Who is a Karma Yogi ? | Bhagavad Gita

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bhagavad gita teachings slokas summary karma yogi yoga

Lord Krishna explains in Bhagavad Gita that merely by refraining from work, one cannot attain freedom from the reactions of this material world. By practicing renunciation alone, one cannot achieve perfection. It is because, one is forced to work in this world, as per the qualities (Sattva, rajas, tamas), he has acquired from material nature. Therefore, one who refrains from external activities but dwells upon sense objects in his mind is a pretender who only deludes himself. On the other hand, one who sincerely endeavors to regulate his senses, with the help of his mind and intelligence, and executes Karma Yoga, is by far superior. The word ‘Karma’ refers to various actions, and the word ‘Yoga’ refers to the process that connects us to our spiritual essence. One who practices ‘Karma Yoga’ is referred to as ‘Karma Yogi’. In this article, we shall be discussing Karma Yoga in detail.

What is Karma Yoga ?

For sustaining or even surviving in this world, one needs to work. Simultaneously, when one becomes spiritually aware, one understands that actions in this world bind one to its reactions, which may be good or bad, depending upon the actions. Both good and bad Karmic reactions bind one to this material world, which is a place of distress characterized by birth, disease, old age, and death. Hence, the wise strive to disentangle themselves from this material world. So, how can we execute our actions (Karma) in this world without becoming entangled?

warrior kshatriya karma yogi yoga

yajnarthat karmano ‘nyatra
loko ‘yam karma-bandhanah
tad-artham karma kaunteya
mukta-sangah samacara
(Bhagavad Gita 3.9)

Work should be performed only as a sacrifice (yajna), otherwise work binds one to this material world. Therefore, O son of Kunti, perform your prescribed duties for His satisfaction, and in that way you will always remain unattached and free from bondage.

karma brahmodbhavam viddhi
brahmaksara-samudbhavam
tasmat sarva-gatam brahma
nityam yajne pratisthitam
(Bhagavad Gita 3.15)

Regulated activities are prescribed in the Vedas, and the Vedas are directly manifested from the Supreme Lord. Consequently the all-pervading Transcendence is eternally situated in acts of sacrifice.

Therefore, one (Karma Yogi) should work as a matter of duty without being attached to the outcome of the activities. Bewildered by the modes of material nature, the ignorant (karmis) fully engage themselves in material activities, becoming attached to its fruitive results. However, a Karma Yogi acts similarly, without attachment and without indulging in sense gratification.

tasmad asaktah satatam
karyam karma samacara
asakto hy acharan karma
param apnoti purusah
(Bhagavad Gita 3.19)

Therefore, without being attached to the fruits of activities, one should act as a matter of duty; for by working without attachment to the outcomes, one attains the Supreme.

A Karma Yogi follows the injunctions of the Vedic scriptures and disentangles himself from the bondage of material nature, by working without attachment and executing his actions as a matter of duty. He neither hates nor desires the fruits of his actions.

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gundicha temple

Ordinary people (Karmis), on the other hand, execute good or bad deeds being attached to the fruits of their labor. In the process, they enjoy or suffer depending upon their actions. Good deeds award one with wealth, fame, recognition, or heavenly pleasures whereas sinful deeds invite misery, suffering, or even hellish lives. However, both good and bad deeds entangle one as these reactions (good or bad) must be enjoyed in this material world. The material world, beginning from the highest realm of Brahma, down to the hellish planets, is characterized by birth, disease, old age, and death. Hence intelligent men do not want to entangle themselves in this material bondage.

kayena manasa buddhya
kevalair indriyair api
yoginah karma kurvanti
sangam tyaktvatma suddhaye
(Bhagavad Gita 5.11)

The yogis (Karma Yogis), abandoning attachment, act with body, mind, intelligence, and even with the senses, only for the purpose of purifying the self.

Beyond Karma Yoga

At this point, one should understand that merely becoming materially disentangled, does not make us happy. We eternally hanker to love and be loved, and the supreme liberation must unite us with the Supreme Lord, binding us in a bond of immortal love. Hence, when we practice Karma Yoga for Krishna, the Supreme Lord, we conduct our worldly duties in a mood of loving service to Him. These actions, which are now recast into devotional service, purify us and free us from material allurements.

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vaishnava vaishnavism krishna bhakti yoga karma yogi

yat karosi yad asnasi
yaj juhosi dadasi yat
yat tapasyasi kaunteya
tat kurusva mad-arpanam
(Bhagavad Gita 9.27)

O son (Arjuna) of Kunti, all that you do, all that you eat, all that you offer and give away, as well as all austerities that you may perform, do that as an offering unto Me (Krishna).

Performing actions in such a mood delivers one from material bondage along with its auspicious and inauspicious results. In course of time, such a devotee gets liberated and attains the Supreme Lord. The Lord boldly declares in Bhagavad Gita, that His devotee never perishes.

ksipram bhavati dharmatma
sasvac-chantim nigacchati
kaunteya pratijanihi
na me bhaktah pranasyati
(Bhagavad Gita 9.31)

He quickly becomes righteous and achieves lasting peace. O son of Kunti, declare it boldly that My devotee never perishes.

Such karma-yoga grows seamlessly into bhakti-yoga, wherein we don’t just offer our work to Krishna, but we live for him; our entire being becomes devoted to him. When we live in such a mood of uninhibited devotional surrender, Krishna, being the controller of the laws of karma, frees us from all karmic reactions.

sarva-dharman parityajya
mam ekam saranam vraja
aham tvam sarva-papebhyo
moksayisyami ma sucah
(Bhagavad Gita 18.66)

Abandon all varieties of religion and simply surrender unto Me (Krishna). I shall deliver you from all sinful reactions. Do not fear.

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