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Wednesday, December 14, 2011


Karma Yoga - The Yoga of Everyday Life

Motto: "In a state of detachment perform what has to be done, no matter   what it is, and never wish to assume the fruits of your doings."

Karma Yoga is Appropriate for All Beings
The Main Goal in Karma Yoga
The Efficiency of the Karma Yoga System
The Specific Technique in Karma Yoga

Karma Yoga represents one of the four main classic forms of Yoga.

It signifies a starting point and it is an essential part of the teachings of Bhagavad-Gita; this serves as sufficient ground for its authenticity.

Like all other forms of Yoga, the main and final purpose of Karma Yoga is to facilitate and accelerate the spiritual evolution of its persistent practitioner. The main difference from other forms of Yoga is that Karma Yoga can be practiced well from the very beginning, and can be applied all the time, all day long, because it is applicable to all human activities.

Compared to Karma Yoga, the continuous daily practice of Bhakti Yoga for example is only available at a very high level of attainment and the practice of Jnana Yoga (with its main form Hatha Yoga) is restricted to specific periods of the day, for a specific interval of time.

These arguments lead to the conclusion that Karma Yoga is an instantaneous form of Yoga for the daily life.

From the different traditional definitions of Karma Yoga, the most current and precise, though not yet complete, is the following: "Karma Yoga is the Yoga of deep and thorough fusion with the Divine, through any unselfish action".

Karma Yoga starts from the fact that at any given moment of our daily life, even when we feel forced to act one way or another, we remain free to choose and we bear the whole responsibility of our actions. The use of any spiritual discipline - Yoga, or any other spiritual path - implies the existence of free will, both in directing one's life and in the choice of the method for doing so.

The main question to which Karma Yoga helps us to get an answer is: How and why should we choose between two or more courses of action at a given moment?

Through persistent practice we can find out that Karma Yoga gives us more freedom, unbelievable as this may seem...

Many contemporary sages, like Sri Ramakrishna or Sri Aurobindo, have shown that Karma Yoga is very well adapted to modern times and suitable for all human beings, even more so than Bhakti Yoga, which suits only those with intense religious inclinations (very rare nowadays).

Karma Yoga suits all beings even better than Raja Yoga, which implies an intellectual effort beyond the possibilities of the common individual. Compared to Jnana Yoga, where a strong power of concentration and internalization is required (currently a very scarce quality), Karma Yoga is easier to practice because it does not require all these talents.

Moreover, Karma Yoga suits Westerners extremely well, who are always ready to act and more or less skeptical about the value of spiritual practices, that is taking people away from practical life in a materially oriented society.

I should also emphasize that the practice of Karma Yoga does not exclude the simultaneous practice of one or more of the other forms of Yoga, but will amplify their efficiency. This connection with other forms of Yoga is not essential, because even when practiced alone Karma Yoga is sufficient in itself for bringing the highest state of spiritual attainment.

Karma Yoga has also a great advantage that is not found in the other forms of Yoga. While Bhakti Yoga, Raja Yoga, Tantra Yoga, Hatha Yoga and even Jnana Yoga, when practiced incorrectly, without the careful supervision and guidance of a competent guru, can bring about serious physical or mental damage. Karma Yoga presents no dangers for its practitioner, even if its knowledge is based just on written teachings.

We add here that the Karma Yoga system is almost free of metaphysical or religious concepts and, even in an advanced stage of practice; Karma Yoga does not require the help of any physical discipline and of any diet. However it stands to reason that the Karma yogi should do his best to stay healthy.

Swami Vivekananda describes the ideal of Karma Yoga as follows: "The ideal human being is the one who amidst the deepest silence and the biggest solitude finds the most intense activity, and the one who amidst the most intense activity finds the silence and solitude of the desert." "The Karma yogi doesn"t need to believe in any doctrine. He may not even believe in God, he may not ask himself what is the soul and he may not be attracted by any metaphysical speculation at all" (Practical Yoga).

However, because the spiritual masters from the Orient whose teachings we have inherited are all profoundly religious, it is not surprising that they interpret Karma Yoga from this perspective. Sri Ramakrishna says: "Karma Yoga is the spontaneous communion with God through action".

From the perspective of Bhakti Yoga system, this interpretation can be seen as the revelation of the Divine through love and from the perspective of the Jnana Yoga system as the pursuit of the awareness of the Absolute Divine.

Ramakrishna said also: "The supreme goal in Karma Yoga is the same as in all forms of Yoga: the realization of the Supreme Eternal or the Impersonal Divine." 

Irrespective of the way we represent our spiritual goal, this can be attained through one of the forms of Yoga. Enlightenment (moksha) is defined in Hinduism as the communion with the Divine in all forms, the attainment of the divine plane of consciousness, the anchoring of consciousness in the Ultimate Truth, the attainment of a bigger freedom in life. Moksha can be obtained through all forms of Yoga, but it is more easily and readily reached through Karma Yoga.

Regarding this here follows quotes from well-known sages. Swami Sivananda: "Many people believe that Karma Yoga is an inferior type of Yoga, but this is a great error."

Rabindranath Tagore: "Many of us wrongly think that action is opposing freedom." "We will never obtain a significant result by trying to reach the Infinite outside of the domain of action."

"If we declare that we would like to realize Brahman (The Supreme Divine) during introspection only and that we leave Him out during our exterior actions, considering that we want to benefit from his presence only through the love that we feel in our hearts during prayer, without any other adoration for Him through other exterior modalities, or if we consider that only the contrary is true, then we are obstructing our work on the long way towards the Truth and we set ourselves for a pitiful failure" (Sadhana).

Sri Ramakrishna: "When performed without attachment the action becomes an easy way to obtain the real goal in life, which is communion with God."
Sri Aurobindo: "The detached activity is very often the only necessary instrument for the ineffable union with the Master of Creation."

"To perform all activities in an intimate fusion and in deep communion with the Divine which is in us, in profound harmony with the universal around us and with the transcendental beyond us, not to let us be limited by our often separating and rigid human mind, not to be the slave of its ignorant or aberrant imperatives and of its narrow suggestions, this is Karma Yoga." (Integral Practical Yoga).

Ramana Maharishi, the intransigent Jnana yogi: "Action free of desire, with a total detachment from its fruits, is superior to the knowledge combined with practice"

"The state in which the performance of the action is free of desire is the way which easily leads towards enlightenment." (Teachings of Ramana Maharishi).

As a conclusion here we can say that: if performed in the spirit of Karma Yoga any action, no matter how unimportant, can help us to advance towards Enlightenment.

The Specific Technique in Karma Yoga

The theoretical grounds and techniques of action in Karma Yoga are clearly stated by Krishna in the Bhagavad-Gita, with the only observation that the order in which these ideas are presented is not the most convenient for Western people.

Briefly, the wise teachings of Krishna are:

1.     One cannot be without action, even for a second.
2.     One should not make inaction one's goal.
3.     Certain actions are obligatory therefore we cannot escape them.
4.     One should not desire the fruits (or the consequences) of one's actions.
5.     One should not be attached to the action itself.
6.     One should not consider oneself as being the author of the action.
7.     Any action, regardless of its nature, will not enchain its performer, if it is done in this way.
8.     In fact, we can say that Karma Yoga is the divine skill (wisdom and non-attachment) in actions.
All these principles are simple and should be simply added to our principles of life. They should become the new coordinates of our daily activity and in this way our life will be spiritualized in a easy and natural way.

Many comments are made upon the principles of Karma Yoga, but the beauty of this spiritual system consists in it's simplicity: even without any comments one can practice karma yoga successfully.

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