There is one concept above all that keeps coming to my mind over and over since I started scratching the surface of yoga philosophy a couple of years ago: Karma Yoga.
These past days I beautifully lost myself again in this topic, diving deeper into its definition and application.
It all starts in the Bhagavad Gita.
For those who are not familiar with it, the Bhagavad Gita (500 BCE) is undoubtedly one of the most important books in Hindu international literature and philosophy, and it describes a metaphorical spiritual battle through a story of the war between two rival families, the Pandavas and the Kauravas.
Arjuna, the leader of the Pandavas, doesn’t want to fight because his opponents are his own friends and relatives, and the Bhagavad Gita relates the conversation between him and Krishna (the avatar of the god Vishnu).
If you want to deepen your knowledge, its teachings are beautifully explained in “Paths to God – Living The Bhagavad Gita”, an incredible book written by Ram Dass that you should really read once in your life if you haven’t already.
Within the message of the Gita, we find the way of Action.
“He who withdraws himself from actions but ponders on their pleasures in his heart, he is under a delusion”
In other words, trying not to act when your desires are still strong will lead you under a delusion. Food for thoughts….
Another message is that “you must accomplish your Dharma”. Arjuna is a warrior, and to fight is his duty (Dharma).
The 3 paths to follow to accomplish it are:
- Jnana Yoga: The way of knowledge
- Bhakti Yoga: The way of devotion
- Karma Yoga: The way of action
Applying Karma Yoga in our daily life means shifting perspective on our actions, taking every action as an opportunity unattached to the outcome. Karma Yoga is the yoga of lucid action, an attitude towards life that is characterized by the spirit of service, dedication, and non-attachment. On this path, daily actions become the means to achieve calm, harmony, well-being, a state of grace, and connection. It teaches us to act without engaging in action or obsessing over results.
To practice it, it is important to work on stability, impartiality, the ability to remain firm, stable in our center despite the ups and downs of life. This is how we learn to control our visceral reactions (anger, hatred, jealousy, desire for revenge), not to act from them, thus generating more discomfort, to become our own observers, and stop being enslaved by the ego. Instead, we begin to give our best, to give ourselves completely in every action. We open our hearts and begin to flow with life.
- Forget the past and the future. When you are asked to give your best, it is about doing it in the only instant that exists: NOW.
- Remember that every job and circumstance is an opportunity to move forward, to learn something.
- Think that the action does not imply agitation and constant movement. We can act from rest.
- Cultivate detachment and serenity. Without being carried away by flattery or insults, by vanity or pride.
- Do what you can. Whatever you do, try to do it the best you know. If you can think of a better way, apply it.
- Act out of a genuine desire for goodness and excellence. Get involved in the action, but detach yourself from the results.
“Thinking of objects, attachment to them is formed in a man. From attachment longing, and from longing anger grows. From anger comes delusion, and from delusion loss of memory. From loss of memory comes the ruin of understanding, and from the ruin of understanding he perishes”
– Bhagavad Gita 2:62-63