Articles

KarmaYoga

Author: Stephanie Latreille

Stephanie Latreille

No doubt you have heard the expression “what goes around comes around”. You may associate this with the concept of karma, however, it is not quite as straight forward as this. The word karma in its most basic sense can be translated to ‘action’. Therefore, karma yoga translates to ‘union through action’. Karma yoga draws the path to unity to all through selfless service.

Each day we go about our daily routines, activities, jobs and responsibilities; occupying our minds with things that need doing and activities we enjoy. For most, there are many things packed into each and every day, but if you ask them which selfless acts they have performed, most people have a hard time answering.

If you ask someone ‘what makes a good person?’, most will answer with a list of qualities and something along the lines of helping others, or actions that are selfless. So if we know what makes a good person, and assuming most individuals would like to consider themselves good people, why aren’t we taking action? Why aren’t we extending our help to others with no expectations of reward or recognition? Each and every person knows what is right, but why aren’t we doing it? I am not sure that there is one simple answer to this question, but there is a solution… karma yoga.

Actions with no speculations, expectations of rewards or even expectations of praise or recognition is karma yoga. Acting in accordance with our duty, without consideration of personal self-centered desires is karma yoga. Actions without attachment is karma yoga.

We’ve all done good deeds for one reason or another and I am willing to bet at one time or another we have felt genuinely good about doing something even without receiving anything in return. But for whatever reason most of us don’t continue to perform these actions daily or even weekly or monthly.

One reason I can offer is we are blocked. We have been programmed to expect something in return for our work. Most of us have learnt since we were children that we will be rewarded for hard work or good deeds whether this be in the form of a grade, praise, or treat. It is psychologically programmed in us to assess a situation and weigh the cost and benefits. If we see no personal gain from taking the initiative, then much of the time we put it out of our minds and continue on with our day.

If we want to see a change in this behavior, then we need to learn to take action without the influence of any external factors. For some, this is more difficult than any asana. To act in a way which serves humanity without any other motivation is a hard task to accomplish. It cannot be done overnight. This requires a huge transformation from within where we will need to rid ourselves of our past beliefs and habits and step by step recreate ourselves through our actions and intentions. Once we have been liberated from our past programming, we can act in a way that unites us with all those around us and eventually with all else.

The ‘types of yoga’ book uses the analogy of the sun performing its duty every moment without expectations of compensation and continues its action.

The actions we can take do not need to be grand and instantly life changing, but little by little they will make a difference and ultimately change lives. Not doing harm is not karma yoga. Inaction is not karma yoga. Believing that not contributing to a bad situation is enough is misleading. We can’t stand by and wait for the next person to take action, we need to extend a part of ourselves. Furthermore, an action taken by one person can be considered karma yoga while the same action taken by another is not. It is not the action itself that needs to be stressed, but the intention. We need to carefully examine and understand the relationship between action and intention.

An action taken because we feel too guilty to say ‘no’ or because yes feel obliged or expect a favor in return, is not the same as a selfless act. A true selfless act has no hidden motives or agendas. What you will gain from them is far more valuable than any reward you could have anticipated. 

Karma yoga was a small part of what we learned or did here, but the results of these acts are huge. Perhaps, even without being recognized or acknowledged those actions were well appreciated. 

Imagine you lived in a world where anyone passing by would stop to allow you to take their place in a long line if they knew you were in a hurry, or lend you a dollar or even five if you were short in the checkout line, put away something that was left out by mistake, take in someone’s laundry if it started to rain, even simpler, smiled when you walked past them, offered kind words when they saw you could use them, took the time to really look at what is going on around them and took the initiative to mend the things that need mending. Be the change you want to see in the world and the world will be yours.

“The views above are solely those of the author. Yogapoint.com may or may not agree with all statements.”

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