I read Swami Vivekananda at the age of 16. To be honest, I don’t remember much. But, one section of his complete works stuck with me for a long time, it was his views on ‘Karma yoga’. Back when I started to piece my life together to make some sense to the present where I’m still struggling to make sense, I’ve looked back to his account of Karma yoga many a times for support (no, it is not a kind comfort, but a very rude one). For a 16 year old, and a 30 year old struggling with the idea of ‘life is meant to reach god or serve people’, his insights into karma and work have been very helpful. Though, I don’t mean to write on the Swami’s views of this yoga, I’m piecing here a few points on Karma yoga which have been very helpful to me when I just had to justify moving on from a painful episode of life or to remind myself that ‘this too shall pass’ in a very jubilant one. But, before we start, what is Karma?
Derived from the word Kri in Sanskrit, it means ‘to do’; i.e., all action is Karma. But, technically, it means ‘the effects of actions’. Karma yoga bases itself on actions and the effects of those actions. I believe the universe is governed by these laws and God doesn’t interfere. After all, who’ll god listen to? The prayers of Pakistan or India during a World cup finale? I think he simply smiles (like the one we see in all the pictures of various deities we hang in our homes) and leaves the result to the karma of the players – let the result be the direct result of their actions. Life runs this way, and below are some rules – some widely known – that I’ve seen in practice in my life. Only when we accept this, that our life is the consequence of our actions, can we work towards true change in our life.
- To work you have the right, but not to the fruits thereof – do because you love doing, not in the anticipation a reward. Reward may disappoint you, but if you’ve loved your work, whether there is a reward or not, there is no disappointment.
- As you sow, so you reap – Whatever you put out in the universe is what comes back to you. The value/quality of your work is the direct result of the energy and intent that was put into it. Nothing more, nothing less.
- Your present is the effect of your past actions and your future the effect of present.
- Life is a co-creation process. It doesn’t just happen at random, it requires our participation. More akin to a game of chess, you make one move and life the other which in turn affects your subsequent.
- What you refuse to accept, will continue – until you see your mistakes and correct them, history will repeat itself.
- What you see in others is what you find in yourselves – if you don’t trust people, it’s because you know how selfish you can be and judge others against the same standard.
- Our outer life reflects our inner and our inner the outer.
- The only factor we have control over in life, is Ourselves. When this given changes, our heart & life follow suit. Take responsibility.
- Everything in this universe is connected. Though we don’t see how extraordinary events have come to pass, everything starts with a step with no step individually important, but all connected to make a greater whole. Only when looked back can you connect the dots. The past, Present & the Future are always connected.
- Though the past, present and the future are connected, we cannot live anywhere but the present. Excessively focusing on the past or future robs us of the present – the only time we can make a difference.
- Life is a test. If you believe something is true then be assured that sometime in your life you’ll be called upon to demonstrate that particular truth. This differentiates between what we claim we believe and what we actually practice. (My life is my message).
According to the Hindu religion, which believes in reincarnation, your karma carries over from one life to another often determining where you are born, how you die or explains the benefits you have or lack in a life. I’m not discussing that part here, as I don’t think it is the scope of this article and also because it doesn’t matter ’cause what’s important to us is to concentrate on what we can act on & not on pre-determined factors we cannot control.