Ever since “Karma” was taught to us in philosophy classes, I’ve been intrigued and I tried to research on this concept. Eventually google turned out a million results with no definite answers.. So I turned to the Yoga Sutras.
In 4.7, the Yoga Sutra states: The actions of yogis are neither white nor black, while they are threefold for others.
(karma ashukla akrisnam yoginah trividham itaresam)
- karma = actions stemming from the deep impressions of samskaras
- ashukla = not white
- akrisnam = nor black
- yoginah = of a yogi
- trividham = threefold
- itaresam = of the others
The threefold actions of others refer to 3 colored actions or kinds: white = good, black = bad, grey = mixed. These actions leave deep impressions in the depth of our minds, and will arise later to cause actions that further align with these impressions. For yogis who have mastered all the modifications of the mind (stated in 1.2), they will not identify with thought patterns and are in the true nature of their Self, so the colored actions does not apply.
In 4.8: Those threefold actions result in latent impressions (vasanas) that will later arise to fruition only corresponding to those impressions.
(tatah tad vipaka anugunanam eva abhivyaktih vasananam)
- tatah = from that, thence
- tad = that, their
- vipaka = fruition
- anugunanam = following, corresponding to, accordingly
- eva = only
- abhivyaktih = manifest
- vasananam = latent potencies, potentials, subliminal imprints
Whether your actions are black, white or grey, they leave the corresponding colored impression. These impressions then later surface in the corresponding colored actions, thoughts and speech.
When I read and interpreted these 2 sutras, it became obvious to me how “karma” and actions are actually a perpetuating cycle.
What about Karma yoga?
In the Bhagavad Gita, it is also said that performing karma yoga helps to end the cause and effect cycle of karma.
It’s one also of the 4 types of primary yoga: Raja Yoga (royal/ashtanga), Karma Yoga, Bhakti (devotion) yoga, Jnana (knowledge/self-study) yoga.
Karma yoga is acting selflessly, without intentions of any results or outcomes whether positive/negative (no asanas, haha). In Karma yoga, there is no attachment to any outcomes when we perform actions. There’s no sense that you are the doer of the action. Not having expectations on how things “should/shouldn’t be” and only accepting it as they are.
To perform this, we can start small like doing something kind for a someone without anticipating anything in return, like holding the lift doors open for a stranger!