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Article LXXXI: Student Dharma -- Bhakti, Karma, Jnana

"All mankind is born for perfection, and each shall attain it, will he but follow his nature's duty." Bhagavad Gita XVIII:45 (Translation from Spiritual Heritage of India by Swami Prabhavananda)

Following one's dharma, or duty, is the ideal path toward enlightenment, but one's duty is often not absolutely clear. An action can bring one closer to enlightenment, lead one away from enlightenment, or result in one remaining at the same distance from enlightenment. A wide spectrum of actions exist that can take one in any direction with respect to the goal. By aspiring to realize the action that most directly leads one to enlightenment, one can best approach that goal. When one does not achieve the ideal action in accordance with dharma, one may still act in a way that approaches that ideal. As one aspires to act ideally, one continues to improve in those aspirations, and those aspirations become more easily achieved.

Bhakti, karma, and jnana are three major approaches to enlightenment, among infinitely many paths. These paths are not completely separate, and most people are able to incorporate different levels of each in their approach to the Divine. The life of a student can incorporate bhakti, or devotion, by devoting all of the fruits of labor to God. Students can follow that path of karma by acting selflessly and diminishing the ego. Jnana represents the path of knowledge, and students can utilize any discipline of knowledge to increase understanding of ultimate knowledge - the Divine.

When the fruits of studies are offered to God, non-attachment is approached through bhakti. When a student works for the sake of righteousness, desires dissolve through karma. When knowledge is gained that enables a student to discriminate the mundane from the Divine, wisdom is achieved through jnana. Any combination of these paths allow students to ascend closer and closer to the ultimate goal of enlightenment.

East-West Counseling & Meditation -- Modern Psychiatry Integration -- Himalayan Philosophy -- Penn & Stanford Medicine
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