Karma Yoga, a path of selfless action.

Last updated on Nov 14, 2022 @ 10:00 am

What is Karma Yoga? Definition.

Karma Yoga is the yogic technique of union with the divine through selfless actions. These actions intend to serve society without any expectations. One of the earliest references to Karma Yoga is in the book of Mahabharata where Krishna teaches Arjuna about all forms of Yoga. It is more clearly mentioned in Shreemad Bhagavat Gita.

Karma Yoga Principles and Philosophy?

Karma Yoga has four major principles.

  1. Selfless action.
  2. No expectations for the action.
  3. Dedication of every action to God.
  4. Avoiding ego.

Every concept in Yoga is about the metaphysical union between Atman or Brahman or the individual soul and the consciousness. Karma Yoga works on the same philosophy. However, it is for those who are immersed in the daily life activities known as Samsara. Selfless actions remove all forms of attraction toward the results. This makes a person free from mental conditioning and more efficient. Karma Yoga is part of Yogic techniques, it gives benefits similar to that of meditation.

There are three types of Karma, Sanchitta Karma, Prarabhda Karma, and Agami Karma. These three are the major features of Karma Yoga. Selfless action prepares one’s agami Karma or the actions to be fulfilled in the future. Avoiding ego and dedication of every action to the god makes one free from Sanchitta Karma and no expectation from any action makes one’s present wonderful i.e. Prarabhda.

Karma Yoga Selfless action

What Bhagavat Gita says about Yoga?

Bhagavat Gita describes selfless action through the following shloka.

कर्मण्येवाधिकारस्ते मा फलेषु कदाचन ।
मा कर्मफलहेतुर्भुर्मा ते संगोऽस्त्वकर्मणि ॥

It means, you are given a right to perform all your work, but not to the results.  You shouldn’t expect the results either be attached to not performing the duties. Bhagavat Gita also describes other Yogic techniques like Raja Yoga, Samkhya Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, and Jnana Yoga. Every type has its own significance for any temperament.

Karma Yoga by Swami Vivekananda.

As per the Swami Vivekananda, Karma Yoga is the perfection of mind that makes an individual perform duties as a service to the world leading to a path of enlightenment. In his book Karma Yoga, he refers to Bhagavat Gita.

Benefits of Karma Yoga

  1. Higher performance.
  2. Removes mental conditioning.
  3. Reduces anxiety.
  4. Improves independent thinking.

Yoga in the form of Karma boosts one’s performance in every field. It is a perfect practice for the union of mind and body. It certainly makes one stress-free and improves the thinking process.

How to Practice Karma Yoga?

Practicing Karma Yoga is possible by acquiring skills and dedicating them to society thinking it to be part of God. Most Yoga gurus forget to explain the first basic thing about practicing Karma Yoga. During the times of Mahabharata or Ramayana, there was a structured Varna system where one was bound to perform individual duties. Every action resulted from the transfer of knowledge from one generation to another. However, in modern times this is null and void.

This is because an individual has multiple interests. First, it is important to understand the real talent within us. A person having an interest in sports may not be a good educationist. Why forcefully make the person an educationist when this person is made for sports? In Bhagavat Gita, Arjuna was a Kshatriya with a deep-rooted interest in archery. What if Bheeshma had told him to become a wrestler? When Arjuna was on the verge of sacrificing the bow and arrow, Krishna made him realize the importance of Karma.  

One should first acquire the skills. If your interest is in research or education, practice the art of acquiring knowledge. If your interest is in sports, politics, or defense, practice the art of focus. For people having an interest in entrepreneurship, work hard and get the desired knowledge of everything necessary. After acquiring the skills, one should dedicate it selflessly to society without any expectations. When you keep on expecting and thinking about actions continuously, how will you perform better?

Books for Karma Yoga.

  1. Karma Yoga by Swami Vivekananda
  2. Mahabharata
  3. Bhagavat Gita
  4. Narada Purana
  5. Bhagavat Purana
  6. Brihadarayanka Upanishad.

Difference between Karma and Kriya Yoga.

Karma Yoga is a path of action for those involved in individual duties. Although, Kriya Yoga is a technique for mystics and Yogis. It is a practice related to the breath. Kriya Yoga was popularized by Paramhamsha Yogananda and was founded in modern times by Lahiri Mahasaya through Mahavatar Babaji.

You can read our free Yoga Nidra Meditation Script here. Here are Yoga quotes for you.

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