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Karma yoga

For succeeding or even surviving in the world, we need to work. Simultaneously, when we become spiritually aware, we understand that worldly actions bind us to this material world, which is a place of distress. So, we strive to disentangle ourselves from this world.

How can we be engaged without becoming entangled? By doing karma-yoga for Krishna.

So, what is karma yoga?

Karma refers to our various actions. Yoga refers to the process that connects us with our spiritual essence. Karma-yoga infuses our worldly actions with detachment, thereby transforming them into steps towards disentanglement. The Bhagavad-gita (03.09) cautions that any other kind of work – work done with attachment – causes bondage. When doing karma-yoga, we do our worldly duties in a mood of dutiful detachment, thereby realizing our spiritual identity as souls and progressing towards disentanglement.

However, becoming materially disentangled is itself not complete liberation. We long to love and be loved – and do so freely, eternally, unlimitedly. The supreme liberation fulfills this longing by linking us with the supreme soul, Krishna in a bond of immortal love.

When we do karma-yoga for Krishna, we do our worldly duties in a mood of loving service to him (09.27). By such actions, we become purified and attached to him, thereby freeing our consciousness from worldly allurements (09.28). Such karma-yoga rises seamlessly to bhakti-yoga, wherein we don’t just work for Krishna, but we live for him; our entire being becomes devoted to him. When we live in a mood of uninhibited devotional surrender, Krishna, being the controller of the law of karma, frees us from all karmic reactions (18.66).

Therefore, rather than worrying about staying disentangled while being engaged, we can focus on devoting all our actions to Krishna. And he will take our karma and give us the yoga of eternal love.

Karma Yoga in Bhagavad Gita

Karma Yoga, according to Bhagavad Gita, is the key to free oneself from the cycle of death and birth that all life goes through and achieve salvation. The essence of karma yoga is described in Bhagavad Gita as Arjuna questions the right and wrong of battling against his own kith and kin in the Mahabharat War. He expresses his hesitation to fight and asked Krishna, who also was his charioteer at the time, how could he wield his bow in a war where he has to slay his family and friends

Lord Krishna then preaches him what his karma and dharma (moral duty) were as a Kshatriya in the Kurukshetra battlefield

In Verses 3.4 and 3.5 of Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna tells Arjuna about the role and significance of karma. He says that one is bound to his karmic reactions or responsibility, and no one can actually be free merely by avoiding their duty.

No one can be in a moment where there is no action from their part. Every living being on earth is bound to act according to their three Gunas or qualities, i.e. Rajas, Tamas and Sattva.

Only when they have purified their thoughts and emotions through their karma can they attain the perfection of knowledge and achieve true freedom.

How to Practice Karma Yoga?

1. The right attitude and devotion to work
The attitude with which you work is what matters the most rather than what you do. That is going to determine whether the job you are involved in will bind you or liberate you. While practising Karma Yoga, one’s hands should be devoted to working, and the mind to the feet of the Lord.

2. Working with a self-less motive
Quite similar to the first step, your real motive behind performing a task is what counts instead of what you do. The mind plans of the rewards and fruits of the labour before starting any work, but unless the actions come from a place of selfless service, karma yoga cannot happen.

3. Be devoted to your duty (Swadharma)
Swadharma is one’s specific duty in life. You must perform your duties according to the stage of life you are in and your qualities. The soul stays in bondage when one’s dharma is not fulfilled, but it is freed when the duties are performed.

4. Give your best
Give your best in everything you do even when there is no one to watch over you or you feel the work is not for you. This will clear off your karmic debts.

5. Letting go of the outcome
It is important to understand that the doer of an action is God, and you are the instrument through which the act is carried out. You don’t know what God’s plans are for you, hence, you need to work and let go of the outcome. Detachment from actions and the results will dissolve the karmic seeds.

6. Service to mankind is service to God
God dwells in each and every one of us. Every living being is a part of the same body, so, in serving others, you serve God as well. Be humble and beware of name, fame, power, praise and censure.

7. Follow the Discipline of the Job
There is something to learn in every work experience. The lessons you will learn in giving your best to your work will be rich. Each job will require different degree of concentration, skill sets, time, input, energy and will, and you need to follow the discipline of them all.

7. Traits of a karma yogi
A karma yogi should be absolutely free from lust, greed, anger and egoism. He should always be striving to remove these doshas even if they are in traces. He should practice being tolerant and sympathetic towards others and lead a very simple life.

To maintain a strong and healthy physical body, he should be involved in regular pranayama and asanas. In addition, he must have a high endurance power.

Principles of Karma Yoga

The path of karma yoga emphasises on performing all our actions with dedication while renouncing the outcomes that may arise. Here are the Karma Yoga principles as described in Bhagavad Gita.

Faith: Faith is essential to manifest higher reality. It helps in infusing wisdom and positivity to achieve a better way of living. To cultivate faith, you need to keep the company of pious and spiritual people.

Right knowledge: People devoid of the right knowledge tend to engage in egocentric actions, thereby gathering up immoral karma. To avoid this, you can practice Jnana karma yoga as recommended by the Bhagavad Gita. This yoga encourages practising selflessness to gain the right knowledge.

Purity of mind: Practicing karma yoga with an impure mind is impossible. An impure mind is the one infected with purposes and thoughts. To achieve a pure mind, you need to work on three levels, i.e., thought, action, and intent. The main cause of the desired-ridden actions in an individual is due to the Tri-Gunas, i.e., Sattva, Rajas, and Tamas. These are solely responsible for originating egoism, ignorance, and selfishness. However, by instilling Sattva Guna, you can transcend these Gunas and engage in performing desire-less actions.

Practising discernment: People who wish to liberate themselves spiritually should also take care to avoid applying the principles of karma yoga to any action without thinking it through. The entire purpose of karma yoga is to always stay connected to one’s duties and serve the purposes of creation righteously. As mentioned in the Bhagavad Gita, one must practice performing true karma Yoga while exercising adequate discernment.

Detachment from results: People have a strong liking and disking for certain things. However, there is no certainty to our likeliness as it may change with the course of time. This is attachment. According to the Bhagavad Gita, liberation can be only attained if you let go of attachments and desired-oriented actions since these are the main cause of emotional instability.

Self-mastery: To continue one’s actions with dispassion towards the outcome, the karma yogi needs to practice self-mastery or Atma-Samyama Yoga. Pure devotion: The karma yogi becomes capable of pure devotion when he has been persistent in his practice and dedicated himself entirely to the service of humanity and the higher reality.

Find your karmic path

Karma is the combination of both the action and its outcomes. Everything that we are experiencing is the result of the cause and effect of our actions. Through karma yoga, we can stop this chain reaction. At Govardhan Eco Village, all our yogic practices and courses are based on karma yoga and its principles. Come and be a part of our yoga retreat and community, where we encourage yogic lifestyles and practices and foster love, compassion, and detachment.