The Four Great Yogas
The four great yogas are 1) Raja Yoga; 2) Bhakti Yoga; 3) Gyan Yoga; and 4) Karma Yoga.
Raja Yoga is also known as Ashtanga Yoga, which contains eight parts:
1) Yamas, things not to do:
A) Ahimsa – harmlessness (veggie), non-killing;
B) Satya - truthfulness; non-lying;
C) Asteya – non-theft;
D) Brahmacharya – non-indulgence;
E) Aparugraga – simplicity, non-covetousness.
2) Niyamas, things to do:
A) Shaucha - cleanliness;
B) Santosha - contentment;
C) Tapas - austerity;
D) Svadhyaya – study of spiritual literature;
E) Ishavarapranidhana faith and surrender.
3) Asana, which means posture comfortable held. It is worthy to note that doing the postures follows the yamas and niyams, which many of us are still struggling to develop. Much of the yoga in the media is focused on this one aspect of doing asanas.
4) Pranayama includes:
Kumbhaka (holding the breath), which is further divided into:
antara kumbhak (withholding the breath after inhalation)
bahar kumbhak (withholding the breath after exhalation)
(It is advised/suggested that one not practice pranayama without personal guidance from an adept. One could practice simple deep breathing exercises without too much difficulty).
5) Pratyahara basically means withdrawal from sense perception and focus within.
6) Dharana is the concentration that results from withdrawing into oneself.
7) Dhyana is seeing the light within.
8) Samadhi is superconsciousness.
Bhakti Yoga is the Yoga of devotion.
It is the art of worship using the tools of high philosophy / psychology and spiritual religion, association with the spiritual teacher, repetition of mantra (jap), and service, which is prompted by divine love and/or longing for that love.
One could say that Christianity is Bhakti Yoga as it proposes love, devotion and faith in God and the savior.
Gyan or Jnana Yoga is the yoga of knowledge. It is the knowledge of the absolute.
Gyan yoga employs:
A) Vivek – discrimination (Neti Neti, not this not that). It is the ability to discriminate between the real and eternal and the unreal and temporal.
B) Vairagya – Detachment.
C) Shad-sampat – The 6 Virtues:
Sama-control of the mind,
Dama control of the senses,
Uparate renunciation of activities that are not necessary duties,
Shraddha – faith,
Smadhana – concentration.
D) Mumkahutva – Intense longing for liberation.
Scientist could be said to be Gyan yogis. If they are working for the betterment of humanity, it could be good. If they are developing bombs and technology to undermine or kill perceived ‘enemies’, this may not be so good.
Yoga is for the development, the ‘yoking’ with higher consciousness.
Karma Yoga is the yoga of works. It involves 3 aspects:
1) Every act is a sacrament and sacrifice to uncovering the truth within oneself.
2) One is not concerned without the results of action, but only action.
3) One takes the ego out, thinking they are doing it, and lets the higher power act through them. This is the ‘no mind’ and ‘emptiness’ referred to in Oriental philosophy.