Three Yogas

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The Three Yogas or Trimārga are three soteriological paths mentioned in the Bhagavad Gita for the liberation of human spirit. [1] They are:

  1. Karma Yoga or the Path of Action (Karma-mārga)
  2. Bhakti Yoga or the Path of Devotion (Bhakti-mārga) to Ishvar (God)
  3. Jnana Yoga or the Path of Knowledge (Jñāna-mārga)

A "fourth yoga" is sometimes added:

  1. Raja Yoga or the Path of Meditation (Rajas-mārga), making "Four Yogas", also known as the " Four paths to realization"


Hindu philosophers of the medieval period have tried to explain the nature of these three paths and the relation between them.

Shankara tended to focus on jñāna-yoga exclusively, which he interpreted as the acquisition of knowledge or vidya . He considered karma-yoga to be inferior. The fact that he wrote some of the most famous hymns for personal gods such as Shiva, Vishnu, Devi, Ganesha and Subrahmanya underlines his affinity to Bhakti-Yoga.[ citation needed ]

The 12th-century philosopher Ramanuja considered the three yogas by interpreting his predecessor Yamunacharya. In Ramanujam's interpretation, Bhakti yoga appears to be the direct path to moksha, which is however available only to those whose inner faculties have already been trained by both Karma yoga and Jnana yoga. [2]

A "fourth yoga" is sometimes added, Raja Yoga or "the Path of Meditation". This is the classical Yoga presented in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali . Patanjali's system came to be known as Raja Yoga (Royal Yoga) retro-actively, in about the 15th century, as the term Yoga had become popular for the general concept of a "religious path".

The systematic presentation of Hindu monotheism as divided into these four paths or "Yogas" is modern, advocated by Swami Vivekananda from the 1890s in his book Raja Yoga. [3] [4] They are presented as four paths to God suitable for four human temperaments, viz. the active, the emotional, the philosophical and the mystic. [5]

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  1. Gavin D. Flood, An introduction to Hinduism, Cambridge University Press, 1996, ISBN   978-0-521-43878-0, page 96
  2. Bunki Kimura, 'Ramanujas Theory of Three Yogas: The Way to Moksh' in: Shōun Hino (ed.) Three mountains and seven rivers: Prof. Musashi Tachikawa's felicitation volume, Motilal Banarsidass, 2004, ISBN   978-81-208-2468-3, 645-668
  3. Jason Birch (2013), "Rajayoga: The Reincarnations of the King of All Yogas", International Journal of Hindu Studies, Volume 17, Issue 3, pages 401–444
  4. Swami Vivekananda, Raja Yoga, ISBN   978-1500746940
  5. Vivekananda, Swami. "The Ideal of Universal Religion". Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda - Volume 9 - Indian Newspaper Reports. Ramakrishna Mission. Retrieved 22 May 2022.