The word Yoga is derived from the Sanskrit root “Yuj” which means to join, or to unit. The paths of Yoga lead to the union of individual consciousness with universal conciseness or a devotee merging with their divine, or a perfect harmony between mind and body.
There are four yogas as shared by Swami Vivekananda, which are inspired by our scriptures.
He summarizes our Goal as –
“Each soul is potentially divine. The goal is to manifest this Divinity within by controlling nature, external and internal.
Do this either by work, or worship, or psychic control, or philosophy — by one, or more, or all of these — and be free.
This is the whole of religion. Doctrines, or dogmas, or rituals, or books, or temples, or forms, are but secondary details.” ~ Swami Vivekananda
Swami Vivekananda advocated the practice of one or several yogas at the same time.
What is the goal of each of these yogas, below is the summary of the problem and the solution by each of the Yogas. I also thought about what aids Om Swami ji has provided us on the path and shared that as well.
Om Swami ji has also provided a different perspective from his direct experience and has shared about “The Yoga of Self Transformation”. The path is from his direct experience and includes – Mental, Emotional, Moral and Physical transformation.
Karma Yoga – Quick Summary
In terms of these paths, most of the Yogas are private, i.e. the practice of devotion is private for a devotee and is between her and the mother, the practice of meditation is also towards himself, and so is the path of knowledge where he learns & introspects.
The path of Karma yoga is more external interacting as you are engaged in the world, and also the starting point for all of us, as we all have to engage in that.
Adi Shankaracharya also suggested the practice of Karma Yoga as a means to purify oneself.
There are two gradual steps to practicing Karma Yoga
Step 1 – Practice what is your “Dharma”/ethical and morally correct
Most of the time we know what is the right thing to do, and that is the first step. This purifies our being and also reduces any baggage we produce with Karma.
Step 2 – Move to Unselfish action
Working for benefits for others. All our actions are for our own body/mind, and that ties us down further to the body/mind. I have to cut the knot of selfishness that ties me to body/mind.
As you engage in unselfish action, the source of impurity is tied up with the body/mind, and working only for it is reduced. If one is a devotee, one can further do unattached action, by dedicating all actions as offering to the lord. This removes the residue of Karmic actions.
References: Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, Lecture by Swami Sarvapriyananda on Karma Yoga