Yoga is believed to be as old as the Universe. The history of Yoga dates back long ago when people started being curious and trying to understand what life is all about. One cornerstone query as regards life and yoga is: What is karma yoga the art of living?
Several people have an assumption that Yoga is the supreme state of realization; the ultimate goal of human life. It is claimed to be both the Path and the Goal. The Goal is the realization of the innate nature of the universe or what others deem as the highest being. It is through the experiences of life in the world of matter and senses that a person’s soul returns to what we call the universe; hence, it is called the universal soul. This journey is the Path to the Goal.
Yoga is an ancient Sanskrit word which embraces the entire body of spiritual experiences and experiments. This word is often defined as union as it signifies that an individual is united with the Universe. The root of the word is the Sanskrit Bija “Yuj” which means “to join together.”
In today’s age, Yoga is viewed as the union of an individual’s mind, body, and soul. It unites our lower egos with our higher selves in order to reach the Universe or what is alleged as the Highest Being.
Yoga has progressed in various directions and dimensions following diverse periods of innovation, practice, and development.
What is karma yoga the art of living?
The word karma originated from the Sanskrit root kri which means doing, affairs, or activity, including all actions a person performs whether they are of body, speech, or mind.
According to the Britannica Encyclopedia, karma is derived from the Sanskrit word karman which means to act. In Indian religion and philosophy, karma is the universal and fundamental law by which good or bad actions determine the future modes of a person’s existence.
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines karma as the force generated by a person’s actions to perpetuate transmigration and in its ethical consequences to determine the nature of the person’s next existence, as held in Hinduism and Buddhism.
Traditionally, Yoga has four classical schools or main paths which are Raja Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Jnana Yoga, and Karma Yoga. Raja Yoga focuses on meditation and energetics making it the yoga of mind and body control. Bhakti Yoga focuses on a person’s path of devotion and worship to the Divine or Highest Being. Jnana Yoga encourages and motivates an individual to the path of wisdom. On the other hand, Karma Yoga is the yoga of action.
Karma Yoga focuses on purifying a person’s heart through learning to act selflessly in service of other people. With this classical school or path of yoga, a person learns kindness and compassion without expecting anything in return. The idea or concept of Karma Yoga helps a person to distance his/her personality and character from ego and selfishness directing him/her further to the path of enlightenment.
With this school or path of yoga, a person who is bound by the cravings and desires associated by his/her act has the ability to free oneself by dissociating himself/herself from the consequences of the act. This is the basic concept of Karma Yoga. The person who follows this path is known as Karma Yogi. While the world may think a Karma Yogi is not interested or of indifference to his environment, in reality he has mastered his desires and developed awareness of the real significance of the events that occur around him.
Karma Yoga: Topical Relevance
Karma Yoga, in essence, is summed up in the teaching of Krishna in Shrimad Bhagavad Gita. He tells Arjun: “You are entitled to an action but not its fruits.”
When doing tasks without falling to the desire of its results, Karma Yoga tells us that we start to focus on delivering our job rather than on the constant attachment to the fruits that can lead to stress, over-competitiveness, and unneeded aggression.
The attitude that Karma Yoga requires is hard to develop because of the way humans naturally think: it is human instinct to seek reward, compensation, and prize for doing labor. Consequently, when we give our best but are unable to get the desired result, we tend to fall to depression and frustration.
Karma Yoga teaches us the value of giving your all without looking forward to the fruit of our works. This way, we are able to serve others the best way we can notwithstanding if the result of our work is positive or negative.
In this fast-paced environment we’re in where tasks need to be done as fast and as efficiently as possible, the stress of being too dependent on the rewards can lead to health issues such as diabetes, depression, and heart ailments. Worse, it can also make people cope with the stress with alcohol, cigarettes, drugs, and other vices.
Detaching from worldly rewards will lead to a happy and stress-free life. This is what Karma Yoga sums up. By focusing on what you can offer rather than what you will receive after, you are able to channel your energy better into performing efficiently. Whether you get rewarded after is not important. What matters is that you are able to give your 100 percent, and surely, success will easily follow you afterwards.
What is the main theme of karma yoga?
As defined as a spiritual practice of being selfless in what one does for others, without expecting a reward in the end, Karma Yoga is believed to lead to spiritual liberation through work. The concept suggests that one must be dedicated to a task, giving it your best shot but staying grounded whether the outcome is a success or a failure.
Human nature, however, dictates that it is normal for a human being to seek the fruits of his labor. While the idea is widely-accepted in Hinduism, Karma Yoga tries to rectify this as an exclusive attachment to immediate consequences of one’s work can compromise the dharma, or ethical and rightful action.
Dharmic action is one of the main themes in Karma Yoga which puts the interests of others before thinking about the results, or putting the welfare of others first then doing the right thing afterwards.
Contrary to some misconceptions, Karma Yoga does not discard the idea of having to feel emotions or desire. Instead, the practice focuses on being impartial, dedicated, and balanced to get things done, not for one’s self but for others. In other words, a Karma Yogi does his duty with no thought of financial reward, fame, power, or privilege but instead, he simply does it for others and for the Lord.
Karma Yoga, contrary to the other spiritual paths in Hinduism where the focus is on self-development and self-realization, is a duty where work is done selflessly and for others. It can apply to any profession, task, situation, or activity, whether it is within the family or in the community.
Therefore, what is karma yoga?
Karma Yoga traces its roots way back in the early history of Hinduism. Along with Jnana Yoga, which pertains to knowledge and Bhakti Yoga, or the loving devotion to a personal god, Karma Yoga is one of the three spiritual paths in Hinduism.
As the name suggests, Karma Yoga is based mainly on the yoga of action and reaction. While there are a number of scholars who each has a definition of his own of Karma Yoga, the concept practically sums up to the consequences of one’s action: doing and saying good things result in a good life, doing and saying bad things result to otherwise – but not really thinking about the prize in the end.
One of the most recognized definitions of Karma Yoga is that of Shrimad Bhagavad Gita’s, a 700-verse Hindu scripture that is part of the epic Mahabharata. According to it, selfless service to the right cause and like-minded others, with the right feeling and right attitude, is a form of worship and spirituality. Furthermore, Krishna, one major deity in Hinduism, encapsulates it through the same scripture as “selfless action performed for the benefit of others.”
Even in the west, there is a same train of thought with Karma Yoga, which might have inspired one of the greatest thinkers of his generation, Isaac Newton when he postulated his Law as “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.”
In Karma Yoga, however, it is widely accepted that you can free yourself from cravings and desire by dissociating yourself from its consequences.
How do you use Karma Yoga in daily life?
Karma Yoga in real life situations is easier said than done. One reason for this is the way our minds are wired: it is human nature for us to expect something in return after we have done work.
However, we may still embrace Karma Yoga in our daily lives. One of the simplest ways is by giving a helping hand to a neighbor or other people you may meet while in transit going to work or other destination. One simple act of kindness towards another person without expecting anything in return or the consequence of the action is a practice of Karma Yoga.
What is an example of karma yoga?
There is no argument that selfless service for others is morally right. From mundane tasks such as attending to chores at home, helping your neighbor with his plumbing problems, to the grander scale of things such as performing a 12-hour surgery on your patient or building a highway, it is without saying that giving your best is the right thing to do.
The complication arises, however, when we start to think of the reward: maybe a good payday or gaining influence. It is hard, of course, to say no to these but Karma Yoga teaches us to focus on the work first, and not to think of the fruits that may or may not come after.
What are the benefits of karma yoga?
While other paths to spirituality concentrate on one’s self, Karma Yoga is the antithesis to that. Karma Yoga focuses more on the outward realization, of how you can affect others through dedicated work. It is never about the things that you earn for yourself but about what you can give away for others. By practicing Karma Yoga, you gain more empathy towards others as you put their benefit first and foremost, with yours taking the backseat.
When you start to get adept at it, you also begin to become less materialistic, less dependent on seeking for rewards, and less susceptible to the corruption of money and power. Your work will gravitate towards helping others, selfless acts, and community service.
Karma Yoga, an ancient spiritual concept, is contemplated as the most practical and effective path of spiritual development. The service of a person towards another individual is a powerful manner of releasing ego, acquiring to act from pure intentions, and connecting with the bigger picture.