Karma yoga (Sanskrit: कर्म योग), or the “discipline of action” is a form of yoga based on the teachings of the Bhagavad Gita, a sacred Sanskrit scripture. Of the four paths to realization, karma yoga is the science of achieving perfection in action. In a nutshell, Karma Yoga is the spiritual discipline of selfless action.
The word karma is derived from the Sanskrit kri, meaning ‘to do’. In its most basic sense karma simply means action, and yoga translates to union. Thus karma yoga literally translates to the path of union through action. However, in Vedantic philosophy the word karma means both action and the effects of such action. Karma yoga is described as a way of acting, thinking and willing by which one orients oneself toward realization by acting in accordance with one’s duty (dharma) without consideration of personal self-centered desires, likes or dislikes. One acts without being attached to the fruits of one’s deeds. A major facet of karma is the work one does, and the attitude with which he goes about his duty. To work for selfish reasons, such as to be able to afford luxuries such as convertible cars and swimming pools, is bad karma, especially when one craves these possessions to gain stature in society. Actions such as materialism restrain one from furthering their place in life and from attaining an honest satisfaction with spiritual growth. There is not a single way to practice good karma. If, for example, one acts with selfless and true compassion toward another, good is bound to come of his action.
A few weeks ago, I drove to town for a yoga class. Our budget was really tight, and I felt like the $15 class was such a splurge! When I got to class, Sierra reminded me that her classes are always $5 if we’re struggling, and $15 when we can. “It’s Karma Yoga!” What a gift…
A few weeks later, I took my daughter out to my favorite cafe in town, Kathmandu Cafe, and we had the most lovely Himalayan buffet lunch. I filled out the check, and then remembered Sierra’s words about Karma Yoga and bumped the tip up several dollars. I felt lighter in my heart, and had an incredibly beautiful day. That afternoon, on an impulse, we got to make a belly cast of a girlfriend’s pregnant belly. Three days later, I watched her son June born into this world.
I can’t tell you the abundance of generosity I’ve been surrounded by since that small act at the Kathmandu Cafe. We received muffins at a discount the next day, gifts from strangers on the street, and today a dream of mine is continuing to manifest. The world is full of abundance, and if we open ourselves to it, and share the abundance in our life, we continue the cycle.
During these times, we are surrounded by opportunities to help, and growing amounts of tragedies each day that need prayer, action, and service. In each moment is an opportunity to take action, this is the gift of the present…