Different Yoga Strokes for Different Yoga Folks. (Gita Talk 8)

The ancient Yoga sage(s) who wrote the Gita recognized that different people would need different types of Yoga to match their personality types.

(For next week please read Chapters 10 and 11, pages 121-143, in which the Gita suddenly launches into extraordinary poetry to help our hero come to terms with the infinite wonder of the universe.)

The ancient Yoga sage(s) who wrote the Gita recognized that different people would need different types of Yoga to match their personality types.

People who are primarily analytical in nature might feel most comfortable with Jnana Yoga, or the Yoga of Understanding. They like to think and philosophize about Yoga.

People who are primarily people oriented might be most attracted to Karma Yoga, or the Yoga of Action, which emphasizes selfless giving and compassion.

People who are highly emotional in nature might prefer Bhakti Yoga, or the Yoga of Love and Devotion, which emphasizes love, sacred chanting, mantras, and devotional kirtan music.

Finally, people who are what psychologists call “drivers” might tend towards Raja Yoga, or the Yoga of Meditation, as exemplified by the progressive spiritual attainment of the Yoga Sutra.

None of this is meant to pigeonhole people. We all have aspects of all these types within us. But most people have what psychologists call a “dominant style.” And, according to the Gita, all of these paths lead to the same place–a deep awareness of the infinite wonder of the universe.

I was surprised by how closely the types of Yoga in the Gita correspond to modern personality theory. It’s almost an exact match. The ancient Yoga guys figured out thousands of years ago that there are different Yoga strokes for different Yoga folks.

I’ve collected the most relevant passages for each style in Gita in a Nutshell. Just click for the passages, or read them in your own version of the Gita:

The Yoga of Understanding (Jnana) (GN #10)
4.33, 4.37-39, 4.42, 5.4-5, 6.29-32, 7.2, 9.2, 9.15, 10.7-8, 10.10-11, 18.55, 18.70

Yoga of Meditation (Dhyana/Raja) (GN #11)
6.10-12, 6.15, 6.18-22, 6.35, 8.9, 9.22, 9.34, 12.2, 12.8, 18.57

Yoga of Love (Bhakti) (GN #12)
8.22, 9.13-14, 9.29, 10.7-8, 10.10, 11.54-55, 12.2, 12.17-20

Yoga of Action (Karma) (GN #13)
3.7, 3.9, 3.25, 3.30, 4.19-24, 4.42, 6.1-3, 11.55, 12.10, 18.56-7


All Blogs in the Series:

Welcome to Gita Talk:
Online Discussion of the Bhagavad Gita. (Round 2)

Ongoing Resources:

Gita in a Nutshell: Big Ideas & Best Quotations

Yoga Demystified

The Original Sixteen Session Gita Talk

Join Gita Talk Facebook Group for weekly notices
and to meet fellow participants.

9 replies on “Different Yoga Strokes for Different Yoga Folks. (Gita Talk 8)”

Don't know if you have studied Jung much, but he also clearly derived much of his personality theory from Eastern Psychology. No secret about that actually. If you want to see how Jungs work has evolved over the years when refined by Western science take a look at the five factor theory (or big five) of personality. Damn, did we have this discussion a couple years ago? 🙂

This is really interesting…I feel like I have parts of both the people oriented "Karma Yoga" and driver "Raja Yoga." I think what drives me is the desire to be more compassionate, help more people… but I need to read through the designated passages and revisit this.

Hi Bob,

Thanks to write a beautiful article on Geeta,

I am not sure that Geeta is similar to modern psychology. It has more depth probably every word of Geeta has multiple meanings in itself. As example take examples of two Karma Yogi : Arjun and Mahatma Gandhi. Both were Karma Yogi, while Arjun fought the war with weapons and killed his own relatives to destroy the Adharma, Mahatma Gandhi fought his war without weapons even he did not use a stick or bad word against the Britishers moreover he lost his life to Ahimsa too. That’s the point that the same teaching (of Geeta) affected two karma yogis in different ways. In Hindu religion it is known as “Sanskar” effects.

There are three yogas, Karma Yoga, Jyana Yoga and Bhakti Yoga. All of three are different but interconnected with each another. We can’t differentiate them in any manner. Similarly liberation is the only fruit of three paths, no matter who choose which path to be liberate. These are categorized on the basis of personal nature of human and his/her mentality that how he/she can think or react. We can say it is a matter of personal choice and ability rather than Geeta’s teachings. Geeta doesn’t say choose this one or neglect another one. It is opened for everyone like ocean, come and select what you want to enjoy. But the modern psychology does offer such principles to moderate a human personality so smoothly, that is the main difference of Geeta and psychology.

One funny thing, I use to remember that in traditional Indian Hindu families Geeta is not allowed to children below than 15 years especially in joint families. They prefer Ramayan than Geeta or Mahabharat for children. It is said that Geeta may teach them lesson of Sanyasa or liberation after that children will leave their family to be a sadhu (sage) or Jyani. Perhaps it was a rumor spread by Muslim invaders or Britishers, I don’t know but I have seen it many times.

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