Yoga. For most of us the word seems to invoke images of yoga pants, yoga mats, twisting our bodies into uncomfortable positions. Hatha Yoga is this particular type over yoga that we are all familiar with.
But what does Yoga actually mean? Yoga comes from the word “ Yoke” or to attach to. In other words, in a spiritual setting, we are trying to attach an activity with spiritual development.
So what is Karma yoga? Karma yoga is one of 4 yogas practiced by the non dual School of Advaita Vedanta. The 4 yogas are :
1) Karma yoga ( yoga of action)
2) Bhakti yoga ( yoga of devotion)
3) Jnana yoga ( yoga of knowledge)
4) Raja yoga ( yoga of meditation)
Each has their place but let’s get back to karma yoga and why and how we can practice it. “ Karma” translates into “ Action” as long as we perform actions we are creating Karma. To be human it is impossible not create karma. Even if you decide to sit on the couch for the rest of your life and not move, that is still an action that will have consequences.
The non dual spiritual schools, Advaita Vedanta in this case, teach that there is only one, undivided reality. “ God” is the essence of all reality, separation is a mere illusion, much like in a dream, the dream character and dreamscape appear separate but upon awaking we realise it was all just imagined from the one mind. Once that is absorbed and understood we come to realise that there is no free will, things are happening without a doer doing them.
The problem is though most of us feel as we are a doer doing things and take blame or praise for the result. To mimic what is actually happening though ( no doer or free will) karma yoga is the practice to get inline with reality while we still feel like we are a doer doing something.
HOW TO PRACTICE KARMA YOGA
So how do we practice karma yoga while we still feel like a separate self moving through a separate world?
It’s really quite simple. All that is required is perform your actions as normal with no expectations of the results. It’s natural to expect a particular result from our actions but the reality is every action goes one of 4 ways:
1) we get what we expect.
2) we get better than we expected.
3) we don’t get what we expect.
4) we get way worse than we expected.
When we are truly mindful of our lives and our plans we can see this to be true, there is no real control. We perform actions and then other factors, outside of our control influence the result. This is bad and hard news for the Ego as it’s whole survival depends on claiming praise or blame for actions performed.
If is all God, if there is no separation, why not perform your actions and offer up the results of those actions to God or the Universe if you are more comfortable with that term. Instead of focusing on the outcome, we focus our attention on performing the action to the best of our ability.
Besides, we can never really judge the results of our actions. How often has what seems like a bad result eventually set up something good in the future or what seemed like a good result set up something bad? We never really know. Life flows as it’s going to so what not flow with it?
Another important thing with Karma Yoga is intention. As long as your heart has good intention, the intention to serve others or not to hurt others then no “ bad karma” will come back to you. An example, you sell a used car for a reasonable price because you don’t want to be greedy and something goes wrong which causes the new buyer to have an accident, as long as your intention was good and to your knowledge nothing was wrong with the car at the time of selling then you wouldn’t accumulate “ bad karma”
On the flip side if you sold it for cheap with the knowledge the brakes would soon fail and cause an accident then you would accumulate bad karma.
So to sum up, Karma yoga is about putting our attention on performing the action to the best of our ability with the right intention and letting the Universe or God decide what results will appear and accepting whatever comes. This is opposed to our normal way of thinking which is performing results with the expectation of gaining something which may or may not come then getting an ego boost when it works or a deflated ego when it doesn’t.
We perform this practice to purify the mind and getting into the habit of seeing reality as it is and living in a way that is in line with reality which is ultimately that everything is happening, everything is being done without a doer, reality is verb not a noun, it is an undivided, eternal process, but until we realise that we must perform practices such as Karma Yoga until we see and feel that on an experiential level.
Thanks for reading everyone,
Take care in these difficult times,