On the journey of self-discovery and personal growth it is common to emphasize one method or the development of only one dimension of the Self. With this approach it is possible to attain a conquest of certain practices and advances can be achieved in some areas of the consciousness. However, on occasions challenges can appear that require a wider vision capable of taking us to a deeper and more comprehensive realization.
This problematic aspect on the journey of self-discovery has been extensively debated in Indian thought. In the Samkhya philosophy (one of the principle schools of Hinduism) the Triple Path towards a spiritual realization is composed of Bhakti (devotion) together with Jnana (knowledge) and Karma (understood in this context as a path of action or service). Historically the three paths have gone in different directions and their practitioners have procured to establish a superiority of one over the other. Those dedicated to the path of Bhakti have pointed out the aridness of excessive philosophical thought and the limitations of the intellect to experience the vastness of the spiritual world. Meanwhile, the followers of Jnana have emphasized the power of discernment of the mental being and have relegated devotion to a lesser position, because of its association with feelings and passion. And lastly, those who have chosen the path of Karma have indicated that Bhakti and Jnana neglect the action in the world and the responsibility of taking care of others.
Despite the arguments and attempts to divide these paths, numerous philosophers (among these Sri Aurobindo), have insisted that each one of these paths requires the other two for an integral realization. Bhakti may become unbridled, chaotic and fanatical without the union of the mind and Jnana can become dry and unfeeling without its counterpart from the heart. When these two paths converge, they elevate each other and they deepen into a symbiotic realization. But they both require Karma as the last stage on this triple path as it permits their integration in life. In conclusion, to be able to spiritualize ourselves in action we need the knowledge (Jnana) of the Self and the nature of the world, accompanied with the warmth, grace and affection from the heart (Bhakti).
Furthermore, the complete realization of the Triple Path of the heart, of knowledge and of action requires the cultivation of three dimensions of the Being, that we should discover, understand and conquer. The first is the Inner Self, the Self in us behind our outer personality that is governed by the senses. The second is the Transcendental Self, the reality beyond us as individual beings, the most high, universal and profound levels of the Self, the Divine or God. And lastly, the Self in life, where we manifest these realizations, understandings and experiences with others and the world, through loving, compassionate and responsible acts.
The union between the Triple Path and its realization in the dimensions of the being (Inner, Transcendent, In life) gives us a long-term panoramic vision. In the path of Bhakti the goal is the discovery of our loving nature (Inner Self), the experience of Spiritual Love (Transcendental Self) and the manifestation of a dynamic calmness and an unconditional love (Self in life). With Jnana the aim is the detection of our True Self beyond the ego (Inner Self), the entrance into a wisdom of an elevated consciousness, (Transcendental Self) and the expression of an intelligence that is clear and intuitive (Self in life). And finally, with Karma the objective is the revelation of an innate goodness (Inner Self), the meeting with a source of unlimited generosity (Transcendental Self) and through the practice of service as a manifestation of this Giving force in the world (Self in life).
This vision for a spiritual realization can guide us on our personal journey. It helps us to ask ourselves which path do I need to cultivate more: the devotion, the knowledge or taking care of others? And which dimension of the being requires my attention: The Inner Self, the Transcendental Self and or the Self in life? What actions do I need to take to develop more love, clarity and service?