Hinduism teaches there is a basic pattern to human development. The cosmology teaches people are reincarnated, and (often) that a person is born into their place in the social hierarchy depending on how far along they are. I’m not getting into that part.
There are 4 Yogas, four basic modalities of human spiritual development. They are independent of one another, and appropriate to different kinds of people, according to their characters.
Before the adoption of a yoga, there is the process by which a normal person develops into a spiritual seeker.
As one becomes a spiritual seeker, there is a preliminary clearing-out step in which one adopts the 5 Abstentions and the 5 Observances.
The spiritual seeker will then be drawn to one of the 4 Yogas:
These are basic types, not rigid categories. They are forms by which the human psyche may attain the Divine — either Being with the Divine, or Becoming One with the Divine. Seekers usually have a preference.
Usually people want to be with the divine: “I want to taste sugar. I don’t want to be sugar.” Often people believe that, over a very long period of time, being with the divine naturally leads to becoming one with the divine.
Hinduism is a comparatively open, permissive form. It is not exclusive (except when it is). So, for example, Hindus might easily consider Christianity a form of Bhakti Yoga — to attain to being with the divine by cultivating the love of Christ.
For more information on the four yogas of Hinduism, I recommend The Religions of Man, by Huston Smith (1958), to which this series is indebted.
- Bhakti and Jnana (teachingsofmasters.wordpress.com)
- 20/06/12 – downward facing dog (hilaryalex.wordpress.com)
- The 5 Kleshas: The Blindfold (beetrooted.wordpress.com)
- Yoga Community Sucks. (elephantjournal.com)