By Swami Sivananda Saraswathi
The triple Yoga of service, devotion and knowledge are essential for self-realization. One does not contradict the other. Together, they help growth and harmonious development of the heart, mind and the intellect. It is mere folly to discard any of these in the course of one's onward march towards the goal of life. Each Yoga supplements, helps and complements the others.
The Bhagavad Gita says:
Sankhya yogau prithak Balah pravadanti na pandithaah (Children, not the wise, say Yoga and knowledge are distinct)
Though Sri Sankara was a pure Advaita Vedantin he always worshiped a personal God. He composed many verses and hymns in praise of Devi, Lord Krishna, Hari, Siva and others. He did Lokasangraha or selfless service unto humanity. There was no power on earth to compel him to do work. He was free as a bird. Yet he served untiringly. He established four Mutts. He initiated deserving students into Sannyas. He hoisted the flag of Vedanta and established its supremacy over other philosophers. He put down the misleading heads of various cults and schools who led humanity astray. He put them in the right path. His philosophy today stands unparalleled. He wrote several inspiring and elevating books. He inspires us even today through his many commentaries, such as Prasthanatrayi.
In one of his hymns to Hari, Sri Sankara says, "O Lord, though I and you are one, yet I am thine but mine, just as the waves belong to the ocean only, and not the ocean to the waves".
Swami Madhusudan Saraswati, one of the reputed saints of the 8th century A.D was a Poorna Gnani and a Bhakta. Even after he realized the all-pervasive Self or Brahman he worshiped Lord Krishna. He said, "Though I behold the one Atman in all beings and see all as one yet my taste or craving for the worship of the feet of Krishna never leaves me. To me Krishna is the highest reality."
Krishnat-param kimapi tattavam aham nahjane (I do not know of any superior reality than Krishna)
Though sant Tukaram was a great Bhakta, he had the cosmic and Supreme Advaitic Realization. A Bhakta attains the state attained by Gyanins as observed from the lives of the South Indian Saiva saints like Tirumala Nayanar, Appar, Sundaramurthi, etc. Though they adored Lord Siva with all their heart they had the highest realization of Brahman.
The practice of Karma Yoga and Bhakti Yoga is as difficult as that of Gyana Yoga. Keeping up of Atma Bhav while practicing Karma Yoga in the world is more difficult than the practice of Jyana Yoga while remaining in the cave.
Work must be done for the divine alone and in union with the divine and with the right spirit and attitude. By doing constant selfless service with Ishwararpan Buddhi the aspirant develops Bhakti. His will gets merged in the Divine Will. His ego slowly perishes. Action done with the right spirit and mental attitude is a powerful and effective as devotion and meditation. Action, devotion and knowledge go together. Internal development and perfection are possible only through the practice of this triple Yoga (Yogatraya). Karma Yoga includes meditation and devotion. Lord Krishna says to Arjuna, " Remember me at all times and fight" i.e., do your duty." Take refuge in Me and surrender the fruits of all your actions unto Me." "Smarana" of the Lord consecrating the fruits of all actions and self-surrender (Atma Nivedan) which are the fundamental doctrine of Karma Yoga are really devotion in essence. Incessant untiring selfless work leads you from devotion to knowledge and fulfills the purpose of life.
- This article is from "Sai Sudha", May 1945 By Swami Sivananda Saraswathi, Rishikesh