What is karma yoga? This article shows you how karma yoga helps you to make better decisions in life and at the same time clears up many misunderstandings around this central aspect of yoga.
Karma yoga is the yoga path that brings your mind to rest through self-determined decisions. The main thing is to cultivate your decision-making power in such a way that you can go through life with confidence in harmony with yourself.
The “karma account” – an old myth
There are many misunderstandings about karma. A widespread myth is the “karma account” on which you collect plus and minus points. It stubbornly persists in the mind, but has little to do with karma yoga.
In contrast, Karma Yoga is based on two pillars:
- Conscious decisions: that is, clarity about the motive of your action
- Decisions that are independent of results: i.e. self-loyalty as the goal of your action
Using these two pillars, this article shows you how you can navigate your way through complex and demanding decision-making moments. In addition, at the end you will receive a practical guide with tips on how to implement karma yoga in everyday life. So let’s start:
First pillar of karma yoga
The point here is to make conscious decisions. And you always make a conscious decision when you are clear about the underlying motive.
Basically, with every action you take, you make a decision. Karma Yoga shows you unconscious thought patterns that can slow down your decision-making ability and thus your energy. Where decisions are easy for you, you usually have no problem with them. Even the large selection in the supermarket or at “Tinder” seldom robs you of sleep. It only gets tricky when you might as well toss a coin out of sheer ambiguity at the important decisions of your life.
Ambiguity arises where you have failed to clearly define your own values and goals. Questions that can help you at this point are, for example: What do you stand for? What is important to you? What must you have achieved to be able to die peacefully one day?
The four purposes of an action
Your goals always have something to do with the following four direct and indirect intentions for action:
- Security (material, social, physical)
- Recognition (to be loved and valued)
- Well-being (feeling good, pleasant)
- Inner liberation (peace, calm, serenity)
If we think further here, it will be even easier. Because the pursuit of security and recognition are, so to speak, indirect goals. Secretly you wish yourself well-being and liberation through this. That means:
The goal of every action is to feel good and free.
What sets us apart is the way we get there.
So even actions that, viewed from the outside, are not for your own benefit can still make you feel good. Think of charitable acts, i.e. acts that help other people. It feels better for you to offer your (supposedly selfless) help to others than not to help.
It is important to understand “the pursuit of a good feeling” as your motive for action and your basic pattern of thinking. Once you have recognized what drives you, you can better control your actions.
The pursuit of recognition as a brake on decision-making
“What matters is not what you call yourself, but whether you escape your self-will (ego).
Free of the ego, you tear yourself away from karma. ”
(Bhagavad Gita: Chapter 5, Verse 3)
Unfortunately, in the unconscious state, much of your actions are centered on recognition. To flatter your ego, you try to achieve success and avoid failure. A superficial statement of the Upanishads reads:
In his decisions, people are mostly determined by others and compulsively bound to the things of the world. Your decisions are largely determined by others through parents, school and training. If you only experience love when you meet the expectations of others, there is a risk that you will lose yourself because of yourself to feel loved. Then you have to compensate for the lack of self-love with supposedly good deeds. At that moment you move away from the good feeling towards the hamster wheel.
“(…) For the confused thinking, dragged in a thousand directions, the possibilities of decision that plague it find no end, and they exhaust the spiritual strength of the person concerned. People with unsteady minds inevitably fail in the end;
those with unshakable minds achieve great success ”
(Bhagavad Gita: Chapter 2, verse 41)
In summary, you make conscious decisions when:
- You have clearly defined your values and goals
- You make yourself aware that you are doing every action to feel good
- Identify and let go of ego intentions such as recognition
Second pillar of karma yoga
This is about results-independent decisions, i.e. actions that only pursue the goal of remaining true to yourself.
As the second pillar of Karma Yoga, the Bhagavad Gita teaches not to have expectations of one’s own actions. This is often difficult to imagine in everyday life. It can quickly lead to disappointment if you have the feeling that your investments in partners, children, relatives and friends are not paying off.
When a person’s actions are not based on a desire for personal reward, the person concerned can more effortlessly calm his thinking and focus
it on (…) the true inner self.
(Bhagavad Gita: Chapter 2, Verse 41)
Beware of expectations and greed
Conscious choices never lead to suffering. You can only experience well-being and peace if you make yourself independent of the success of your actions. You can of course continue to aim for a specific goal, but more important is the way you move towards it than actually achieving the goal.
It’s a bit like hitchhiking. Of course, you have a clear goal in mind. But whether you get there today or tomorrow, in a Mercedes or in an old duck, directly or indirectly, that is not in the hands of the hitchhiker. Those who accept this “law of the road” when hitchhiking are rewarded with a feeling of freedom. If, on the other hand, you expect to be there at a certain time, you will stand on the side of the road cursing and never understand what is supposed to be so great about hitchhiking.
When you do yoga, there is certainly one or the other expectation. To be fit, healthy, slim or less stressed, for example. This is good for your drive in life, otherwise you probably wouldn’t even want to get up in the morning. The art is to separate desire from greed. Letting go of greed and the associated lack of expectation is what makes you calmer and makes you feel good.
“Desire for the fruits of one’s own actions causes concern about possible failure” (Bhagavad Gita: Chapter 2, verse 47)
Your intention is all that you can control. According to the yoga philosophy, you cannot control whether your goal is fulfilled and what your action actually effects on the outside. As soon as your intention matches your values and goals (see 1.) you are true to yourself and thus connected to yourself. No matter where your action leads, you can rest in yourself in this way and achieve a state in which you will no longer regret a decision.
Well-being and peace arise in plain language as follows:
- Dreams are important to you and they give you a sense of purpose in life.
- You are not attached to the fulfillment of your wishes.
- You trust that your actions can only have positive effects through your integrity.
Live karma yoga in everyday life
Finally, here are my 6 tips for you the next time a decision challenges you:
- Find Your Intention
Be aware of which of the four main areas of intentional action is involved. Security, recognition, well-being or inner peace? Find out how much self-centeredness there is in your choice and how you can reduce it.
- Don’t lose
your gut feeling What was your first impulse before the stream of thoughts came along? What is essential can only be revealed by your feelings. The mind only contributes experiences. You need both for good decisions. Recognize what your job is now in this situation, instead of losing yourself in the sidelines.
- What’s next?
Imagine what happens after your decision.
What positive / negative consequences of your action do you expect? How would you act without these thoughts? With which decision would you be true to yourself?
- Take responsibility
… and stand by your decisions. Setting your own standards and living with all the consequences (including “negative” ones) usually feels better than the frustration of following the routine of others.
- Laugh the resistance in the face
If other people are affected by your decisions, you will always encounter resistance somewhere. Make yourself aware of this before you encounter resistance. That makes you cooler with them.
6. Let go of the
decision. Only regret a decision if you have been unfaithful to yourself. If you act according to your values, it feels good. Only those who have not been honest with themselves in exploring their own intentions can regret a decision they have made.
Karma Yoga is like archery.
You aim at your target, but when the arrow flies, let go of it too.
So create your dreams and try to make them come true. But remember at the same time: If we always got to the planned destination, the dreams would lose their magic. Does it all sound a little too romantic? So far, it’s all just theory. Unfortunately, nobody can do the first step for you. You can feel whether you have consciously integrated the path of karma yoga into life when your decisions from the past haunt you in the present only in the form of a pleasant feeling.
Article reference- Yogamehome