Saturday, September 1, 2012

karma yoga


as i work my way through the Bhagavad Gita, a Hindu scripture that can and is used by many as a guide to day-to-day life, i want to share the lessons that resonate the most with me. karma yoga has long held my interest. also known as selfless service, it's the yogic path to perfection through action.

behind our actions there are generally two types of attitude: one is the assured feeling, "i shall enjoy the fruit of my action. i have a right to it". on the contrary, there is a feeling, "if i am not to enjoy the fruit of my action, then i will not act at all".

in the Gita, we find another attitude of mind or way of life, which says, "you must of course act, but don't think that you have a right to the fruit". the man who acts has no doubt a right to the fruit. but the aim is to give up this fruit of your own free will. in other words, do the work and give up the fruit.

"karmany ev'ādhikāras te
mā phalesu kadācana 
mā karma-phala-hetur bhūr- 
mā te sango'stv akarmani" 

this paragraph in chapter II says, "to work alone you have the competence not to claim their fruits. let not the longing for fruits be the motive force of your action. at the same time let not this attitude confirm you in indolent inaction". those who practice karma yoga will have a radiant body and mind; there is no motive behind their work, their gifts to the world. and besides these benefits, they also receive the great gift of purity of mind. there is no deceit or hypocrisy, the action comes from a place of contentment. there is no need for material gains.

karma yoga also flows into society: it is an ideal. in a community, a man is born before one and after another. it becomes the responsability of the one who was born earlier to set an example to those who come later. it is the responsability of the elders to the younger generation, the parent to the child, of the leader to the followers, of the teacher to the pupils, to set example through action.

and he or she who practice karma yoga are unceasingly devoted to their work. for in it, they see joy and vanity loses ground in their societ.

when i am overcome by laziness, or other undesireable states of mind, my current objective is to seek out seva (selfless work). luckily for me, living in a community enables me to find one with relative ease: there's always something to be done. sometimes i fail and succumb to negativity, sometimes I succeed. the more i succeed the more natural it becomes and the results are undeniable: creating positive habits is the key to a more fulfilled life.

last friday i'd had a long day preparing huts for new volunteers, a job i enjoy and take pride in. however, by nightfall i was ready to tuck into my book and curl under my moskito net alone. the community had other plans: kitchen cleaning on a friday is a particularly taxing job, it takes place late and involves a lot of work, but the reduced nature of our current community meant we were down one person and it's not a single person job. as my mind raced over ways to avoid helping, i walked myself to the kitchen and began rinsing pots and pans. within minutes my apathy was overcome and i was enjoying a chat on german fairytales with a volunteer friend of mine. i went to bed with a smile.

karma yoga dictates that after taking action and performing seva, i am no longer the owner of the outcome. such a freeing realization that i can put my heart and soul into my work and then surrender the outcome to the universe. what shall be shall be, yes, but knowing i did the utmost so that what shall be, shall be good.

my favourite way so far of practicing unattachment. 

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