have to function in an integrated way, if one wants to get anywhere. If these four dimensions—body, mind, emotion, energy—don’t walk together, you will be one big mess.

Once it happened … Four men were walking in the forest. The first was a gnana yogi, the second was a bhakti yogi, the third was a karma yogi, and the fourth was a kriya yogi.

Usually, these four people can never be together. The gnana yogi has total disdain for every other type of yoga. His is the yoga of the intellect, and typically, an intellectual has complete disdain for everybody else, particularly these devotional types who look upward and chant God’s name all the time. They look like a bunch of idiots to him.

But a bhakti yogi, a devotee, thinks all this gnana, karma, and kriya yoga is a waste of time. He pities the others who don’t see that all you need to do is know that God exists, hold his hand, and walk in trust. All this mind-splitting philosophy, this bone-bending yoga is absurd to him.

Then there is the karma yogi, a man of action. He thinks all the other types are just plain lazy. Their lives are pure self-indulgence.

But the kriya yogi is the most disdainful of all. He laughs at everyone. Don’t they know that existence is just energy? If you don’t transform your energy, whether you long for God or for anything else, nothing is going to happen! There can be no transformation.

These four people customarily cannot get along. But today they happened to be walking together in the forest. Suddenly, a storm broke out. It grew fierce. The rain started pouring down relentlessly. Drenched to the skin, the four yogis started running, looking desperately for shelter.

The bhakti yogi, the devotion man, said, ‘There’s an ancient temple in this direction. Let’s go there.’ (As a devotee, he was particularly familiar with the geography of temples).

They ran in that direction. They came to an ancient temple; all the walls had crumbled long ago; just the roof and four columns remained. They rushed into the temple—not out of love for God, but just to escape the rain.

There was a deity in the center. They ran toward it. The rain started lashing from every direction. There was no other place to go, so they moved closer and closer. Finally, there was no alternative. They just sat down and embraced the idol.

The moment these four people hugged the idol, suddenly God appeared.

In all their minds the same question arose, why now? They wondered, ‘We expounded so many subtle and arcane philosophies, worshipped at every possible sacred shrine, great and small, selflessly served so many people, did so much body-breaking penance, but you never showed up. Now when we’re just escaping the rain, you turn up. Why?’

God said, ‘At last you four idiots got together.’

Source: Sadhguru, Inner Engineering: A Yogi’s Guide to Joy, New York: Penguin Ananda, 2016

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