Yoga means union with one's Self [physical exercises are merely a small but necessary anga of Yoga]. Bhagavad Gita and our shastras in general say that there are 3 way to realize the all-pervading divine (which is thus also within us and not "up-above" like what some desert cults believe).
These 3 paths of Yoga are:
- Gyana Yoga
- Bhakti Yoga
- Karma Yoga
Humans are an admixture of 3 essential aspects, of which one usually dominates:
- Physical activity
Hinduism theoretically recommends different Yoga to different types - Gyana for Intellectuals, Bhakti for Emotional people and Karma for active people.
So, I had told my Guru (rather smugly, as I cringe while remembering) when I had met him for the first time, sorry I have no interest in either Bhakti or Karma. I am more of a thinker and logician, and Gyana suits me.
This was a question I had, why Bhakti? I don't "feel" anything when I sit in front of murties. Or why karma? How will working for Dharma in today's globalized politically charged Kurukshetra make me any more spiritual? Why can't I simply stick to logic and reason alone?
He didn't answer then and kept quiet.
In today's class, he offered the answer during his lecture and said very categorically - all 3 are essential for spiritual uplift. However the degree of each may vary depending on one's personality as determined by the Guru. In other words, I don't have the necessary qualification to decide, which specific path I should take.
The reason he gave was mind-blowing and this is why Advaita rocks and why guru-shishya system is so important.
When a person starts in the spiritual path, he will initially see a huge spurt of spiritual uplift. But after a while it will plateau out as the visible benefits start following law of diminishing returns. Changes continue to happen but they are not "felt".
This is the most dangerous zone - this is where people often start slipping and some even "U-Turn" and become anti-spiritual and materialist. I looked back and realized that I have dropped many real life projects and ventures in this "zone". I am sure all of us do the same.
The danger is further exacerbated when one sticks to only one Yoga - the monotony causes one to lose interest. This is where a combination of all three aspects of human personality through sadhana, seva and satsang, ensures appropriate triggers to tide over the plateau after which again there is a steep incline.