Karma Yoga as Explained in Bhagawad Gita

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Everything we do physically and mentally is our Karma. The word Karma is derived from the Sanskrit word “Kri”. It means to do. Technically, this word also means the effects of actions and hence Law of Karma can also be understood as Law of Cause and Effect. Good actions (Dharma) result in Punya and give Sukha, Happiness. Bad action (Adharma) result in Paap gives Dukha, Misery. However, contrary to popular belief, God is not sitting above to give us a reward or punishment for our action.

The entire system is set up in such a way that every cause will have its effect and this effect will result in another cause. For, e.g. My kid broke (Cause) a valuable statue in the house. This caused the anger (Effect) in my mind. Anger (Cause) in my mind prompted to scolding (effect) my kid. The scolding (Cause) led to guilt and fear (Effect) in my Kid’s mind. The fear (Cause) made my kid more vulnerable (Effect) to make a similar mistake in future. This way we are all trapped in the never-ending loop of Law of Karma. Is there a way out? Yes, it is Karma Yoga as shown in Bhagawad Gita.

Arjuna’s Conflict

Shri Krishna has shown the way of Karma Yoga in Bhagawad Gita to Arjuna. Karma Yoga is the 3rd chapter in Bhagawad Gita which comes after Gyan Yoga (Yoga of Knowledge). Arjuna is in the biggest dilemma of his life. He has to kill his gurus and cousins who are standing on the side of immorality. Arjuna’s confusion is if knowledge is superior to action, then why does he need to fight this war. Why does Krishna is asking Arjuna to do such terrible action?

Krishna’s Wisdom

Action vs Inaction – By Non-performance, no one can reach the ultimate goal. We all are bound by three Gunas, sattva (goodness, harmonious), rajas (passion, active, confused), and tamas (darkness, destructive). We can never remain in non-action due to these Gunas. Even a resting man is acting and is creating Karmas in his mind. There is no way to renounce the action.

Krishna tells Arjuna that action is superior to inaction. Action is needed to maintain our body as well. Complete inaction would mean to not perform even necessary action like eating. We all know that we cannot survive without it.

He who thinks that he has controlled the senses, but thinks about the sense pleasures in mind is a hypocrite. The real freedom is achieved by the one who has controlled the senses with his mind and can perform the actions unattached and he is considered as the superior one.

Unattached Actions – Krishna tells Arjuna that the whole world thus is bound to actions except the one performed with the motives of goodness and spiritual. The selfish actions bound us and unselfish actions free us.

Bhagawad Gita has mentioned Karma Yoga for both enlightened one and the unlightened one. For the person who has not achieved enlightenment is supposed to perform obligatory actions without any attachment. Unattached actions purify the mind and thus helps the person on the path of spirituality. This then allows the person to a steadfast focus on the knowledge of the self.

Actions performed with the only purpose of self-gain or any other evil motive will keep the person in bondage. He will continue to be stuck in the law of cause and effect.

Duties of Enlightened one – Law of Karma does not affect the one who is already living in the truth. He is not bound to perform even selfless action. However, he acts out of love. He acts for the betterment of the world. Our world is a combination of good and evil people. If enlightened ones stop performing, then the world will perish.

The ignorant or an ordinary person follow the superior one. This is why we will see many followers of Dharmgurus. We expect them to behave in certain manners. If they don’t do, then we know that they are also ignorant like us. Even if superior actions are not performed, the enlightened one still needs to do ordinary activities just like an ordinary person. This is to ensure that the ignorant one does not despise his own actions.

Duties of God – Krishna not only passes the wisdom but provide his own example. What can bind God to perform duty? What can Krishna gain or what is that there that Krishna does not have? God is perfect in every possible way. Then what aspires him to be in action in all the three worlds. We are living life because God is performing his duties in every particle. God is aware that if he stops performing actions, then the whole world will be destroyed.

Way of Faith – Krishna gives one more path to Arjuna. Karma yoga can also be practised by renouncing all actions to God. This helps in getting rid of selfishness and makes a man free. A strong faith in God with humility is required.

The Superior one – Senses are superior to the body, the mind is superior to senses, the intellect is superior to mind and that which is superior to intellect is the Atman. In the last shloka of Karma Yoga, Krishna calls upon Arjuna to know the superior one and restrain the self by self, destroy the enemy called desire.

How I understand Karma Yoga

Bhagawad Gita can be understood in millions of way based on our level of consciousness. I have tried to put a few important points of Karma Yoga as mentioned in Bhagawad Gita. Many spiritual saints have suggested that Karma Yoga is the path for a Kaliyuga, the present world.

As explained in Bhagawad Gita, actions performed without being attached gives us freedom. But, what creates this attachment? The normal understanding is that It is our expectation to get something in return binds us. These expectations force us to get into selfish actions.

Selfless acts or the acts devoted to God helps us purify our mind. Through this purification, ignorance is removed. When the veil of ignorance disappears, we see the true self and achieve Nirvana.

We also misunderstand that Karma Yoga is limited to helping others. Krishna asks Arjuna to perform his obligatory duties without any attachment. Till the time we are enlightened, Karma Yoga starts from our daily mundane tasks along with selfless acts.

Swami Vivekananda lived the life of an enlightened Karma Yogi. He renounced everything and devoted his life to the welfare of humanity. We have many such Karma Yogis currently living with us. One of such Karma Yogi is Guruji Naushir. Just like his own work, he has given a mantra to his followers “Har Kam Nishkam”.

Mantra states to perform all actions without selfishness. To devote all your actions to God. He explains that when we are devoting our Karmas to God, we will be mindful of performing only good and pure actions.

I am far from performing even a single task without any selfishness. However, such Karma Yogis remind us that it is possible. What we need is a strong intention to walk on the path of Karma Yoga. I believe that such constant reminders will not only stop us from performing evil actions but will help us in becoming a selfless person.