April Focus of the Month
KARMA YOGA – SELFLESS SERVICE
BG III.25 saktah karmanyavidvamiso yatha kurvanti bharata kuryad vidvans tathasaktas cikirsur lokassmgraham
The unwise are attached to their actions, while the wise are unattached and act selflessly to benefit the world.
vid = wise; avid = unwise; saktah = attached ; vidvans = wise ones
Karma Yoga is the practical method for reducing suffering in the world. It is the foundation of ALL yoga practices. Karma Yoga literally means “action yoga” and it consists of the sacred work of transforming one’s everyday activities.
Karma yoga was first taught by Krishna, the enlightened teacher of Prince Arjuna, on the eve of one of the greatest battles fought on Indian soil. Krishna’s teachings were preserved in the Bhagavad Gita (the Lord’s Song). According to Eknath Eswaran, who wrote a translation of the Bhagavad Gita in 1995, in the third chapter Krishna begins to tell Arjuna that if he follows the path of selfless work he will enjoy this world as well as the next. More important he will gain spiritual blessing and will be lessing his debt of karma. Only when he is free from every bond of karma, every consequence of past action, can he achieve life’s ultimate goal. In other words the best way to Self-realization is to be active but to act free from egoic attachment.
Swami Nirmalanda gave my teachers, Sharon Gannon and David Life the founders of Jivamukti Yoga, a translation to the powerful mantra lokah samasta sukinho bhavantu which says “may all beings everywhere be happy and free and may the thoughts, words and actions of my own life contribute in some way to that happiness and that freedom for all.” In this translation he encourages us to perform actions that benefit all beings, human and non human. This is the essence of karma yoga. In their book, Jivamukti Yoga: Practices for Liberating Body and Soul, Sharon and David remind us “…whatever yoga practice you undertake, make it Karma Yoga by devoting the fruits of your practice to God, as Patanjali suggests in the Yoga Sutras: Ishvara-pranidhanad-va.”
With this sutra in mind we can transform any work into karma yoga by developing the attitude that the work is done for the peace and harmony of all. Examples of karma yoga are doing volunteer work for a worthy cause, helping a family member or friend by encouraging the person’s spiritual growth, and providing food, clothing, shelter, medicine or education to those in need. You may very well be practicing karma yoga already, without even knowing it!
~ Shiya Mangel