Four Spiritual Disciplines


Bhagavad Gita

karman.yevaadhikaaras the’ maa phalesuu kadaachana |
maa karma-phala-hethur bhoor maa the’ sango’sthv-akarmani ||
-II-47 || Chapter II -47

Thou hast a right to action or work alone, and never to its fruits;
let not the fruit of work be thy motive, let not thy attachment to inaction.
yoga-sthah: kuru karmaani sangam thyakthvaa dhananjaya |
siddhy-asiddhyoh: samo bhootvaa samathvam yoga uchyate’ ||
-II-48 || Chapter II -48

Do thy work being steadfast in devotion and abandoning attachment, O Arjuna !
and being equal in success and failure. This evenness of mind is called Yoga
doore’na hy avaram karma buddh’i-yogaadh dh’ananjaya |
buddh’au saranam annnviccha kr.panaah phala -hethavah: ||
-II-49 || Chapter II -49

O’ Arjuna mere action performed with attachment is inferior to action performed
with mind poised in evenness. Seek shelter in this state of unperturbed evenness
in a desireless mind. Those who work for selfish gains are indeed pitiable.

i. The Spiritual Discipline and Teachings Applied for the Practice

The Philosophical teachings of Hinduism, like any scientific theory, are of no use to the common man unless it is applied for their daily practice. It has survived the test of time for many thousand years and still remains popular due to the sound principles on which its practice is based. It gives different rules of ethics and conducts for various categories of people.

The Dharma Sasthras and Smrithis teach us of normal conduct in performing our work. Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha are the four Purusharthas that govern out activity. Dharma is the proper rules of one’s duty, which literally means “that which holds” the universe and its beings. They are classified as Samanya Dharma or the general and universal rules and Visesha Dharma or specific personal rules for each individual. They give peace, joy, strength and tranquillity.

Artha and Kama are the materialistic desire and passion, that also govern our actions. Unless one seeks the material benefits and pleasures within the scope of Dharma, it will cause grief with greed and lust. Moksha is the relief from pain and suffering and ultimate liberation that is the main reason for all our actions.

ii. The Four Yogas as Spiritual Discipline to follow the Dharma

As rituals became popular and were being considered as the sole path for the eternal bliss, the soundness of its philosophy and ethics of practice were reestablished by the sages. The four Yogas give us the spiritual discipline of our conduct. Karma Yoga is the correct path of performing work without greed or desire and the action performed without looking for the fruits of benefit or loss. Raja Yoga is the discipline of control of our body and mind. It teaches concentration, meditation, breathing and physical exercise and a state of equanimity of the mind as a natural reaction to all activities. Bhakthi Yoga is the spiritual discipline of absolute devotion and love of God. It teaches prayers and surrender to God at all times. It teaches to see and feel God in all people and all actions. Jnana Yoga is the path of obtaining Spiritual knowledge through action, study, meditation and devotion.

iii. Development of the three Gunas in Cultural Practice

Vedas describe three personality traits, Sathvika, Rajasika and Tamasika. Sathvika Gunas are present in the pious person who follows all teachings of the faith and Dharma. Compassion to all animals, Ahimsa and vegetarianism are advocated as Sathva Guna. The Rajasika Gunas are present in people who enjoyed some amount of worldly pleasures directed by desire and ego, which are Artha and Kama. Tamasika persons have no knowledge of the proper Dharma or they do not care for them. They are driven solely by Artha and Kama which are passion, greed and lust. These Gunas are present in all but one is dominant. The Yogas advocate the ways to follow the superior Sathva Guna and the ways to suppress the undesirable Artha and Kama without the proper Dharma. Performance of proper Dharma and all the Karma leads to a sense of peace and equanimity of mind and eternal bliss. The individual makeup of a person, his Guna and effects of his Karma determines the rebirth and ultimate liberation. Performance of one’s duty without devotion to God is dry and empty. Performance of such duty should be without any attachment to its fruit but as a devotion to God. Hinduism gave us the four Vedas, the three Agamas, the six Dharsanas and the four Yogas.