Who is a Karma Yogi?
Karma Yoga is a journey of dedicated work towards fulfilling our goal(s), but in this path, we focus on actions and let go of our attachment towards results that we get. Instead, the results are renounced as a spiritual offering rather than using them to boost our ego.
The concept of Karma Yoga is mentioned in Hinduism’s most sacred scripture Bhagavad Gita and the following verse explains it:
Whatever your action,
Food or worship;
Whatever the gift
That you give to another;
Whatever you vow
To the work of the spirit…
Lay these also
As offerings before Me.
As humans, we always work towards an end goal in our mind. We do certain actions because we want to feel happy or make others happy, to get a sense of accomplishment and pride that we have succeeded in spite of obstacles. But even though, we achieve our desired results, the happiness is short-lived. There is a void within us that is still not filled, and we direct our mind towards fulfilling another bigger and audacious goal. We channel our energies and focus on accomplishing this new goal now. But in reality, this cycle never ends. And while in this painful journey of achieving something, all the time our minds are restless.
We lose our patience and are never satisfied until we reach our destination. So essentially we are never happy and satisfied, whether we achieve a goal or not. The human nature is such that we always are expecting something in return and when we do not get that gratification, we feel defeated and unfulfilled.
So how do we break this pattern, and add more joy to this journey of inching toward a truly successful life? This is where the concept of Karma Yoga can help us achieve some peace and a state of calmness within us while we are still hustling hard but not seeing significant results. The goal is to detach our ego from the results and just focus on doing actions.We can gain clarity and solace in the words of Marcus Aurelius: “Those obsessed with glory attach their well-being to the regard of others, those who love pleasure tie it to feelings, but the one with true understanding seeks it only in their own actions.”
We have to see the bigger picture and not get bogged down by disappointment in our progress. On the contrary, we should also not let instant massive successes fuel our ego and mislead us from our path. At its core, we have to develop a belief that we are enough for being who we are. Our identity should not rely on external factors like accumulating material things, money, or getting our desired and most coveted results. It is detaching from those things and reconnecting with ourselves. The key is to live a balanced life, not getting obsessed either with the pleasure of results that we get or the pain due to lack of our progress.
As Ryan Holiday and Stephen Hanselman have beautifully articulated this truth in the book The Daily Stoic: “Our ambition should not be to win but to play with our full effort. Our intention is not to be thanked or recognized, but to help and to do what we think is right. Our focus is not on what happens to us but how we respond. In this, we will always find contentment and resilience.”
On the flip side, as humans we are inherently lazy, so following the path of Karma Yoga does not mean that because we are detached from results, we do not have to obtain them at the first place. This is a corrupt mentality and we will end up going on a downward spiral path, and fail miserably. At our core, we identify an intention, set up goals, and go all out in achieving them, but at the same time, are not blinded by the desire of experiencing those results.
We should work towards reaching the outcome we want, but still be outcome independent, not letting us achieving the outcome define us. In this age of instant gratification, if we are always expecting instant results, we end up cultivating restlessness and are disappointed in our progress. This never does any good to either us or our well-being. If followed correctly, the path of Karma Yoga can give us a true sense of happiness and profound joy.
In a nutshell, a Karma Yogi is someone whose actions or Karma are fueled by intent, not by desire. You are a Karma Yogi if you focus on doing your actions in a disciplined manner, work on learning and developing yourself and let the chips fall wherever they may.
As stated by Lord Krishna in Bhagavad Gita, this statement explains the concept of Karma Yoga beautifully and in reality is a good mindset to cultivate:
“Karam kar, phal ki ichcha mat kar.”, which literally translates to: “Do your duty without thinking about the outcome.”
Once we decide to design a lifestyle based on the concept of Karma Yoga and become a Karma Yogi in true essence, life becomes effortless, and we are able to find the much-needed peace within us.
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