Hindus believe there is one way to actualize oneself, and that comes under the heading of yoga, or a method of training that leads to spiritual integration and union of the human spirit with god. It is not the same type of yoga practiced in America or other countries, which is more a meditative escape from stress, or comprises a set of exercises. For Hindus, yoga is a way to spiritual attainment.
Four Paths in Hinduism
The Four Paths, therefore, are becoming closer to god through knowledge, love, work, and psychophysical exercises (yoga). The Hindu takes the Four Paths throughout his or her life:
- The first phase, which is that of a student.
- The second stage is that of marriage, in which the now-trained student begins raising a family and strives to achieve success through his marriage and through his work.
- The third stage is fulfilling oneself, raising the family, and preparing for the fourth stage
- The Fourth stage is retirement.
There is yet another stage, called the state of the sannyasin, where the person neither loves nor hates anything. This person is no longer tied to social obligations and wants nothing more than to be anonymous, to be free to meditate and to lead his own life in any way he chooses.
Four Paths in Hinduism and Christianity
Since Hinduism is not limited to a trilogy as Christianity is, its monotheistic nature is somewhat more complex. However, the defining principle remains the same. Hinduism is polytheistic because there are many minor gods. It is also monotheistic in the sense that all of the attributes assigned to minor gods are also present in Brahma. Therefore, all of the minor gods are Brahma but Brahma is not all of the minor gods since Brahma also incorporates all of the elements of nature, humanity, and the universe. Interpreted in this manner Hinduism is paradoxically both monotheistic and polytheistic.