Guruiji On Karma Yoga - The Path To Self-Realisation

Human beings are naturally action-oriented, one way or the other. We work according to our individual capacity and requirements. We consider our work to be very important, no matter whatever be the nature of the work we do. We serve our near and dear ones, fulfill our duties, carry out our professional tasks, serve our society, serve our nation. But none of these can be called Karma Yoga, unless the work undertaken by us is done in a spirit of selfless service.

Karma Yoga is an effective spiritual path if the work done is dedicated to God, with no desires or expectations. It is a path often taken by sadhakas who conduct their work, prayerfully. If you wish to take this spiritual path, then you must apply this attitude towards every work that you do in your day-to-day lives. Karma Yoga teaches you to carry out all actions in accordance with the cosmic laws, without getting attached to the fruits of the actions, or to their consequences. Karma Yoga purifies the mind by helping you to concentrate on the work taken up, as if it is the Divine’s work. Each action should be done with a prayerful attitude, no matter what the nature of action may be. Work should be considered as a necessary tool for cultivating the right attitude, the witness attitude in all that one may do.

Each person is bound by his or her duties. Some duties may have been opted for eg: Professional work, Social work, Charitable work, etc. While some duties may have been conferred upon you eg: role as a son, daughter, mother, father, friend, relative, etc. Cultivate an attitude where work is treated as a means of worship. Let the mind rest completely on the work at hand. Most often people carry certain likes, dislikes, desires etc. with regard to the work they do, and most actions are carried out based on these elements. People tend to think more about whether the outcome of work would be in their favour or no, whether the consequences would affect the self-image, etc. Karma Yoga happens only when the work is carried out without any unnecessary thinking about yourself, your likes, dislikes, or self-image.

Karma Yoga is working without any attachment towards the action of work, and whether or not you like the work, you must still be able to give your best to it. Always do your work or duty without any kind of attachment towards the process or result. You invariably expect something in return for your actions. When you take up a job, you are paid a salary for the work you do, and also often end up waiting for praise or position in the course of your job. When you are a caretaker for your family, you invariably expect love and appreciation in return. This more often than not leads to disappointment. Always remember to conduct your actions with the intention of giving and not with the intention of receiving.

By following the path of karma yoga, you learn the secret of utilising your daily actions effectively, to achieve the goal of Self-realisation. You learn to eliminate the chain of cause and effect that binds you to this earthly life. Self-realisation will happen only if you free yourself completely from the karmic-cycle that you have brought into this world. The right attitude has to be cultivated which in turn will help you to liberate yourself from this karmic-cycle. While engaged in Karma Yoga, always be attentive to the following principles: Consider your work as a fertile field for cultivating the right attitude.

  • As you work, always harbour the intention of giving and not receiving.
  • Do your work as a form of worship; and work for the sake of work only.
  • Rest the mind on the work; do not think about its future merit or demerit.
  • Do not harbour any desire with regard to the work, just go on doing it.
  • Do not be attached to the action of your work vis-à-vis its perfection.
  • Stay completely aloof from the final outcome of the activity you do.
  • Remember that there is nothing to attain through the work you are doing.
  • All work belongs to God, so it should be offered as a token of your love.
  • Do not internalise any praise for the job already done, just witness.
  • Accept praise or criticism, good or bad, pleasant or unpleasant reactions.
  • Do not involve or react to any outcome, just witness the happenings.

When work is done with the intention of giving, it is a service to God, a humble offering without ego. Let your work be an exercise which enables you to experience your gaining inner strength.

Once it so happened that the Gopis were going to the temple, with food prepared as offering for the Lord. They reached the river and found that it was flooded, and that they could not wade through it. They then saw a sanyasi nearby and requested him for help to go across the river. The sanyasi heard their request and told them that they should first give him whatever offering they were carrying with them. The Gopis reluctantly gave him the food that had been prepared as an offering. The sanyasi ate everything that they had carried, and then walked to the river bank.

With closed eyes he said, “I have not eaten any of the food prepared as offering. If what I say is true, let this river part and make way for the Gopis to cross it.” Hearing this, the Gopis were shocked, but before they could react, the river parted and a stretch of river-bed could be seen from one end of the river to the other end. They quickly walked over the river-bed and crossed over to the other end.

The Sanyasi had truly practised Karma Yoga because the food that he ate had indeed been an offering to God, for he had erased himself completely.

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