What is the difference between Karma Yoga, Gnana Yoga and Bakthi Yoga?
The above Question was asked by Satya Prasad:
First, What is Yoga?
Yoga means “Connecting to God”. Connecting to God means, not mingling with God equally! We can never equal the God, ie, Krishna! It is connecting us, ie, athma with the source of athma, Krishna (personal form) or brahmam (impersonal form), because, Krishna is the natural company of athma to unite! If we like to serve Krishna in personal form, we connect to Krishna’s personal form, not with the brahmam. If we connect with the impersonal form of Krishna, ie, Brahmam, it is mukthi.
Krishna explains in detail all the yogas one by one & how they take one to the next stage!
Bhagavad Gita speaks about four Yogas: Karma Yoga, Gnana Yoga, Dhyana Yoga and Bhakthi Yoga!
(1) KARMA YOGA: Connecting to Krishna by performing our naturally assigned duties dedicating the results to Krishna or atleast without the attachment to results (in the initial stage).
(2) GNANA YOGA: Connecting to Krishna and approaching Krishna through Gnana (knowledge).
(3) DHYANA YOGA: Connecting to Krishna through meditation (dhyana).
(4) BAKTHI YOGA: Connecting to Krishna directly by surrendering unto Him.
Everyone is advised by Krishna to perform his assigned duties. It is said by everyone. What is special in Bhagavad Gita?
Krishna advices us to just work without having attachment to results. In further advancement of karma yoga, He advices us to work dedicating the results to Krishna Himself.
Krishna expects us to come to the Ultimate Stage of Bhakthi Yoga, ie, becoming a Perfect surrendered devotee!
If anyone feels following Bhakthi Yoga difficult, Krishna advises him atleast cultivate knowledge about Him and follow Karma Yoga and come to the stage of a Bhaktha stage by stage! Thus He has mercifully simplified the processes to get connected to Krishna.
In the bakthi (devotion), one will always be fixing his mind upon Krishna. However, this may not be possible for all who are now under the three modes of nature. Such persons can attain the stage of Bakthi yoga stage by stage.
Let us see how Krishna gives choices for those who are unable to follow the ultimate bakthi yoga:
Just ﬁx your mind upon Me, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and engage all your intelligence in Me. Thus you will live in Me always, without a doubt.
(This is the ultimate stage of bakthi)
My dear Arjuna, O winner of wealth, if you cannot ﬁx your mind upon Me without deviation, then follow the regulative principles of bhakti-yoga. In this way develop a desire to attain Me.
(Or, atleast rise early and take bath, pray at home and temple, chant Lord’s names, follow deity worship, offer food to the Lord and honour prasadam, hear the scriptures related to the Lord, etc, under the guidance of a spiritual master, that will take you to the stage as in 12.8)
If you cannot practice the regulations of bhakti-yoga, then just try to work for Me, because by working for Me you will come to the perfect stage.
(Or, atleast work for Krishna that will take you to the above stage as in 12.9)
If, however, you are unable to work in this consciousness of Me, then try to act giving up all results of your work and try to be self-situated.
(Or, atleast work deserting the attachment to results that will take you to the stage as in 12.10)
If you cannot take to this practice, then engage yourself in the cultivation of knowledge. Better than knowledge, however, is meditation, and better than meditation is renunciation of the fruits of action, for by such renunciation one can attain peace of mind.
(If all the above are not possible for you, atleast cultivate the knowledge about Krishna, that will take you to the stage as in 12.11)
Also read: THE WAY OF LIFE RECOMMENDED BY BHAGAVAD GITA
If you note the above advices given by Krishna, He has listed cultivation of knowledge about Krishna if anyone is unable to follow any other choices. Therefore, Gnana (knowledge) may lead one to the next stage of working without attachment to results, but, it can not be the ultimate stage to go back to Krishna.
Similarly, as said in the above sequence, working without attachment to results or working for Krishna will take you to the ultimate bakthi yoga, but, such activities themselves do not represent bakthi yoga.
Thus, we can understand that all the other yogas are the foot steps to go to the stage of bakthi yoga.
These foot steps are only for those who are unable to surrender to Krishna in the beginning itself. Gopis did not follow any other yogas to develop prema on Krishna. They straightaway surrendered to Krishna.
Thus, it is to be understood that BAKTHI YOGA DOES NOT REQUIRE ALL OTHER YOGAS TO BE ATTAINED.
At the same time, DIRECT BAKTHI YOGA INVOLVES ALL THE OTHER YOGAS.
Gopis straightaway and readily surrendered to Krishna. Therefore, they followed karma yoga also. How? They did all their assigned duties in their homes thinking of Krishna and for Krishna. Thus, they naturally followed karma yoga.
They knew the full potency and qualities of Krishna even without learning anything about Krishna through gnana yoga. Sufficient knowledge about Krishna is naturally given to the surrendered devotees.
They did not involve in meditation, ie, dhyana yoga. Since they did all their works thinking of Krishna alone, that itself is a meditation and hence there were no other ritualistic practices as necessity.
Also read: BHAGAVAD GITA Vs RAMAYANA AND MAHABHARATHA
Thus, when one follows bakthi yoga, he naturally learns how to work (karma), who is Krishna (gnana) and also natural concentration of mind (meditation-dhyana).
Therefore, BAKTHI YOGA IS INDEPENDENT OF ALL OTHER YOGAS AND AT THE SAME TIME IT INVOLVES ALL THE OTHER YOGAS WITHOUT HAVING THEM AS PREREQUISITES.
ONLY IN THE CASE OF INABILITY TO APPROACH KRISHNA DIRECTLY THROUGH THE BAKTHI YOGA, ALL OTHER YOGAS ARE RECOMMENDED AS EXPLAINED ABOVE WITH THE INPUTS FROM HIS OWN WORDS IN BHAGAVAD GITA.
Hope you are clear now.
Also read: 18 TIPS ON HOW TO READ BHAGAVAD GITA?