Three Yogas

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For the "Three Yogas" in Jainism, see Asrava

The Three Yogas are three soteriological paths mentioned in Bhagavad Gita for the liberation of human spirit.[1] They are

  1. Karma Yoga or the Path of Action (karma)
  2. Bhakti Yoga or the Path of Devotion (bhakti) to Ishvara (God)
  3. Jnana Yoga or the Path of Knowledge (jnana)

These concepts are at the foundation of the Bhakti devotionalism movement. They are elaborated upon in the Vaishna Bhagavata Purana.[citation needed]


The Bhagavad Gita had been made practically the only source for the means to moksha with the development of Classical Hinduism in the 8th or 9th century, and Hindu philosophers of the medieval period have tried to explain the nature of these three paths and the relation between them.

Shankara tended to focus on jnana-yoga exclusively, which he interpreted as the acquisition of knowledge or vidya. He considered karma-yoga to be inferior, and ignores bhakti-yoga entirely.

The 12th-century philosopher Ramanuja considered the three yogas by interpreting his predecessor Yamunacharya. In Ramanuja's interpretation, bhakti-yoga appears to be the direct path to moksha, which is however available only to those whose inner faculties have already been trained by both karma-yoga and jnana-yoga.[2]

A "fourth yoga" is sometimes added, Raja Yoga or "the Path of Meditation". This is the classical Yoga presented in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Patanjali's system came to be known as Raja Yoga or "Royal Yoga" retro-actively, in about the 15th century, as the term Yoga had become popular for the general concept of a "religious path".

The systematic presentation of Hindu monotheism as divided into these four paths or "Yogas" is modern, advocated by Swami Vivekananda from the 1890s.[citation needed] They are presented as four paths to God suitable for four human temperaments, viz. the active, the emotional, the mystic and the philosophical.[citation needed]


  1. ^ Gavin D. Flood, An introduction to Hinduism, Cambridge University Press, 1996, ISBN 978-0-521-43878-0, page 96
  2. ^ Bunki Kimura, 'Ramanujas Theory of Three Yogas: The Way to Moksha' in: Shōun Hino (ed.) Three mountains and seven rivers: Prof. Musashi Tachikawa's felicitation volume, Motilal Banarsidass, 2004, ISBN 978-81-208-2468-3, 645-668