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What is Dharma ? Religion…and religions The dialectic progression of Yoga The path of Action (karma) The path of Knowledge (gyana, jnana) The path of Love (bhakti) Definition of Dharma Absolute, Eternal Dharma (sanatana dharma)

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What is Dharma?

  • Religion…and religions
  • The dialectic progression of Yoga
    • The path of Action (karma)
    • The path of Knowledge (gyana, jnana)
    • The path of Love (bhakti)

Definition of Dharma

Absolute, Eternal Dharma (sanatana dharma)

‘Nature , character , peculiar condition or essential quality’.

E.g.: the dharma of sugar is to be sweet, of fire to be hot.

The dharma of the Individual Soul (jiva) is to render service to the Supreme Soul

Relative Dharma(s)

‘That which sustains’.

So any regulative system that supports the realization of one’s Absolute, eternal dharma is also a (relative) dharma.


Yoga (Sanskrit) means to ‘yoke’ or connect. Religion (Latin re-ligare) means to re-connect. This is a reference to regaining consciousness of one’s Eternal, Absolute Dharma.

    • Lost under the influence of the deluding potency (Maya)
  • But the different religious and yogic systems in the world are different relative dharmas.
  • Relative dharmas are taught by the Great Teachers according to Time, Place, Recipients.
  • Each such system of yoga has 3 strands :
    • Regulated Action (karma)
    • Knowledge (gyana)
    • Love in faith (bhakti)

Apparent contradictions

  • In Christianity:
  • Faith versus Works
  • Gnostic Gospels
  • In Islam:
  • Controversy over Ijtihad (Reasoning)
  • In the Vedas:
  • Clear categorization
  • Karma-kanda (Works)
  • Gyana-kanda (Speculative, esoteric knowledge)
  • Bhakti-shastra (Eternal Devotional Service)
  • But there is still confusion…

Separate Paths?

  • Different emphasis?
  • Or different limbs of an Integral Yoga?
    • Is there a logical precedence among the three?
  • Source of Confusion
  • Different degrees of philosophical understanding
  • Five aspects of a complete philosophy:
  • Godhead (Ishvara)
  • Individual Soul (jiva)
  • Nature and potentialities (prakriti)
  • Time (kaala)
  • Laws of Action (karma)

"...Whosoever follows a false doctrine of the Self will perish." -- Chandogya Upanishad VIII.8.4

    • Narrative of Prajapati, Virochana & Indra
  • “In this world, there is nothing so sublime and pure as transcendental knowledge. Such knowledge is the mature fruit of all mysticism. And one who has become accomplished in the practice of devotional service enjoys this knowledge within himself in due course of time.
  • “A faithful man who is dedicated to transcendental knowledge and who subdues his senses is eligible to achieve such knowledge, and having achieved it he quickly attains the supreme spiritual peace.
  • “But ignorant and faithless persons who doubt the revealed scriptures do not attain God consciousness; they fall down. For the doubting soul there is happiness neither in this world nor in the next.” – Bhagavad Gita, 4:38-40

Scope of yoga

  • Yoga cannot denote some specialized activity partitioned off from one's life.
  • Yoga is not an extra appendage to our ordinary activities.
  • Yoga is a spiritual culture aimed at the total sacralisation of human life, without remainder.
    • The very nature of Consciousness!
  • That complete realization of dharma is attained only in pure bhakti – a complete refinement of our Consciousness. Srimad Bhagavatam:
  • (1.1.11): “There are many varieties of scriptures, and in all of them there are many prescribed duties, which can be learned only after many years of study in their various divisions. Therefore, O sage, please select the essence of all these scriptures and explain it for the good of all living beings, that by such instructions their hearts may be fully satisfied.”
  • Suta Gosvami answers (1.2.6): “The supreme occupation (dharma) for all humanity is that by which men can attain to loving devotional service unto the transcendent Lord. Such devotional service must be unmotivated and uninterrupted to completely satisfy the self.”

Dialectics of the Bhagavad Gita

    • Karma – Works
    • Gyana – Renunciation through esoteric Knowledge
    • Bhakti – Action in Pure Love and Knowledge
  • In the Vedas
    • Tarka-shaastra (Logic)  Hetu-shaastra (Dialectics)
  • In the modern era
    • Hegel followed by Engels






The discharge of the cycle of duties prescribed in the Vedas.

Reached its apotheosis in the school of the karma-mimamsa.

Motivated by personal desire to attain material well-being by gaining control over natural processes.

The level of karma embodies worldly action and absorption in material name and form.


The pursuit of liberation from material energy - release from all karma.

Renunciation of all personal desires. Cessation of all activity.

Total absorption of the intellect in a radical theology of Negation (via negativa).

Turns away from the world and action in it to seek liberation into a transcendence conceived as the negation of all name and form.

Dissolution of individual identity in a mystical union with an Undifferentiated Absolute Spirit.



  • Bhakti sublimates and synthesizes features of gyana & karma.
  • On the platform of bhakti, there is inaction in action (“akarmani karma”, Bhagavad Gita. 4.18)
    • Activities performed purely as an offering to God.
    • Since the devotee acts in complete harmony with the Supreme Will, God is the doer, and the deed produces no karmic reaction, good or bad.
    • From a material point of view, nothing has happened.
  • The world, with its panoply of sense objects, is neither to be enjoyed (as in karma), nor rejected (as in gyana), but used entirely in the service of God, who is its actual possessor and controller. This is called yukta-vairagya.
  • Realization is complete in the feature of the Absolute Personal Godhead which, although having no material name and form, possesses spiritual or transcendental names, forms, attributes, and relations.

Incompleteness of Karma & Gyana

    • --when seen independent of Bhakti
  • The incompleteness of gyana is shown by the way it remains bound to the previous platform of karma.
  • Negations depend on that which they negate for their meaning:
    • therefore negations alone cannot escape relativity and attain the Absolute.
  • Nor can the transcendent unity be properly understood as the mere opposite of diversity:
    • that absolute unity cannot exclude but must include variegatedness and diversity.
  • Pure bhakti is based on the philosophy of achintya bheda-abheda – “Inconceivable, simultaneous oneness and difference”.
    • Doctrine of ‘Primacy of Will and Intelligence’

Degrees of Self-realization

Katha Upanishad, Ch. III:


“A man who has discrimination for his charioteer and holds the reins of the mind firmly, reaches the end of the road; and that is the supreme position of Vishnu.”


“Beyond the senses are the objects; beyond the objects is the mind; beyond the mind, the intellect; beyond the intellect, the Great Atman; beyond the Great Atman, the Unmanifest; beyond the Unmanifest, the Purusha. Beyond the Purusha there is nothing: this is the end, the Supreme Goal.”



Dialectic progression is spiral – not circular.

Harmonizing Action and Knowledge with the driving force of Love of Godhead  leads to elevation.

  • Purification of consciousness by:
  • Cultivation of transcendental knowledge
    • Acquiring knowledge (sravana)
    • Contemplation (manana)
    • Application in practical life (nididhyasa)
  • Particular spiritual practice
    • Mantra meditation, etc.