Namaste! Many of you may have heard that there are four main paths to God and divinity or approach to God, as enumerated by the ancient rishis. These are:
- Bhakti (The path of devotion, prescribed for those who love God and have an emotional nature)
- Gyan (The path of knowledge, prescribed for those who possess a good intellect)
- Karma (The path of action, for those who are energetic and workaholics)
- Raja (The royal path of meditation, for those who have an introspective soul)
While all these paths either singularly or in a collective mix are efficacious in leading the seeker to the Ultimate Goal of meeting God, they too, like any other path, have distinct stages in their journey.
These four stages have been very interestingly charted out by the Upanishadic Rishis as under:
Saloka: which means, a proximity to God In the same Plane as Him, or living on the same planet ( which can be earth, because God takes avatar here)
Samipa: which means nearness to, or physical proximity to that God
Sarupa: which means a likeness to that God Himself
Sayuja: which means complete union with that God.
Now, interestingly, the rishis of ancient India, not only knew that there are many paths to God, so also, they understood that many relationships could be shared with Him.
There were the Dasa Marg, those who thought of themselves as God’s humble servants, and they corresponded to Saloka.
Next was the Satputra marg, these bhakts thought of themselves as children of God, and indeed felt Him in their physical proximity, like a protective and Caring Father, or Mother.
The Sakha Marg bhakts went a step ahead, they loved God as a friend, and to their surprise, found that their own persona started matching with their beloved, as friends often do.
Finally, there was the San marg illuminated rishis, those that found they had, in fact, completely merged into the God they loved. First as a dasa, then as a child, then as a friend and finally complete merger of individual personality into the Universal consciousness.
There remained no two, only one! Only God remains right at the end, as only He is right at the beginning of the Universe and time itself.
To the Rishis, these four relationships were the sign of where a seeker had reached in His search for His Divinity. Though not a hard and fast rule, ultimately this was thought of as a gradation even in the meeting of God. All love for God, beginning with the duality of a servant and a master, ends ultimately in a perfect Non-duality of Only God. The great saint Paramhans Ramakrishna, who was the master of Swami Vivekananda, would often tell a short story and laugh about this phenomenon to describe the stages of God realization:
“Once, a salt doll went to measure the Ocean.” That is all He would say and laugh at what the obvious result would be: No doll, Only Ocean.
So too. The Leela of God is played out from time immemorial with all of the creation.
In this Leela have arrived not only all the saints and sinners, heroes and villains, who played out their roles, but also, importantly, you and me. We are here to play out our part.Thus it is imperative for us to know what is our relationship with our Beloved. We must sit quietly with ourselves and decide our marg, whether it is bhakti, karma, gyan, or dhyana( meditation) or then all of them put together. And then we must begin our own journey in this Saloka.
(Shail Gulhati is the author of the book Shiva, the ultimate time traveler)