2. Tamas Guna
3. Rajas Guna
4. Sattva Guna
7. Bhakti Marg
9. Raj Yog
10. Japa Sadhana
14. Further Reading
In order to understand the spiritual progress and different spiritual paths, let us understand Three Gunas of Maya.
Maya is said to be have three Gunas – Sattva, Rajas and Tamas.
: Inactivity – Laziness, Socially less active
: Activity – Name & Fame, Glory, likes to sit on Hot-seat
: Divine qualities, but less active. Development of Love for God. Less interest in worldly matters. Beginning of Introvert Nature.
Everything is made from maya – this world and also us. So each person also has these three Gunas in different permutations and combinations.
Each person has three Gunas, but one is predominant.
Spiritual Progress is the transformation of Tamas to Rajas to Sattva Guna. Final destination is to go beyond Gunas.
If the person has Tamas Guna as the predominant Guna, he will be a lazy person, who is socially less active. Make him/her Socially Active.
Such a person is encouraged to be social, visit social functions, make more friends, and take part in extra-curricular activities. In general, he is encouraged to be more and more active.
This will increase Rajas Guna.
The next step is to dissolve his ego and convert his nature into sattvik. A Rajasic person will always be active. He lives for name & fame, glory and always wants to be recognised by others and likes to sit on Hot-seat.
He is advised to be of helping nature. Later the importance of service and the word ‘God’ is technically made aware to him.
Now his friend and social circle changes to a spiritual circle and he maybe associated with a spiritual foundation as an active member.
Gradually, after the Sattva Guna increases, he is told to attend discourses and attend satsangs. Importance of book study (shastras) and reading the glories of God and chanting God’s holy name are highlighted.
Gradually as the interest in worldly matter decreases, love for God increases. A person becomes more and more introvert. When one becomes 100% introvert, he/she lives in isolation, be it mental renunciation or both mental and external renunciation (i.e. become a monk)
After understanding the Gunas, let us understand four spiritual paths.
Guru after accurately judging the nature and the spiritual inclination of a person, directs him/her to one of the four paths.
: For active people – only for chittashuddhi.
: Emotional nature
: Introvert personalities. Likes to remain Alone (not lonely).
: For Logical reasoning mind. One who tries to find scientific answer / solution and logical explanation.
The nature of mind is such that until anything is proved or given high importance, mind does not accept it. So, Guru emphasises on any particular path, gives its importance and sings its glories.
To motivate a person, he will give examples of great men and women.
To stabilize one in that path, he/she will say that this is the best path of all 4 and the most suitable to you. Kindly note that there is no intention to hurt or to prove that only one path and his technique is true and superior and other paths are inferior.
Karma Yog is for the transformation of Rajas to Sattva. People practising Karma Yog are active.
Serving God, Men & women (even nature), ashram and saints becomes a part of daily routine. He regularly performs Puja (worship of God’s any form in a systematic order).
In the beginning, since discipline and other qualities are necessary for spiritual progress, so a Guru will instruct and may also practice them himself. We are all copy cats and follow each step of a Guru or spiritual teacher and try to judge him from his external behaviour. There is no need for a Guru to practice these virtues, but to set an example and in an attempt to show a correct way, Guru practices the virtues himself. Even if he doesn’t, nothing is going to harm.
Bhakti is divided into 2:
1. Sakar bhakti / SaGuna Bhakti: Worship of God’s Form
2. Nirakar Bhakti / NirGuna Bhakti: Worship of God without any form, as absolute Brahman. Nirakara Bhakti is also called as Jnana Yog / Jnana Marg.
Sakara Bhakti is divided into 3 types
a. Bhakti mixed with Karma
b. Shuddha Bhakti
c. Bhakti mixed with Jnana
Performing Puja, Austerities, visiting holy places, etc comes under this category. Even service to humanity and nature are considered as bhakti (devotion to God) with an understanding and feeling that God is present in everything.
Indian tradition is such that it considers everything holy and worth of worship (each step of evolution).
Mountains: Himalayas, Arunachala
Plants: Banyan, Tulsi
Birds: Garuda (hawk) – king of bird
Everything in nature is worshiped.
After a person has made certain progress, depending upon the basic nature of a person, he/she may be shifted from Karma Yog to Bhakti Yog.
By serving his creation, we are serving God. Further, one understands that I serve God which is within everything and I do not simply serve gross world.
A Shuddha Bhakta or a bhakta will prefer to sit in one place and keep chanting God’s name. He is only concerned with himself and God.
“This World is God’s creation and he will handle it. Let me just chant thy holy name. I just want thy Divine Vision. Can anybody except you have the power to change others? I am your devotee and you are my God. I am nothing without you” – this is the attitude of a bhakta. A bhakta is an introvert person.
Such a person is generally not socially active.
A Bhakta, may not have the goal of ‘divine vision of God’ initially, but as he matures in spirituality, he will have only one Goal – to have divine vision of Goal and to stay at his beloved God’s feet.
A bhakta even does not want moksha (liberation) but wishes to takes infinite rebirth to chant and sing the glories of beloved God.
Even though this is not the final state of spirituality, this is recommended. When a person who has surrendered everything even his body to his beloved God, it is the responsibility of God to take him to the final destination of nirvikalp Samadhi, as in the case of Sri Narashi Mehta and Sri Ramakrishna.
Narashi Mehta wished to keep singing Glory of God and for that he wished to takes as many re-births as possible. Later, once while performing Puja, he thought I am the worshipper and in front of me is object of worship (idol of God). But who is giving inspiration to chant Gods name. That inspiration is within me. God is also within me. (in gujarati language - Brahma latkaa kare brahma same) i.e. Brahman is worshipping Brahman
Sri Ramakrishna got orders from Maa Kali to Practice Advaita philosophy. It was by Maa Kali’s wish that his Great Advaita Guru Sri Totapuriji came to dakshineshvar and offered Sri Ramakrishna to study advaita under him. Remember Sri Ramakrishna did not went to Sri Totapuriji, but he came to Sri Ramakrishna (by Maa Kali’s Grace / wish)
There is one more division:
In this bhakti, a bhakta is explained finer details like the meaning of any form of God like Lord Hanuman. Monkeys are skilful, impatient, restless (chanchala), etc. Lord Hanuman transformed from a monkey to the Best Devotee and realised his true nature. He is worshipped as God and the most beloved of Lord Rama. So he can calm down our restless mind and make us experience our highest truth. Symbolism of form of God is also explained. Read more: Symbolic meaning of Rama
Accordingly to Bhagawat Gita, If the Sakara Upasana does not open the door of Nirakara Upasana, then it is meaningless . After the mind calms down, a person shifts from Sakara to Nirakara (i.e. from worshipiing God with form to God without form). He is made aware of the formless attribute of God. Everything in shastras is connected to Jnana Marg and the approach changes. Gita is also explained from the standpoint of Jnana.
Gradually, a person concludes that everything merges in the formless God. A person of such approach will conclude that after intense worship of God with Form, my beloved God now wants me to explain his formless aspect. God now wishes me to rise above his ever changing Maya and be established in uninterrupted peace and bliss. His sadhana has now matured.
A shuddha bhakta will not think like this and he only wants the divine vision of his beloved God. But this is not the case with “Bhakti mixed with Jnana”. He now shifts to Advaita philosophy or Jnana Marg
In Sri Ramakrishna’s words, “water is like formless God (atman). When it is freezed by Bhakti, it becomes ice and takes the shape”. Technically, both water and ice are one and the same. They both contain H2O (water). Formless God is the pure form or essence (shuddha tatva).
According to Bhagawat Gita.
This is divided into
1. Pratik Upasana (bhakti) and
2. AhanGrah Upasana (Bhakti)
Pratik means symbol. National flag is a representation of entire country. In the same way, Aum/Om symbolises and represents infinite attribute less Brahman, Atman. Shuddha Bhakti also comes under Pratik Upasana as any form of God represents the formless infinite. Pratik Upasana generally comes under Sakar Upanasa, but Aum chanting is categorized under Jnana Marg. Aum neutralizes the mind and makes one peaceful. A Person meditating on Aum will gradually remain indifferent to good and bad thoughts and remain indifferent to society. Some people meditate on the energy of Aum. They are more concerned with the power that comes from Aum and not in Aum Itself. So the focus and intention during meditation is on energy and not on the Word Aum.
This is the actual Jnana Marg. It is the path of neti-neti – negation. Path which Sri Ramana Maharshi practiced. “Who am I” or Brahma Satya Jagat Mithya – Only God is true, everything else is false. i.e. I am not this, not this, etc, then ‘who am I’
(Some extrovert persons practice to see everything as the manifestation of Atman. Generally Yogis, practising Kundalini yog or Raj Yog practice this philosophy. They are the worshipers of Shakti or Maya.)
Yog is for the ones who like to know logical reasoning behind everything. They try to find scientific explanation and demands systematic study of body and its working.
Yog begins with breadth and ends with Samadhi. Breadth control is mind control. Yog requires one to have mastery over 5 senses and mastery over mind.
Bhagawat Gita chapter 6 is called as Atma Sayyam Yog meaning Mind Control 
In this path, kundalini is awakened from the Root charka (muladhara charka) to Sahastrahara chakra (crown charka). Read more: Rise of Kundalini
The philosophy of Yog is, if our body is not fit then how one can meditate. So, first thing is to keep the body Fit.
Classical Yog Sutras of Patanjali, do not describe any of the asanas (postures). It is said in the Raja Yog that any Asana that is comfortable for meditating is the best asana.
Initially, the importance is given to breadth and later on to mind. Still further, it is said that the awareness of Breadth or body itself is an obstruction to Samadhi. So finally a Yogi meditates on Aum and then dissolves his/her identity into the entire universe. This part is not stressed by majority of the preachers.
The importance is given only to asanas and pranayam. Some of them do their own R & D and then device a new technique – there is no need to do so. Just practice step – by – step the classical Yog Sutras i.e. Raj Yog of Patanjali and Realise your true self. This is the real path of Yog.
The author does not wish to discourage anybody doing asanas, but then he/she is not made aware of the real purpose of Yog – Self Realisation or God Realisation. Asanas are very helpful, but they have limitations since they keep one connected with the body. Technically, I am not the body, mind or intellect. I am brahman, Atman.
Experimenting and exploring the mysteries of universe may give one name and fame, but one definitely cannot realise his/her true nature since this exploration keeps mind active (even though it may become more and more subtle and one may experience the increase in bliss). Till mind is alive, duality will remain.
Yog or Samadhi is the state of non-duality – the highest achievement. Seeking ends here. Peace is our true nature.
Either by the integration of bodies (Yog) or by detachment of bodies from our True Self (Jnana Marg), one can Realise his/her true nature.
Japa comes under Pratik Upasana.
Japa can be done on any form of God or on Aum.
Mantras given in Shastras – Associated with deities
Om Sri Ramchandraya Namah, Om Sri Ram Ramaya Namah, Om Naamah Shivaya
Mantras from Purana Ramayan, Mahabharata and other holy texts
Sri Ram Jai Ram Jai Jai Ram
Mantras of 4 vedas
4 great verses (mahavakya)
brahma satya Jagat Mithya, etc.
Aum / Om
Mool gayatri mantra
Aum bhurbhuva svaha tatsavitur varenyam bhargo devasya dheemayi dhiyo yonaha prachodayat
Variants of Gayatri mantra
Shiv Gayatri Mantra
Om Panchavaktraya Vidmahe
Tanno Rudraha Prachodayat
Om Narayanaya Vidmahe
Tanno Vishunha Prachodayat
Om Eka Dandhaya Vidmahe
Tanno tantihi Prachodayat
Om Anjanisutaya Vidmahe
Tanno Marutih Prachodayat
Om Daasharthaye Vidmahe
Sita Vallabhaya Dhimahi
Tanno Ramahi Prachodayat
More can be found here
He/she is told to sit for 45 mins and chant the name of any form of God to his/her liking (with or without Japa Mala – rosary beads. Japa Mala is preferred. A person chanting Aum generally do not take the support of Mala). If surrendered to Guru, then by Gods grace, Guru will see his nature, and then give him the suitable name of God for chanting. 
Once a person can regularly sit for 45 mins, japa Yog is considered suitable to him/her as he/she can sit in one place for some time. The next target is 3 hours. When one can regularly sit for 3 hours, he/she is said the achieve asana siddhi. He/she has more control over the body. Life is transformed.
Next is 6 hours. Person can only meditate daily for 6 hours, if he/she one goal in life i.e. Self Realisation or divine vision of God. God takes control of his life. Such a person does not think but lives on intuitions. Rarely one reaches this state. Blessed are those who are been chosen by God to be one with infinite.
Now, there is no time limit. He/She has developed dhyeya siddhi. Now there is no need to even study scriptures. He has digested the essence of Shastras. He simply meditates and realises the true self. It is just a matter of time for him. He has clearly seen the destination, now he just has to walk to that path.
Tamas Guna à Rajas Guna à Sattva Guna
(Inactivity) (Activity) (Divine qualities, but less active)
Sattva Guna à Shuddha Sattva
(Quality of Renunciation – Mental / Both Mental & External)
Shuddha Sattva à Turiya / Smadhi / Self Realisation
1. Make one Socially Active
2. Be of Helping Nature
3. Service to God (Puja) and Humanity (donations, tithing, distributing Food, etc)
4. Study of Shastras / Attending Satsang (discourses) / Listening or Singing devotional songs)
5. Sadhana can be divided into:
a. Sakar Upasana – Bhakti – Japa / Surrender
b. Nirakara Upasana – Jnana – Neti – Neti / Self Enquiry / Who Am I
c. Japa sadhana – as a separate branch
d. Yog sadhana
Generally any Form of God, who’s chanting of name clams down the mind easily suits you. All Forms are divine manifestations of formless Brahman.
Say, a person who has compassion for all including animals and plants, one who is guileless and innocent, tolerates everything – to such a person Lord Shiva becomes the deity of worship. As Lord Shiva accepts all including Ghosts and demons. All the gods have chosen fast moving and beautiful animals as their vehicles. Lord Shiva has chosen an old Bullock, etc.
So, characteristics of the Deity (Lord Shiva) and devotee matches. All forms have symbolic meaning. Each form of God has a particular character. Although they are all knowledgeable and capable of doing everything (technically they are different aspects of same reality – Atman), still some qualities are predominant in them. These are matched with that of devotee.
Sometimes different way is chosen. Say a person has made a habit of looking women with an eye of Lust or considers women as inferior or disrespect them. Guru, who is all knower, suggests or orders him to worship a female deity (e.g. Maa Durga) and tells him to see that female deity in everybody. Guru sings the glory and the importance of feminine power. Now since he is worshipping a female deity cannot look women with an eye of lust or consider them inferior or disrespect them.
In India, each family has a family deity. Brahmins worship Lord Shiva and Vaishnavas worship Lord Krishna as their family deity. He/She can worship the family deity and excel in spirituality.
If one knows nothing, Hanuman is a common God which I think can be worshipped by all. So there are maximum number of temples dedicated to Lord Hanuman.
Many authors have titled the name of chapter 6 as Dhyan yog (yoga of Meditation) or Abhyasa Yog (Yoga of Self Study – studying or talking with your mind). In traditional system, at the end of each chapter the title along with chapter no is sung.
e.g. Iti srimad bhagawat Gita su, upnishad su, brahma vidyayam, yog Shastre, Sri Krishna Arjuna Samvade, Atma Sayyam Yogo naama Sastodhyayah.
In Sanskrit, Sasta means Six and the title of chapter or adhyaya is “Atma sayyam Yog” meaning yog of control. Expanding it becomes – Yoga of mind control or self control. This is correct terminology according to Indian traditional system.
Above all explanation and terminology is taken form a Discourse on Bhagawat Gita by Swami Tadrupanandji
According to Gita, Transformation is from Karma (chap 1 – 6) to Bhakti (Chap 7 – 12) to Jnana (Chap 13 – 18).
Karma Kand: Chapter 1 -6.
Chapter 6: Atmasayyam Yog (meaning control over Mind 
If you see the structure of Gita, the 6th Chapter, which is the last chapter of Karma Kand will summarize chapters 1 – 5 and opens the door of bhakti.
Chapter 7 is titled Jnana Vignana Yog: Chapter 12, which is the last chapter of Bhakti Yog, it summarizes 7 – 11 chapters and opens the door of Jnana Marg
Chapter 12 is Bhakti Yog: The name lets you the content. It opens to door to Jnana Marg. The first Chapter is Khsetra – Khsetragna Yog chapter 13. Khsetra means anything which comes under 5 senses or is the object of perception. Khsetragna, Gna or Gya or Gnya means the knower. So Khsetragna means one who is the knower of Khsetra.
In short Kshetra is the one which is observed and Khsetragna is the observer.
Chapter 15 is the final chapter form updesha standpoint. No new updesha (instruction) is given after chapter 15. Chap 16 and 17 are barometers of our progress. Chap 18 is the summary of all chapter.
1. Bhagawat Gita
2. Sri Ramakrishna Jivan Charitra
3. Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna
4. Ramana Gita
5. Who am I – Ramana Maharshi
6. Discourses by Swami Tadrupanand.
7. Tatva Bodh by Sri Adi Sankaracharya
8. Vivek Choodamani (Chudamani) by Sri Adi Shankaracharya.