Shri Datta Swami

Posted on: 10 Jun 2024


Which is highest among Jnaana, Bhakti and Karma Yogas?

[Ms. Thrylokya asked:- Swami, some say that Jnaana Yoga is the ultimate, some say that Bhakti Yoga is the ultimate and some say that Karma Yoga is the ultimate. How do You answer this?]


Swami replied:- In fact, all the three Yogas are the ultimate and are equally important. Jnaana Yoga (true and complete Spiritual Knowledge) is very important just like water for a plant. Bhakti Yoga (theoretical devotion) is also very important just like the manure that grows the plant to become a tree to yield fruits. Karma Yoga (practical service and sacrifice) is also the most important just like the plant that alone yields the fruit. People giving importance to Jnaana Yoga make Bhakti Yoga and Karma Yoga as the inherent limbs of Jnaana Yoga. Similarly, people giving importance to Bhakti Yoga make Jnaana Yoga and Karma Yoga as its inherent limbs. Similarly, people giving importance to Karma Yoga make Jnaana Yoga and Bhakti Yoga as its inherent limbs. The sequence is that first is Jnaana Yoga, then second is Bhakti Yoga and final third is Karma Yoga. You hear the details of Mumbai city (Jnaana Yoga), then get attracted to see Mumbai city (Bhakti Yoga) and finally, make practical attempts to reach Mumbai (Karma Yoga). In this sequence only, Shankara, Ramanuja and Madhva came to this world gradually.

Some speak about Aatma Yoga, which is a preliminary topic in Jnaana Yoga. By Aatma Yoga, one detaches from the body and attaches himself to the soul or awareness so that he will be relieved from the disturbances of worldly bonds and this will enable the devotee to concentrate on God. People believing that soul is God say that Aatma Yoga is Jnaana Yoga because by identifying with self or awareness, they feel that the soul becomes God. This is not correct because the soul (part of creation) can never become God (Creator). Jnaana Yoga is based on the triad (Triputi) dealing with self, path and goal-God. For these people of Aatma Yoga, there is no God since their self is assumed as God by them and their path is only to attain self! It is logical to say that Jnaana Yoga and Bhakti Yoga are one and the same (as said by Shankara) and the reason is that both Jnaana Yoga and Bhakti Yoga are theoretical phase only. By this, the three stages (Jnaana Yoga, Bhakti Yoga and Karma Yoga) become two stages, which are theory (Jnaana and bhakti) and practice (karma). In the Gita, God Krishna told two stages in this way:- i) Knowledge and devotion, both are theory and called as Jnaana Yoga of Saankhya. ii) Practice, which is practical service and sacrifice called as Karma Yoga of Yoga. We can also say these three items as two items in another way, which are Jnaana Yoga and Bhakti Yoga. Here, Bhakti Yoga includes theoretical devotion and practical devotion (service and sacrifice). Shankara stands for Jnaana Yoga whereas Ramanuja and Madhva stand for Bhakti Yoga in this latest classification. This latest classification may be also taken as i) Jnaana Yoga of Saankhya that consists of knowledge only and ii) Karma Yoga of Yoga that consists of both theoretical and practical devotion.

Whatever may be the games of classifications, Jnaana Yoga, Bhakti Yoga and Karma Yoga are in the sequence with equal importance. Shankara told that Jnaana Yoga and Bhakti Yoga are one and the same (Paramārtha jñāna lakṣaṇa sampannāṃ bhaktim…) since both stand in climax as said in the Gita (Priyo hi Jñānino…, Bhaktāstetīva) because climax is only one.