In this article, we would discuss karma yoga as described by the greatest treatise of wisdom Bhagavad Gita
We would discuss the following things
What is Karma?
The Ethics behind the Karma
Effects of Karma
The consequence of an action
Story-based on Mahabharata
What is Karma?
karma is the activities or the actions which are bound to create a specific outcome. Karma is derived from the Sanskrit word which means (to do) and Yoga is to unite.
अधिष्ठानं तथा कर्ता करणं च पृथग्विधम् |
विविधाश्च पृथक्चेष्टा दैवं चैवात्र पञ्चमम् || ( Gita 18.14)
The body, the doer, the various senses, the many kinds of efforts( Wilful Action), and Divine Providence—these are the five factors of action.
A waterfall does an activity and so does a cell phone. Are they generating any Karma?
According to the definition provided by Bhagavad Gita; both waterfall and a cell phone are not generating any Karma. For any Karma to be generated. It needs Following Things
- The Body,
- The Doer,
- The wilful action,
- The Divine providence
Since to generate a Karma a body needs a wilful action. The same willful action is capable to generate an outcome; both good and bad.
A good action will liberate you and a bad action would lead you to bondage. Karma produces an outcome based on the activities done in the past or present.
Ethics behind the krama:
We know now that the karma produces an outcome. The effect is based on the cause. There are two components of Karma- physical and mental.
Any physical activity is capable of producing an outcome and so does a mental activity.
Any action based on physical and mental activity is capable of producing a specific outcome. That is the ethics behind the Karma as it does not play any role in determining our actions. The activities one performs are based on rationale, logic and one’s conscience. The outcome-based on an activity produces both physical and mental consequences.
There are ground principles laid which determine the outcome, Therefore we need to understand the principles.
The first and foremost principle of Karma is to do good and have good.
The second principle of Karma is based on motive. What was our motive behind choosing a particular activity?
The third Principle is based on a preamble that we cannot survive without serving others Hence we need to contribute.
Do you know that a simple plate of food we are eating is contributed by at least fifteen people from the farmer, distribution channel and us?
We owe so much to this society and hence we are bound to serve them to keep serving us. we can’t afford to remain actionless
When a bird is alive, it eats ants. When the bird is dead, ants eat the bird. One tree makes a million match sticks. Only one match stick needed to burn a million trees. Time and Circumstance can change at any moment. Do not devalue or hurt anyone in life. You may be powerful this time, but remember: Time is more powerful than you. So be good and get good. That is How the First principle of Karma leads an outcome to
The second principle is based on the motive. Any motive based on selfishness leads us to greater fall. Activity which defends, promotes or grandiose you the self, is a selfish action or an evil action.
We will discuss an example based on motive at the end of this topic when we understand the concept of how Karma gets back to us.
Effects of Karma
Physical effects: The Physical effect of Karma is external and the outcome is visible
It creates an imprint and hence a habit
It has a cosmic effect and the effect is subtle or late.
let’s cite an example
You are helping a student is the maths problem, as a result, the student passed.
Since the student passes because of you, It will provide you with great satisfaction. The effect of the Karma is quite physical and can be instantly seen. You can feel it. This effect of Karma is known as Physical effect or the external effect. This effect is visible.
Your intent in helping the student is based on the motive. You might have helped the student because you feel If you help him, It will come back to you at any given time when it is needed.
You might have helped the student because the teacher asked you to help him and hence there is an element of obedience. You might have helped the student because you felt that since you can ask the counter help or seek monetary or non-monetary benefits. Whatever may be the reason for your help, It will develop your habit and many such habits will form and reform you.
The Third one has distinct characteristics; your entire physical and mental state is based on the cosmic effect of your Karma.
Whatever you are experiencing right now physically or mentally is because of the activities or the actions which are performed in the past. They come back to you in a delayed form which you are not generally aware of them. Whatever actions or activities we do the God creates a tab on it and accumulates the effect of Karma as against your activities.
Your current physical and mental state is based on past activities which are saved in a sort of bank and you enjoy or suffer based on your saving. The Logic behind “Why Me” is the only being explained by this great Karmic Law.
For every action is there is an equal and opposite reaction.
Out current activities develop the Sanchit( accumulated Karma). The accumulated karma develops Your destiny ( Prarabdh). You experience current destiny because of past actions. God does not interfere in our choosing the actions. We have the free will to choose our actions, which eventually develops your destiny. Your Sanchit decides your prarabdh and not the God.
We did not choose our parents. We did not choose our colour: Did we?
It is our Sanchit Karma which has forced nature to let’s be born in a particular society, Particular Family or with a particular colour.
How to perform the Karma then to develop the desired destiny?
कर्मण्येवाधिकारस्ते मा फलेषु कदाचन |
मा कर्मफलहेतुर्भूर्मा ते सङ्गोऽस्त्वकर्मणि ( Gita 2.47)
You have a right to perform your prescribed duties, but you are not entitled to the fruits of your actions. Never consider yourself to be the cause of the results of your activities, nor be attached to inaction.
Krishna In Gita educates us to perform the duty with the right mindset, perform the duty with integrity, honesty without ever thinking the fruits of the action?
This Famous Verse of Gita is misinterpreted and misperceived by many scholars. why would a man do an action which does not produce the conducive results for which action was performed?
The answer is simple. If you are too dependent on the fruits of action, it will disturb your awareness and efforts. It will bring down the quality of your efforts which in turn will impact your accomplishment. Your success is also determined by your previous accumulated Karmas( Sanchit) and hence the effect of the new Karma would not be visible.
Citing an above does not mean that we need to stop doing Karma. Your current will cause both the external and cosmic effect. The cosmic effect might not be felt by you but it is always there and will come back you at any given time. So keep Trying Till you reach the Goal. The only thing you need to realise is the path, your efforts, analysis and the ability to correct the problem and bounce back and emerge a winner.
Don’t worry if you fail once. Edison failed 10,000 times before perfecting the incandescent electric light bulb. Don’t worry if you fail once. Arguably America’s greatest inventor, Thomas Edison had an extraordinarily positive perception of life that greatly enhanced his ability as an inventor and he said”
“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” That is the attitude which shows us the path. Remember the seeds you have sown today may not bear the fruit now, But you keep on nourishing it giving it water, one day it will become a big tree to nourish you back. That is how the law of Karma work.
What is needed here is to work with honesty and impeccable integrity to have the law of Karma to favour your Sanchit Karma for the desired Prarabdh. The Law of Karma sees the intent, your current physical and mental state and the path while deciding your future. Your mental Karma is more important than your physical Karma, Your intent and the disposition towards the job is the deciding factor. That is the message of the Gita sent to us.
कर्मेन्द्रियाणि संयम्य य आस्ते मनसा स्मरन् |
इन्द्रियार्थान्विमूढात्मा मिथ्याचार: स उच्यते ( Gita 3.6)
Those who restrain the external organs of action, while continuing to dwell on sense objects in the mind, certainly delude themselves and are to be called hypocrites.
Attracted by the lure of ascetic life, people often renounce their work, only to discover later that their renunciation is not accompanied by an equal amount of mental and intellectual withdrawal from the sensual fields. This creates a situation of hypocrisy where one displays an external show of religiosity while internally living a life of ignoble sentiments and base motives. Hence, it is better to face the struggles of the world as a , than to lead the life of a false ascetic. Running away from the problems of life by prematurely taking is not the way forward in the journey of the evolution of the soul. Saint Kabir stated sarcastically:
“O Ascetic Yogi, you have donned the ochre robes, but you have ignored dyeing your mind with the colour of renunciation. You have grown long locks of hair and smeared ash on your body (as a sign of detachment). But without the internal devotion, the external beard you have sprouted only makes you resemble a goat.” Shree Krishna states in this verse that people who externally renounce the objects of the senses while continuing to dwell upon them in the mind are hypocrites, and they delude themselves.
Consequences of action: As discussed above the particular action will lead us to an outcome. The action of an outcome might lead us to yet another action so on and so forth which will decide our future accordingly.
It is very important to consider all jobs equal and do not disregard the job based on the social status or the consideration by the general myopic vision of society.
There is a beautiful story mentioned in Vyad Gita which is part of epic Mahabharta and was told by Markandya to Yudishtra.
The story has only three characters—a brahmin sannyasi, a housewife and a vyadha (butcher). The story begins with a young sannyasi going to a forest, where he meditates and practices spiritual austerities for a long time. After years of practice, one day while sitting under a tree, dry leaves fall on his head because of a fight between a crow and a crane.
The angry sannyasi had developed yogic powers and burnt the birds with his mere look. This incident fills the sannyasin with arrogance.
Shortly thereafter, he goes to a house, begging for food. Here the housewife who was nursing her sick husband requests the sannyasi to wait. To this, the sannyasi thinks, “You wretched woman, how dare you make me wait! You do not know my power yet”, to which the housewife says that she is neither a crow nor a crane, to be burnt. The sannyasi is amazed and asks her how she came to know about the bird. The housewife says that she did not practice any austerities and by doing her duty with cheerfulness and wholeheartedness, she became illumined and thus could read his thoughts.
She redirects him to a –vyadha (meaning, the righteous butcher) in the town of Mithila and says that the dharma-vyadha would answer all his questions on dharma. The sannyasi goes to see the vyadha and overcoming his initial hesitation, listens to his teachings, which is referred to as Vyadha Gita—and even puts them into practice.
The Job of a Butcher considered by the social norms is very low. But the butcher knew his prabardh the outcome of this job associated with his previous Karma. He did not consider the Job as low. But regarded it supreme and did the job with utmost honesty, integrity and Urprightneousness. If you want to know the story of his past Karma then please subscribe so that I can send you the story which has to lead him to perform the job of a butcher in this life.
Take away from the Karmic Law
- Perform your duty with Honesty and Integrity
- Do not consider any job as low.
- Do not be attached to the fruit of the action
- Do not physically restrain your senses outwardly. Control your mental urges
- Keep trying until the goal is achieved.
- “Never let success get to your head; never let failure get to your heart.
- You always pass failure on your way to success.
- “Successful people don’t fear failure but understand that it’s necessary to learn and grow from.
- Be persistent
- Success is not final; failure is not fatal: It is the courage to continue that counts.”
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