“Now listen to the wisdom of yoga which will free you from bondage to action. In this yoga, no effort is wasted, nor are any unsuitable results produced. Even very little karma yoga protects one from great fear.” ~ Bhagavad Gītā
Karma yoga is the “mothership” for qualifying and preparing the mind for Liberation. Irrespective of the type of activity you perform, it’s the most practical practice that one can apply.
What is karma yoga? Karma yoga is the understanding that the person (jīva) has the right to act but is not the dispenser of the results. He/she performs appropriate and timely action whilst understanding that results are coordinated according to the needs of the Total (macrocosmic field).
The Total cares no more for the action figure (jīva) as it does for the microbe critters that call your body home. Sometimes you get what you want. And sometimes not. Understanding the (sad or comforting – depending on how you see it) fact that results are not up to the person gives the doer of the action peace of mind, which in return allows him/her to maintain a clear (sāttvic) mind fit for the vigilant application of moment-to-moment self-inquiry.
A person who has investigated the nature of experience comes to terms with how things work on this island of duality (mithyā). For every upside there is a downside and for every downside there is an upside. To depend on something that is uncertain and in constant change is not fun.
How is it possible to secure something that is by nature totally insecure – the world of constant unrest? You can’t. But you can rest your mind. Understanding and accepting the nature of uncertainty supported by the logic of karma yoga disarms the tiresome urge to try to manipulate situations.
You perceive all results unanimously, not worrying about what was, what is or what is to come. Your precious energy is reserved for steady self-investigation.
Or look it from this point: everything on Earth is freely given. What is left to do but receive everything as a blessing (prasāda) – including the not-so-pleasant experiences? Karma yoga is an attitude of gratitude.
“You can choose which actions you wish to perform, but you have no control over the results. Don’t think of yourself as the author of the results of your actions and don’t be attached to inaction. Remain steadfast in yoga and act without attachment to the results. Remain the same in success and failure steadiness of mind is called yoga.” ~ Bhagavad Gita
It is important to note that the person does have a relative degree of authority with regard to acting appropriately and timely (dharmic action). So how do we apply this karma-dharma yoga? We do exactly that: act appropriately, in a timely manner, and accept what comes as an opportunity. Perform action in accordance with the dharma field and make peace of mind your quest at all times. It’s a simple methodology, but not an easy one.
Karma yoga is practical investigation. What have you done to be here right now? Are you needing to make an effort to illumine the eye equipment to read these lines? Are you needing to remind your lungs to keep expanding and contracting to supply life-sustaining oxygen to your body or removing from it a waste product called carbon dioxide? Who blinks the lashes and keeps the tongue moist so that the sense pleasure called taste can occur?
Is it not totally amazing how everything in life is so perfectly coordinated?!
This understanding brings about a beautiful quality called appreciation, and appreciation results in good manners. Good manners is following dharma. There is nothing more important than good manners.
The below satsangs offer a practical demonstration on karma yoga and its value:
- Kamra yoga, Karma yoga, and karma yoga
- Karma Yoga or Inquiry?
- Karma Yoga Pays the Bills
- Eight Stages to Self-Inquiry
- Vasanas, Karma Yoga and a Qualified Mind
- Karma Yoga, the Only Solution to Loss