Perhaps you know what the words “yoga” and “karma” mean. But do you know what karma yoga means? We have provided you with a karma yoga definition, and explanations on how to practice karma yoga and its benefits.
What is Karma Yoga and its Principles?
Yoga is a Sanskrit word that was derived from the Sanskrit root “Yuj”, meaning “harness”, “attach”, or “yoke”. The spiritual meaning of the word as expressed in Yoga Sutras of Patanjali is “uniting” the human and the divine spirit. Within the context of the Yoga Sutras, yoga also means “to concentrate”.
Karma yoga is one of the four paths of yoga. It is the path of selfless action. Swami Vivekananda defines karma yoga as “a mental discipline that allows a person to carry out their duties as a service to the entire world, as a path to enlightenment.” Karma yoga in Hinduism emphasizes qualities like kindness, selflessness, service, and a clean heart.
Karma yoga is rooted in action. In the Bhagavad Gita, Shri Krishna admonishes that you “do your duty without the concern to the fruit of it”. Karma yoga is grounded on four principles. These principles are aptly captured in the definition of karma yoga as “doing your duty at your best without any involvement of ego or thought of reward”.
The four principles of karma yoga are:
Karma yoga emphasizes that you perform the duty that is due to you. You have a duty as a citizen of your country, a child of your parents, a friend or spouse, etc. In karma yoga, you are expected to perform your duties based on priorities and do them well.
You have a duty to take care of yourself so that you can take care of other people. Doing your duty well sets your soul free. Freedom comes from performing your duties. The goal is to always do your best in all your duties.
Karma yoga aims at positively controlling your ego and letting it go. When you perform your duty, you do not have to worry about what others think about you. You do not give thought to your self-perceptions. When you perform a duty without your ego, you can do it without expectations.
Karma yoga emphasizes doing your duty without any attachment. You do not perform a duty with an ulterior motive. Your intentions are pure, and your heart is dedicated to fulfilling your duty.
● Expectation of Reward
When you perform your duty, do not expect any reward from it. Your focus should not be on the incentive. Practice selflessness by discarding the thought of reward. Before you do anything, know in your mind that you are not there to seek reward. So, rather than asking, “what is in it for me?”, ask, “how does this help someone?”.
So, if you practice karma yoga, you are getting out of the mat and practicing yoga’s philosophy in the world.
Who is a Karma Yogi?
A karma yogi practices karma yoga in its entirety. His lifestyle reflects accurate karma yoga examples. Also, a karma yogi must overcome hatred, jealousy, and anger and be free from egoism, greed, and lust.
A karma yogi is not harsh, but adapts quickly and fits in socially, loves everyone, does not discriminate, is tolerant, loving, enduring, and gentle.
A karma yogi exercises regularly and does his asanas and pranayama. Also, they maintain sound health and mind by practicing karma yoga poses. Karma Yoga by Swami Vivekananda is extensively on karma yoga and karma yogis.
Just as Krishna’s Mishkan karma yoga propelled Arjuna into action (karma), you should be ready to act too.
What Area of Life Can You Practice the Yoga of Action?
Practically every area of life! Karma yoga is all-encompassing. It covers every aspect of human endeavors and relations. You can practice karma yoga in such areas as;
● Work Place
In your office, karma yoga will set you apart. It makes you develop a healthy work ethic. You do your work well with no thoughts of reciprocity.
● Your Life
“Dharma,” righteousness is your life’s work. You can do your life a lot of good if you perform this specific duty. Your gunas or the qualities inherent in your nature will determine your work.
One thing that kills relationships is a sense of entitlement. People believe that they are entitled to favors because they are close to people or have done someone a favor before. Your relationship will be better if you help people because you love them. You help because you want to uplift a soul. You don’t help people because of the reward you will get.
How to Practice Karma Yoga
Upholding karma yoga practices is not difficult. To practice karma yoga, you have to:
● List out your duties
Create a list of all the duties you are expected to do. The roles you ought to fulfill cut across every area of your life, including the one you like and do not like.
● Prioritize your roles
Identify the duties that are more important than others. Also, be mindful of the need to fulfill and carry out these duties.
● Fulfill your duties
After listing and prioritizing your duties, fulfill them. You might not enjoy some of them, but you have to do them anyway. When you perform your duties, pay attention to these areas;
Karma yoga is the path of action. This action is geared toward helping people. According to Lord Krishna in Bhagavad Gita, Karma yoga entails the spiritual practice of “selfless action performed for the benefit of others.”
· Don’t Have Expectations
One thing that breaks people’s hearts is expectations. If things do not go the way you expect them to go, you feel hurt and angry. But you can avoid this kind of suffering if you free yourself of expectations.
The Bhagavad Gita karma yoga teacher advises that you see “things as they are” rather than worry about what “should or shouldn’t be.” With a free mind, you’ll live a happy and satisfactory life. However, you tend to become sorrowful and suffer when these two are lacking in your life.
· Have the Right Intentions
Even if you are selfless and have no expectations, the reason why you engage in every act matters. Your intentions must be pure without ulterior motives.
Benefits of Practicing Yoga of Action
There are several benefits of practicing karma yoga. A karma yogi benefits from this path of yoga in many ways.
● You develop the right attitude
With the continuous practice of karma yoga, you develop the right attitude. This attitude reflects in every area of your life. For instance, you will develop selflessness, your ego will decrease, and you will no longer have the mala quality.
Mala is “self-gain.” It is the tendency to want to please yourself. This quality of mala motivates you to gain fame, wealth, accreditation, and recognition from people. When you drop this negative quality, you develop consciousness which is loving awareness.
You become conscious that you are beyond your emotions and body. This consciousness illuminates your mind and body and shows the path where you will work for the greater good of humanity and not for your gains.
● You develop positive intentions
The intention with which you do something matters a lot. If you carry out actions to be recognized, you are erring in the standards of karma yoga. For instance, you don’t practice karma yoga because you want to be better than anyone. You do it to become better for yourself.
● You develop a sense of responsibility
Performing dharma makes you a responsible person. You build the sense of performing your duty to God and man. Giving your best always makes you responsible.
● You make society better
The saying that “united we stand, divided we fall” is true. As a true yogi, you make society better by promoting unity, peace, and love. You love your fellow as yourself. You do to others as you would want them to do to you.
● You grow in humility
The practice of yoga of action makes you humble. It helps you to overcome the desire for fame, respect, and wealth. You do not work for recognition but for the good of all.
● You will purify your heart
Your heart will get purified as you uphold these standards of karma yoga.
Karma yoga encourages you to uphold positive qualities and quit the negative ones. As a karma yogi, you are expected to serve your community, do your work well, and serve God. Start your journey to becoming an ardent karma yogi today!