June 2020
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Collected words from talks of Swami Tirtha


Question: There are many schools of yoga known. Why do different kinds of yoga exist? What is the difference and the common in them?

Swami Tirtha: Recently they gave many, many different names to different yoga practices as in our age even in the west yoga starts to become very popular. Therefore sometimes people give different names like “integral yoga” and this and that. Although if we go back to the classical types of yoga, they are more limited (in number). One or two hundred years ago the authorities, who were living at that time, classified yoga under certain principles. And these principles are like: hatha-yoga – hatha means combining the powers of the sun and the moon; then karmayoga, karma is like some welfare activities, like proper action; and raja-yoga is combining the practices of ascetism or the asanas and the way of knowledge; and ultimately they also add bhaktiyoga, path of dedication, or the path of divine love. So in historical perspective usually this is what you find.

But if we go back again more into the past, in the revealed scriptures of India then you will find practically only three types of yoga – according to the main ideas and the main practices. One is called the path of action – this is the karma; the path of knowledge – this is the gyana; and the path of dedication. These categories are according to the Vedas, the revealed scriptures of India and they contain different information concerning these different topics.

Karma, activity, is not simply action-reaction, but this is the knowledge of the proper action, this is the knowledge of the ritual action – how to make sacrifices, how to purify our existence, how to go through the sacraments – it is all contained in the path of action. So in one way we can say that this is a heroic act, the path of the heroes. They should always act according to the moral standards and requirements, in a very faithful way, in a very pure way, in a very just way. So these aspects of karma-yoga are there, the path of action.

The second one is the path of knowledge, where you try to analyze and scrutinize the elements of life – material life outside, your internal body-mind construction. And by this analysis and deep study of the scriptures, you come to some conclusions. Because divine knowledge that you can achieve by cultivating this path liberates you from the bondages of material existence – you can achieve liberation by that.

And finally the third type of yoga is bhakti-yoga, or the path of dedication, and it concerns more like an emotional approach to the supreme truth, helps you to develop divine feelings, helps you to come close to your own spiritual consciousness, identity, and also to establish living and loving contact with the Supreme.

So, one concerns your activities, the other concerns your consciousness and the third one concerns your emotional dedication. In this way practically all the main fields of human activities, of human life are employed in different ways. Of course all the different schools – whether the old tradition schools like the karma, gyana and bhakti or the recent schools like raja-yoga, hatha-yoga, etc. – they do share some common elements.

One common element is meditation. This becomes a very popular expression, sometimes with little misunderstanding. Because meditation means that you connect your own private consciousness to the unlimited divine consciousness. This is like establishing a channel between the human being and the Supreme Lord or the supreme knowledge. And there are different techniques of meditation, but this is best to practice under some guidance or following some rules and regulations.

Another general feature of yoga is the lifestyle, the vision and approach of the yogis: peacefulness, ahimsa – or to avoid violence – sattvic way of life, these are all recommended in order to practice yoga properly.

Otherwise the differences, for example the different techniques for meditation are there. But the essence is to connect your consciousness to the supreme consciousness. Sometimes they do it through meditation on the rising sun, other times they do it by meditation over a candle. So there are different methods, different techniques of meditation, but the point is to be connected to the Supreme.

Also a very special type of meditation is the sound meditation. Practically in all yoga schools they vibrate the om for example, which is a universal sound vibration, very important at the beginning of creation, and very powerful in changing the vibration of all existence and consciousness. And there are some very artistic ways for meditation also, when for example people offer their artistic capacities like singing and dancing or some paintings in the service of God and then this dedication is also a way to express your gratitude. So there are many, many different ways, but the goal is the same – to connect the individual consciousness to the Supreme Lord.



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