Karma, Jnana and Bhakti are the paths of spiritual progress, says Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita.
The goal in all these is liberation from bondage. All these are equally important and necessary in the process, but when discussing them individually, the natural tendency is to stress their distinctive supremacy, pointed out Swami Tejomayananda in a discourse.
Karma lays emphasis on practice and its absolute necessity as a spiritual discipline; but mere practice alone is inadequate in this path. It has to lead to knowledge and at a still higher level it leads to meditation (dyana). Mechanical spiritual practice is good but with knowledge it is better; and more so when practised with knowledge and meditation.
The cumulative effect of all three leads to renunciation from which point alone liberation is attainable. The practice of sarva karma phala tyaga is hence celebrated as a practical and effective strategy for spiritual aspirants.
Absorption of mind in that knowledge is not total if anxiety for the fruit of action predominates. A cricket player on the brink of a century might fail his target out of anxiety which causes drop in concentration. The last lap of a journey creates anxiety and restlessness with respect to the destination to be reached. This disquiet is absent when the former is keen on the game alone and the traveller on the journey alone.
Likewise, if one dedicates the fruits of all actions to God, there is no anxiety about results and one is able to concentrate on the task on hand. In this state, only peace reigns. In this sense, renunciation of the fruits of action becomes devotion to God and Krishna holds such a Bhakta close to His heart.
Devotion expects only to be on the feet of God and seeks no other personal gain. This unselfish love is a noble trait as is seen in the attitude of a patriot or in a mother’s love.
Prahlada is asked by God to ask for boons. Prahlada’s love is so pure that he cannot see love as a business. How could he ask God for boons when he is filled with devotion to Him?
He prays to God: “Let no desire enter my mind. This is what I ask of you.”