Action, knowledge, love – Karma, Jñāna and Bhakti – Tapas, Svādhyāya and Ishvarapranidhāna

Yoga has three facets to it. A tripod, in which even if one limb is removed, it creates an imbalance ultimately leading to a fall. These three faces are presented by Sri Krishna in three chapters of the Bhagavad Gita as Karma Mārga (the path of purification of action), Jñāna Mārga (the path of purification of the instrument of Knowing) and Bhakti Marga (the path to purify the understanding of Love). A lot of times traditional translators and teachers, pandits, have taught these three paths of Karma, Jñāna and Bhakti as three different paths, separate and distinct from each other. There is somewhat a sectarian identity involved. They identify with being a Karma Yogi, Bhakti Yogi or a Jñāna Yogi.

If Karma Mārga implies purification of one’s action, can such an action be deprived of Knowledge and Love? If Jñāna Mārga means purification of the instrument of Knowing (the mind) through inquiry, can such purification happen without engaging into action (relationship) and surrendering into the love and humility that it demands to do so? And if Bhakti Marga means to purify the understanding of Love, then can such a purification take place without service to others (karma marga) and knowledge of oneself and one’s ego (Jñāna Mārga).

So this is what Patañjali presents as Yoga in the second chapter of the Yoga Sutras. He says Tapas (self-discipline which is purification of action), Svādhyāya (which is self-knowledge) and Ishvarapranidhāna (which is bhakti, love, surrender – here and now). Yoga is all of these three put together. There can be no sectarianism when one’s heart and mind are touched by Yoga. Because Yoga means all inclusiveness. Yoga means shining forth the benevolence of the spirit. Benevolence can never be sectarian. It is like the Sun that doesn’t choose on whom it wants to shine. It does not take sides. It shines for everybody, whether you choose to be under its light or not. This light shines whether you choose to identify yourself as a theist, an atheist, a scientist, a religious man, a politician woman, or whatever that may be. If you leave the confines of your four psychological walls and step out, the light is shining.