More Info

Four Stages of Vedanta Versus Siddhanta

Trilogy Commentary, MWS Lesson 317


Gurudeva blends the practices of Vedanta and Siddhanta together in his teachings. Charya, kriya, yoga and jnana: the progressive pada of Saiva Siddhanta. "Jnana is the blossoming of wisdom, of enlightened consciousness, of true being." What makes one a jnani, in Siddhanta, is not study: "It is when the yogi's intellect is shattered that he soars into Parasiva and comes out a jnani."

Master Course Trilogy, Merging with Siva, Lesson 317.

Unedited Transcript:

Good morning everyone.

Taking an excerpt from our Merging with Siva, Lesson 317 which I think is yesterday's and giving a few comments on it.

"For Hindus, the path is seen as divided into four stages or phases of inner development. Some say karma yoga, bhakti yoga, raja yoga and jnana; others say charya, kriya, yoga and jnana."

So, add a few comments on how they're different in the popular mind. So, charya, kriya, yoga and jnana of course are the practices as they're explained in Saiva Siddhanta. And karma yoga, bhakti yoga, raja yoga and jnana yoga are the practices as they're explained in Vedanta. And Gurudeva nicely blends them together in his teachings. But the way they're yogas are normally explained, they're not necessarily blended to mean the same thing.

So, one of the basic difference is progressive verses non-progressive. Progressive is like going to school. You go to the first grade, then you go to the second grade, then you go to the third grade, then the fourth grade. It's progressive. You have to have a certain accomplishment in each stage to move on to the next. Otherwise, you don't move on. And non-progressive of course is they're not structured like that. Yet another way of looking at it is the ladder. Ladder is very simple. If you want to end up on the fifth rung of the ladder you don't run and jump, right? No you step on the first, then the second, then the third, then the fourth. And then you get up to the fifth. So that's the progressive idea.

Terms of the yogas, different Hindu groups look at them quite differently but I think the most general description is this one which was on the Vedanta Society of Southern California's website for many years and then they took it off.

"Spiritual aspirants can be broadly classified into four psychological types: the predominantly emotional, the predominantly intellectual, the physically active, and the meditative. There are four primary yogas designated to 'fit' each psychological type.

"For the predominantly emotional bhakti yoga is recommended..."

Whoa! That's an interesting statement, huh? Certainly not the way we look at it.

"...for the predominantly intellectual we have jnana yoga, for the physically active there is karma yoga and for the meditative raja yoga is recommended."

Very interesting way of looking at it. Well that's actually the broadest statement. So you choose the one according to your nature. Very interesting idea.

Another approach is: One of the four yogas is the highest path and therefore should be followed by everyone. So, good example of that is the Vaishnava organizations. Of course Vaishnava organizations would say bhakti yoga is the highest path, right? We should all be performing bhakti yoga. Any other kind of yoga just leads up to the bhakti yoga path, the way they explain it.

So for example, Sri Ramanuja just says that: "In preparation for meditation, or the contemplative remembrance of the Divine one should engage in karma yoga."

Very simple idea.

Then of course we have the Adi Shankara tradition. And in their tradition of course everyone needs to work up to jnana yoga. That's the highest yoga.

So, this is found in Adi Shankara's "Vivekachudamani:" "Work is for the purification of the mind, not for the perception of Reality. The realization of Truth is brought about by discrimination, not in the least by ten millions of acts."

Very nicely said.

So that gives you a sense of how diverse it is and of course, if someone isn't that knowledgeable at all it can be kind of confusing. I wrote a Publisher's Desk on that and suggest that: Well what do you do if you're confused by the different explanations as to which yoga you should follow? Well, if you have a guru of course then however he explains it or she explains it is the correct answer. And if you don't, then Gurudeva's approach would be, well you start with karma yoga, master service and then you move on to bhakti yoga, then eventually you move on to raja yoga. That's Gurudeva's way of structuring it.

Well, that's the first difference. Second difference is charya, kriya, yoga and jnana are what I call 'temple centric.' In other words, their practice is really designed, when there's an agamic temple that you can get to on a regular basis. That's how they're structured.

So charya which Gurudeva explains is similar to karma yoga is explained in the Tirumantiram as follows and you can see how it's totally temple centric.

"To do the simple service of placing the lighted lamps, to collect the flowers from the trees and plants, to coat the ground with cow-dung, being with softened heart, to sweep the floor gently, to praise the Lord, to ring the bells fixed in the temple, to arrange for various kinds of ceremonial bath for the Lord - performance of such deeds related to the temple is the characteristic of charya."

So everything there is, requires the temple. Totally temple centric. You compare this to the next story, which wonderful story on Swami Sivananda about karma yoga at Mahatma Gandhi's ashram.

"Swami Sivananda shares a relevant story of karma yoga training provide by Mahatma Gandhi at his ashram. 'Study the autobiography of Mahatma Gandhiji. He never made any difference between menial service and dignified work. Scavenging and cleaning of the latrine was the highest Yoga for him. This was the highest puja for him. He himself did the cleaning of latrines. He annihilated the illusory little 'I' through service of various sorts. Many highly educated persons joined his ashram for learning yoga under him. They thought that Gandhiji would teach them yoga in some mysterious manner in a private room and would give lessons on pranayama, meditation, awakening of kundalini, etc.

"They were disappointed when they were asked to clean the latrine first. They left the Ashram immediately. Gandhiji himself repaired his shoes. He himself used to grind flour and take upon his shoulders the work of others also when they were unable to do their allotted work for the day in the Ashram. When an educated person, a new ashramite, felt shy to do the grinding work, Gandhiji himself would do his work in front of him and then the man would do the work himself from that next day willingly."

Swami Sivananda adds the comment:

"He who has understood the right significance of karma yoga will take every work as yogic activity or worship of the Lord. There is no menial work in his vision. Every work is puja of Narayana. In the light of karma yoga all actions are sacred. That aspirant who always takes immense delight in doing works which are considered by the worldly man as menial services, and who always does willingly such acts only will become a dynamic yogi. He will be absolutely free from conceit and egoism. He will have no downfall. The canker of pride cannot touch him."

Wonderful story, right? Well you can see how part of seva is doing humble service. But what's missing in the ashram story? The temple, right? There was no agamic temple whereas in the agamic practice of charya everything related to what you do at the temple is the servant of the Deity. In this example it's in an ashram and there's no temple involved. So, there's differences but they're both trying to produce the same result. Give us humility in the sense of being of service.

Then the last difference is in jnana. Gurudeva brings this up a few times in the Master Course Trilogy. The difference between jnana yoga and the jnana pada and jnana yoga in its, as it's sometimes interpreted. So, start out here with a quote from Gurudeva, from the same lesson.

"Jnana is the last stage. Most people don't understand jnana. They think it is little more than intellectual study of the path, a simple kind of wisdom. But jnana does not mean simplistic reading of scriptures or understanding of philosophical books and knowing pat answers to stereotyped questions. Jnana is the blossoming of wisdom, of enlightened consciousness, of true being. Jnana is the state of the realized soul who knows Absolute Reality through personal experience, who has reached the end of the spiritual path after many, many lifetimes."

So what Gurudeva's commenting on is that jnana yoga when it's not approached in its depth can just be the reading of books. I'm a jnani, I read a book and I can tell you everything that's in it. But, Gurudeva's pointing out, you know, that's not the idea of jnana. Jnana yoga when it's approached in its traditional way in Vedanta is described next here:

"Not knowledge in the intellectual sense--but the knowledge of Brahman and Atman and the realization of their unity. Where the devotee of God follows the promptings of the heart, the jnani uses the powers of the mind to discriminate between the real and the unreal, the permanent and the transitory."

That's a very nice statement. And then, when you're following jnana yoga in it's traditional way there's four disciplines:

Sravana -- listening to scripture; Manana -- thinking and reflecting; Nididhyasana -- constant and profound meditation; Atma sakshatkara -- direct realization.

So in Siddhanta we don't study scripture for that purpose. We're not using scripture as the basis of discriminating between the Real and the unreal. We're trying to end up in the state of jnana through our practice of raja yoga or the yoga pada. So the description of that is:

"Through yoga one bursts into the superconscious mind, experiencing bliss, all-knowingness and perfect silence. It is when the yogi's intellect is shattered that he soars into Parasiva and comes out a jnani."

Nicely said. So, what makes someone a jnani is not, in Siddhanta is not study, it's soaring into Parasiva and that produces wisdom.

Yogaswami was very outspoken on the idea that the knowledge is within you and you don't need to read a book to obtain the deepest knowledge. So we have a few quotes on that, it's the last idea.

Paramaguru Yogaswami often spoke of the superiority of one's inner scripture to any outer writing. He said:

"Instead of spending time in book-reading, it is better to spend it in studying yourself. Study is also a kind of yoga."

Second quote:

"The book is within you. Turn over the leaves and study."

Third quote:

"Truth is not encompassed by books and learning. You must know yourself by yourself. There is nothing else to be known."

And, the last quote:

"It must come from within. Don't rely on book knowledge. Trust the self alone."

Thank you very much. Have a wonderful day.

Aum Namah Sivaya.

Photo of  Gurudeva
I've experienced reincarnation without losing my identity. I experience my identity that goes through the string of beads. And I never became the bead totally. Many people experience reincarnation asone bead and then another bead and then another bead. I experience it as a thread.
—Gurudeva