In the last post, a basic understanding of Karma was given by breaking it down into its three components. The concept of Karmaphala was discussed, and it was concluded that claiming ownership of the Karma attaches Karmaphala to the person. As a result, a person remains within the entrapments of the cycles of life and death.
The way out of these cycles, which is the ultimate goal of spiritual life (or Moksha), is not to attach Karmaphala to oneself. This does not mean renouncing Karma, as to live is to be in Karma, but not to identify oneself with it. Karma is to be seen as an act of God and the person only a medium through which the Karma gets manifested.
The Principles of Karma Yoga
The basic principle of Karma Yoga is to do Karma as an act of service to others, without expecting anything in return.
The deeper revelations of this apparently simple dictum expose as we carefully go through the words.
Act of Service
We are bestowed with a set of physical and mental abilities which allow us to perform any work. These are the faculties which could describe us at a particular point in time. Perhaps some have high physical strength, some may be more agile, some may be artistic while some more technical.
In the idea and action levels of a Karma, our faculties are utilized along with our position in society in order that the Karma is delivered. [To know about the levels or components of Karma, see the earlier post.]
Karma, hence, is necessarily an act of service, because we are delivering the Karma to the world through our faculties.
If we think closely, none of our talents, capabilities and position in the society had been our doing. If you have made a name for yourself, that had also been due to the talents and skills which are bestowed on you. Though willpower and hard work are definitely strong influencers, there are a lot of other factors which come together to give a person their recognition and position in society. We need to revere on this fact and accept our lives as a divine blessing.
This means that the Karma we are involved with is actually getting done by the Higher Power through us.
We almost always blame God for not doing anything good in this world as thousands keep on suffering in unimaginable situations. It must be understood that God will not come one day out of thin air and right all the wrongs. Rather, each of us is bestowed with the abilities through which we can carry out God’s work.
In that way, God has already come to this earth in the human form, in us.
But we had been blind to this greatness of our lives and have been directing all the God-given faculties in securing only personal profits, resulting in our own as well suffering of the larger community.
If only we recognize this greatness in us by realizing ourselves as mediums of God, would we be able to do everything as an act of service to the larger community and the environment, as we would have wished God to do.
For this we must rise from the pits of self-interest and greed.
Then only we can realize the true purpose of our lives and establish the most beautiful relationship of all, that of us being angels of God, delivering God’s work through our bestowed faculties.
Who are the Others?
Each soul is identical to the Infinite Soul or the Supreme Consciousness, only shrouded in the thick clouds of Maya and unable to recognize their true light, says the scriptures.
The service, is therefore, to none other than the Supreme Consciousness, spread over the multitude of living beings and in the vast Creation in the guise of apparently separate entities.
In that sense, there are really no others.
A true Karma Yogi realizes this unity with all the Creation through the common stream of unhindered consciousness which is God. Thereby true compassion and generosity is aroused in the yogi, and they begin to realize oneness with all Creation.
The light of Supreme Consciousness shines differently in different people. We get attracted to those whose level of illuminance is similar to ours.
However, we need to reach beyond, most importantly to those in whom the light is not so strong. These beings are less fortunate in their faculties and circumstances, and usually live a life of ignorance and self-pity, amidst unimaginable conditions.
Maya is deceiving and the world appears cruel. If you are fortunate enough by the grace of God, you must utilize your abilities to serve the lives of other less fortunate souls.
This is the trickiest part in the principle of Karma Yoga.
You may make yourself believe that Karma is being done by God and you are only a medium, which is intellectually not a difficult position to assume. Perhaps you can also garb the veil of humility as you provide service to others. But whether you have remodeled yourself according to Karma Yoga or are superficial in your adoption of it is tested in the final component of Karma, its results.
If you are in any way even slightly attached to the Karma that you just delivered, expectation of results would sneak into your thoughts without fail. Instantly you would get attached to the Karma and hence the Karmaphala, which are the repercussions of the Karma delivered.
Even expectation of personal recognition out of the work will promptly attach you to the Karma.
As if Divinity says, “It’s okay if you want it. I will write it down in your name and give you the Karmaphala associated with it.” Divinity is quite impartial in that sense!
God is doing the work through you for service to none other than God only. Realizing this to the core of your being removes any shred of expectation and desire for the results of the Karma.
For of what to expect, and from whom to expect, when it all starts with God and ends in God?
The Concluding Principle
Summarizing, the advice by Shri Krishna to Arjuna in the battlefield of Kurukshetra stands tall as a conclusion.
कर्मण्येवाधिकारस्ते मा फलेषु कदाचन।
मा कर्मफलहेतुर्भूर्मा ते सङ्गोऽस्त्वकर्मणि॥
karmanyevaadhikaaraste maa phaleshu kadaachana | maa karmaphalaheturbhuu maatesangostvakarmani ||Shrimad Bhagavat Geeta Chapter 2 Verse 47
In this, Krishna advices Arjuna and thus the entire humanity to do Karma, but not seek results of it. He says that we are only entitled to the work as our duty (arising out of the faculties we are bestowed with), and not to the results of it. Thereby, we must do our work without attachment and never expect any personal gain from it.
Therefore, unless we can completely renounce the thought of results from the Karma we delivered, and see it as an act of God done through us, we can never be true Karma Yogis. As a result, the cycles of birth and death would keep continuing for us in a bid to exhaust our Karmaphala as accrued over lifetimes.
Associated posts in the Karma Yoga series –
Part I – Here Karma is analyzed into its components, using which the idea of Karma Yoga is laid down.
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.
– SACRED UNION –
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