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Representative image

Epics for children: The three-lane road to divinity

Just as a single size of dress will not fit all body sizes, a single path to divinity will not suit different temperaments.

A major difference between Semitic religions—Judaism, Christianity and Islam—and Eastern religions like Hinduism is that the Semitic religions believe in one God, one book and one way to divinity. However, religions like Hinduism recognise multiple gods, books and paths. The reason for this multiplicity is not difficult to find. The world consists of people of different kinds. Ancient Hindu thought recognised three kinds of people, identified by the acronym BMI. B represents people who are Body-oriented. These people are compulsive doers, who like to remain active and do things with their own hands. M stands for people who are Mind-oriented. Emotions, both positive and negative drive these people. I stands for people who are Intellect-oriented. These people are rational and they want to argue and reason out, rather than take things at face value.

Just as a single size of dress will not fit all body sizes, a single path to divinity will not suit different temperaments. For Mind-oriented people, Bhakti Marg (path of devotion) will be more suited. It is for people who are grounded and loving, and capable of total surrender to God. People who are Body-oriented will find Karma Marg (path of selfless action) to their taste. It is for people who want to perform actions in accordance with their faith and attain happiness by helping others. For Intellect-oriented people, there is Gyana Marg (the path of knowledge). Such people like to investigate their everyday experience of living to discover the ultimate reality. They are eager to discover the true meaning of life. There is, sometimes, a fourth path mentioned--Raja Yoga (the path of meditation), elaborated in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras.

The three paths are not mutually exclusive. Usually, a spiritual person will follow all three to some extent, but they may have one preferred path. Even the gurus and scholars have also preached all three paths, though in different proportions and sequences. For example, Adi Shankaracharya recommended first following Karma Yoga so that the mind gets purified, then following Bhakti Yoga to help concentrate the mind, and then Gyana Yoga to move from ignorance to enlightenment and liberation. Ramanuja believed Bhakti Yoga to be the direct path to moksha, but thought this path to be available to only those whose inner faculties had been developed by following Karma Yoga and Gyana Yoga. Just like highways have different lanes for two-wheelers, cars and trucks, the three paths are like a three-lane road to divinity. You just need to know who you are, to get into the right lane!

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The New Indian Express