The Three Ways to Liberation

Liberation in the Ved is said to have two aspects:

  • Absence of Misery and
  • Attainment of Bliss.

To attain these two ends, the Ved show three paths:

  • Karma or Action
  • Jnyaan or Knowledge
  • Bhakti or Devotion.

Every great movement in the history of Eternal Dharma has revolved around the primacy of one of these three paths.

1. कर्म  = Karma or Action:

This concept itself has been interpreted in two distinctly different ways. One concept is कर्मकांड = Karma-Kand or the entire system of Vedic Practices or Rituals. The second is the concept of Direct Action or carrying out a specific duty or executing a task.

One can reasonably argue that कर्म = Karma or Direct Action was the driving philosophy of the early centuries of Eternal Dharma. This was the period when Sages traveled far and wide to spread the Dharma and Warrior Kings set forth to conquer territories and bring wealth back to their Kingdoms.

This was also a period when martial spirit dominated the Eternal Dharma practitioners.  Pessimism was unknown at that time. This is why many hymns of the Rd-Ved show a martial spirit. Witness the description of citizens as brave, who are very clever and successful in killing their enemies or इमे नराः वृत्रहत्येषु शूराः.

Just look at the names of the heros of that period, शत्रुघ्न = Shatrughna (one who kills enemies)परंतप  = Parantap (one who brings great pain to enemies)धनंजय  =  Dhananjay (one who conquers wealth from enemies) just to name a few.

2. ज्ञान = Jnyaan or Knowledge:

This was deemed to be the preferred mode for intelligent people. Jnyaan was obtained first from the Guru and then often by तपश्चर्या or Tapashcharya (sheer penance) or in the Himalaya. This path also came to be associated with the concept of संन्यास = Samnyaas or Renunciation.

The Vedanta movement of the great Adi Shankar-Acharya made the Jnyann-Samnyaas path as the centerpiece of his teachings. This became the dominant path when Shankar-Acharya defeated all of the Pandits who espoused the  कर्मकांड = Karma-Kand or the Vedic Practices path in the 8th century.

This was also the path chosen by Gautam Buddha who founded Buddhism. He attained Nirvan when he achieved his enlightenment. That is when he became known as Buddha or one with Buddhi or Knowledge.

भक्ति = Bhakti:

Bhakti or Devotion to God, is the simplest of all Eternal Dharma paths and the ideal path for the average person. This path first originated in the Bhagwat-Puraan and created the concept of Shri Krishna as a personal God. The origin of this path was essentially launched by the following command by Shri Krishna from the Bhagwat-Geeta:

              सर्व धर्मान परित्यज मां एकम शरणं व्रज
              Sarva Dharmaan Parityaja Maam Ekam Sharanam Vraja
              Discard all religions and surrender yourself to Me alone

             अहं त्वां सर्व पापेभ्यो मोक्षम ईशामी मा शुचः

             Aham Tvam Sarva Papebhyo Moksham Ishamee Maa Shucha
             I will deliver you from all sins, do not worry
                     Bhagwat-Geeta, XVIII.66

This path was not the preferred concept during the first millennium which was dominated initially by Buddhism, then by resurgence of Karma-Kand or Vedic Practices path and then by the Jnyann-Samnyas path of Shankar-Acharya from the 8th century onwards.

The Bhakti Marg or Bhakti path saw its great resurgence from the 13th century onwards. This was the time when Jnyaneshwar translated the Bhagwat Geeta into Marathi and opened the door to Eternal Dharma treasures to all people regardless of their education, social standing or wealth. This movement became known in Maharashtra as Varakari Panth. This movement spread to all parts of India with Chaityna Mahaprabhu in Bengal, Surdas, Kabir in North India and Meerabai in Rajasthan.

There is no doubt that the Bhakti Marg has been the dominant path of Eternal Dharma for the past 800 years and it continues to be so today.

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