The greatest misfortune to befall the world would be if all mankind were to recognise and accept but one religion, one universal form of worship, one standard of morality. This would be the death-blow to all religious and spiritual progress. Instead of trying to hasten this disastrous event by inducing persons, through good or evil methods, to conform to our own highest ideal of truth, we ought rather to endeavour to remove all obstacles which prevent men from developing in accordance with their own highest ideals, and thus make their attempt vain to establish one universal religion.
The ultimate goal of all mankind, the aim and end of all religions, is but one — re-union with God, or, what amounts to the same, with the divinity which is every man’s true nature. But while the aim is one, the method of attaining may vary with the different temperaments of men.
Both the goal and the methods employed for reaching it are called Yoga, a word derived from the same Sanskrit root as the English “yoke”, meaning “to join”, to join us to our reality, God. There are various such Yogas, or methods of union — but the chief ones are — Karma-Yoga, Bhakti-Yoga, Râja-Yoga, and Jnâna-Yoga.
Every man must develop according to his own nature. As every science has its methods, so has every religion. The methods of attaining the end of religion are called Yoga by us, and the different forms of Yoga that we teach, are adapted to the different natures and temperaments of men. We classify them in the following way, under four heads:
- Karma Yoga — The manner in which a man realises his own divinity through works and duty.
- Bhakti Yoga — The realisation of the divinity through devotion to, and love of, a Personal God.
- Raja Yoga — The realisation of the divinity through the control of mind.
- Jnana Yoga — The realisation of a man’s own divinity through knowledge.
These are all different roads leading to the same centre — God. Indeed, the varieties of religious belief are an advantage, since all faiths are good, so far as they encourage man to lead a religious life. The more sects there are, the more opportunities there are for making successful appeals to the divine instinct in all men.
Better is one’s own duty though destitute of merits or incomplete than the duty of another well performed; the man who performs action ordained by his own nature does not incur sin. (18.47)