The four main spiritual paths for God-realization are Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Raja Yoga and Jnana Yoga. Karma Yoga is suitable for a man of active temperament; Bhakti Yoga for a man of devotional temperament; Raja Yoga for a man of mystic temperament; Jnana Yoga for a man of rational and philosophical temperament or enquiry. The practice of Yoga leads to communion with the Lord. Whatever may be the starting point, the end reached is the same.
Karma Yoga is the way of selfless service. The selfless worker is called the Karma-Yogin. Bhakti Yoga is the path of exclusive devotion to the Lord. He who seeks the union through love or devotion is called the Bhakti-Yogin. Raja Yoga is the way of self-restraint. He who seeks to have union with the Lord through mysticism is called the Raja Yogin. Jnana Yoga is the path of wisdom. He who seeks to unite himself with the Supreme Self through philosophy and enquiry is called the Jnana Yogin.
Man is a strange complex mixture of will, feeling and intellectual thought. He wills to possess the objects of his desires. He has emotion and so he feels. He has reason and so he thinks and ratiocinates. In some the emotional element may preponderate, while in some others the rational element may dominate. Just as will, feeling and thought are not distinct and separate, so also work, devotion and knowledge are not exclusive of one another.
Some maintain the practice of Karma Yoga alone is the means to salvation. Some others hold that devotion to the Lord is the only way to God-realisation. Some believe that the path of wisdom is the sole way to attain the eternal beatitude. There are still others, who hold that all the paths are equally efficacious to bring about perfection and freedom.
To behold the One Self in all beings is Jnana, wisdom ; to love the Self is Bhakti or devotion, to serve the Self in all is Karma, or action. When the Jnana-Yogi attains wisdom, he is endowed with devotion and engaged in selfless activity. Karma Yoga is for him a spontaneous expression of his spiritual nature, as ha sees the One Self in all. When the devotee attains perfection in devotion, he is possessed of wisdom and activity. For him also Karma Yoga is a spontaneous expression of his divine nature, as he beholds the one Lord everywhere. The Karma Yogi attains wisdom and devotion when his actions are wholly selfless. All the paths are in fact one, in which the different temperaments emphasize one or other of its inseparable constituents. Yoga supplies the method by which the Self can be seen, loved and served.
The Yoga of Synthesis is the most suitable and potent form of Sadhana. In the mind there are three defects, Mala or impurity, Vikshepa or tossing, Avarana or veil. The impurity should be removed by the practice of Karma Yoga. The tossing should be removed by worship or Upasana. The veil should be torn down by the practice of Jnana Yoga. Only then Self-realisation is possible. If you want to see your face clearly in a mirror, you must remove the dirt in the mirror, keep it steady and remove the covering also. You can see your face clearly in the bottom of a lake only if the turbidity is removed, the water that is agitated by the wind is rendered still and if the moss that is lying on the surface is removed. Even so is the case with Self-realisation. The Yoga of Synthesis will bring about integral development. The Yoga of Synthesis develop the head, heart and hand harmoniously and lead to perfection.
In this section a detailed in depth study of the four main paths of yoga i.e. Jnana Yoga, Raja Yoga, Bhakti Yoga and Karma Yoga from the writings of Worshipful Gurudev Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj is compiled. The unique synthesis of all the four paths and its practice, which Gurudev called as Yoga of Synthesis, is also given in this section. Please explore the subsections for a thorough study.