What is Karma Yoga? Pt1: The glory of where you are.

How much mental/emotional vitality dissipates into sorrow at what we cannot change?
Today, where can you rejoice in what is, steering clear of patterns of perception of loss in what is not?

I often hear such frustration or sadness at what one used to be able to do in yoga, for instance; or daily despair at the aging evident in the mirror. This body ages, this is a fact. Places change, people change, people move, jobs change… To conclude that I am “less than” as a result is incorrect, and a source of sorrow.

Free your mental/emotional vitality for the glory of where you are, for the task at hand.
This is Karma Yoga.

Your choice is in action only, never in the results thereof.
Do not think you are the author (adhikara) of the results of action.
Let your attachment not be to inaction.
Bhagavad Gita, verse 2:47

There is a lot in this verse, and this is the first segment of a series on Karma Yoga, an essential principle to be clear about. Arjuna is struggling with his dilemma and sorrow about going to war, fretting about the possible outcomes. Here Krsna begins the discussion continued in the following 16 chapters on action, duty, being engaged in society, community and family while pursuing self-knowledge, knowledge of being and creation.

The key point Krsna is making here is that we only have authority (adhikara) over our actions, not the results of action, literally the fruits of action (karmaphala), a term with specific contextual connotations. This is reasoned pragmatism. Results are subject to laws beyond our control and will arrive at some future time. In order to understand the implications of this assertion, we look to the attributes of both the actions and the results. One attribute affecting both is time.

Action is always now. Results are always future, in relation to the action, or in our memory of past actions. So here Krsna is telling Arjuna, don’t waste your time, don’t waste your mental focus and vitality, on what is not here now. Results will come for sure, and you will reap the results, knowingly or unknowingly. But that is out of your hands. Now, there is work to be done. How will you do it?

Whatever the work, if your mind is worrying the future uncertainty of results, your attention, skill, focus are not on the task at hand. If the task at hand is done with presence, efficiency with all your vitality certainly the result will be affected. If the task at hand is done with dissipated attention and energy, certainly the result will be affected. So worry not about what is not in your hands, don’t fritter your energy on what you cannot affect. Channel all your vitality into what is to be done. Now. Everyday. This is Karma Yoga, says Krsna, and does not refer to a particular kind of work or action, but the very nature of all our actions.

* My understanding comes from study with Swami Dayananda Saraswati over there years, from Swami Chinmayananda’s books and videos teachers from this community. The conclusions are not my own, and any misunderstanding or error is my own.

Next: Karma Yoga is graceful acceptance of fruits of action.

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One Response to “What is Karma Yoga? Pt1: The glory of where you are.”

  1. Caitlin says:

    You know that feeling when thoughts about past and present are absent from your mind? That feeling of not-want. Like ambling through nature, carrying nothing but yourself, nowhere to be, no one to see. That’s my ideal example of being totally in the now (and what I would give to be there now!). So how is it possible to feel that as a student, constantly thinking about tomorrow’s paper or next week’s exam? It’s tough, especially when I grapple with the pitfalls of standardized tests and grades. I study, I do the task at hand, what is to be done.

    And gracefully accept that fruity A or F.

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