Hari-kathaArticlesThree Stages of Yoga

Three Stages of Yoga

[The following is part one of the translation of a Hindi lecture given by His Divine Grace Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Gosvāmī Mahārāja on 25 May 1992 in Mathurā, India]

One person thinks, “I am doing this activity. I planted a garden. From that garden, I took a fruit off a tree. This garden is mine. This fruit is mine.” He then offers that fruit to Kṛṣṇa. To whom do the rest of the fruits belong to?

“To me,” he says, “I will eat. My daughter will eat. My sons will eat. My relatives and friends will eat.”

This is karma. It is the cause of bondage. That is not nirupādhika, without designations. It is not so till one is not connected with Kṛṣṇa.

Then Mahāprabhu said:

prabhu kahe—“eho bāhya, āge kaha āra”
rāya kahe—“sva-dharma-tyāga, ei sādhya-sāra”


[“This is also external,” Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu said. “Please proceed and speak further on this matter.” Rāmānanda Rāya replied, “To give up one’s occupational duties in the varṇāśrama system is the essence of perfection.”]

Do you understand? Earlier it is said that one should follow varṇāśrama-dharma properly. There it is said that one should offer the fruits of one’s activity to Kṛṣṇa. What activity does a jīva perform? He performs material activities with a material body. What does he do? Let’s say he planted a garden. Why? For his own happiness. So it is not connected with the soul. Thus Mahāprabhu rejects it.

One king used to donate a lot of cows. Later he had darśana of Kṛṣṇa. How? By donating cows? No. One time a brāhmaṇa came to him and said, “You give so many cows in charity. Please can you give me a Bhāgavatam?”

The king gave him a Bhāgavatam. Due to this alone, he got darśana of Kṛṣṇa. How is this possible? Bhāgavatam is transcendental. Thus, even by its slight contact the king got transcendental benefit. Just imagine what one would achieve if he hears the Bhāgavatam and is absorbed in it like Parīkṣit Mahārāja! If he attains some greed to serve the gopīs, and he follows the process, then he will attain that mood.

Now, Mahāprabhu says, “One is performing material activities with one’s material body. Later he is offering it to Kṛṣṇa for his own happiness. Therefore, it is also external.”

Now, Rāmānanda Rāya says, “Sva-dharma-tyāga, ei sādhya-sāra.” Here, what is implied by giving up sva-dharma? Leaving aside all one’s occupational duties.

ājñāyaivaṁ guṇān doṣān
mayādiṣṭān api svakān
dharmān santyajya yaḥ sarvān
māṁ bhajet sa ca sattamaḥ


[Rāmānanda Rāya continued, “‘Occupational duties are described in the religious scriptures. If one analyzes them, he can fully understand their qualities and faults and then give them up completely to render service unto the Supreme Person. Such a person is considered a first-class man.’]

A person who, knowingly properly the faults and qualities of varṇāśrama-dharma as told by Kṛṣṇa, gives them up and renders service to Him, is considered a first-class man.

Kṛṣṇa is the creator of the varṇāśrama-dharma.

cātur-varṇyaṁ mayā sṛṣṭaṁ
tasya kartāram api māṁ
viddhy akartāram avyayam
Bhagavad-gītā 4.13


[Kṛṣṇa said, “According to the three modes of material nature and the work associated with them, the four divisions of human society are created by Me. And although I am the creator of this system, you should know that I am yet the non-doer, being unchangeable.]

This is very difficult to understand for even big, big scholars.

Then Kṛṣṇa says:

sarva-dharmān parityajya
mām ekaṁ śaraṇaṁ vraja
ahaṁ tvāṁ sarva-pāpebhyo
mokṣayiṣyāmi mā śucaḥ
Bhagavad-gītā 18.66


[Kṛṣṇa said, “Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender to Me alone. I shall deliver you from all sinful reactions. Do not fear.”]

Now let us ponder over this. This is said to be the essence of the Bhagavad-gītā. Many people read Gītā hundreds of thousands of times but they fail to get its essence. Politicians say that the essence of Gītā is politics. Karmīs say that after the Gītā was spoken, Arjuna decided to fight and not to take sannyāsa and go to the forest, and therefore the essence of Gītā is karma. This is refuted by Kṛṣṇa Himself in the above verse. Kṛṣṇa says, “Don’t do anything by your own intelligence. Do what I tell you.”

What are the symptoms of a surrendered person? He will do what his master tells him to do.

In the Gītā, three yogas are described viz. karma-yoga, jñāna-yoga and bhakti-yoga. The first step is karma-yoga. Not karma, but karma-yoga. There is a difference between them. Only those karmas which have been connected (yoga) or offered to Kṛṣṇa are known as karma-yoga. The activities of atheists are not known as karma-yoga.

Actually, karma-yoga, jñāna-yoga, and bhakti-yoga are not three different things. There is one mango but it is unripe at one time, then it is neither unripe, nor ripe, and then it becomes ripe. The same is true for these three yogas. First there is karma-yoga, then jñāna-yoga and then finally bhakti-yoga.

Jñāna is also of three types viz. brahma-jñāna, paramātmā-jñāna and bhagavad-jñāna. First is knowledge of Brahma, next is knowledge of the Supersoul, and then knowledge of Kṛṣṇa. Mundane people are sometimes happy and sometimes sad. They are attached to mundane people and the pains and pleasures of mundane people affect them greatly. Arjuna is mocking such ignorance.

He says, “Oh! He is my guru. He is my grandfather. Duryodhana is my brother. His son is my nephew. They are my relatives and friends. All of them are present in this battlefield. And I have to fight them? No!”

These people are called dehātma—they consider themselves to be their body. 99.99% people in this world belong to this category. They have low intelligence.

So Kṛṣṇa told Arjuna, “You are a fool, but talking as if you are an intelligent person. You know who is intelligent? Those who do not lament for those who have gone. You are such a fool that you lament for those who have not even gone and are still present.”

[CC-by-NDNC Bhakta Bandhav]

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