A common western view is that India is ascetic, otherworldly and life denying. This is however not true. India has not condemned enjoyment as evil. Hindu scriptures claim that there is nothing wrong with pleasure; it is one of the legitimate ends in life, but one must see that pleasure is fulfilled as richly and aesthetically as possible.
It is inevitable that when man pursues pleasure he must one day realise that pleasure is not all that he wants. A man of maturity knows that pleasure is not wicked, however he does conclude that it is too trivial to satisfy man’s total nature.
Hindu philosophy knows that one cannot gain by suppressing desire or by imagining that it does not exist.
All Hinduism asks is that one has an awareness of the above facts. Then one can go after desire and pleasure in a prudent manner and deal with people and circumstances with the fair play it deserves.
During the stage where man is involved in pursuing worldly goals a Spiritual master is not likely to disturb the aspirant beyond offering some suggestions as to how to deal with the mundane problems of his everyday life.
When man follows the desire of fame and wealth to its hilt, another stage unfolds in his life when he asks: “Is this all? Am I going to leave all this that I own or have achieved behind, when I die?”
Man realises deeply that he does not want to die. Sometimes one may find oneself driven to suicide but no one really feels happy about dying.
Man wants to be immortal and man seeks Joy. These two desires together coin into one word —Mukti or Liberation — a liberation from the sorrows of Life and Death.
Hinduism not only promises infinite being and infinite joy but also claims that they are already his.
Why is this then not obvious, one may argue? The Hindu sages claim that -the reason that we are not aware of the infinite joy that is within us is because of the dust of distraction and false ideas that cover the light of our infinite centre.
Jesus Christ also claims that the “Kingdom of God is within you.”
The Three Pathways
But how does one reach that Infinite Ocean of Bliss which is now hidden deep within us.
How does one start his journey towards divine perfection?
The Hindus have prescribed three different paths to purify one’s personality and to guide people to a higher state of being.
If the goal is one, should there not be one path to it?
Different starting point is determined by the kind of person one is, by the kind of personality one possesses.
There are, according to Hindu analysis, three different kinds of persons. Some are basically reflective; their way to God would be through knowledge.
The second kind is primarily emotional. Their way to God would be through Devotion and Love.
The third kind is essentially active. Their way to God would be through work and service.
The Path of Knowledge
Such people follow where their Intellect leads. By prolonged intensive reflection such personalities touch upon the unchanging element in themselves, which Hindus call the atman.
By constant introspection they pierce through the various identifications of the roles, that they have played, i.e. as father, as son, friend, husband etc.
By doing so they touch upon true self, which is synonymous with peace and joy. With it they finally identify and merge.
Bhakti Marg – The way to God through love.
This path is dominated totally by Love. Love for love’s sake and not for any other ulterior motive. This love for God will automatically weaken the world’s grip of attachment and desires.
This path knows only to give of oneself totally without asking for anything in return.
Karma Marg — The Way to God through Action
It is needless to state that the human body was made and meant for action. People who are idle or made to retire from their profession are generally not very happy personalities.
Hinduism does not believe that one must take to the woods in order to worship. We must in fact turn each activity of ours into a thoughtful movement, which takes us closer to God and to our ultimate goal.
One must come to feel that one is only an instrument through which God’s work is done. That way the ego is kept at bay. One must work like a person who loves and does everything for his beloved seeking nothing for himself but taking pleasure in service alone.
Activity is an essential function of life and when one looks closely it becomes obvious that the way of knowledge and the way of devotion are both complementary. Both are required to round up a personality to perfection.
Hence the conclusion, one may be predominantly a follower of one path, but all the paths must eventually join into one main Highway.