Karma Yoga: Is unity through work and particularly through the act of selfless service. Along with Jnana Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, and Raja Yoga; Karma Yoga is often considered to be one of the four most advanced forms of Yoga. To take selfless action, without expectations, or seeking a reward, is one of the keys to Karma Yoga and also enlightenment.
When I think of Karma Yogis, the first that would come to mind is Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, also known as Mahatma Gandhi. His model of peaceful resistance for civil rights has been successfully copied since, but most importantly, his actions were for the highest moral reasons. He did not seek fame, but fame did come to him. His selfless acts did cost him his health and, unfortunately, his own life. India and the world will always miss his rare wisdom.
You do not have to be enlightened, or give up your life, to follow the path of Karma Yoga, but if you can let go of attachment to the outcome of your action; you are on the path. This one task is most difficult and requires acts of loving kindness to friends, strangers, and those who do not wish you well.
Karma Yoga also requires mindfulness and forgiveness. Why should you give so much of yourself? Surprisingly, the Karma Yogi does receive a priceless reward, but most people do not come to this realization. By giving, forgiving, showing kindness, being mindful, and letting go of attachment, the Karma Yogi experiences freedom. This is freedom from hate, guilt, fear, and greed.
Think of “The Middle Way” as taught by Siddhartha Gautama, also known as “The Buddha.” He taught avoidance of extremes; whether it is pleasure or pain. When you stop hating, you are releasing your own pain from within the depths of your soul. So, you are forgiving, but you are also releasing the burden of hate.
Remember also that when you give in to hate, greed, fear, and guilt; the consequences of your actions will eventually be realized. Therefore, the path of Karma Yoga should be a part of each of our lives. Give to those in need and do not expect a reward. Your reward is that you are in a position to give.
The highest form of Karma Yoga is selfless service to God. It does not matter what name you choose call God, the principle is the same. Selfless service is taking the action to help others. If you can learn to love others, you will learn to love yourself, and establish an even deeper love for God.
© Copyright 2006 – Paul Jerard / Aura Publications
Paul Jerard is director of Yoga teacher training at Aura in RI. He’s a master instructor of martial arts and Yoga. He teaches that along with fitness. He wrote: Is Running a Yoga Business Right for You? For Yoga students who want to be a teacher.