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Is there a downfall for a yogi who cannot attain perfection?



Introductory Notes

The word 'Yoga" is popularly associated with the various "physical postures" (we go to the Yoga classes where we learn these "yoga asanas"). In Hindu scriptures, however, Yoga is uses in much broader sense. There are four kinds of Yoga, four primary ways of salvation in Hinduism, four possible paths to moksha or salvation. These are:


1. Bhakti Yoga, the way of devotion

It is the most popular road to salvation in India. Devotion and honor towards a god or gods
It satisfies the longing for a more emotional and personal approach to religion
In the way of devotion, the focus is on obtaining the mercy and help of a god in finding release from the cycle of reincarnation. Some Hindus conceive of ultimate salvation as absorption into the one divine reality, with all loss of individual existence. Others conceive of it as heavenly existence in adoration of the personal God.

2. Karma Yoga, the way of good works:

To carry out good works, good deeds, give money to the temple or to people, attend festivals, pilgrimages... and do the work for God's sake instead of your own... whatever you do, do it for God... don't look for fruit or success, just do it because it is the will of God...


3. Jnana Yoga, the way of knowledge:

To explore the Sacred Scriptures, usually with the help of a guru or a sadhus. It usually has three steps: Hearing (or reading), thinking, and meditation.


4. Raja Yoga, the way of contemplation or meditation:

It is called the "royal road", and it is the one used by most Hindu and Buddhist Cults... "meditation", or better, "contemplation", with the 8 steps of Raja Yoga (ashtanga yoga).



Yoga is hard to practice for those who cannot control their mind. The mind, by it's very nature is restless. In Bhagwad Gita, it is said: "asamsayam mahabaho mano durnigraham chalam", meaning - Doubtless, O mighty - armed (Arjuna), the mind is restless and hard to control.

In Katha Upanishad we find the following:

"The Self cannot be attained by the study of the Vedas, not by intelligence nor by much hearing. Only by him who seeks to know the Self can It be attained. To him the Self reveals Its own nature. None who has not refrained from bad conduct, whose senses are not under restraint, whose mind is not collected or who does not preserve a tranquil mind, can attain this Self through knowledge."

Katha Upanishad 1.2:23,24

What happens if a yogi fails to attain perfection (by perfection, we mean God-Realization which is also often called "self attainment" in Upanishads), is there a downfall? This is a very critical question for all seekers of truth.

The Bhagwad Gita gives a very clear answer in chapter 6.

Arjuna asks :

"Kachchinnobhayavibhrastaschinnabhramiva nasyati
apratisthomahabaho vimudho brahmanah pathi"

Bhagwad Gita 6:38

O mighty-armed, deluded in the path of God, without any hold, does he not perish like a rent cloud, deprived of both God-Realization and worldly enjoyment?

(Note: On one hand, the seeker renounced worldly pleasures, while on the other, because he was unable to control his restless mind, he failed in attaining the ultimate enlightenment ... thus, apparently he was like a rent cloud which did not descend on earth as rain, neither could this drift of cloud join the other ones).


To dispel this doubt, Lord Krishna says categorically:

"Partha naiveha namutra vinasastasya vidyate
na hi kalyankrtkaschiddurgatim tat gachchati"

Bhagwad Gita 6:40

O Partha, there is no fall for him either here or hereafter; for none who works for self-attainment meets with evil destiny.

in the next four verses of same chapter (verses 41, 42, 43, and 44), Bhagwad Gita explains what happens to such persons as follows:

Those persons who could not achieve self enlightenment, attain the "world of the righteous" (perhaps this is what might also be called Heaven). Having lived there for countless years, he who falls from Yoga, is reborn in the family of the pious and prosperous.


However, if such a person had already developed dispassion, but was unable to attain the ultimate enlightenment, he would be reborn in a family of enlightened Yogis; but this kind of birth is very rare in this world. If he is reborn like this, he regains the knowledge of the previous birth and he strives more than before for self enlightenment.


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