How Do We Perform Karmas?
It must be understood that all karmas or action happen in the Mind itself. It is part of nature when the Ego comes in contact with the Object Vritti, the Ego MUST make a response. The Ego either likes the situation or dislikes the situation. This duality of Raga/Devesha, like/dislike, good/bad is the underlying force that compels the Ego to do Karmas. Every beings has to react to every situation. They cannot remain still.
The interaction between Ego and Object is NOT Karma, it is the response of Like or Dislike which is Karma.
- People think that when we talk it is karma. This is incorrect; talking is natural. However if you talk positively or negatively about anyone, only then you have done a good or bad Karma.
- Watching the physical world is natural. However, if you make a judgment, what a horrible shirt someone is wearing, or how nice this person is looking, these judgment calls are Karmas.
Every good or bad karma done must yield fruits either immediate or later on. Because of this we have an infinite amount of pending karmas from this and previous births and we are trapped in this never ending cycle of rebirths. What is the solution? The first step is Karma Yoga.
Prerequisites to Karma Yoga
In order to practice Karma Yoga, we must have the required prerequisites.
- Living with Positive Values
Many people lead this type of life, they may think they are leading a life of Karma Yoga. This is not Karma Yoga, but a minimum prerequisite for Karma Yoga.
- Living with Dharma
Leading a life of Dharma is the essential and a key prerequisite for your spiritual growth.
Attitudes of Karma Yoga
We’ll summarize some of the key teachings from Bhagavad Gita.
- Karma Phala Data
Who gives the Fruits of our Actions? Understanding this is the core value of Karma Yoga. Chapter 2, Verse 47 explains this concept brilliantly.
“You have the authority or control on the action you do, but you have no authority or control on the results of the action”
This is a profound and universal truth. We can only do action, but we have no choice or control over the results. This sounds like an obvious statement to make. But how often do we undertake any action without any expectation of what the result will be?
The BG teaches that it is Ishwara who decides the results. Does that mean Ishwara is judgmental? No. Ishwara has a Will but it has no Ragas and Dveshas. Ishwara’s Will is the Law of Nature. Once these laws are set in motion, Ishwara does not do anything. Good actions will results in Punya Karma phalas and bad actions will results in Papa Karma phalas. This devotional attitude, this is the first right step in Karma Yoga.
- Prasada Buddhi
Even if you accept Ishwara to be the Karma Phala Data, it is not easy to accept the results. If the outcome of any action is not as per our expectation it causes frustration. Negative emotions dominate. We usually want things our way. This inner conflict is the major source of turmoil in the mind.
How to overcome these shortcomings? Karma Yoga teaches the concept of Prasada Buddhi. When we go a temple the priest will give us a Prasada which has been blessed by Ishwara. We receive this with humility, respect and love. In life too, we should receive the results of our actions as if we have received a Prasada from Ishwara. We accept the results of all our actions with humility, gratitude and love. This attitude of acceptance is called Prasada Buddhi.
- Gaining Equanimity
Once you understand that Ishwara is the Karma Phala Data, and that everything that you receive in life is a Prasada, we should be able accept the results of our actions with equanimity. This is easier said than done. On the surface, we may accept the outcomes, but deep down we are still unhappy of bad results. So how do we cultivate equanimity?
The easiest way to cultivate this attitude is to elevate our motivation factor or upgrade our attachment to spiritual growth. What does this mean? Think of the various attachments you have formed as you journeyed through life – as kids we were attached to toys, then as we grew up we formed new attachments, like reading books or playing sports. As you can see, when we get a new attachment, the previous attachment is reduced or disappears. If this is correct, we should change our lifestyle and make spiritual growth our primary focus of attachment. This way we can accept negative or positive outcomes with equanimity because we are no longer attached to these expectations. A devotional or spiritual life style is the only way you can gain equanimity in life.
- Arpana Buddhi
Arpana Buddhi is the attitude of offering our actions to Ishwara. Both Prasada Buddhi and Arpana Buddhi are complementary. One is receiving and the other is giving.
To understand Arpana Buddhi you have to understand the concept of Yagna in ancient India. Yagna were conducted for thanking Ishwara for the blessings received. The main motivation is to thank Ishwara and acknowledge that everything happens because of Ishwara. The rains are because of Ishwara, the heart beating without resting is a blessing from Ishwara. There is nothing in the universe which is not due to Ishwara. Yagnas was one way of ‘paying back’ for all the blessings received in life.
Everything belongs to Ishwara. So what is it that you can really offer Ishwara? The only thing you can offer is your actions. This is Arpana Buddhi. You do all actions as a dedication to Ishwara, you offer your actions with love and affection to Ishwara. Any action is done with a prayerful attitude, even mundane daily activities. If you are offering all your actions to Ishwara, there is little chance that you will act against Dharma.
All your actions (Arpana Buddhi) are done with a prayerful attitude and, all results thereof are also to be accepted (Prasada Buddhi) with a prayerful attitude. This is the core of Karma Yoga. If you can cultivate this attitude, we can lead a more peaceful and calm life. Another key benefit of Karma Yoga is that our mind is purified so that we can assimilate the ultimate Knowledge more easily to achieve Moksha.
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