KARMA YOGA



How do you know what path to begin on?

In this Yuga, Karma Yoga is the best path. Action for the good of this creation. Karma Yoga means union with God through selfless service. Mother Teresa is a very good example of Karma Yoga path. Everyone can't do what Mother Teresa did but everyone can practice Karma Yoga in life in some degree.



Arjuna's challenge was to accept his duty. How is one able to determine one's right job in the world?

It is called dharma. Dharma means nature-born quality. It also means duty or religion. Arjuna's duty was very clear. He was a prince and a warrior, so he always knew he had to fight. But it's not clear to common people what is their particular duty or dharma. Why is it not clear? Because the mind is in a restless state and can't see itself. If one is capable to make the mind calm and balanced, then dharma will shine by itself. Arjuna in the battlefield forgot his dharma and was ready to renounce the world. Krishna rebuked in a gentle way and said 'if you renounce your duty, then your nature-born quality will pull you back into fighting. So do your duty and you will attain liberation.'



Arjuna had the duty because he was born a prince and a warrior. Here we are directed by parental or societal pressures to follow a particular path. What if one has other desires?

Everyone is born as someone with nature-born quality. The agitated state of the mind doesn't see it. The restless mind sees 'this is better; now this is better' and so on. Parents guide their children when they are small; then social pressure possesses the mind in the society. But there can't be any pressure for your independent thinking.



I find it difficult to discriminate between my desires and the highest desires. How do we choose right action?

It's always hard as long as the mind is not pure. Our mind is in a restless state; it means discontented, always wanting, needing, possessing. So we don't have choice as long as the mind is not purified by living a virtuous life. In all religions they preach about living a virtuous life.



What happens if you are doing your duty with the best of intentions and someone gets hurt along the way?

Motive behind the action brings its positive or negative result. Your intention is good but when you are doing good for the whole society, a few persons may get hurt because their personal interest is not fulfilled. You are not doing Karma Yoga to please certain people but you are doing it for the good of the whole creation.



People say there is a quality of joy in doing what you are born to do. Is that true?

It's a joy when the samskaras are working out in a positive way. A hunter also experiences joy but this joy is not positive. An artist, a poet, a mathematician, etc. who are born with these qualities enjoy doing their work. It is rather flowing with the work.



Isn't there a light and a joy in the work that we perform as Karma Yoga through which we can identify it in ourselves or in others?

Karma Yoga is chosen. It is not forced on anyone so there is no need to know if someone is doing Karma Yoga or not. The yoga term in India or in the scriptures is used for meditation. But by adding 'karma' to it, the meaning is yoga meditation with action. Meditation and action are two opposites. But here when self-interest is removed, there is unity in opposites.



Can we consider our livelihood as being our Karma Yoga?

Yes. Empty stomach -- no karma yoga. But we have to see how much we give and how much we take.



I am still not clear about how Karma Yoga can quiet the mind. In the moment I am totally present with what I am doing but as soon as I am sitting quietly my mind is no longer quiet.

The mind is disturbed by selfish desires. Our mind is filled by thoughts and worries when we work with self-interest. In Karma Yoga the ego is not attached to any undertaking for its self- interest. This makes Karma Yoga meditation in action.



Any kind of thinking, usually something about the past or the future.

Anything of your past is related to you and any plan for the future is also related to you. So your ego is living in the past memories and future plans. What about the present which is a reality?



The present is when I am doing something.

You are doing but living in the past and future.



When I am in action, I am feeling in the present. When I stop and sit, my mind goes to the past and future.

Then don't stop! (laughter) When you are doing something with a selfish desire, the mind is fluctuating in past, present and future. Like a chess player is very concentrated but the mind is fluctuating in thinking about the consequences of any move.



What if you are doing your duty and you notice there is some self-interest? What is the correct response?

In the beginning no one can start from a completely selfless state of mind. During the practice of Karma Yoga, different kinds of pollution appear but if the aim is stable, then one can go beyond all pollution. We should not expect that our Karma Yoga is 100% selfless. But the process of Karma Yoga reduces self-interest gradually.



Dealing with money complicates Karma Yoga for me. We have been taught that the fruits of our labor are money. Also what about teaching children about wealth?

It's hard to understand the spirit of Karma Yoga. Non-attachment, desirelessness, etc. are in the mind. The mind is molded in Karma Yoga philosophy. It doesn't say don't make money, don't buy a car, etc. You have to function in a society, in a family, so you need everything. You own a house. If someone throws a rock and breaks the window glass, you feel very upset in your heart. You sell the house and rent it. If someone throws a rock, you don't get upset. The living situation is not changed. Everything is the same, but mental conditioning is changed. Karma Yoga molds the mind in nonattached living. It doesn't happen overnight. It takes one's whole life to practice.



Sometimes in a community setting, a situation comes up where the person has a talent for something but the community needs that person to do something else. How can that be worked out fairly?

Using a person's talent in a right way is better than using an engineer's energy in breaking rocks. But when there is a need of something to be done, then every member of the community together does it. The person with a particular talent should accept the need of the community.



When you feel unhappy in your life and pain comes, and you see that others are unhappy and in pain, then you want to do Karma Yoga to get out of it. How can you really do Karma Yoga when the desire to be happy and the desire for love is so strong?

Desire to be happy is a natural thing in all human beings. But the mind likes to be in pain by bringing the past memories and not seeing any progress in the future. If we dwell on the negative side of the mind, then we can't be happy in any situation. Karma Yoga is one of the ways to remove the pain caused by attachment and expectation. A patient of malaria can't avoid quinine pill no matter how bitter it is. Karma Yoga can be hard at first but we have to do it.



© 1997 Sri Rama Publishing           
To the Index