Tag Archives: Karma Yoga

Karma Yoga: The path of Action

कर्मण्येवाधिकारस्ते मा फलेषु कदाचन। 
मा कर्मफलहेतुर्भूर्मा ते सङ्गोऽस्त्वकर्मणि॥

కర్మణ్యే వాధికారస్తే మా ఫలేషు కదాచన!
మా కర్మ ఫలహేతుర్భూహ్ మా తే సంగోస్త్వ కర్మణీ!!

Karmanye vadhikaraste Ma Phaleshu Kadachana!
Ma Karmaphalaheturbhurma Te Sangostvakarmani!!

Lord Krishna espouses in Gita that we should do our work without thinking about the results i.e. without having any expectations on the fruits. And He preaches that results should never be a motivation for us to do our work. That raises two questions. Firstly is it possible at all for people to perform actions (karmas) without any expectation about the results? And secondly, why shouldn’t we think about the results? What should be our motivation to do work, if not the results? We will delve into the issue and find out the answers.

First, is it possible at all for people to work without any expectation about the results? In our modern society we almost always think about the results first (either consciously or subconsciously) and then only we plan our work or do the work. For example, we want to pass exams (result) and so we study (action), we want to have better jobs and so we strive for higher degrees, we want to get relief from illness and so we take medicines, we want our mouth to be fresh and so we brush, we want to reach our destination fast and so we take a flight etc…thus we set our goals first or think of the results we want and then only decide the plan of action or karma. If we take away the result part, we almost always lose motivation to work. Moreover we become confused as to what to do.

But we do perform certain actions in our daily life without thinking about the results or the benefits that follow. For example, eating food. When we eat our food we don’t think of the results that follow later i.e. health, fitness, growth etc. Rather we eat food primarily to satisfy our hunger and as we satiate our hunger we experience pleasure.

Same is the case with having sex. People have sex because they derive pleasure out of that action. To have children is not the prime reason or motivation for lovemaking for any species. It is just that as a couple enjoys moments together, they get children as a bonus. If someone does sex for the sake of having children and not for the sexual pleasure, it is likely that they will not be able perform the action effectively and so the chances of them having children go down. So they not only miss the enjoyment now but also suffer in the future for not having children.

And that brings us to the most important life secret which forms the basis of the Karma Yoga. Never work for the results or the fruits, rather just enjoy the present karma. If you enjoy the present karma, you will perform that well, and fruits will automatically come to you. On the other hand, if you don’t enjoy your karma, you will not be able to perform the karma well and so your chances of getting the fruits become slim. And even if you get the fruits, you will not be able to really enjoy them because by the time those fruits materialize for you, you will have newer goals, targets and worries flooding your mind and you will continue to slog to realize those new expectations. Thus people who work for the results or those who work with goals in mind will always remain stressed. On the other hand, if people do the work not for the results but for the enjoyment in doing the work, not only do they live happily now but also live happily in the future. And that forms the basis of the Karma Yoga.

So if you live happily now, happy moments line up for you automatically. In other words, happiness brews happiness. And each pleasurable action leads to a more satisfying, happy and lasting outcome, and thus we ‘fall’ into a happiness cascade. For example, as we have sex and enjoys the moments, we get kids which again gives us happiness. And as we care for and enjoy the moments with our kids, they grow into happy and responsible citizens and which brings us more happiness. Instead, if we sacrifice those happy moments and engage ourselves in career, business etc, we will be surely deprived of happiness in the future also. That is, if we don’t acknowledge and enjoy the happy moments that are right in front of us, unhappy moments will surely wait for us in the future!!!

Similarly, as we enjoy our food and satiate our hunger, we get the energy to ‘play’ with Nature (cultivation, hunting…). And as we play with and enjoy the Nature, we get our livelihood. That is, we are again ready to eat and enjoy. And having played and satiated our hunger, we are ready for a refreshing sleep. And the happiness cycle repeats. Thus health, happiness and livelihood all come together for free in Nature as a package. It’s never that we need to do one thing for livelihood, another for entertainment and something else for health and fitness etc.

And there exist so many ‘plays’ in Nature from cultivation to cooking to rearing up children to pottery, weaving, crafting, singing, music, dance etc. One just needs to chose the game that one enjoys most or one plays most comfortably and take up that as one’s occupation.

For most of us, it is usually our family game or family occupation that we will be most comfortable to play with. More over, we can learn that for free from parents from an early age in our own home environment. And as we do our ‘apprenticeship’ under our parents, we remain supportive to them. In other words, for children to learn the livelihood game, they don’t have to sacrifice decades of valuable life in competitive foreign environments taking exams after exams nor do they need to ‘rob’ their parents’ hard earnings!

Of course if one doesn’t enjoy one’s family profession, one may choose a profession in which one has passion. One must ask oneself ‘what work do I really enjoy?’ or ‘what work am I really interested in?’. The activities we are really interested in are often put aside as ‘hobbies’ or ‘pastimes’ in our modern society and tend to get ignored in our busy life! When you make your hobby as your occupation, then the motivation to work comes from the work itself and not from the results that follow. So you will be able to perform the action well, and fruits will automatically follow and add to the joy that you have already been experiencing.

It is very important to distinguish whether your passion for a profession is because of the money and the fame that is associated with that profession or because you really enjoy that work. If you have a real passion for the work, you will do that for free with pleasure. If you enjoy painting, you will do it for free. And if you enjoy making pots, you will make them for free. If you really like medical profession and enjoy caring for patients, you will do that also for free. We wouldn’t charge for the activities that we do for our own happiness!

If your ‘passion’ towards a profession is because of the money and fame and not really because you enjoy the work, it is unlikely that you achieve your goals despite your hard work and sacrificing your entire life. On the other hand if you choose the profession in which you really have a passion, then you not only enjoy your life but also you will most likely earn name and fame even though you don’t think of them. So the best way to become famous and make money is again by choosing an occupation that you have a passion for and enjoy most! Of course once you start fully enjoying your profession; money and fame would become secondary to you and you would realize they only come in the way of your happiness.

And knowingly or unknowingly, if one gets steered into doing things that one doesn’t enjoy, it doesn’t mean that one has to continue with the same and suffer the remaining life also. It is never too late to take up the activity or occupation that one enjoys the most and start living happily.

Livelihood will never be a problem for people who work with passion and enjoy their profession, not even for the ‘low profile’ professions. And if you enjoy your work and get your livelihood out of your happy moments, you will be the richest person in the world as you will experience happiness 24/7. And each occupation is as joyful as any other as long as we play it just to earn our livelihood. But if we start overplaying our profession to earn more than what we really need and start accumulating for the future, that ceases to be a play and becomes painful and stressful, whether it is pottery, cultivation or medicine. Even eating and lovemaking become stressful and painful if one plays them to make money rather than for the enjoyment.

People who practice karma yoga will fulfill all their material desires to the fullest extent and reach a stage of contentment that they no longer desire to live. They enjoy their food, enjoy sexual life, enjoy their children and grand children, enjoy their work, enjoy with their neighbors etc etc. That is they enjoy every moment of their life to the fullest extent and they will reach a stage of total contentment. That is they feel enough of joy. Its just like the satisfaction that people experience when they satiate their hunger with a sumptuous meal. Having enjoyed all the material pleasures, they would happily leave this world for a ‘refreshing sleep’ and reach the highest stage in the happiness cascade i.e. Moksha. That is, people get liberated form the material world and bondages, achieve Union with the ParamAthma and experience the unlimited joy or Bliss.

So not only the destination is happiness but the path is also full of happiness. That is, one doesn’t need to follow some hard path or sacrifice one’s happiness to attain Moksha.

Apart from Karma Marg, there exist 3 other paths to attain Moksha and experience Bliss as per the Hindu Spiritual philosophy. They are, as we all know: Bhakti Marg (The path of Devotion), Jnana Marg (the path of Wisdom) and Raja Marg (the path of Psychic Realization/ Experience). And each of them is equally effective and enjoyable. Karma Marg and Bhakti Marg are like high ways and represent the most straightforward paths to Moksha, So they are suitable for most ordinary people. On the other hand, Jnana Marg and Raja Marg are like going through a difficult maze with lot of traps, temptations, confusing roundabouts and worm holes. Unless one is highly diligent and open minded, one is sure to get lost in the maze and succumb to false wisdom and weird experiences. Having said that it is upon the foundations of the latter two that the farmer two stand. I will be talking in detail about all those in my upcoming book “ఆనంద శాస్త్రం” (the Science of Happiness).