A brief guide to the basics of Karma Yoga or the Yoga of Action

Karma Yoga can be defined as the ‘Yoga of action’ or ‘Yoga of active action.’ It means action without attachment to one’s actions. Karma Yoga should not be confused with selfless service.

Karma Yoga or the path of rightful action is one in which a person strives to surrender all of their human activity to the sublime will. It begins with the renunciation of all egoistic purposes of their works, of all undertakings of action out of egoistic interest or for the sake of a worldly result.

As per Karma Yoga taught in the Srimad Bhagavad Gita; serenity, renunciation of all desire for the fruit of our action, and action offered as a sacrifice to the sublime Lord of our nature and of all nature; are the three basic approaches to the Supreme Bhagavan. It is one of the three recommended Margas of paths to attain Moksha or salvation.

Swami Vivekananda said, “When you have trained your mind and your nerves to realise this idea of the world’s non-dependence on you or on anybody, there will then be no reaction in the form of pain resulting from work.” – Karma Yoga: The Yoga of action

Below are some selected Shlokas from the Srimad Bhagavad Gita, that can help a seeker understand Karma Yoga better. PLEASE DO READ THEM CAREFULLY AND PATIENTLY!

SBG 2:37 Either you will be killed in the battle and you will enter heaven or, you will win this battle and enjoy the kingdom on earth. Therefore arise and fight with resolution.

SBG 2:47 You have the right only to work but never to claim its results. The results of your actions should never be your motive but at the same time, let this not make you attached to inaction.

SBG 2:48 You have to be established in Yoga, O Arjuna. You have to do your duty without any attachment to its success or to its failure. This kind of equanimity is known as Yoga.

SBG 3.19 Therefore, always perform your duty or work unattached because the one performing work without attachment will certainly attain the Supreme.

SBG 3:20 Even Janaka and other kings attained perfection through action. You should perform action with the view of being of benefit to the people of the world.

SBG 3:30 Renounce all your works completely in me, with your mind with full knowledge of the Self and without expecting any benefits. Be clear of arrogance and laziness and fight.

SBG 4:15 Ancient people who sought liberation, performed actions based on this truth. Hence, you too should perform your duty in Supreme Consciousness.

SBG 5:02 Bhagavan Shri Krishna said: Renunciation and the Yoga of performing selfless action both lead to liberation. However, among the two, the Yoga of performing selfless action is superior to the Yoga of renunciation of action.

SBG 5:07 A person who is devoted to the path of selfless action, has a pure mind and a purified soul, has his body and senses under control, is compassionate to all living beings and sees his Self in them, although engaged in work, is never in bondage.

SBG 5:10 One, who dedicates all his actions to the Supreme Bhagavan and gives up all attachment to his works, is untouched by sin, just as a lotus leaf is by water.

SBG 5:19 Even here in this life, those who have their minds situated in equality and in equanimity, have conquered dualities, are flawless and are situated in the Ultimate truth.

SBG 5:25 Those whose sins have been destroyed, whose minds are clear of doubts, and are always engaged in working for the welfare of all living beings, achieve liberation and absorption in the Supreme Bhagavan or Brahman.

SBG 6:01 He who performs his obligatory duty unattached to the fruit of his work, is a Sannyasi and Yogi following the way to attain Ultimate Consciousness. He is not just someone who has merely renounced action.

SBG 6:07 The one who has conquered the mind has already reached Superconsciousness. Such a person has crossed all dualities such as cold and heat; pleasure and pain; honour and dishonour; and is always balanced, peaceful and steadfast in devotion.

SBG 8:07 Therefore, think of me at all times and do your duty of fighting the battle. With your mind and intellect offered to Me, you will certainly attain Me.

SBG 9:27 Whatever you do, whatever you eat, whatever you offer in sacrifice, whatever you give, whatever you practise as austerity, O Arjuna, do it for Me and as an offering unto Me.

SBG 11:55 The one who is engaged in doing My work and considers Me The Supreme Goal; is free from contamination of the mind with previous activities and doubts; is free from attachment; has no enmity towards any creature, and is friendly with every living entity; certainly comes to me O Arjuna.

SBG 17:11 The sacrifice which is offered by people as taught in the Scriptures, without expecting any reward but with the faith to do it as a duty, is considered to be Sattvic or pure.

SBG 18:09 O Arjuna, an action that is done as a duty, giving up all attachment to the fruit of the action or desire for reward, is considered Sattvic.

SBG 18:66 Giving up all your ideas of righteousness or religion, take complete refuge in Me. I will liberate you from all sinful reactions. Do not fear.

There are countless Karma Yogis in the world who do their duty with utmost sincerity and dedication. However, the most popular and beloved one among them happens to be Shri Narendra Damodardas Modiji. He is truly who one of the greatest Karma Yogis, whose contemporary I am fortunate to be.

Jai Shri Krishna

Coming soon:
Audiobook – The Srimad Bhagavad Gita in English, presented by Tavamithram

THE KARMA YOGI LEADER SHRI NARENDRA DAMODARDAS MODIJI 

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5 thoughts on “A brief guide to the basics of Karma Yoga or the Yoga of Action

  1. May this Krishna Janmashtami fill your life with an abundance of all righteous things that you wish for.

    त्वमक्षरं परमं वेदितव्यं त्वमस्य विश्वस्य परं निधानम् |
    त्वमव्ययः शाश्वतधर्मगोप्ता सनातनस्त्वं पुरुषो मतो मे || ११ १८ ||
    SBG 11:18 You are inexhaustible and the Supreme Being to be known. You are the Imperishable Protector of the Sanaatana Dharma (eternal way of righteous living). This my belief.

    यत्र योगेश्वरः कृष्णो यत्र पार्थो धनुर्धरः |
    तत्र श्रीर्विजयो भूतिर्ध्रुवा नीतिर्मतिर्मम || १८ ७८ ||
    SBG 18:78 Wherever there is Krishna, the Master of Yoga; and wherever there is Arjuna, the supreme archer; you will find there prosperity, happiness, victory and righteousness. Of this fact, I am certain.

    Jai Shri Krishna

    READ THE SRIMAD BHAGAVAD GITA

    Like

  2. Namaste dear Sir,

    I am grateful for this superb article and the QA session following it. Just now I read it to Ram and my mother in law. It is a very neat explanation sir. We will listen to the speech of Swami Vivekannand in two or three days.

    Affectionate regards

    Jai Shree Krishna
    Vedhika with Ram and Ma

    Like

  3. Dear Sir,

    Thank you for your detailed explanations. Most of the problem that we face today in the workplaces stems from the fact that „I am the doer and my company is dependent on me“. If for some reason, the ego gets affected then the conflict starts.

    The next step would be on how to tame the mind to becoming a true karma yogi! I am giving below few thoughts on the same. Kindly correct the same.

    Sattvic food – Eating sattvic food balances trigunas and enhances saattvic guna in us.

    Meditation – Regular practice of meditation would certainly contain the wandering mind and bring it under control.

    Healthier Body – Nothing great can be achieved if our body is not kept fit and healthier.

    Positive Mindset – This is something that have been discussed several times in our discussion group. Nothing better can be achieved in life if we do not have a positive mindset.

    Thank you Sir! I will read Swami Vivekananada’s speech at Chicago.

    Jai Shri Krishna!

    Sundar

    Like

  4. Dear Sir,

    Thank you for posting such an excellent article!

    Swami Vivekananda said, “When you have trained your mind and your nerves to realise this idea of the world’s non-dependence on you or on anybody, there will then be no reaction in the form of pain resulting from work.” – Karma Yoga: The Yoga of action

    I am not able to get the exact message conveyed in the above sentence. Could you please kindly elaborate on the above as I am not able to get the essence of what Swami Vivekananda said on this subject?

    Kindly enlighten me on the above.

    Thank you Sir,

    Jai Shri Krishna!

    Sundar

    Like

    • Hello Sundarji.

      I hope you have read or heard the famous speeches given by Swami Vivekananda, the firebrand monk from India, in Chicago in September 1893.

      Swamiji used logical arguments and lucidly explained the great principles of the Sanatana Dharma. He talked about the ‘God concept’ and the idea of universal oneness. Please do listen to the talk, follow it using the text given on the page and take a look at the relevant Shlokas from the SBG that I have used in order to support what Swamiji said. I would say that it is a must for everyone following the Sanatana Dharma and for those who wish to learn about the greatest way of life. Here is the link https://tavamithramsarvada.wordpress.com/swami-vivekananda/

      Now coming back to your question. Swami Vivekananda meant to say that a person who has realised that they are not separate from nature, are not indispensable and have literally trained their mind and every nerve in their body that they are also not the doer but a mere instrument in the Hands of the divine; their ego vanishes completely and they are not affected or bound by the reactions of their actions. It is usually the ego in people which makes them believe that they are ‘doers’. Many people who are deluded due to a clouded mind, believe that the world around them is dependent on them and their actions. Their ego distances them from self-realisation and from the righteous path causing serious hurdles in the process of their Karmic evolution.

      Please find below a few relevant Shlokas from the SBG:

      SBG 3:27 All actions are done by the three kinds of material nature called ‘Gunas’, but he, whose mind is deluded by false ego and arrogance, thinks “I am the doer”.

      SBG 4:41 He who has renounced the fruit of actions by Yoga, whose doubts have been destroyed by knowledge and who is situated in the Self, O Dhananjaya (Arjuna), is not bound by actions.

      SBG 5:08 A person of selfless action thinks, “I am not doing anything at all”, even while seeing, hearing, touching, smelling, eating, going, dreaming, breathing,

      SBG 5:09 talking, giving up, accepting, while opening and closing the eyelids; knowing that they are the senses that are interacting with sense objects.

      SBG 5:10 One, who dedicates all his actions to the Supreme Bhagavan and gives up all attachment to his works, is untouched by sin, just as a lotus leaf is by water.

      SBG 9:27 Whatever you do, whatever you eat, whatever you offer in sacrifice, whatever you give, whatever you practise as austerity, O Arjuna, do it for Me and as an offering unto Me.

      9:28 By doing so, you will be freed from the bonds of action that result in good and in bad. By being free and with your mind guided by the principle of the Yoga of renunciation, you will attain Me.

      SBG 11:33 Therefore, get up and attain glory. Conquer your enemies and enjoy a prosperous kingdom. All these warriors have already been destroyed by Me. You are merely an instrument, O Arjuna the ambidextrous one.

      Also read SBG 16:10-16:24

      To summarise what is said above: Attachment stems from ego, which gives a person a false sense of ownership and doership, and that invariably ends in pain and suffering.

      Jai Shri Krishna

      Liked by 1 person

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