What is Karma-Yoga in Practice? And 5 Factors That Make Up Doer (Kartā) (178)


Lesson 178 revisits Karma-Yoga, showing what it consists of and how it's practiced in real-life. Mechanics of Action. Punya-Papa-Mixture. And 5 factors that comprise the Individual.

Source: Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 18, Verse 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14


  • Verse 1, Arjuna asked, what is best kind of renunciation for moksha? In other words, what's the most conducive environment that supports spiritual practices that lead to liberation.
  • Verse 2/3 was answer of the scholars. Verse 4-9 is Krishna's opinion. 
  • Verse 9, Krishna talks about Sattvic renunciation…

Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 18, Verse 9:

kāryam iti eva yat karma niyatam kriyate arjuna ।
saṅgam tyaktvā phalam ca eva saḥ tyāgaḥ sāttvikaḥ mataḥ ॥ 18-9॥
Renouncing attachment and the result, suppose the obligatory action is performed with the attitude that “it should be done”. That renunciation is considered Sattvic, Oh! Arjuna.

  • Sattvic renunciation is:
    1. Giving up comforts, possessions, personal hobbies, wealth for long term noble-cause. Willing to risk one's life for a noble/higher cause.
      • EG:
        • Solider dying for the country.
        • Using one’s authority within a corrupt leadership to secretly instil ethics / reformation.
          • EG: Schindler’s List movie. Or cop is expected to bribe (else fired), but secretly donates 50% to charity.
        • Investing years of your time to find a cure or make a light-bulb, or radio-waves, or put machine-into-sky (Wright brothers).
    2. Devotee sets-up boundaries or distances from unhealthy-environment to pursue self-growth/God or to let his/her svadharma flourish.
      • EG:
        • Ramana Maharsi, Chinmaya, Adi Shankara sannyasa at age 12, Buddha’s abandoning of family to pursue Truth.
        • May even happen between couples. A more evolved has significantly grown, and starts to feel limited by the other.
  • Tyaktvā saṅgam ca eva phalam; Renouncing attachment and the result.
    • Krishna defines “sannyasa/tyaga” exactly as Karma-Yoga in CH3:
        • Realizes “nothing is mine / having much is a burden”. Understanding restores proper relationship to objects.
        • Devotee is even able to release yajna/tapas/danam when they served their purpose.
        • 6 Reasons why to renounce future results or constant concern how things are to turn out from your present actions:
          1. If think future results, reinforces like-dislike (WANT-er/small individual).
          2. Only getting one punya from infinite potential of other punyas. Thus asking for limitation.
          3. If think WHOLE vs. “me”, your vision/perspective widens.
          4. A musician doesn’t play to receive a standing ovation, since audience may not even clap. But plays because enjoys the ACTION of playing. Similarly, one does yajna/tapas/danam because it’s very doing is soothing.  Focus is not on the by-product (clairvoyancy, happiness) – but performance of action.
          5. Less anxiety in reference to future = better thought quality in present = (ironically) better results.
          6. Jiva never had the last say. Isvara has the last say.
  • And what compels him/her to stay with the yajna/tapas/danam? Kriyate iti eva kāryam; Because “It should be done / This is to be done by me, therefore I do it!”. This attitude is called “surrender/surrendering to God”, as you're letting the body be a mere instrument through which Obligatory/Occasional duties can express.

TIMELINE: V10-11: Krishna speaks of Karma-Yoga Glory.

Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 18, Verse 10:

na dveṣṭi akuśalam karma kuśale na anuṣajjate ।
tyāgī sattva-samāviṣṭaḥ medhāvī chinna-saṃśayaḥ ॥ 18-10॥
Established in Sattva, a renouncer (becomes) wise, free from all doubts. He does not hate a disagreeable work nor is he attached to an agreeable one.

  • na dveṣṭi akuśalaṃ na anuṣajjate kuśale; Karma-Yogi (Sattvika sannyasa) does not hate disagreeable work, nor biased towards agreeable.
    • 2 Meanings:
      1. Karma-Yogi never puts “duty” into pleasant-unpleasant box. Because knows duty is a fee all must pay for being alive. EG: Tax, work.   If put “duty” into box, then small things become big deal.
      2. Implies giving up of all actions is not possible. Can only do the right actions with the right attitude.
  • chinna-saṃśayaḥ; Karma-Yogi is free from all doubts.
    • Means, knows that yajna/dana/tapas is solely for antahkarana-suddhi. They are means to mature the mind so it can release the comfortable notion of doership/enjoyership. Knows karma-yoga prepares for jñāna-yoga.
    • Other schools (that disagree with Advaita Vedanta): What about those schools which say Karma-Yoga is above jñāna-yoga / Yoga schools which say ultimate goal is nirvikalpa-samadhi? Let them be. All spiritual practices mature the mind anyway.
  • NEXT: Impossible to be free of actions while alive…

Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 18, Verse 11:

na hi deha-bhṛtā śakyam tyaktum karmāṇi aśeṣataḥ ।
yaḥ tu karma-phala-tyāgī saḥ tyāgī iti abhidhīyate ॥ 18-11॥
By one who is identified with the body, it is not at all possible to renounce actions completely. But he who renounces the results of actions is said to be a renouncer.

  • In V7, Krishna stated, “Renunciation of obligatory action (Niyata-karma) is not proper”. Krishna gives reason here. Because…
    1. Jiva’s samskara-stream compel actions. EG: Drink, eat, sleep, work.  Only death officially ends actions.
    2. Action is better then inaction.
      • Danger of Inaction:
        1. Not acting in the world, saves the unfulfilled punya/papa onto next life.
        2. Causes unfullfilled samskaras to convert into tamasic-imagination-mode (fantasy)
        3. Individual doesn't learn anything (since action causes mistakes which leads to learnings).
  • Consequently, what’s left is:
    1. change nature of actions to sattvic.
    2. perform sattvic-actions (yajna/tapas/danam) as duty (fee for being alive AND your birthright to claim your nature).
    3. look upon the results as learning opportunity OR perfect delivery from the vast network of Intelligence (IE: Last session of 2 boys).
  • Other verses confirm a/b/c above:
    • 2.47: Your choice is in action only, not the results. Don’t think you’re the author.
    • 3.30: Renounce all actions to Me, devoid of expectations with reference to future, or any sense of “my-ness”.
    • 9.22: Those who are always one with Me (through their yajna/tapas/danam), I take care of what they want to acquire and protect.
  • Therefore, deha-bhṛtā nahi śakyam tyaktum karmāṇi: Being identified with the body (owing to avidyā), it’s not possible to renounce actions. Instead of renouncing action…
  • saḥ karma-phala-tyāgī abhīdhīyate iti tyāgī: He who renounces RESULTS of actions is said to be a (true) renouncer. Question is; what is the nature of RESULTS? Answered in NEXT VERSE…

Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 18, Verse 12:

aniṣṭam iṣṭam miśram ca trividham karmaṇaḥ phalam ।
bhavati atyāginām pretya na tu saṃnyāsinām kvacit ॥ 18-12॥
Disagreeable, agreeable and mixed — this is the threefold result of action. It accrues to non-renouncers after death; but never to the renouncers.

  • Analysis of Action-Results Relationship:
    • All actions give rise to results.
    • Results always come to the original DOER of the action.
    • Results are 3-fold in nature: aniṣṭam iṣṭam ca miśram; disagreeable, agreeable and mixed.
      1. Pāpam: Unconducive, sorrowful, or undesired results. They can be hellish experiences or subsequent rebirth in weaker-human-body, survival oriented tribe, or animal bodies.
      2. Punyam: Conducive, joyful, or desired results. They can be heavenly experiences or rebirth in more conducive position. Top punyam (still samsara) is Brahmaloka (point of no return leading to krama-mukti).
      3. Mixture: A mixture of joy and sorrow or indifferent experiences. EG: President has best job-punya, but doesn't have time for any hobbies.
    • If don't renounce, taken personally, which sustains separation. 

  • Accordingly, bhavati atyāgināṃ pretya; These 3 accrue to non-renouncers after death. Because they are deha-bhṛtā; identified with the body.
    • What’s more, the doer-of-this-lifes-actions, upon death loses all memory/trace of previous life, only to continue receiving the unreceived results, in next physical body.
      • EG: Seed germinates into sprout. Grows into plant. When plant is destroyed, no trace of seed, sprout, germination or it’s growth. Similarly, jīva’s actions (like a seed), create a body, sustain it and destroy it in time.
  • But, tu na kvacit saṃnyāsinām; 3 types of results don’t accrue to the renouncer.
    • Because: Karma-Yogi dedicates all actions and results to higher alter > leads to beautiful-clean-bearable-mind > qualified for jnana-yoga > guru > moksha. Without Moksha, Karma-Yoga is merely means to punyam.
  • CONCLUSION OF V4-12: Sannyasa = tyaga = karma-yoga > qualifies to Jñāna-Yoga > once assimilated through nididhyasanam > identity shift from the BMI (which carries punya/papam/mixture) to actionless/spotless Ātmā. More on this in V13-17…


VERSE 13-17: Jñāna-Yoga

V13-14 COMBINED: Mechanism of Action

Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 18, Verse 13 & 14:

pañca etāni mahā-bāho kāraṇāni nibodha me ।
sāṅkhye kṛta-ante proktāni siddhaye sarva-karmaṇām ॥ 18-13॥
Oh Arjuna ! Know from Me the following five factors (required) for the accomplishment of all actions. They are mentioned in the Vedānta which is the culmination of actions.

adhiṣṭhānam tathā kartā karaṇam ca pṛthak-vidham ।
vividhāḥ ca pṛthak ceṣṭāḥ daivam ca eva atra pañcamam ॥ 18-14॥
(They are) the body, the varied functions, various instruments, the doer, and the presiding divinity which is the fifth among these.

  • Pañca kāraṇāni sidddaye proktāni; 5 factors are involved for accomplishment of all actions.
    • Metaphor:
      • Like a car, it’s an assemblage of parts. Runs on petrol. Steered by a driver. Each part helps in the totality of the car moving/functioning.
    • Similarly, 5 factors come together for any action to happen:
      1. Adhiṣṭhāna: The gross body constituted of various limbs. It is the vehicle through which the jīva’s unfructified results + unfulfilled desires can come through.
      2. Kartā: Sense of individuality (ahamkara) which is assigned to this body (with attributes of gender, genes, proclivities).
        • Due to the intimate relationship between ahamkara and body, there is mistaken impression of doership (since body is always doing/perceiving/emoting).
        • Ahamkara connects doer & punya/papa.
        • Even a single ant has a sense of individuality (ahamkara).
      3. Karaṇa:
        • 5 organs of perception
        • 5 organs of action
        • mind-intellect which enables capacity of perception/analysis/recall/response.
      4. Ceṣṭā: Five physiological functions (prāṇa) which energize and activate the body.  EG: Electric brain impulses.
      5. Daiva: 3 Meanings:
        • Unseen forces such as: destiny/fate/samskara.
        • External forces such as sunlight, air.
        • Hiranyagarbha: intelligence that binds all 4 factors to work in unison.
    • Example how 5 work together to create an experience:
      • To see a rose:
        • Rose-concept needs to exist.
        • Need physical eyes (adhiṣṭhāna).
        • The individual (kartā) needs to have a desire for a rose (daiva) in order to turn one’s body and look at it, for sake of enjoying (bhokta) it.
        • Inner mechanism that converts physical light seen by physical eyes into a subtler mental representation (Karaṇa; organ of perception).
        • Brain/eyes must be energized by circulation, body temperature, electrical impulses in the brain (Ceṣṭā; 5 prāṇas).



Resources: Session Mind-Map

Credit for help in Bhagavad Gita teaching given to Swami Dayananda (Arsha Vidya), Paramarthananda & Chinmaya Mission.

Recorded 9 Aug, 2022


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