Often we tend to make Spirituality into an esoteric, mystical practice that is far removed from the mundane, everyday work that we do. Whilst Spirituality is definitely beyond everyday experience; there is one way in which we can turn every single action of ours – every mundane work of ours into a Meditation. That path is called Karma Yoga. This is very important for every Sadhaka (spiritual aspirant) to incorporate into their life.
We often hear people saying that they practice Yoga & Meditation in the mornings and then spend the rest of their day doing their daily chores. How can we hope to obtain our complete flowering or ‘buddha-hood’ if we are only devoting 1 hour a day to our growth whilst the other 23 hours we are involved in other pursuits? All the great Masters and traditions of the world speak of devoting one’s whole life to self-discovery. Which brings us to the question…..
Mother Teresa – one of the great Karma Yogis of our times
Renunciation or Living in Society?
Renunciation works only for the select few who have already become quite relaxed within society and have managed to deal with their major complexes. They can benefit from practicing as a hermit. However, the vast majority of people who think about renunciation are unfit for it; simply because they are using it as an escape from their complexes of various relationships. You can run away to the Himalayas; but you will carry all your stresses with you! I once traveled in the Himalayas with a few Sadhus (monks). The first one I met was an escapee. He was full of bitterness and recounted leaving home as if it were yesterday (he had been wandering the mountains for 12 years!). Whereas, the second Sadhu I traveled with was absolutely peaceful and a delight in himself. Obviously, renunciation does not work for anyone who is still struggling to harmonize their life in society.
Can we practice Yoga whilst writing Excel sheets?!
The answer is Yes! YOGA, mind you, does not refer to only the practice of Asanas. Here, Yoga refers to a journey as well as the destination – of realizing one’s Self. So let us examine Karma Yoga in more detail.
The classic text on Karma Yoga is the Bhagwad Gita (contained within the Indian epic poem ‘Mahabharata’). Here, Sri Krishna explains to his devotee Arjuna many aspects of Yoga; including Karma Yoga. What he says is a beautiful way to live one’s life. He says that ‘when a person does an action without expecting the reward in return then he is free from the bondage of his actions.’
Gandhiji – Karma Yogi Stateman, Politician & Reformer
Every action that we perform is motivated by some reward in return. There is hardly anything we ever do without expecting some benefit in return. And all our short-lived joys when we succeed and frustrations when we fail are because of this! Mostly, this leaves us stressed and depressed. When we analyze it we see that it is not the work that stresses us (in fact, most of us actually enjoy and love the work that we do!) It is the associated stresses that come with the results of the work – whether we crack a deal or not, that really make us feel depleted in energy. It is these stresses that eventually drive a person to want to quit his/ her job! Ultimately, that person will leave this job and take on another one – but the result will be the same. Sooner or later, they will start to feel stressed about whether they will succeed or not.
The only true way of overcoming this is to stop worrying about the fruits of your labour and start focussing and enjoying every single task of yoru work! When you do not worry about the outcome fo things – you will not become a vegetable as many people assume – in fact, you will have tremendous energy to do each work effectively. Karma Yoga is defined as ‘Efficiency in Action’.
The Difference between Work and Play is just that in play we enjoy ourselves because we are not expecting anything in return whereas in work we expect each result and hence make etremely calculated moves – which leads to tremendous stress!!
So then Yogis, let each mundane work in the day be done with complete awareness; as a meditation in itself, and don’t stress yourself thinking only about how that action will benefit your. Each action will only be appropriate for every situation if you overcome your over-riding personal gratification – and rather do what is appropriate for that situation. Period.
Karma Yoga is in fact a way of life that suits each and everyone of us irrespective of nationality, religion, philosophy or anythign else. It is a path of selfless action, a path of meditation-in-the-marketplace, and a way of dedicating each work to a higher purpose in life! Go on, and ‘Just Do It’ without worrying about the fruits of your labour!