Act Or No Act – The Karma Yoga

Karma is the basis of our birth and death. The cycle of life and death continues because karma continues. Eventually we are always doing some or the other act in every moment of our life. These actions are unknown or known, emotional, mental or physical. Like diamond cuts diamond so is karma. Karma creates the cycle of births and karma breaks the cycle too. As karma is the way to inlove in this world, in the same way karma is the way to renunciate the world. Moreover karma is the way to live wisely and happily in this world. And to make it happen Lord Krishna has explained karma yoga to arjuna. He is the composer of Shri bhagavad gita where he has given the right way of living and leaving this world. The whole chapter is dedicated to the karma yoga.

Now the question arises that what kind of karma is to be done? How and what actions need to be performed in order to unite with the God? What is Karma Yoga? What is Yoga?

In case of literal meaning, the word karma is derived from the Sanskrit word ‘kr’, meaning ‘to do’. And yoga means union with the ultimate, God. Thus meaning of karma yoga is the union with the God by doing. Or we can call it “The Yoga Of Action”. In other words it means doing job with selfless motive and dedication but without craving of result.

The principle of Karma Yoga described in the Gita is the most acceptable. Bhagavad Gita is one of the upanishad which is the source of wisdom and knowledge. Gita is the song of God. The storehouse of wisdom, Krishna in Gita shows the life path. Whether it’s about living in the world or its about enlightenment, Krishna has given all the answers. He addressed Arjuna to take him over the his attachment and showed him the path of karma but being non attached. According to ‘Bhagavad Gita’ yoga is:

“Yogah Karmasu Kaushalam.”

It means “Yoga is excellence at work”. But excellence does not mean that you have to work 24 by 7. It has nothing to do with being a workaholic. Neither it means one should run for perfection. It simply means do your job with devotion and concentration. Perform the work skillfully. Consider yourself as the medium and this body, mind and intellect as the tools of Lord. But never yearn for the fruits of your work. This is how Lord Krishna defines Yoga in one way.

Do’s and Don’ts

What does "Yogah Karmasu Kaushalam" mean? Do's & Don'ts
How should be the karma? What is the meaning of excellence at work? What is karma Yoga?

And eventually one will unite by performing job the above way. This is Yoga. So in a way being skillful at work but not getting attached to it will lead to self realization. Actually it is not the work done outside it is inside. This is how we establish in our true nature. It is the union with the real self, shedding of ego and attachment with me and mine.


Concept Of Karma

This is the general rule of karma-Siddhanta that we get the same results as we do. According to this rule, the fruit of good deeds is auspicious and the fruit of bad deeds is inauspicious. Similarly, happiness and sorrow are also the fruits of our auspicious and inauspicious deeds respectively. Thus karma Siddhanta is a form of interpretation that explains the moral system.

But this karma principle does not apply to all actions. The karma principle of ‘act and get’ applies to only those actions which have some purpose. What does that mean?.

To find the answer, let’s understand the two types of karma:

  • Sakama karma
  • Nishkama karma

If there is some intention behind the actions then they are called sakaam karma. Sakaam Karma means karma with some desire or intention. The intention can be good or bad, due to attachment or anger. But on the other hand the actions which are done without any desire or intention, are free from the principle of karma. And they are “Nishkama Karma”. Nishkaam literally means actions without any desire.

Sakama karma & Nishkama karma - karma with desires and no desire

But do not get confused, Nishkama karma does not mean the lack of karma. In fact we cannot have zero karma at any point of time. In some form or the other we always keep doing the actions in routine. There are three types of karma: naimitika karma (on being an instrument), kamya (to attain desire), and nishidha (prohibited) karma. We keep on doing any three of these with some intention. In order to be free from the bondage of deeds, it is necessary to act without attachment. No intention, no purpose is behind those karmas. The actions which involve just doing are nishkama karma. So we can say the Karma Yoga is the path of detached action. It is the path of selfless service.

Lord Krishna says about Nishkama Karma Yoga in Gita:

Tasmad Asaktah Satatamn
Karyam Karma Samacara
Asakto hy acaran karma
Param apnoti Purusah

Above shloka is from the third chapter ninth verse of the Gita. Lord Krishna says to Arjuna, “O Arjuna! Then you also leave attachment and do your work forever. Because a person who performs karma by leaving attachment attains ultimate supreme.”

Do the work as duty, as the work of God, without thinking the fruit of karma. Doing karma as the duty given by Lord is the way of practicing non-attachment. When one engages into all kind of activities but stays completely non attached, unites with the Lord. Doing karma on the behalf of Lord is the karma yoga. But how to subside the ego of being I. Just lose this I. But this is not the matter of saying. This is abhinivesh, fear of losing I. This is a klesha and along with other klesha it keeps us bound with everything and anything. Clean and purify the mind from these kleshas. How?

In this context Bhagavad Gita guides:

Cayen Mansa Buddhaya Kevallayr indraeyrpi.
Yoginah Karma kurvanti sangam tyaktvatma shudhhaye

That is, karma yogis work for self-purification leaving attachment to the acts with body, mind, intellect, and senses.

Actually doing with no desire of fruitful results is true karma. And that is why only by not wishing for karma-fruit-enjoyment, doer will not get the karma-fruits done by him. Neither the success nor the failure comes into the lap of doer. Doer is free from the fruits of happiness and sadness but it is not because he is free to do karma. What does that mean? It simply means that the doer stays non-attached with the fruits. Whatever be the result of karma doer remains the same. His mind does not get affected by the result as he is not doing anything so he is not the one who gets affected by the results. Above all each and every karma and its results are dedicated to Lord. Yogi surrenders himself to Lord. Practicing the way of yogi is the way of karma yoga.


Essence Of Karma Yoga

Neither we are asking for the enjoyment nor we take disappointment as a fruit. Because we are not doing anything with any purpose. If I am not karta (doer) then I am not bhokta (gainer). So whatever comes we accept without being the doer. We do not interfere. Our mind and intellect becomes stable and steady, remaining the same in all kind of situation whether beneficial or harmful. This state is “samstithi”. Being in equanimity whether there is good or bad, happiness or sadness, fame or defame, victory or defeat. When one be in this steady state while doing the karmas, he stays untouched by the results. It is not that we accept the auspicious results of auspicious deeds and do not accept the inauspicious results of inauspicious deeds. This principle is not based on our will. Actually will or desire does not exists in this practice.

Be A Karma Yogi

Therefore, to be free from the bondage of karma, we must follow karma with yoga. Be a yogi because only a yogi can be effortless and detached. Yogi’s mind comes into the state of steadiness and equanimity with practice. Not a person who works only by will. That’s why a Karma Yogi is the one who does complete work, the work with is not bounded by attachment or intention. For him actions of yoga are not due to bondage.

What Krishna says to Arjuna. Be a Karma Yogi.

In conclusion Karma yoga is completing the duties as the work of Lord. No bondage, no attachment as I am the not doer. For a Karma Yogi: “This body, mind, intellect and everything belongs to lord. Just doing the karma assigned by him, dedicated to him”. Lord only does the karma not me, I am fully surrendered. I am nothing.”

Therefore Karma Yoga is doing every Karma with detachment is the gist of Bhagavad Geeta. This is how mind gets purified and yogi unites the Lord.

Our scriptures have mentioned many ways to unite with Brahman, the self namely bhakti yoga, ashtanga yoga, hatha yoga, jnana yoga, naada yoga, mantra yoga and more. Karma yoga is one of these and there is no better explanation about it by none other than Lord Krishna himself. Lord Krishna has gifted the Gita as the boon to mankind. Bhagavad Gita guides us about the way of living, one must go through it. Each and every verse is like the torch in darkness.

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