View Full Version : Definitions: Karma

15 April 2007, 07:47 AM

Karma stems from the Sanskrit word "Kri" ("to do") and Karma Yoga refers to the "yoga of action". The Bhagavad Gita is the scriptural basis for Karma Yoga.

Devotees of this branch of yoga focus on unselfish action with no thought of reward or gain. Neither is there a focus on the outcome of the action. The goal is to attain liberation by transcending the self through action/work/duty devoid of self and executed simply for the delight of the Divine. Now how is this accomplished?

Understanding Karma or action, and Yoga or union ( Karma Yoga) is skill in acting within this creation as a human. We can look to the Bhagavad gita, Chapter 2 sloka 45 and 48 on Samkaya Yoga for its foundation. Krsna instructs Arjuna in the following:
Traiguna visaya veda
Nistraigunyo bhavarjuna
Nirdvandvo nitya sattva stho
Niryoga-kesema atmavan
The Vedas concern is with the 3 gunas (traiguna)
Be without the 3 gunas Arjuna (nistarigunyo)
Free from duality ( some say this is free from the pains of opposites) ever remaining (firm) in sattva (~purity)
independent of possessions, possessed of the SELF( atmavan)

Krsna clearly instructs Arjuna to be without the 3 gunas. Since the gunas are responsible for the relative field of action/creation both gross and subtle. This 'being without the 3 gunas' is not a mood or contrived behavior on the level of thinking, but a state of Being. That is, being established in atman, the SELF, one without a second, beyond the relative field of action. Some call this turiya, some call this avyakta (some write avakyartha - from a = not and vak =spoken) or the unmanifest, pure awareness, pure consciousness...established in the SELF-eternal our true existence.

Once in this level of Being, he then instructs Arjuna to the following, which is the core teaching of Karma Yoga:
Yogasthah kuru karmani
Sangam tyaktva dhananjaya
Siddhy-assiddhyoh samo bhutva
Samatvam yoga ucyate
Established in yoga (or steadfast in yoga, yoga-sthah) perform actions (karmani)
Abandoned attachment Dhananjaya ( Arjuna)
Becoming balanced (samha or the same) in success (siddhi) and failure (asiddhhyoh)
Samatvam (balance or evenness) of mind is called yoga

This even-ness, balance, is yoga, predicated upon nistraigunyo - being without the 3 gunas. Krsna's instructions are no less wise but brilliant in how He conveys this knowledge to Arjuna. How so? The abandoned attachment does not come from the possessionless property, but by being established in the SELF where property does not exist or have a hold on the native.

This is why it is the yoga of action, a skill, because in this state the the 3 gunas do not form additional karma's ( and vasana's) as one is acting outside of this conditioned state, hence skill in action. Acting without the binding impressions. This is not only the brilliance of Keshava's ( Krsna) teaching , it is also the teaching of Patanjali-muni found in his Patanjala Yogadarsana
(Yoga Sutras).

Krsna assists Arjuna throughout Chapter 2, to comprehend this knowledge, he lets end with Verse 50, Krsna says He whose intellect is united or yoked (with the Self or atman) casts off both good and evil even here.
Therefore devote yourself ( or be so engaged) to yoga. Yoga is skill in action ( yogah karmasu kausalam - some say yoga in all actions is art).

For the native that is just starting out (aruruksoh) s/he may think that restraining the organs of action ( karma-indriyani or the 5 senses) is the path of karma yoga. Or the non-performance of acting will lead one to naiskarmyam, or freedom from actions, as if established in the Non-acting SELF. This only causes more stress and dulls the intellect in pursuing this approach. Krsna in Chapter 3 ( Karma Yoga) assists the aspirant on the proper way to address this knowledge and understanding. It is still is advisable to have a knowledgeable teacher ( the most attractive is a brhamavit, one established in Brahman) to help guide ones practice.

http://www.bhagavad-gita.org/Gita/chapter-02.html (http://www.bhagavad-gita.org/Gita/chapter-02.html)
Bhagavad Gita Chapters 1 to 6 - Maharishi Mahesh Yogi
Bhagavad Gita As It Is - Swami Prabhupada
Bhavartha Dipka - Sri Jnanadeva , translated by Ramachandra Keshav Bhaagwat