Karmayoga – Serve, Love, Give, Purify, Meditate, Realize!
The word Karma is derived from Sanskrit Kri – to do. All action is Karma. The word also mean the effects of action – of which our past actions were the causes; and also mean duty which one has to perform according to his station in life. According to the followers of the Karma Kanda of the Vedas, Karma means the rituals and sacrifices prescribed in the Vedas. It signifies the destiny or the storehouse of tendencies of a man which give rise to his future birth.
Yoga means union. Karma Yoga is the means to an end. It purifies the heart and prepares the aspirant for reception of knowledge. Thus, Karma Yoga is Yoga or union through action. In the Bhagavad Gītā, Arjuna asks Lord Krishna, ‘If Thou think that knowledge is superior to action, Krishna, why then, dost Thou ask me to engage in this terrible action?’ Lord Krishna explains, ‘Not by non-performance of actions does man reach actionlessness; nor does he rise to perfection by mere renunciation’. He further explains that, ‘None can ever remain really actionless even for a moment; for everyone is helplessly driven to action by the forces (Gunas) of Nature (Prakriti).’ The choice for human being is not between action (Karma) and inaction (Akarma) because we cannot remain without action. The choice is regarding what sort of actions to perform and with what attitude or approach. Every human being impulsively engages in doing Karma, that act, with the body or with the speech or with the mind. All men are forced to act helplessly according to the impulses born of the material nature. Therefore no one can refrain from doing something, not even for a moment, as even one´s thoughts count as Karma.
All work by nature is composed of good and evil – we cannot do any work which will not do some good somewhere and at the same time, there cannot be any work which will not cause some harm somewhere. Every work must necessarily be a mixture of good and evil. Yet we are commended to work incessantly. Good and evil will both have their results, will produce their Karma. Good action will entail upon us good effects; bad action, bad. But good and bad are both bondages of the soul. The solution reached in the Gītā in regards to this bondage, is that, if we do not attach ourselves to the work we do, it will not have any binding effects on our soul.
Those who have tendency or inclination to work are fit for Karma Yoga. In every man there are three attributes (Gunas) – Sattva (purity, light or harmony), Rajas (passion or motion) and Tamas (Darkness or inertia). Sometimes Tamas prevails and we become lazy, inactive and dull. At other times Rajas prevails manifesting energy in activity, power and passion. At still another times, we find sweetness, calmness, and gentleness, which are due to Sattva; balancing of both action and inaction. So in all creation in animals, plants and men – we can find the more or less typical manifestation of all these different forces.
Karma yoga deals with these three factors by teaching what they are and how to employ them. Freeing self from the pair of opposites (pleasure and pain) and remain in the quality of Sattva, freed from (the thoughts of) acquisition and preservation, and be established in self. Equilibrium!
Only the study of the Vedas will not free one from the Karmic cycles. There is no hope of salvation even in millions of birth for the dry Vedantic student, who has taken to the study of Upanishads without purifying his heart through the practice of Karma Yoga. He is like an empty vessel which makes much noise. An empty Vedantin, a mere book-worm without purification of heart, disturbs the world by unnecessary argument, quarrels and useless discussions. A real Vedantin is a blessing to the world. He preaches through the language of silence or the language of the heart. He always serves with Atma- Bhava (Selflessness).
Karma can be transformed into Yoga by keeping the goal of Self-realization ALL THE TIME! We are Eternal, deathless. We are beyond the bounds of time. It is true; but let this not slacken our efforts to realize the Self in this very birth. Every day we must introspect and find out if we are progressing. Maya (illusion or appearance of the phenomenal world) is ever ready to delude and lead us astray. She has ever so many forms. Pride of service, arrogance of position, conceit of achievement, attachment to accomplishments, desire for comfort, greed for power, anger at those who obstruct our seizure of power, and innate craving to overwrite, oppress and misbehave towards others on account of an inborn superiority-complex – these are some of the heavenly damsels that always surround us to tempt us away from our high goals.
Our efforts should be to turn every act as an offering to the Divine. “Work is Worship” must be kept up.
This will effectively counteract the allurements of Maya and nullify her temptation. Remember we are
the Atman – God works through us for his own inscrutable purposes. How then can one claim any merit
or suffer a demerit? Who then can be a friend; who a foe? Karma Yogins never let emotions and
excitements get the better of themselves. Any action, sacred or secular, even if it is service of the family
– may be converted into an act of worship, leading to the most sublime goal of Self-realization.