Karma Yoga: Yoga of Work

Arjuna receiving the teachings of Bhagavadgita from Lord Shrikrishna  (Credit: Mohanchandran)

Arjuna receiving the teachings of Bhagavadgita from Lord Shrikrishna (Credit: Mohanchandran)

Just reading the above title, many people react – “Are you kidding! We thought yoga is about practicing some poses(asanas)! Is it possible to do yoga through work? “

Answer is yes! Don’t be surprised!  Most of the Bhagavadgita deals with karma yoga i.e. yoga through work! When Arjuna refused to fight Mahabharata war, to convince him to fight, Lord Shrikrishna  taught  Bhagavadgita.

Arjuna was a warrior by birth. So, his work or duty was to fight for the good cause, i.e. to establish the dharma(the right way of living) as described by our scriptures.  You may ask: “Fine. Is the philosophy of Bhagavadgita  applicable in our daily lives today?”  Very much.  Let us see how.

What work do we need to do?

Good question. The Lord clearly says:

Lokasangraham evapi sampshyan kartumarhasi |- Gita 3.20

Means, we need to do the work that benefits all beings that includes animals too. What a profound concept!

What should be our approach to  work?

Lord Srikrishna says:

Karmanye vaadhikaraste ma phaleshu kadachana | – Gita 2.47

Means: You are entitled to your work and not the results!  This is a very powerful statement.  It summarizes the entire karma yoga.  Some of us wonder: “OK. Do all hard work. Don’t have the fruits! Is it possible?”    Yes! Let us understand it clearly.

Why should we detach ourselves from the results of our work?

The moment we attach ourselves to fruits of our actions, we also incur karmic baggage (sins and good deeds) associated with it. This will put ourselves(individual selves) into birth and death cycle. In other words, Individual Self takes different bodies one after other in cyclic manner as:

birth->actions->fruits of actions-> enjoy and suffer;incur sins and good deeds ->death->birth because of earlier  sins and good deeds;enjoy and suffer->actions->fruits of actions->birth->actions->fruits of actions->death->birth…..to infinity.

So, this endless vicious circle is called samasara (birth and death cycle of Individual Self).  Being in this cycle is the root cause of all human sufferings. The trick of karma yoga to escape from this cycle is: disown the results of your work; do not attach yourself to results!This great escape from birth and death cycle is called liberation(moksha). 

Why should we achieve liberation(moksha)?

As we have discussed earlier, we need to merge with the Universal Self. the Universal Self is permanent and is full of infinite bliss.  So, the moment we merge with it, we can enjoy this bliss endlessly. Thus, we are assured of only bliss(happiness) and no suffering! Think about it. Don’t we deserve to relish only happiness always continuously without any suffering? So, the main purpose or goal of yoga and human life is to achieve moksha. 

Not attaching ourselves with the fruit of any action helps in real yoga i.e. merging with the Universal Self. How are we sure about this? Again, the Lord guarantees it:

Karmajam budhiyukta hi phalam tyaktva maneeshinah |

Janmabandha vinirmukah padam gachchantyanamayam || -Gita  2.51  

Means: By consciously disowning the fruits of the work escape from birth and death cycle and merge with the Universal Self.  Thus, yoga naturally happens.

How should we do our work?

The Lord explains:

Mayi sarvani karmani sanyasyadhyatma chetasa || -Gita  2.30

i.e. We should do our work connecting to the Universal Self and offer all our work to the Lord.  This feeling of connection, with the Lord who is also the Universal Self,   is important.

Also, we should work as though we are worshiping the Lord(Universal Self) and offer our work to him. Again, the Lord recommends:

Yatkaroshi yadashnasi yajjuhosi dadasi yat |

Yattapasysi kaunteya tatkurushwa madarpanam ||  -Gita 9.27

Means: Arjuna! Whatever you do, eat, worship and meditate – offer them to me.  This is the best strategy to achieve liberation(moksha), i.e. escape from birth and death cycle and to attain the Absolute.  The Lord advises again:

Tadrartham karma kaunteya muktasangah samachara | – Gita 3.9

So, Arjuna! Do your work without attachment.

Great! Practically, what is the take home message?

Do your work with full devotion connecting with the Lord. It is very important to think that you are doing the work as a service to the Lord. This will eliminate the feelings such as – “I am doing this work for me.  I want to get my results etc.”

Offer all your work and results to the Lord. This way you will free yourself from the birth and death cycle and thereby suffering.  This real karma yoga taught in Bhagavadgita  is referred to as nishkama karma yoga(desireless yoga of work).

We need to feel that divine force is getting the work done by us.  If we do any work, we definitely get the fruit. We can enjoy it after offering the fruit and all consequences to the Lord.

As we have seen Bhagavdgita teaches us amazingly practical yoga that can be applied to our daily lives. It has been rightly said:

Gita sugita karthavya kimanyaih  shastravistaraih |

If we study Bhagavdgita well and understand it, why do we need to read many scriptures?

Krishnam vande jagadgurum ||

Let us salute the great Guru of the Universe, Lord Shrikrishna !!

Next: Raja Yoga: the Royal Path. Stay in touch!

Om Namah Shivaya ||

– Kalidas

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2 Responses to Karma Yoga: Yoga of Work

  1. Madryt says:

    I’m still learning from you, but I’m trying to achieve my goals. I absolutely enjoy reading all that is posted on your website.Keep the information coming. I liked it!

    • Kalidas says:

      Thanks for your comments and encouragement!
      Our goal is to share the authentic traditional knowledge, passed on to us from our great masters and our scriptures, with everybody.
      Enjoy reading!
      Om Namah Shivaya ||
      – Kalidas

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