Today yoga is quite a popular term not only in India but all over the world but do people know the ultimate goal of Yoga as given in Bhagavad Gita. World political leaders, business tycoons, sports personalities, famous celebrities of Hollywood and Bollywood have yoga in their daily routine.
But for majority of them yoga means to keep themselves physically and mentally fit, so that they can lead a better life. There is nothing wrong to have a good physical and mental health, but yoga is beyond this.
Meaning of yoga
The word yoga which has its origin in the sanskrit root word, yuj, means to unite, to add or to join. So, yoga means to get united with Krishna. It also means adding Krishna in our life and joining him in the spiritual world which is free from all physical suffering and mental anxiety and where there is no death.
In Bhagavad Gita, Krishna delineates the meaning of yoga to Arjuna and elaborately explains different types of yoga and most importantly the ultimate goal of yoga. But before going into detail about different yoga process, Krishna first explains to Arjuna that he is a soul and not the physical body. As a soul, he is never going to die.
Soul never dies, Krishna explains
The physical body dies but the soul never dies. In fact, even with the most powerful weapon of this world soul cannot be killed or even slightly harmed. Even the powerful time cannot deteriorate the soul.
To function in this material world, we are given temporary physical body, material senses and the mind.
As long as we identify ourselves with our body, senses and mind and desperately try to seek happiness in this world, we suffer. For example, Arjuna’s suffering began when he developed material consciousness and began seeing the perpetrators based on familial affiliation.
Why soul suffers?
The famous archer, Arjuna, who had overpowered fiercest warriors got overpowered by material emotions. In that disturbed stage he approaches Krishna. Krishna speaks Bhagavad Gita to uproot Arjuna’s ignorance and to elevate his consciousness which was the main cause of his suffering.
Also, Krishna revealed to Arjuna, his true eternal identity knowing which he can attain complete salvation.
Material consciousness is the cause of our perpetual suffering. Material consciousness means to have a strong craving to enjoy the material world and live happy here.
No one can be happy in this world. Even if someone claims that he is happy in this world but in reality, he is not knowing that he is unhappy. Lest others start lampooning me for being too pessimistic, let me clarify that the “happiness” one claims to experience in this world is just “absence of pain.” Let us understand this with an example.
An example to relate with
Sometimes a man buys a goat with the purpose of offering her in a sacrifice. When the goat is brought home, she is fed sumptuously and cared nicely. Goat feels happy.
On the day of sacrifice, the goat is bathed, a flower garland is put around her neck and her forehead is smeared with vermilion. In a procession accompanied with musical instruments she is taken to the arena of sacrifice.
While at stay at home and during the journey, the goat gloats on her great fortune little knowing that after few minutes her head will be severed from her body. And at that time when she will cry, no one will care.
The happiness which the material world gives us is similar to the happiness a butcher gives to the cattle. Here a man works day and night to make fortune but the ruthless material nature snatches everything from him.
The dying man clings to the death bed pleading doctor to save his life. With eyes filled with tears he begs his near and dear ones to not let him go. But everyone is helpless.
Final goal of all yoga
So, in Bhagavad Gita, Krishna does not give any false hope. With the desire to give topmost knowledge for the ultimate benefit of mankind, he speaks about different yoga process – karma yoga, jnana yoga, dhyana yoga and bhakti yoga.
By practicing yoga, one is able to gradually transfer one’s consciousness from material to spiritual. When we go little deeper and try to understand each of the yoga process, we will find that the final goal of all yoga is to come to the conclusion that we are souls, Krishna is the Supreme Lord and for our own good, we should develop lasting relationship with Krishna.
Ultimate goal of karma yoga is Bhakti Yoga
When we try to understand karma yoga, we find that Krishna eventually asks Arjuna to engage in activities in this world so that he finally comes to him.
Karma means action. None of us can live even without a moment without doing anything in this world. Even for our basic needs we have to work. But it is also important to know what kind of action to perform in this world. Actions sanctioned in the Vedic scriptures should only be performed.
But actions can bind us in this world or liberate us. For example, there are people who practice karma kanda with a desire to enjoy in this world and after death they want to go to the heavenly planets and enjoy there.
Those following the path of karma kanda may not know the difference between demigod and the Supreme Lord. So, they approach demigods to get desired results. But the result one gets is temporary because life either on earth or in heavenly planet is not permanent. People who follow karma kanda remains bound in this world.
Sakama karma yoga
Above them are the those who follow the path of karma yoga. Yoga as discussed earlier is the process of connecting oneself to the absolute truth. Initially the practitioner of karma yoga may not completely know who is the Supreme Lord. He may not understand the difference between Brahman, Paramātmā and Bhagavan.
But he knows that whatever work he is going to do should be sanctioned by the scriptures and its fruits should be offered to the Supreme Lord. Initially a karma yogi may also have material desires and may work with that motive, so the process they are following is categorized as sakama karma yoga.
Niskama karma yoga
However, Krishna asks Arjuna to come to the stage of niskama karma yoga. In Niskama karma yoga one works diligently but without any desire or attachment for the fruits of his work and whatever results one gets he offers it to the Supreme Lord. Bhagavad Gita 5.10. If one works with this consciousness, then one will not be affected by any sins and will get liberated from this world.
And finally, Krishna clarifies that he is that Supreme Lord to whom all sacrifices should be offered. So, when one understands that Krishna is the Supreme Lord and one performs action (karma) in that consciousness and offers everything to him then it is Bhakti Yoga only.
“A person in full consciousness of Me, knowing Me to be the ultimate beneficiary of all sacrifices and austerities, the Supreme Lord of all planets and demigods, and the benefactor and well-wisher of all living entities, attains peace from the pangs of material miseries.” Bhagavad Gita 5.29
Final goal of ashtanga yoga
Similarly, Krishna explains in detail in the 6th Chapter of Bhagavad Gita about the process of ashtanga yoga. But at the end he says that the best yogi is he who always thinks about him and meditates upon him. So, the final goal of astanga is also to reunite with Krishna.
“And of all yogīs, the one with great faith who always abides in Me, thinks of Me within himself and renders transcendental loving service to Me – he is the most intimately united with Me in yoga and is the highest of all. That is My opinion.” Bhagavad Gita 6.47
Jnana yoga too takes us to Bhakti Yoga
Purpose of Jnana Yoga is also to come to the conclusion that Krishna is our life’s goal. In Jnana Yoga one studies the living entities (jiva), the prakriti (material nature) and the Supreme Lord (isvara). By practicing jnana yoga, one is able to understand what is temporary and what is permanent.
The material nature and material body are temporary and so one should be detached from them. But soul and Supersoul are eternal, so one should focus on them and try to develop attachment with the Supreme Lord.
The ultimate purpose of Vedic knowledge is to know Krishna, understand Krishna and finally conclude that Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Lord. And with this understanding one should engage in his devotional service.
“Whoever knows Me as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, without doubting, is the knower of everything. He therefore engages himself in full devotional service to Me, O son of Bharata.” Bhagavad Gita 15.19.
Bhakti Yoga is the ultimate goal of all yoga
Arjuna, the ever-inquisitive student asks many questions when Krishna explains various yoga process. And many times, he frankly says to Krishna that the yoga process what he is explaining is difficult to practice, so he wants to know more.
So, finally understanding Arjuna’s heart and his desire to know the complete truth, Krishna reveals the most confidential knowledge which he calls as rāja-vidyā, king of all knowledge. He says that amongst all yogas, bhakti yoga is topmost because by practicing bhakti yoga one can easily attain him.
As discussed earlier, this world is full of miseries and no matter how best we try we cannot live here forever. So, the only solution is to go beyond this material world and reach spiritual world which is free from all physical and mental sufferings and where there is no death.
Krishna assures that this is possible if we become his devotee and he further says that once we go his spiritual abode we will never come back to this material world. Bhagavad Gita 8.15-16.
Those who are intelligent understands that Krishna is cause of all causes, the creator and maintainer of both material and spiritual world, so without any doubt they engage in his devotional service. Bhagavad Gita 10.8.
Krishna personally takes care of those devotees who practice bhakti yoga and also gives him intelligence by which a devotee can easily attain him.
How to practice Bhakti yoga?
So, Krishna says to Arjuna and through Arjuna to each one of us that we should become his devotee and constantly think and meditate upon him. If we do so, then Krishna assures that we will come to him and reunite with him which is the ultimate and topmost goal of Yoga.
Because by practicing bhakti yoga, one attains complete perfection and goes to the spiritual world. Krishna says how to practice bhakti yoga.
“Engage your mind always in thinking of Me, become My devotee, offer obeisances to Me and worship Me. Being completely absorbed in Me, surely you will come to Me.” Bhagavad Gita 9.34
In a precarious situation, Arjuna had approached Krishna for guidance. Krishna not just shows Arjuna the right path but also reveals him the process to attain topmost perfection. Arjuna had different sets of problems in his life, and we have our own problems which is making us suffer in this world.
Krishna teaches the great knowledge of Gita to help us come out of this helpless situation. And the only way by which we can free ourselves from different types of material sufferings is by practicing Bhakti yoga. This is the topmost yoga and the ultimate goal of all yoga – karma yoga, astanga yoga and jnana yoga.
The aim of Bhagavad Gita is to not make us materially happy, but it is to make us eternally happy. So, Krishna gives us Bhakti Yoga.
And if we start practicing Bhakti Yoga, as per Bhagavad Gita then we will get reunited with Krishna and we will be happy in this life also and in next life we will return back to the kingdom of Krishna which is free of all physical pain, mental anxiety and most importantly full of peace and bliss.