Karma Yoga – the first path of Yoga

Yoga comes from the Sankrit word ‘Yuj’ which means union. Yoga is to bring union to the individual’s consciousness (soul) with the Universal Consciousness (spirit). There are four paths will lead us to the union of our soul and spirit, namely Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Jnana Yoga and Raja Yoga/Ashtanga yoga.

We will talk more about Karma yoga as it relates more to our daily life actions. Karma means action, any action that has an intention, reaction and consequences. Action does not only mean doing things, also includes talking or thinking. Karma yoga is then to perform an action/series of action that progress another person regardless of consequences.

Karma yoga is one of the main topics in Bhagavad Gita which helped to solve moral problem of Arjuna, a warrior. Arjuna, a warrior and disciple of Krishna, the avatar, was sent to settle a family disputes by means of a war. Having to fight the war against his own family members, he was reluctant to fight and seek to discharge his duty from the war. Krishna then told him, it is his Dharma (duty) to fight in the war. His action to go to the war is a duty from the Divine, as long as he is not expecting any result from the war, he will be performing karma yoga. You can think of a Judge giving sentence to a criminal. If the Judge sentenced a criminal to death or life sentence, the Judge is not doing karma; the Judge is only doing his Dharma/duty. Unless the Judge has the intention or desire to achieve a sense of justice or for fame, then this Judge is doing Karma.

How do we practice Karma yoga in our daily life? For example taking care of our parents, is this Karma yoga? No, we are only doing Dharma, our duty as a child to take care of parents. It is quite a thin line as to what really constitute to Karma yoga, to me. To practice Karma yoga, you can take for example if you go to an undeveloped country to teach poor children English. Everyday, you will execute your duty to teach the children. You have no expectation for them, whether they will perform well or able to let them go out to the city to work, you just continue to teach and guide them. This cycle is Karma yoga, performing an action without any regard of the consequences.

Next time, if you were to see an old lady fall down, and you go over to help her, you are merely doing a duty. Do not expect a ‘Thank you’ from the old lady; you will be doing karma yoga.

Min Yi

200 hr Weekday