On Karma Yoga – Part 2/2

(Continued from Part 1)

Karma Yoga is a path to God

Karma Yoga is a Path to God, Providing it is Followed without Ego or Desire

In the Bhagavad-Gita, Krishna says that one wanting to climb to the heights of union with God (Brahman) is encouraged to follow the yoga of action. In the first place karma yoga or selfless service purifies.

“It is hard to renounce action
Without following the yoga of action.
This yoga purifies
The man of meditation,
Bringing him soon to Brahman.” (12)

Pursuing karma yoga prior to entering into meditation at a later period in life leaves one tranquil. It’s a path urged by Krishna.

“Let him who would climb
In meditation
To heights of the highest
Union with Brahman
Take for his path
The yoga of action:
Then when he nears
That height of oneness
His acts will fall from him,
His path will be tranquil.” (13)

To serve others selflessly, without ego, breaks the bonds of desire.

“If you can understand and follow [the method of karma yoga], you will be able to break the chains of desire which bind you to your actions.” (14)

Karma yoga must be done not to promote one’s reputation or gain wealth, but to serve God and others.

“The ignorant work
For the fruit of their action:
The wise work …
Without desire
Pointing man’s feet
To the path of his duty.” (15)

“Work is holy
When the heart of the worker
Is fixed on the Highest.” (16)

The karma yogin yearns only to serve. He knows himself as the Self and not the body that serves.

“To the follower of the yoga of action,
The body and the mind,
The sense-organs and the intellect
Are instruments only:
He knows himself other than the instrument
And thus his heart grows pure.” (17)

Every action is dedicated to God. To act otherwise is to condemn the mind to be restless.

“In this yoga, the will is directed singly toward one ideal. When a man lacks this discrimination, his will wanders in all directions, after innumerable aims.” (18)

Any action which serves only ego and desire (“I want”) imprisons. Only selfless action frees.

“The world is imprisoned in its own activity, except when actions are performed as worship of God. Therefore you must perform every action sacramentally, and be free from all attachment to results.” (19)

“[The karma yogin] puts aside desire,
Offering the act to Brahman.
The lotus leaf rests unwetted on water:
He rests on action, untouched by action.” (20)

Arriving at the point of resting on action, untouched by it, is equivalent to what I mean by “being while doing.”

The karma yogin has the right to work, but not the right to the fruits of his or her work.

“You have the right to work but for the works’ sake only. You have no right to the fruits of work. Desire for the fruits of work must never be your motive in working. …

“Perform every action with your heart fixed on the Supreme Lord. Renounce attachment to the fruits.” (21)

Even work done with the intention of becoming enlightened is work done with attention to the fruits of the work. Work so done is inferior work.

“Work done with anxiety about results is far inferior to work done without such anxiety, in the calm of self-surrender. Seek refuge in the knowledge of Brahman. They who work selfishly for results are miserable.” (22)

Sri Krishna urges us to “shake off this fever of ignorance.”

“Stop hoping for worldly rewards. Fix your mind on the Atman. Be free from the sense of ego. Dedicate all your actions to me. (23)

“Those who have renounced ego and desire will reap no fruit at all, either in this world or in the next.” (24)

Besides following the teachings of scripture, we are also enjoined to imitate the actions of the guru or teacher and follow their instructions. My guru, Mata Amritanandamayi, serves selflessly and endlessly. Her charities in India and elsewhere are legendary. She is an industrious and compassionate servant and I can do no less than follow her example.

As for her instructions to me, I once asked her if by writing I incurred any karma and she replied that I did not so long as I don’t charge for my writings. I have never charged for any of my writings. Of course that does not apply to writing done in the course of earning my livelihood, such as decisions written for the Immigration and Refugee Board in the course of my job there. But it does apply to all my spiritual writings on the Internet.

I never asked her whether it was her will that I write. But I have asked the Boss and he’s told me that I came here to serve as a communicator. So I don’t feel any disconnect between my spirituality and my service.

Finally, those who seek to know the Self through meditation on it and those who seek to know it by serving It, according to Krishna, reach the same goal:

“The wise see knowledge and action as one:
They see truly.
Take either path
And tread it to the end:
The end is the same.
There the followers of action
Meet the seekers after knowledge
In equal freedom.” (25)

So I feel no lack of wisdom in encouraging you to serve the Divine Plan by following the path of karma yoga and acting on behalf of others and God in supporting Ascension 2012. My assertion is that work done without serving self or desire, without hankering for the fruits of action, and in service of the Divine is no less efficacious a sadhana or spiritual path than any other.

I also think that criticizing the path chosen by another is a slippery slope. Criticizing another at all is as well. I realize that we need to draw attention to disinformation and to oppose the advice of those whose counsel would cause us or others harm. But arguing that our choices are right and those of others are wrong, in my view, is not part of the new round of life that we aspire to.

Everyone has the sovereign right to choose their own path to God without inviting harm.  Flame wars among lightworkers only serve to weaken our service of the Divine Plan. I personally seek to avoid them whenever I can.


(1) Paramahansa Ramakrishna in Swami Chetanananda, ed. and trans. Ramakrishna as We Saw Him. St Louis: Vedanta Society of St. Louis, 1990, 15.

(2) Paramahansa Ramakrishna in Swami Nikhilananda, trans., The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna. New York: Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center, 1978; c1942, 306. [Hereafter GSR.]

(3) Ibid., 223.

(4) Ibid., 112.

(5) Ibid., 129.

(6) Ibid., 222.

(7) Ibid., 93.

(8) Ibid., 81.

(9) Ibid., 910-11.

(10) Ibid., 1010.

(11) Ibid., 111.

(12) Sri Krishna in Prabhavananda, Swami and Christopher Isherwood, trans., Bhagavad-Gita. The Song of God. New York and Scarborough: New American Library, 1972; c1944, 5

(13) Ibid., 63.

(14) Ibid., 46.

(15) Ibid., 47.

(16) Loc. cit.

(17) Ibid., 58.

(18) Ibid., 39.

(19) Ibid., 45.

(20) Ibid., 58.

(21) BG, 40.

(22) BG, 41.

(23) Ibid., 48.

(24) Ibid., 121.

(25) Ibid., 57.

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