Karma Yoga

“The Heart That Gives, Gathers.”

What is important is offering right action, in each moment, based in dharma, with no attachment to results.

img_7348“Karmayoga is a compound word consisting of two simple words ‘Karma’ and ‘Yoga’. By Karma we mean ‘proper action’. The second part is yoga which means ‘proper attitude’ or ‘proper state of mind’. Thus, doing proper action with proper attitude is called Karmayoga.” Swami Paramarthananda

“The sastra says that one should do what has to be done with a mind free from the hold of likes and dislikes with reference to the results of one’s actions. When one performs action in this way, the mind becomes purified. Only when the mind is prepared can knowledge take place and, through knowledge, one gains moksa.” Swami Dayananda

Karma Yoga is a profound spiritual practice that reduces mental and emotional imbalance, reduces rajas (projection) and tamas (concealment) and supports the cultivation of predominate sattva (peace, clarity and knowledge). Karma Yoga, along with Upasana Yoga, prepare the mind for the third primary yoga of Vedanta, Jnana (knowledge) Yoga, also called Self inquiry.

“Choose your karmas recognizing Isvara (the creator) as dharma. Then your actions become an offering to Isvara. This attitude results in purification of the mind. Once this happens, self-knowledge takes place. With self-knowledge, moksha is gained.” Swami Dayananda

The Five Components of Karma Yoga

  1. Gratitude for who we are and what we have.
  2. Right action based on an understanding of dharma, both personal and collective.
  3. Offering each action as a prayer to the alter of creation.
  4. The realization that we don’t control results but have choice in our actions.
  5. The knowledge that all results are prasad, enjoy the good, learn from the bad.

Defining the Five Components

Gratitude – How can we not be grateful for everything you have been given by creation? This body, mind and heart, the people in our lives, pets, nature,…. Even the challenges have blessed us by helping shape our loves. How can we not give back and make a contribution to the whole?

Right Action: Before taking action, the karma yogi considers his/her personal dharma (svadharma) and the greater dharmic field (samanya dharma). The intersection between svadharma and samanya dharma is visesha dharma or situational dharma.

Offering Action to the Alter of Creation: Realizing that in every moment God is present, that we are God, that our actions are God and that the recipient of our actions is God. It’s all God and God is love. This understanding is highly transformational. What this means is that within every action and within every moment, we are interfacing with the very essence of the seen and unseen.

The Giver of Results: While we’d like to think we control the results of actions, we don’t. If we did, we’d already have everything we ever wanted. Consider how many factors affect every action we take: the weather, how much sleep we’ve had, what we ate yesterday, our emotional state, whether or not Mercury is in retrograde, our cell phone’s battery level, the status of our family members, world events, the time of the day,…

The giver of the results is Isvara, the very intelligence of the field of existence.

All Results are Prasad: We enjoy the good results and do our best to learn from the bad results, which aren’t bad. Discordant results are feedback from the field that the actions we took in the past were not in alignment with personal or collective dharma.

With karma yoga, we no longer give from a place of lack, to gain something in return. Instead, we offer our actions to the field as an expression of our fullness and gratitude. Over time, karma yoga neutralizes the ego that, by its nature, takes action to receive something back in return (security, pleasure and virtue). 

The Five Sacred Karmas – Honoring, Serving, & Protecting:

  1. The Creator – Honoring Isvara through meditation, puja (ceremony) and japa (repetitive mantra).
  2. The Family – They provided the perfect setting for our karma to unfold and crystallize. The present generation cares for the older and younger generation. 
  3. The Scriptures & the Rishis who received and then shared them. We worship through regular study.
  4. Humanity – Helping our fellow brothers and sisters in our communities. We are interdependent. Service and volunteer work. 
  5. The Natural Wold including the water, air, land, animals, plants,… We depend on the natural world for our lives. Making a difference through the products we buy. 

The logic being that each of the above five karmas represent aspects of life that have given to us, and in appreciation, we give back – to the creator, our parents, the teachings, all of humanity and the natural world.

Three Types of Karmas

  1. Sattvica Karmas – those actions listed above in the Five Sacred Karmas. They are compulsory for those who seek moksha and they contribute to spiritual growth.
  2. Rajasa Karmas – help one fulfill desires and contribute to material well being. As long as one’s actions align with dharma, there is no problem here. These karmas are not compulsory but necessary for a householder.
  3. Tamasa Karmas – are actions that lead a person further from moksha. Adhamric actions that lead to greater ignorance (binding fears and desires).


While karma is right action, yoga is the right attitude of equanimity, balance, and clarity. Here are a few characteristics of right attitude:

  1. Acceptance – of the actions we take and their results. Acceptance of our Jiva-self, our attributes and detriments, as well as our passions and gifts.
  2. Non-comparison – this relates to self acceptance. Taking the best action we can in each moment, without comparing ourselves to others. We are all here with unique piece of the puzzle to contribute.
  3. Humility – it is only the ego/do-er that wants to believe he or she is special and separate. It is only because we don’t know who we are that we seek recognition, appreciation and power.
  4. Devotion – taking our emotional energy and placing it on something higher. Offering our appreciation for all we have and are, to the field of existence, which is the creator.

A Karma Yoga Prayer: I release my fears and desires, knowing they are but shadows of past action and respond to life appropriately, understanding my dharma and that of the greater field of creation. I offer these actions in service to all creation with the intention of gaining knowledge of my essential nature as Satchitananda – limitless consciousness existence.

5 thoughts on “Karma Yoga

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