By S. Arshad, New Age Islam
14 July 2022
In Hinduism, Bhakti Yoga, Gyan Yoga, Raja Yoga and Karma Yoga Are Four Ways of God Realisation
1. The Quran also has three ways of God realisation --- Path of Bhakti, Path of Gyan and Path of Karma.
2. Sufism in Islam is akin to Raja Yoga --the Path of Spiritual Discipline.
3. The spiritually inclined can take the path of devotion.
4. The rational persons can take the path of Gyan as mentioned in the Quran.
5. The practical persons can take the path of selfless work and good deeds.
The Quran asks man to realise his relation with God and, to achieve this realisation, God prescribes to him different ways or paths. When studied deeply and diligently, the reader finds that man is given a choice or independence to choose his own path to God realisation according to his own psychological or mental faculties. God has created every human being different in temperament and thought process. Therefore, different men will have different ideas on God realisation. The Quran keeps this aspect of human nature in consideration while guiding him towards his ultimate goal ---God realisation. In Quran one finds generally three approaches towards God realisation. One, devotional, two, rational and three, karmic (related to deeds). This is similar to the approach mentioned in Hindu religious literature particularly in Gita and the Upanishads
According to Hindu scriptures, there are four paths to reach God: Bhakti Yoga (the path of devotion); Gyan Yoga (the path of rational inquiry); Raja Yoga (the path of mental concentration) and Karma Yoga (the path of Right Action).
According to Dr Joseph Fletcher, a theologian belonging to the Episcopal Church, "The top 10 per cent of the people who are most creative, constructive and thoughtful, do not have much to do with churches. To them, the canons of reason come first, making faith secondary and questionable."
These people believe in the power of knowledge. They believe that they can achieve Moksha or Nirvana by attaining Gyan of self and the true knowledge of the universe and its creator through rational inquiry.
But on the contrary, there are a considerable number of people who are spiritually inclined and want to remember God in seclusion and derive peace and tranquillity in the love of God. They crave for spiritual union with God.
The third category believes in the power of Karma and endeavours to serve the humankind because they believe that all the creatures on earth including human beings are a part of the Supreme Self and so serving them and attaining their pleasure will earn them the pleasure of God. They believe in selfless work. They do not crave for worldly possessions and do not have ill will towards God’s creatures.
There is the fourth category in Hinduism who adopt the Path of Raja Yoga (the Path of mental concentration). These people take the path of strict spiritual discipline to obtain mental and spiritual powers through meditation, Japa (chanting of mantras), Pranayama and Yogic practices and attain magical powers (siddhis) through them.
Surprisingly, the Quran also has a similar approach to realisation of God and attaining salvation. There are a number of verses that suggest the path of devotion (Bhakti Yog) for the spiritually inclined. Here are a couple of verses:
"That you may believe in Allah and His messenger and love him and respect him (the prophet) and exalt Him (Allah) morning and evening."(Al Fatah: 9)
"Always remember the name of your Lord, and devote yourself to Him whole heartedly." (Al Muzammil: 8)
"And glorify Him morning and evening."(Al Ahzab: 42)
"Remember your Lord with humility and reverence and in a moderate tone of voice both morning and evening. And be not one of the heedless."(Al Araf: 205)
Another approach to attaining salvation and enlightenment is that of rational inquiry akin to Gyan Yoga which is suggested in a number of verses of the Quran:
"They are those who remember Allah wile standing, sitting, and lying on their sides and reflect on the creations of the heavens and the earth and pray, Our Lord, You have not created all of this without purpose. Glory be to you, protect us from the torment of fire."(Al-e-Imran: 191)
"We did not create the heavens and the earth and that between them in vain. That is the thinking of those who disbelieve. So woe to the disbelievers because of the fire."(Saad: 27)
In dozens of other verses, the Quran exhorts the human beings with a rational mind-set to explore the universe with an open mind and intellect and obtain an insight in the nature of the creations because deep down things, they will achieve the realisation that the Supreme Self is the life force behind all of them.
Swami Bhaskarananda writes in his book The Essentials of Hinduism:
"The first instruction of Gyan Yoga is 'Atmanam Viddhi' or 'Know thyself'. This instruction is based on the fundamental teaching of the Vedas that everything in this universe is divine. As divinity is present everywhere, it must also be present in all human beings. The true self of man or the indwelling Spirit is this divinity which forms the very core of one's existence. This true self is not the ego. According to Hinduism, the ego or I-ness is purely mental; it is an idea only. The true self of man or his indwelling spirit is different from this ego. The goal of students of Gyan Yoga is to gain 100 per cent conviction that this true self is divine."
However, the Quran reiterates the significance of Karma (deeds), as in Karma Yoga, in the shaping up of man's destiny. Deeds and deeds alone can save man from ruin and no intercession of any angel will save him on the Day of resurrection. Man is reminded time and again in the Quran that all the miseries and tribulations befall him due to his karma (misdeeds) and to avoid them he must abstain from bad deeds and bad thoughts. He is enjoined to do good to all the beings on earth and serve mankind to earn the pleasure of God. Here are some of the verses:
"Believe in Allah and His messenger and donate from what He has entrusted you with, so those of you who believe and donate will have a mighty reward."(Al Hadeed: 7)
"And do not crave what Allah has given some of you over others. Men will be rewarded according to their deeds and women equally according to theirs."(Al Nisa: 31
"And do not crave what Allah has given some of you over others. Men will be rewarded according to their deeds and women equally according to theirs."(Al Nisa: 31)
"Do not let your eyes crave what We have allowed some of the disbelievers to enjoy, the fleeting splendour of this worldly life, which We test them with."(Taha: 131)
The Quran asks man to do good deeds to attain salvation through Karma (selfless work or deeds done to earn God’s pleasure). At the same time, the Quran asks man not to indulge in vain desires because all the desires of men are not fulfilled and it causes spiritual anxiety and a feeling of ingratitude to God. In Hindu theology, unfulfilled desires cause the cycle of births which is the root of pain and sorrow. Such a person does not attain Moksha or Mukti.
A verse in Bhagavad Gits says, “No one can ever stay without doing work even for a moment, "(Bhagavad Gita 3/5). Work means both physical and mental actions. Even thinking is a work.
Swami Bhaskarananda writes:
"The art and science of performing unselfish work is Karma Yoga or the Yoga of right action. It is not easy to work unselfishly. A student of Karma Yoga is often instructed to work for the pleasure of God. If work is done for God, and for one's own sake, then that work becomes unselfish work."
One wonders how true it is about the Quran also that tells man that his life and death, his Namaz, his hajj and his sacrifice, in short, all his deeds should be only for the pleasure of God.
As for Raja Yoga, though it is not directly suggested in the Quran but the Sufis borrowed the practice of Raja Yoga from Hindu and Buddhist scriptures to enhance their physical and spiritual faculties to attain enlightenment and spiritual union with God.
This brief study shows that the Quran, Gita and Upanishads have more or less an identical approach to God realisation and salvation.
S. Arshad is a columnist with NewAgeIslam.com.
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