Karma Yoga as noted in the Bhagavad Gita

Karma yoga refers to “discipline of action.” It is a form of yoga based on the teachings of the Bhagavad Gita, a sacred Sanskrit scripture from India that is widely used in jnana yoga, including Advaita Vedanta. Of the three paths to self realization, karma yoga is the process of accomplishing perfection in action. Many teachers impart that karma yoga is the most effective way to evolve spiritual life.

A scene from the Bhagavad Gita, on the banks of the Ganges in Rishikesh.

Karma Yoga is the practice of taking action, without expectation of a specific result. Rather, with an attitude of gratitude, one takes what comes as prasad (a blessing). A gift from the Divine. All of it: the good, the bad, the ugly, and the beautiful. The focus of this practice is to cultivate a peaceful mind, making space to inquire into one’s True Nature (Satya). If the mind is constantly fluctuating between push and pull, the mind will not effectively inquire. Karma yoga can be practiced all day, every day – no matter where you are, or what you may be doing.

When carrying out actions, one should choose a dharmic action. Actions that do not disturb others or oneself, that is. The point is to treat others as you would like to be treated.

Hanuman in Rishikesh – an extraordinary example of a true karma yogi.

It is important to be aware that the one who does action is not the giver of the result of one’s actions. That one has no control over the results. One just makes an offering to the Divine (consecrates), and takes what comes as a gift. What comes is dished out according to the needs of the total (aka: Dharmic field or universal order), in relation to timing, environment, effort, needs, etc. And not according to one’s personal preferences, as the practice is outright impersonal. Though we like to believe we are in control of what we do, and in control of what comes to us — when in actuality we have nothing to do with it according to this non-dual scripture. What is given to us, is given by the Grace of the Divine.

This attitude of gratitude cultivates a sense of ease, as we have total faith in the Dharmic field taking care of us. When one understands that the Dharmic field creates the results, one’s likes and dislikes gradually dissolve, and the mind remains in the present, with no concern about what will happen. An unrelenting faith in what is, remains.

This attitude of karma yoga inspires love for the Divine. It celebrates the understanding that the Total transcends the needs of the ego. And fundamentally it supports self inquiry, the path to self realization.

“Perform work in this world, Arjuna, as one established within himself – without selfish attachments, and alike in success and defeat. For yoga is perfect evenness of mind.”                             – Krishna, Bhagavad Gita


This article was originally published for Salt Spring Malas.

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