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Two Spiritual Paths
The ultimate goal of human life is God-realization. There are two major spiritual paths, or sets of religious duties, available to reach that goal. One is the path for the householders known as PRAVRITTI MARGA and the other is that for the monks known as NIVRITTI MARGA. Both paths are equally efficacious in leading a spiritual aspirant to his goal as God-realization provided followed with sincerity. A householder accepts life as a sacred duty and is obliged to follow religious laws to guide him. He is considered to be responsible for maintenance of the society at large. A monk on the other hand renounces all desires for sense enjoyment and he is absolved of all social responsibilities.
A spiritual aspirant will make rapid progress in the path of God-realization if he chooses the path suitable to him.
In addition to the two paths Vedanta speaks of many different methods to reach God. They are mostly classified into four methods known as YOGA. (1) BHAKTI YOGA is the path of devotion; (2) JNANA (pronounced as gyana) YOGA is the path of rational inquiry; (3) RAJA YOGA is the path of mental concentration; and (4) KARMA YOGA is the path of right action.
Yoga is a Sanskrit word that means yoke or the connecting link. YOGA is the connecting link between the spiritual aspirant and God. People are not born equal in regard to their various abilities as also in regard to their mental inclinations. Accordingly they are more suitable to practice religion as prescribed in one YOGA than another. BHAKTI YOGA is suitable for the emotional person. JNANA YOGA is meant for the rational person. RAJA YOGA is suitable for the meditative person. KARMA YOGA is prescribed for the person naturally inclined toward activity.
These categories are not airtight compartments. Indeed, it would be psychologically disastrous for anyone to be completely emotional, completely intellectual, completely active or completely meditative. Each yoga blends into the next; each yoga balances and strengthens the others.