Karma Yoga Demystified

Carved wheel

The Bhagavad Gita, amongst other things talks about Karma Yoga, the path of consecrated action.  I never liked the word ‘consecrated’ – just a personal prejudice, I guess. I used it here just to tell you that I don’t like it! I love the word ‘sacred’ though.  It has a beauty and depth, perhaps because of the symbolism associated with it.  Anyway, getting back to the action, how do you make your actions sacred? The answer seems so obvious and yet it took me a lifetime to get it.

How do you treat something that you consider sacred?  What would your attitude be?  Would you give it attitude?  Nah!  You give it respect.  You give it your attention and you give it it’s due.  So why did I not get it in the first place?

karmanyevadhikaraste ma phalesu kadachana…

B. Gita, Chapter 2, sloka 47

Invariably, the translations I came across all said that you should perform your work without expecting anything in return or you do your work but you have no right to the result.  I somehow could not relate to these translations and interpretations.  A slightly attractive version was that you should not be attached to the results of the action, and therefore perform your work with detachment.  This too I could not implement.  Detachment is dry business, unless you know what it’s all about.  If I work, I certainly have a goal in mind.  If you tell me I have no right to the result of my action, I wouldn’t even be motivated to do most of the stuff I do.

So how do you reconcile this?  The answer could be simple. You shift the focus from the result to the action.  If you focus on the result, your attention will be divided and you will self-sabotage.  Take a simple example: if your child has to take a test, what would you tell him or her?  Please focus on the result and the test will take care of itself? Not at all! What you would suggest is, give all your attention to the test, and the result will take care of itself.  Extending this example, when you prepare for a test, you will not focus on the test itself, but the preparation, the study, the practice or whatever. So, every action is like a test.  If we focus on the action, the result will take care of itself.  Too simple?  Maybe, but works for me! And I owe this understanding to my teacher.


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