What is Karma Yoga? In Hinduism, one can adapt four spiritual paths in their lifestyle.
- Jnana Yoga (The Path of Knowledge)
- Raja Yoga (The Path of Psychological Experimentation)
- Bhakti Yoga (The Path of Devotion)
- Karma Yoga (The Path of Work)
These four paths to self-realization are based on the fact that human beings are emotional, active, reflective, and experimental in nature. In this discussion, I will explain more about the Path of Work.
What is Karma Yoga?
Also known as Karma Marga, the path of work advocates that we endeavor to dutifully and selflessly render our services to others regardless of our stages in life.
Lord Krishna summarizes the process of the path of work as detailed in the ancient text, the Bhagavad Gita, as follows :
“Therefore, without being attached to the fruits of activities, one should act as a matter of duty, for by working without attachment one attains the Supreme.”
This text simply means that people have a duty to offer their skills to humanity and in the preservation of nature to the best of their abilities. They should do this while exercising zero affinity to the effects or rewards of their works. Instead, they should strive to work as a service to God.
Offering service for the benefit of others is a form of prayer in Hinduism. It is human nature to seek rewards for works done. The Path of Work discourages this habit. Instead, a karma yogi (one who practices selfless acts) will serve others as a mother, a teacher, a doctor or a cook, without expecting a reward in return.
As you embrace the Karma yoga, you should differentiate it from Kriya Yoga, which is the practice of ritual action. The Practice of Work has a direct impact on others/society whereas Kriya Yoga focuses on cleansing our mind, without a direct impact on society.
Benefits of Karma Yoga
The practice of action for the benefit of others offers many physical, mental, emotional and spiritual benefits as follows:
Purifies the heart
Selfless acts assist us to let go of our negative tendencies. Any hatred, jealousy or selfishness is now replaced with love. Having a pure heart is the primary benefit of living a selfless life.
Instills Discipline and Dedication
Karma yogis focus their physical and emotional strengths towards using their professional and social skillset to the service of others. They, therefore, make a deliberate effort to enroll in the necessary training and apprenticeship to improve their skills. One learns early enough that no job is superior to the other. Hence, the karma yogi dedicates his efforts towards doing their best with what they have.
By adopting a broader perspective of life in carrying out our everyday duties, we tend to appreciate others more and therefore attain fulfillment and happiness regardless of how small or big our actions are.
We achieve mental health when we learn to manage our emotions. When one is immersed in service for the benefit of others, he/she no longer has fear of being imperfect or the inability to fit into the norms of the masses. Hence, anxiety, depression or other mental health complications are no longer a concern for a karma yogi.
Working for the benefit of others enables one to lead a balanced life. We are better parents, disciplined children, dedicated workers, and better partners when we have purpose and clarity in our actions.
Living authentic lifestyles is easily attained when we learn how to prioritize our needs without focusing too much on self.
Develop Humility, Selflessness, Sympathy, and Love
As you practice living for others, you learn to tame your ego. Selfish acts are replaced with pure love for humanity. You no longer see yourself as an individual but as part of the wider ecosystem that needs to be protected.
Attain Spiritual Growth
When a karma yogi dedicates all his actions to God, he attains an inner spiritual development. Drawing closer to God, in turn, makes it easier for us to execute our duties.
A karma yogi learns to base his actions on the broader picture of life. By doing this he/she is hardly a victim of selfish acts, egocentric behavior, anger, envy or pain as a result of the short term failures he may go through.
How to Embrace Karma Yoga in Our Everyday Living
Giving to humanity is possible even when one has little wealth. However, our self-ego and impure mind make the initial stages quite difficult. In order to practice selfless habits in our lifestyle, here are some everyday acts that you can start with:
- Distributing water and foodstuffs to the homeless
- Offering free consultation to poor people who can’t afford medical services
- Responding to a call for a blood donation
- Offering transport for accident victims
- Giving tuition classes to underprivileged children
- Volunteer at a home for the old
Make a deliberate effort not to hurt the feelings of others by what you do for a living. Consider the long term effects of setting up your businesses or undertaking your projects that have a major impact on the lives of others.
Be mindful of Mother Nature. We gain from nature by preserving it from generation to generation. Join the global campaigns that strive to maintain a pollution-free ecosystem. Protect our endangered species.
Be mindful of others. For example, if you have an option, take a bus instead of your personal car and make your moral contribution towards decongesting traffic.
Finally, always start by giving from what you have.
The practice of Karma Yoga has been passed from one generation to the other for thousands of years. To attain the full benefits of this practice, we need to focus on benefiting others by our acts and make it a daily routine. Make a deliberate effort to be on the lookout for opportunities that demand your physical, mental, or spiritual input to better the lives of others. Only then can we find purpose and attain liberalization in life.