What is Karma Yoga?

Karma yoga is one of the four classical schools of yoga alongside Jnana (knowledge or self-study), Bhakti (devotion) and Raja (meditation), each offering a path to moksha (spiritual liberation) and self-realization.

Derived from the Sanskrit term for “action”, karma is understood by both Hindu and Buddhist traditions to be the sum of a person’s deeds in past, present and future states of existence. In yoga, karma is known as the path of action, or selfless service towards others.

Karma yoga is considered to be one of the most practical and effective means of spiritual development.

The Four Paths of Yoga

Vedanta prescribes 4 major paths to attain and re-establish our connection to the One-ness and Universal Totality of All Life, which is also the essence of our innermost being.

The 4 paths are:

1. Karma Yoga – The Yoga of Action and Selfless Service

This resonates most with those who are community-based and of an outgoing nature. Karma yoga purifies the heart and burns away selfish tendencies (Mala) by encouraging a detachment from the fruits of actions. In this way, there is no expectation of personal gain or recognition. All actions are done with a focus on Oneness, therefore establishing a connection with the Atman or True Self. Mother Theresa is an example of a well-known karma yogi.

2. Bhakti Yoga – The Yoga of Devotion

According to this path, a lack of faith in the Divine or Sacred Essence has caused us to lose connection to our Divine Self. The solution, therefore, is love, surrender, and devotion to the Divine qualities in everything.

Bhakti Yoga asks us to purify and transform our egotistic self-love by focusing the mind on sacred thoughts and transferring all our love and emotions into the Divine essence that permeates all. Examples of Bhakti Yoga are chanting puja and holy rituals. This path resonates most with those of an emotional nature.

3. RāJa Yoga – The Yoga of Meditation

According to this path, the restlessness of the mind (Vikshepa) has caused our attention to become carried away in stories and disconnected from our True Essence. The solution is to calm the mind through meditation to reveal the Oneness that we are in our truest essence.

This is done via the Ashtanga (8 limbs) system, as outlined by Patañjali in the Raja Yoga Sutras. Most yoga classes in today’s society are steeped in the Raja Yoga path. This path is most suited for those with a nature that resonates with method-based practice.

4. JñāNa Yoga – The Yoga of Will and Intellect

This path asserts that our ego-based ignorance (Avavana) keeps us from knowing our true nature. Using the techniques of logic and reason, the yogi uses the mind to inquire into its nature. This removes the veils of ignorance and forgetfulness through knowledge and reveals the Truth that is unchanging in our hearts.

Why is Karma Yoga Needed?

Karma yoga helps a person in doing what they are required to do originally. It allows a person to play out their obligations well, with intrigue and excitement. Try not to disregard them as that isn’t right. Awareness of inward equalization and vitality also becomes possible.

What is Karma Yoga?

Karma Yoga and How Can We Take the Right Action?

Karma Yoga is the taking of the things you do every day with other people, of service, things like that, and making those all into an offering. And so it’s an attitude that one has. It’s an attitude of offering, and it’s an attitude of seeing how the actions you are performing mean so much more.

Karma Yoga Principles

Right Attitude

It’s not what you do that counts, it’s the attitude while doing it that determines if a job is a Karma Yoga job, i.e. a liberating job, or a binding job. Work is worship. Swami Sivananda advises us to “give your hands to work, and keep your mind fixed at the lotus feet of the Lord.”

Right Motive

Same as attitude. It is not what you do that counts but your real motive behind it. Your motive must be pure. Swami Sivananda says: “Man generally plans to get the fruits of his works before he starts any kind of work.

The mind is so framed that it cannot think of any kind of work without remuneration or reward. A selfish man cannot do any service. He will weigh the work and the money in a balance. Selfless Service is unknown to him.”

Do Your Duty

Often “duty” is referred to as “righteousness”. You will incur a demerit if you shun your duty. Your duty is towards God, or Self, or the Inner Teacher who teaches you through all the specific circumstances of your life as they appear.

Do Your Best

Whatever you have to do, do your best. If you know of a better way to serve, you must use it. Do not hold back because of fear of effort or because of fear of criticism. Do not work sloppily just because no one is watching or because you feel the work is not for you. Give your best. Try to do such actions that can bring maximum good and minimum evil. Do Karma Yoga increasingly.

Give up Results

God is the doer. You are not the doer. You are only the instrument. You do not know God’s intentions or God’s plans. God is the actor. The Self never acts changes. It is only the gunas, the three qualities, which are playing.

The way to realize this truth is to constantly work for work’s sake and let go of the results, good or bad. It is the desire for action that binds the individual. It is the detachment from action that will dissolve the karmic seeds.

Detachment from results also means detachment from the type of job itself. There is no job that is inferior or superior to a different job. Don’t be attached to your job. Be ready to give up your job if necessary.

Serve God or the Self in All

Do to others what you would like to be done to yourself. Love thy neighbor as thyself. Adapt, adjust, accommodate. Bear insult, bear injury. Unity in Diversity. We are parts of the same body. Practice humility in action. Beware of power, fame, name, praise, censure.

Follow the Discipline of the Job

Each job is a teacher of some sort. You can learn different skills by doing different jobs. Each job has different requirements in terms of time, degree of concentration, skills or experience, emotional input, physical energy, and will. Try to do whatever job you are doing, well.

Karma Yoga Benefits

Purifies Our Thoughts

You cannot be a true Karma Yogi as long as you don’t purify your thoughts or your heart. In practicing Karma Yoga, we learn to let go of any negativity that is clogging our hearts and not letting positive thoughts and energy enter inside.

We learn to get rid of negative emotions like anger, revenge, pride, and ego and make space in our hearts for love and compassion for everyone irrespective of their caste and color. This purity, in turn, purifies our surroundings and fills them with good vibes.

2. Helps Us Obtain Spiritual Knowledge

Karma Yoga teaches us to keep doing our work without expecting any form of reward in return. By practicing this, we gradually learn to love sacrificing, thus expanding our hearts. This prepares us for walking on the path of spiritual attainment.

When the spirit of serving enters every nerve and cell of our body, we become ready to walk on the path to Moksha and obtain the light of spiritual knowledge.

3. Gives Us a Fulfilled Life

When we practice Karma Yoga, we gradually learn to detach ourselves from worldly pleasures and surrender ourselves to the Eternal One. This gives us freedom from the bonds of worldly pleasures and a sense of fulfillment that can only come when the soul and the mind are at peace.

When we perform our duties sincerely and attentively, we prepare ourselves for eternal freedom and fulfillment of the soul.

4. Gives Us a Sense of Accomplishment

The more we work for others, the more we start accepting them as our own and start to care for them. We become more sincere and thoughtful in ensuring their happiness and comfort. When we work sincerely for a purpose, the mind becomes free of fear.

This enables us to give 100% to our work without the fear of judgment or the bondage of expectations. Be it a welfare program we are a part of or a bird; we provide food and water every day; we do each work with the utmost sincerity and devotion. This gives us satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment of giving the best, which fills our hearts and minds with peace.

5. Incorporates Volunteerism

Every volunteer is a candidate on the road to spirituality. Karma Yoga needs us to participate and work. The work may be very trivial or very tough. But it has to be undertaken and given our best without any form or expectation of reward in return. By volunteering to work, we learn to depend less on people and be responsible and self-reliant.

You volunteer to give some of your clothes to a needy person. You volunteer to feed a hungry animal daily and take care of it. You volunteer to spend time at a wellness center, easing them of some of their responsibilities. This spirit of volunteerism helps to purify the heart and make space in it for positive energies.

6. Teaches Us Commitment and Responsibilities

A true Karma Yogi knows that only sitting in one place and meditating will not make him a karma yogi. For that, he has to do his worldly duties with as much commitment and responsibility as he does his spiritual duties. He understands that he has to serve and keep serving and doing his duties tirelessly throughout his life, irrespective of whether he will be rewarded or even thanked in return.

This teaches him to face his problems and do his duties no matter how bad his situation or how difficult his life is. This imbibes a sense of responsibility and teaches him to handle his commitments giving his best in whatever he does. This sincere effort makes him successful in whatever work he undertakes in life. You can learn more about such principles of Karma Yoga in Bhagavad Gita.

7. Enables Us to Work Actively and Devotedly

There can be no shortcuts in the fulfillment of a task by a karma yogi. He has to give his best to work without any attachments to it. This zeal for tireless work enables us to be active and keep working actively no matter how successful we have become or how long we have come in our journey for self-attainment.

By working actively, we inspire others to follow our example and actively participate in all forms of service both inside and outside our homes and workplaces.

On committing ourselves to work, we treat it like God and, instead of an attachment, give it the devotion it needs. It does not have to be something very difficult to do.

Devotion to our day-to-day work is important, and by working tirelessly and devotedly, we come closer to our Maker, who appreciates our efforts and sets us on the path to eternal peace.

8. Teaches Us to Get Rid of Negativity

Our intentions have to be pure for our work to be considered as done in the right spirit. Anger, impatience, jealousy, and ego are nothing but obstacles in our work that we try to complete with devotion.

In the path of Karma yoga through relentless working, we learn to let go of these negative emotions that were not letting us proceed, and when these negative emotions leave our hearts, positive vibrations, and virtues enter inside. Traits like humility, tolerance, love, and compassion take place and cleanse it thoroughly.

By learning to get rid of negativity, we open our hearts to the world and, in the process, become one with the Creator.

Karma Yoga Tips For Daily

Start With Your Authentic Self

Becoming self-aware is the first step to practicing a life of karma yoga. Once you become more aware of your own life and actions, you create a path to taking care of the world around you. And no, this isn’t being selfish. A happy, healthy, and peaceful life starts within yourself before you can inspire others to do the same.

Practice Compassion, Positivity, and Gratitude

Compassion and positivity are contagious, it facilitates the desire for a happy world. Appreciate everything and find gratitude even in your challenges.

Say Hello, Smile and Love

Respect and love everyone and every living thing that you encounter. A simple greeting with a smile goes a long way in people’s hearts.

Take Care of the World Around You

Be aware of everything that you think, do, say, and use in the world. Keep your house and neighborhood clean, recycle, and help keep the air around us clean. Save, save, save – whether it be water, energy, or paper. We all share this world and in the end, It all contributes to the greater good of our future generations.

What Is the Difference Between Karma and Karma Yoga?

while karma refers to the universal law of cause and effect that governs all actions, Karma Yoga is a spiritual practice that emphasizes selfless action to attain spiritual liberation.

Karma Yoga in Addiction Recovery

Karma Yoga is a design for living without attachment, ego, and fear, which are all very desirable benefits for many of us in addiction recovery. Practicing the principles of Karma Yoga frees the person to have a completely clear conscience; providing it is practiced in every aspect of their life.

Karma Yoga Ashram Experience

Are you looking for your next step? Are you feeling a stronger pull towards a spiritually integrated life?

Based on the teachings of Paramhansa Yogananda, the Ananda Karma Yoga Ashram Program provides a balance of meditation and joyful service within a spiritual community. Inspirational classes can help you establish new habits, attitudes, and ways of living a joyful, victorious life.

“If you make a determined effort, you will no longer walk in fear and uncertainty on the path of life. There is a Power which will light your way, which will bring you health, happiness, peace, and success if you will but turn toward that Light.” -Paramhansa Yogananda

Jnana, Bhakti and Karma Yoga

Jnana means knowledge and wisdom, an activity of the brain and intellect. Karma means action; an activity performed using the sense organs and organs of action. Karma is the ‘doing ‘ or ‘willing’ aspect of the human being. Bhakti is the ‘feeling’ aspect of a person’s existence experienced in the heart.