Paths Towards Innocence

From On the Wings of the Swan, Volume IV Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati

Are there any practices, actions or attitudes that can lead one to the state of innocence?

There are three paths, which lead to the state of innocence and we will look at them individually.

The first path is through the intellect, jnana yoga. It is said to be a difficult method. The belief of jnana yoga is that, as you develop and expand the horizon of your perception and rationality, the intellect will become simple. In the course of time it will lose its devious, distorted and dissipated nature and become simple and innocent. How can the jnana yoga process lead to innocence?

Jnana yoga is the application of personal realizations. It is not just something that we believe in, but something which we can apply in our lives. This begins with self-study, “Who am I?” This enquiry is not in a physical context, but in the sense of what is my nature, what is my belief, how do I respond to other influences, ideas and thoughts? How is my personality affected, and how can I sublimate the limiting and restricting factors of my personality to experience the purity of self? This process can lead to innocence. That is path number one.

The second path is easier than jnana yoga. It is karma yoga. To practise karma yoga properly, there has to be a very high standard of surrender. To develop innocence, you have to hold the ideal of surrender in your mind. This ideal takes time to grow; however, if the actions become selfless, then it is possible to experience innocence.

The third path is that of bhakti, which is not just devotion. Bhakti is not just thinking of a pure and divine concept. In bhakti there are nine different steps. The firststep is keeping the company of truthful people: satsang, santana sanga. The second step is hari nama katha prasanga, talking about God, understanding the different roles that God has played in creation, and the realization of those roles. The third step is to become egoless: I am not the doer, I am not the enjoyer, I am only an instrument which the divine plays in order to bring out the best melodies that are inherent within me. In the words of Saint Francis of Assisi, “Make me an instrument of Thy peace.” Sri Rama has defined nine steps of bhakti in the Ramayana and a similar nine steps have been defined by Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita. Both have stated that perfection of any one of the states of bhakti will lead to purity of self, or an innocent nature. Therefore, bhakti seems to be the easiest, safest and cheapest of the methods.

Jnana yoga is an involved and intricate process. Karma yoga is also difficult. So let us keep in mind bhakti yoga as the easier method by which to develop innocence.

—1997, Ganga Darshan, Munger, printed in YOGA Vol. 9, Issue 5