Karma Yoga, the Path of Selfless Action and Service

“Motivated action is far inferior to that performed in the equanimity of mind; take refuge in the evenness of the mind; wretched are the result-seekers.” – Sri Krishna, Bhagavad Gita, II:49

“With the mind purified by karma yoga, and the self disciplined, and the senses subdued, one who realizes one’s self as the Self in all beings, though acting, is not affected.” – Sri Krishna, Bhagavad Gita, V:7

“Abandoning the fruit of action, the yogi attains peace born of steadfastness; impelled by desire, the non-yogi is bound, attached to fruit.” – Sri Krishna, Bhagavad Gita, V:12

” ‘Who sows must reap,’ they say, and cause must bring the sure effect: good, good; bad, bad, and none escape the law. For who so wears a form must wear the chain. Too true; but far beyond both name and form is Atman, ever free. Know thou art That, Sannyasin bold! Say: Om Tat Sat, Om!” – Swami Vivekananda, from “Song of the Sannyasin”

The results of self-centered actions, arising from the sense of ownership, agency and separation, lead beings from negative to positive actions through the law of cause and effect over many lifetimes. Entering into a conscious spiritual life, however, the aspirant begins to systematically neutralize the effects of both negative and positive actions by using the mind’s discrimination to transcend the relative values of good and bad. He or she then learns to abide in a spontaneous, God-centered state where the individual will is merged in the Divine Will.

This is accomplished in two ways: by offering all actions and their results to one’s Chosen Ideal (God with form), thereby transforming the “rascal ego” into the servant, devotee or child of the Lord and Mother; and by training the mind to scrupulously adhere to a discipline of intense dispassion for the results of all action, thereby abiding in the knowledge that all action is part of nature, while the Self, in truth, is actionless, free from nature. Karma Yoga begins as a practice for purification of the mind as the aspirant learns to detach from the self-centered ego. In time, this yoga becomes the spontaneous pathway of divine expression. The difficult phase of spiritual discipline performed with concentrated self-effort then gradually transforms into joyful divine preoccupation.

All experience is spiritual experience. Aspirants at the SRV centers strive to take the teachings into daily life to infuse their practice of Karma yoga with inspiration and devotion in order to efface the erroneous distinction between spiritual life and secular life. In addition, there are opportunities at each center for aspirants to offer seva (service) in an atmosphere of holiness.


Suggested Reading: