This article elaborates importance of Karma according to Karma-yoga. Karma-yoga teaches us how not to develop sanskars while performing karma and how to get liberated from bondage of sanskars. It also teaches which karma is appropriate and how to perform it.
1. Importance of Karma
A. Importance of performing karma
Due to understanding the secrets of Karma-yoga, a large portion of the kriya-shakti (Energy of action) of man is conserved : Every individual consistently performs karma. He is ever engaged in some or the other activity; however, due to lack of knowledge about the secrets of karma, a major part of his kriya-shakti is wasted. Karma-yoga teaches us to comprehend these secrets. It teaches about ‘which karma to perform where and how, and how to maximise the use of kriya-shakti for specific tasks’. A karmayogi knows only to give; he expects nothing in return.
A verse by Saint Kabir says, ‘By performing karma, a nar (Man) gets transformed into Narayaṇ (God)’.
– Rugved, 4.33.11
Meaning : God helps only those who toil till they are exhausted while performing a karma, not others.
– Mahabharat, Shantiparva, Adhyaya 320, Shloka 30
Meaning : By performing karma (making attempts) with complete knowledge, Parameshwar (Supreme God) is attained.
B. Reasons for performing wrong karma
Deficiency of some constituents required for performing a task : The following example will make this point clear. To build a house, various skilled people, such as an architect, an engineer, masons, carpenters, electricians, etc. are required. Material for building the house such as stones, bricks, cement and the construction site should all be of good quality. Above all, the team should work with co-operation and co-ordination. Each constituent in this process is important. If any of these constituents is imperfect, the house will become imperfect.
Taking up a task without being well-informed or without proper planning.
Taking up a task beyond the capacity.
Instead of consulting experts in the field, accepting opinions of people who have superficial knowledge of the subject.
C. Causes of certain diseases & their remedies according to Karma-yoga
Common diseases are caused because of imbalanced diet and improper lifestyle. Some diseases are a result of demerits from previous births. In such cases, doctors are unable to establish the cause-effect relationship. Mostly, such diseases are incurable.
Meaning : Sins committed in previous births haunt in the form of diseases in this birth. For such diseases, along with appropriate medication, perform religious rituals such as Shantipatha, give in charity, chant the Name of God, perform hom, perform puja (Ritualistic worship), etc.
2. Importance of Karma-yoga in the context of vyashti sadhana
A. Karma-yoga teaches how karma performed by us can beneficially lead towards self-realisation
It is impossible to remain without doing anything, because even sitting idle amounts to a karma of sitting and the sanskar of ‘sitting idle doing nothing’ gets reinforced on the chitta of the individual. In reality, every individual knowingly or unknowingly keeps performing some or the other karma constantly, for example, unintentional killing of insects, ants, worms, etc., which get crushed under the feet while walking; killing of micro-organisms during inhalation. This means that, karma will continue and so will development of the related sanskars on the subconscious mind. Despite this, Karma-yoga teaches us how not to develop sanskars while performing karma and how to get liberated from bondage of sanskars. It also teaches which karma is appropriate and how to perform it. In short, even if the soul performs no karma, yet man cannot remain without performing karma. Karma-yoga therefore teaches us how to direct karma performed by us towards self-realisation.
B. Performing karma with dexterity means Yoga
– Shrimadbhagwadgeeta, 2.50
Meaning : Endowed with this equanimity of mind, one frees oneself in this life, alike from vice and virtue. Devote thyself, therefore to this Yoga. Yoga is the very dexterity of work.
Explanation : Perform every karma with expertise, being attentive and skilful. Being skilful implies performing karma in a way that it does not entrap the doer in the bondage of karma.
C. Following Karma-yoga is essential to be able to sacrifice the desires
Sacrifice of desires is the end result. Following Karma-yoga is essential for sacrifice of desires. Once desires are sacrificed, all karmas automatically wither. Only he who renounces all desires can go on to become a karma-sanyasi. When desires have been renounced in entirety, performing karma or not amounts to the same. If a man is extroverted, then he will accomplish renouncing of the desires through nishkam-karma (Without expectations); but he will continue to perform karma. If the attitude continues to remain extroverted even in renouncing of desires, karma will continue to take place. On the other hand, if the attitude is introverted, then karmas begin to wither automatically at the instant of renouncing of desires. Man does not have to renounce karmas, they are renounced automatically, meaning, karmas take his leave all by themselves (A seeker should try to go from being an extrovert to an introvert).
Sage Raman Maharshi was of introverted nature. Since He had renounced His desires, He was not inclined to perform karma. Culmination of Karma-yoga is in the renunciation of karma.
Aurobindo Ghosh was a prominent Yogi, but during His last days He preferred to remain in solitude.
Shridharswami too, a staunch follower of Karma-yoga, remained in solitude for a decade at Varadhalli. He passed away in that solitude.
Till date, there has been no karmayogi of the caliber of Adi Shankaracharya who hoisted the flag of karma-sanyas the world over, nor is there a possibility of having one in the future.
D. Karma-yoga is important to become sattvik (Sattva-predominant)
– Shrimadbhagwadgeeta, 14.17
Meaning : From Sattva component arises wisdom, from Raja, greed & miscomprehension, delusion and ignorance arise from Tama.
Diverting the flow of the Raja component away from family life and connecting it with God by bringing about a change in attitude, is the prime objective of nishkam-karma. Since sacrifice of fruit (Consequence) of karma is connected with God, the flow of Raja component diverted to God automatically transforms into Sattva component. Renouncing naturally leads to awareness of the Sattva component and subsequently by gaining knowledge, renouncing doership and duty also becomes possible.
E. Karma-yoga liberates from sorrows
Following Karma-yoga breaks all ties and liberates from all sorrows.
F. Through Karma-yoga, one attains the Paramatma (Supreme Soul) and Paramanand
3. Importance of Karma-yoga in the context of samashti sadhana
A. Setting ideals for society
Meaning : ‘I have, O Partha, no duty, nothing that I have not gained; and nothing that I have to gain in the three worlds; yet, I continue to perform karma.’
Shrikrushna’s life is an ideal example of the types of karmas and how they should be performed. It is essential to set correct ideals before society by one’s own achievements, for the biographies of such icons inspires several future generations. These biographies then go on to become the support of Dharma. This can easily be comprehended from the examples of Shriram and Shrikrushna.
B. Increase in samashti merit makes the Nation righteous and prosperous
Karma-yoga has greater importance to the universe, meaning, it is a cause for increasing samashti merit. As a result, along with increase of faith in the Guru, dedication unto the Nation also increases; that leads to the Nation becoming righteous and prosperous. Hence, Karma-yoga is superior.
Reference : Sanatan Sanstha’s Holy text ‘Introduction to Karma-yoga’