Fabric of Existence, Karma Yoga, Law of Karma, Paths to God, Spiritual Traditions

Paths to Self-Realization : Karma Yoga – I

The design of human life is such that the ultimate Truth reveals itself through the natural process of life as it unfolds, realized the wise sages of India. Hence, the human life is regarded precious and valued highly in the ancient scriptures. However, due to ignorance, the commoner does not see this greatness of their life, and wastes it in a delusion of self-interest and materialistic pursuits. Hence, designated paths to self-realization, known as Yogas, were laid down to guide the average person to Truth in a structured and methodical way.
To know about the nature and relevance of the ultimate Truth, how it forms the basis of Indian spirituality, gives way to a multitude of paths in world religion and a brief on the paths to self-realization of the Truth, follow the links as given.

Meditation on Atman or the self, God or Supreme Consciousness and the relationship between the two is fundamental in each of the paths or Yogas. Through such meditation happens self-transformation, making a seeker ready to realize the absolute Truth on their own.

Activity is Fundamental to Life

As long as we are conscious, we remain active in our body and mind. Direct interaction with the external world happens through our body using the five sense organs and five work organs. From our mind, intelligence and power of discrimination, decisions and ideas arise.

Karma entails all such activity from the level of our consciousness.

Even consciously avoiding physical and mental activity is also a Karma. However, in the purview of basic understanding of the concept, we include only those which manifest into physical effort.

Therefore, to live is to be in Karma.

The sages were wise enough to formulate a Yoga around Karma so that every mortal soul can be driven towards God Union through their very process of living. Nothing extraordinary and no special trait is demanded of anyone to follow Karma Yoga. One just needs to live and keep on doing what they do, just remolding them into the ambits of Karma Yoga.

An Analysis of Karma

To understand the essence of Karma Yoga, let us break down Karma into three parts.

Karma originates as an idea in the mind, then it is made into work by tangible action, which produces some results pertaining to the present situation. The three components can thus be distinguished as idea, action and results.

The human delusion is to associate oneself with all the three components, even though these are separate from one another.

On a closer scrutiny, it may be agreed that a person can only be associated with the idea that originates in their mind.

The action is independent of the person because it could be carried out by anyone without even understanding the idea behind it. Only when the person themselves undertake the physical work can they claim the action to also be their own.

The results of the action are further away from the person. The results could affect others, making their lives better or miserable, or could affect the environment and its sustainability. Only perhaps a small part of the results go on to affect the person directly, if at all.

Consider an example. An engineer designs a bridge which is made by the labours at work and utilized by the local people. However, the engineer goes on claiming that he made the bridge and puts up an expectation to be known and respected by the community for it.

Imagine how foolish it would be if the labours each claimed they made the bridge or the users claimed that they made it, because perhaps it was made by the tax they pay to the local authority.

We are only Mediums

The truth is, as the sages would point out, that none of them made the bridge. It came to the engineer as an idea, then came through the labours as physical effort and came to the people due to their taxes. The bridge, therefore, got itself made through the mediums of all the people involved in the phases of idea, action and results. Each person only did their duty pertaining to the nature of their involvement.

Any Karma, likewise, happens through the mediums of the people involved in the phases of idea, action and results of the Karma. None of them are really associated with the Karma. Yes, not even the one to whom the idea came.

However, due to ignorance and a false sense of ego, a person claims ownership of the Karma to themselves. As a consequence, they get bounded to the Karmaphala (fruits of Karma) as per the divine Karmic principle of cause and effect.

Accelerating our Final Emancipation

As we know, we are repeatedly thrown into the cycles of life and death in order that we may exhaust our Karmaphala by receiving either joy or suffering due to them. Our Karmaphala gets decided by the past Karma of previous lives to which we attached ourselves with and the effect it had on the people and the environment around us. If it had a benefic effect, we receive goodness and if it had a malefic effect we receive suffering.

Our primary spiritual motivation is to come out of these cycles of reincarnation and attain Moksha (final emancipation). For this, it is of greatest importance not to associate ourselves with the Karma we are involved with. Remember, we cannot avoid Karma, because to live is to be in Karma.

The sages hence devised an ingenious way to bypass this whole game of Karma and Karmaphala by designing a Yoga around it. What could entrap you then becomes your way to liberation.

They suggested to completely dissociate oneself from the Karma, even from the ideation level, by realizing the whole thing as an act of God. In this way, one could escape the Karmaphala associated with the Karma.

At the same time, by recognizing their role as only a medium in the work of God, they could develop a a pure and direct relationship with the Supreme Consciousness.

The delusion thus broken, the same Karma which would have bounded a person to its Karmaphala and consequently driven them to further cycles of birth and death, now becomes a vehicle of direct association with God and an accelerated progress to the final emancipation.

Associated posts in the Karma Yoga series –

Part II – The fundamental principle of Karma Yoga to be followed by a Karma Yogi is discussed in detail.

Part III – The scope of Karma Yoga is laid down, and its impact on the personal and the social life of an individual is discussed.




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9 thoughts on “Paths to Self-Realization : Karma Yoga – I”

  1. Nicely analysed and well written. Most of us are motivated to do something looking at the end result and the pride associated with it. It requires a completely different mindset to be able to dissociate oneself from his/her karma and believe/accept that they are merely facilitating what is meant to be.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thankyou for sharing this wonderful discourse on “Yoga a journey to self realisation.” I appreciate the engineering aptitude to simplify the complex Yoga+God+Karma relation. It clarifies the relationship between “Karma and its effect”. Your example of the bridge was well received.


    1. Thank you Gaurav for your appreciation. I believe an analytical mind can grasp the complex interwoven nature of spiritual principles more simply. Presenting the concepts as they get illumined by the Light through me.


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