Sunday, 20 November 2016

Karma - Yoga

Karma Yoga is a combination of two words Karma and Yoga. Karma means action; physical, mental and verbal.  In all actions there is also motive or attitude behind each action.  Law of Karma states that every deliberate action one does, produces two types of results; one that  flows from the visible action called dhrishta phala, visible result  and another that flows from the invisible motive behind the action called  adrishta phala. invisible result. The positive invisible result is called Punyam, with a pleasurable impact and the negative invisible result is called Papam with a painful impact. The actions wilfully performed with a sense of doership by a Jeeva in human form who has a sense of doership and judgemental capacity to discriminate actions as good and bad result in Punyams and Papams, which are the seeds of rebirth.

Yoga has many meanings. Here it is used in the meaning of sadhanam, a course of disciplines to achieve the goal. The goal is the spiritual goal of Liberation, Moksha, liberation from the cycle of birth and death.  In Karma Yoga, Karma is transformed into a means to achieve the goal of spiritual Liberation through doing proper action with proper attitude.  Let us see what constitutes proper action and proper attitude.  First we shall discuss proper action. 

Action is classified in three groups on the basis of spiritual impact or influence.  They are; Uttama karmas, Madhyama karmas and Adhama karmas.  Adhama karmas are Thamasa karmas that have a negative influence causing one’s spiritual downfall or retrogression. Sri Krishna defines them in Gita thus: 
अनुबन्धं क्षयं हिंसामनपेक्ष्य पौरुषम्।
मोहादारभ्यते कर्म यत्तत्तामसमुच्यते।।(18.25
Anubandham kshayam himsaam anavekshya cha paurusham;
Mohaadaarabhyate karma yattat taamasamuchyate.
That action which is undertaken from delusion, without regard to the consequences of
loss, injury and (one’s own) ability—that is declared to be Thamasic.
These are Para apakara karmas, actions that cause harm to self and others and  Nishiddha karmas, i.e. prohibited karmas listed in the Vedas. These are also sakama karmas,  actions undertaken for selfish ends.

Madhyama karmas are Rajasa karmas that are described by Sri Krishna thus:
यत्तु कामेप्सुना कर्म साहङ्कारेण वा पुनः।
क्रियते बहुलायासं तद्राजसमुदाहृतम्।।(18.24)
Yattu kaamepsunaa karma saahankaarena vaa punah;
Kriyate bahulaayaasam tadraajasamudaahritam
That action which is done by one longing for the fulfilment of desires or gain, with egoism or with much effort—that is declared to be Rajasic.
They are para udhasina karmas, actions done, not taking into account other’s welfare but only for one’s own selfish gains and ego-gratification.  They also do not help one’s spiritual growth.  

Uttama karmas are Satvika karmas  and Sri Krishna defines Satvika Karmas thus:
नियतं सङ्गरहितमरागद्वेषतः कृतम्।
अफलप्रेप्सुना कर्म यत्तत्सात्त्विकमुच्यते।।(18.23)
Niyatam sangarahitam araagadweshatah kritam;
Aphalaprepsunaa karma yattat saattwikamuchyate
An action which is ordained, which is free from attachment, which is done without love or hatred by one who is not desirous of any reward—that action is declared to be Satvik.
They are Para Upakara karmas, selfless action done to help others. So Satvik karma is one’s obligatory duties done selflessly without ego, attachment and raga-dvesha  These only, have a positive influence and help in one’s spiritual growth. So they only can be counted as proper action to qualify for Karma Yoga.  

Pancha Maha Yajnas, five duties prescribed by Vedas, are one’s obligatory duties. They are;
1)    Deva Yajna -  Worship and prayer of God
2)    Brahma Yajna – Chanting and teaching of Vedas and scriptures
3)    Pitr Yajna – Remembering the ancestors and expressing gratitude to Pitr devathas through appropriate ceremonies
4)    Manushya Yajna – All forms of social service
5)    Bhuta Yajna – All forms of contributions to non-human beings, environmental care.
Yajna is the action done with a sense of gratitude and as a service to humanity. Selfless Satvik action done without ego and without any likes and dislikes constitutes proper action.

Now let us see about attitude, Bhavana.  Sri Krishna talks about this thus:
कर्मण्येवाधिकारस्ते मा फलेषु कदाचन।
मा कर्मफलहेतुर्भूर्मा ते सङ्गोऽस्त्वकर्मणि।।2.47।।
Karmanyevaadhikaaraste maa phaleshu kadaachana;
Maa karmaphalahetur bhoor maa te sango’stwakarmani
You have a choice over action alone; never over results. May you not be the motivated by the results of actions. May you not have an inclination towards inaction

The Karma Yogi should have non-attachment to the fruits of actions.  The 'fruits of action' means whatever one might gain from action, including the favourable observation and applause of others. This can be achieved when he performs actions with the feeling of Ishvararpana dedicating his actions to God. Karma binds when it is done with a selfish motive, with the expectation of fruits. But when action is done without ego and without the expectation of fruits, it is liberating.  By offering action selflessly to God and performing Pancha Maha Yajna religiously one achieves mental purification, inner peace and a stress-free feeling of one with humanity.  He should also eschew likes and dislikes, raga and dvesha for the fruits of action, whatever it be.  This can be achieved when he accepts the results with Prasada Buddhi.  Because one’s duty is unpleasant or the result is not to one’s liking one should not take refuge in inaction.  So we can describe proper attitude is doing one’s duties selflessly and without attachment with Iswararpana buddhi as Kartha and Prasada buddhi as Bhoktha.  That is why Swami Sivananda defines Karma Yoga as “performance of actions dwelling in union with the Divine, removing attachment and remaining balanced ever in success and failure.”

Even Satvik Karma done in a routine way with attachment and anxiety for results, swayed by likes and dislikes and motivated by selfish desire has the effect of binding one to the cycle of birth and death through generation of Papam and Punyam.  But the same Satvik Karma when performed selflessly with Iswararpana Buddhi, without attachment and ego, and with an attitude of Prasada Buddhi to results, elevates one spiritually, purifying the mind and making it fit to benefit by Jnanam,  and becomes the sadhanam to reach the ultimate goal of Liberation. This we can see from Sri Krishna’s advice to Arjuna in the chapter on Karma Yoga.
तस्मादसक्तः सततं कार्यं कर्म समाचर।
असक्तो ह्याचरन्कर्म परमाप्नोति पूरुषः।।3.19
Tasmaad asaktah satatam kaaryam karma samaachara;
Asakto hyaacharan karma param aapnoti poorushah
Therefore, remaining unattached, always perform the obligatory duty, for, by performing (one's) duty without attachment, a person attains the Supreme (for a purified mind becomes a fit instrument to absorb Jnanam, as and when one receives it) 

Sri Krishna condenses Karma Yoga, later in this chapter:
मयि सर्वाणि कर्माणि संन्यस्याध्यात्मचेतसा।
निराशीर्निर्ममो भूत्वा युध्यस्व विगतज्वरः।।3.30।।
Mayi sarvaani karmaani sannyasyaadhyaatma chetasaa;
Niraasheer nirmamo bhootwaa yudhyaswa vigatajwarah
Offering all actions unto Me with a devoted mind, fight without expectations, without possessiveness, (and) without anxiety.
Since Arjuna is a warrior who has come to the battle field to fight for Dharma, Sri Krishna says here ‘fight’,  So advice to fight is to be interpreted as advice to do one’s obligatory duty. “Offering actions unto Me” is to be interpreted as Iswararpana Buddhi.  So to become a Karma Yogi
1)    Have spiritual goal as the primary priority of your life
2)    Perform obligatory duties with devotion, as an offering to Iswara
3)    Have no anxiety or attachment to fruits of action
4)    Have no ahamkara or mamakara
5)    Have equanimity at all times