Essence of Karma Yoga
A) “Samatvaṃ Yoga Ucyate” Bhagavad Gītā, (2.48)
Lord Krishna explains, ¨Perform action, O Arjuna, being steadfast in Yoga, abandoning attachment and balanced in Success and failure. Evenness of mind is called Yoga¨. Equilibrium is Yoga. Dwelling in union with the Divine; performing action without expectation of fruits is success. Failure is the non-attainment of knowledge by doing actions with expectation of fruit. Action done with evenness of mind is Yoga. He who, restraining the organs of action, sits thinking of the sense- objects in mind, he is of deluded understanding and is called a ‘Hypocrite’. But whoever, controlling the senses by the mind, engages himself in Karma Yoga with the organs of action, without attachment and egoism – he excels. He certainly is more worthy than the other who is a hypocrite or a man of false
Buddha gave up his throne and renounced his position; that was true renunciation. But there cannot be any question of renunciation in the case of a beggar who has nothing to renounce. So we must always be careful about what we really mean when we speak of this detachment and selfless love. We must first take care to understand whether we have the power of detachment or not. Then, having the power, if we renounce it and do not resist, we are doing a grand act of love; but if we cannot resist, and yet, at the same time, try to deceive ourselves into the belief that are actuated by motives of the highest love, we are doing the exact opposite.
One should work like a master and not as a slave. Ninety-nine percent of mankind work like slaves; and the result is misery. It is all selfish work. Work through freedom! Work through love! Love never comes until there is freedom. There is no true love possible in the slave. If you buy a slave and tie him down in chains and make him work for you, he will work like a drudge, but there will be no love in him. So when we ourselves work for the things of the world as slaves, there can be no love in us, and our work is not true work. Selfish work is slaves work. Every act of love brings happiness; there is not an act of love which does not bring peace and blessedness as its reaction. Real existence, real knowledge and real love are eternally connected with one another.
He works best who works without any motive, neither for money, nor for fame, nor for anything else; and when a man can do that he will be a Buddha, and out of him will come the power to work in such a manner as will transform the world. This man represents the very highest ideal of Karma yoga.
B) “Yogaḥ Karmasu Kauśalam” Bhagavad Gītā, (2.50)
Lord Krishna explains, ¨Endowed with wisdom (evenness of mind), one casts off in this life both good and evil deeds; therefore, devote thyself to Yoga; Yoga is skill in action¨. The essence of Karma Yoga is the performance of an action without accumulating ‘Samskaras’. It is in this sense that we find this definition of Yoga as “Karmasu Kauśalam” i.e “Skill or dexterity in action”. The skill here refers to capacity of performing ‘action in inaction’ i.e. without generating ‘Samskaras’. Lord Krishna explains to Arjuna that unmotivated actions are the only actions which do not generate ‘Samskara’. This fact brings about the significance in karma yoga of “Nishkama Karma” that is karma without expectations of fruits from the action.
If work is performed with evenness of mind, with the mind resting in the Lord, it will not bind him. It will not bring any fruit and thus not create any Samsara. Actions which are of a binding nature lose that nature when performed with equanimity of mind, or poised reason. The student of Yoga is often perplexed as to what action and inaction is. It is necessary to discriminate action, forbidden action, and inaction. Having abandoned attachment to the fruits of action, ever content depending on nothing, though engaged in Karma, verily he does nothing. Lord Siva destroys the whole world at the time of Pralaya (devastation). For that horrifying act of Siva if sin would accrue, He would be the worst sinner in the cosmos! Totally attuned to His ‘Svarupa’ (Divine Self), the state of SILENCE, ’Akarma’ – all acts cease to bind him. So it is equivalent to non-performance of act. Actionlessness (Nishkama Karma) and perfection (Siddhi) are synonymous. The Yogin who has attained perfection or reached the state of actionlessness rests in his own essential nature as Existence- knowledge-Bliss Absolute (Satchidananda Svarupa). He has neither necessity nor desire for action as a means to an end. He has perfect satisfaction in ‘Self’.
One attains to the state of actionlessness by gaining the knowledge of the Self. If a man simply sits quiet by abandoning action one cannot say that he has attained to the state of actionlessness. His mind will be planning, scheming and speculating. Thought is real action. One who is free from affirmative thoughts, wishes, likes and dislikes; who has knowledge of the Self, can be said to have attained to the state of actionlessness.
No one can reach perfection or freedom from action or knowledge of the self by mere renunciation or by simply giving up activities without possessing the knowledge of Self. Here, in the path to Bliss, there is only one thought – single minded determination. This single thought arises from the right source of knowledge. The student of Yoga collects all the dissipated rays of mind. He gathers all of them through discrimination, dispassion and concentration. He is free from wavering or vacillation of the mind.
The worldly-minded man who is sunk in the mire of Samsara has no single-minded determination. He entertains countless thoughts. His mind is always unsteady and vacillating. Sage Patañjali says in his Yoga-Sûtra (PYS: II – S13), “sati mûle tad-vipâko jâtyâyur-bhogâï” meaning the life-species in which we are born, the life-span and the bundle of our experiences (Pleasurable and painful) in life are dependent upon our stored ‘Samskara’. If thoughts cease, Samsara also ceases. Mind generates endless thoughts and this world comes into being. Thoughts, and names and forms are inseparable. If thoughts are controlled, the mind is controlled and the Yogi is liberated. Those who cling to pleasure and power cannot have steadiness of the mind. They cannot concentrate or meditate. They are ever busy in planning projects for acquisition of wealth and power. Their minds are ever restless. They have no poised understanding.
Merging with the Ultimate
The practice of Karma Yoga leads to oneness. It breaks the veil, removes the crust and causes expansion of heart. It purifies the heart. The acts of kindness render the heart soft and instill compassion in the heart. The practitioner of Karma Yoga develops various virtues like tolerance, patience, humility which are necessary for the dawn of knowledge. He experiences peculiar, indescribable joy and inner spiritual strength. The love current is strengthened in him gradually. He is also loved by others. Karma yoga is more difficult than Vendanta and Bhakti Yoga. Karma Yoga is not mere mechanical action. The sentiments of Vedanta and Bhakti should be kept up during action or service. A Karma Yoga practitioner soon obtains Virat Darshan (Divine Insight) as he is constantly serving the Virat, or manifested Brahman.
May you all realize the Eternal One through purity of heart attained by the practice of Karma Yoga!