Can buddhi-yoga refer to all three yogas – karma, jnana and bhakti?

by Chaitanya Charan dasMarch 12, 2020

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Transcription :

Transcriber: Sharan Shetty

Edited by: Keshavgopal Das

Question: Can buddhi-yoga refer to all three yogas – karma, jnana and bhakti?

Answer: The word buddhi yoga does not refer to any specific process. There is no particular system of sadhana called as buddhi yoga. It is a compound word used by Lord Krishna in the Gita. Technically speaking, the two words that form the compound word buddhi yoga mean intelligence used for the purpose of yoga or yoga performed with intelligence with the purpose of pursuing higher spiritual connection. Hence, this can be done in all the three processes – karma, jnana and bhakti.

In karma yoga, if one meditates that he is not the body and therefore should not be attached to the fruits of work and bodily gratification and then performs action, then one is using his intelligence to connect with the Supreme Truth. Such use of intelligence can also be called as buddhi yoga.

In jnana yoga, when one uses one’s intelligence to connect with the ultimate spiritual reality without necessarily knowing what that spiritual reality is (either personal or impersonal) or ones connection with the spiritual reality is more intellectualised than personalised (i.e. more abstract in terms of attraction to the greatness of the Absolute Truth rather than the personality or sweetness of the Absolute Truth) then such use of intelligence can also be called as buddhi yoga.

In bhakti yoga, buddhi yoga will be intelligence used to serve Krishna in a way that is most pleasing to him.

Thus, the word buddhi yoga can mean all the three things.

In the Gita, jnana yoga is not discussed much because the Gita was spoken on a battlefield. The context involves that Arjuna needs to perform his duty of fighting. Therefore, jnana yoga, which centres on renunciation of the world, is not compatible with the context of the Gita. That is why, the Gita does not talk about jnana yoga much. Therefore, wherever the word buddhi yoga is used in the Gita, it is either meant for karma yoga or bhakti yoga.

In BG 02.39, Krishna uses the word buddhi yoga to explain that now I have spoken to you the difference between body and soul so that when you act in such knowledge you can free yourself from the bondage of work. This is buddhi yoga referring to karma yoga.

In BG 10.10, Krishna uses the word buddhi yoga to refer to the intelligence by which one will come to him. This is buddhi yoga referring to bhakti yoga.
In BG 18.57, Krishna uses the word buddhi yoga in reference to take shelter of devotional activities (buddhi-yogam upasritya) and renouncing all work to him, making him the goal, always being conscious of him. Here as well, buddhi yoga refers to bhakti yoga.

In the Gita, Lord Krishna uses the word buddhi yoga to refer to karma yoga in BG 2.39 and then bhakti yoga in BG 10.10 and BG 18.57. But in terms of the words that form the word buddhi yoga, any yoga which involves using the intelligence for the pursuit of transcendence can be called as buddhi yoga.
Basically, we can consider the word – buddhi yoga, as an extendable term whose scope of meaning can expand from karma yoga till bhakti yoga . Therefore, in the yoga ladder, the word buddhi yoga can refer to karma yoga and bhakti yoga and anything in between if it involves the use of intelligence for the pursuit of transcendence.

End of transcription.

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Chaitanya Charan das

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