Karma yoga is a part of the Bhagawad Gita. It was said by Lord Krishna in the Battlefield of Kurukshetra to Arjuna, When Arjuna, the greatest archer of that time was sentimental and was not willing to fight the great war and run away – in the battlefield of righteousness – the war against evil – the Lord told him the Karma Yoga – or the Path of Action to enlightenment.
But The Lord Said : “Karmanyevadhikaraste ma phaleshu kadacana, ma karmaphaladeturbhurma te sango stvakarmani” (In Sanskrit)
(Meaning: Having acquired the state of a warrior you are now eligible to act in whatever way the stature of a warrior demands out of you. But you are not entitled to any benefits resulting from your actions. At the same time you cannot be in a state of inertia. you should act according to your stature without any hope of enjoying the fruits of your actions)
One has to understand that we all are born into suffering. The Buddha has said the first of the four noble truths that “Life is suffering”. Buddha, according to me was the greatest Karma Yogi, because he has nothing to desire, but he worked, with complete selflessness for the betterment of mankind. This has to be understood.
The moment we are born, we are born into suffering. Only people who are born enlightened are not born into suffering. All others are all born into suffering and misery. No matter in how rich a family he is born into or how poor. You must have noticed that all our life, whatever we do, we do it so that we can be happy in the end. Our goal is happiness and all our lives we strive to be happy. But unfortunately the end does not come and we keep striving. The money we earn, the work we do, the house we buy, everything is done to make us safe and secure so that we have time to be happy. Whatever we do we do it for happiness in the end. We work to earn money and think that the day we have enough money we think that we will be happy. We will be happy because then we will be safe and whatever comes we will be able to manage it with money. We will have a house to live, a good family and we will be happy. Happiness is our driving force.
We are always temporarily or with long term goal trying to do away with unhappiness. The following will show how:
1. We cried the moment we were born. At that time, no one taught us not cry. But we cried the moment we were born. When we were born we could only express ourselves by crying or laughing. We did not laugh, but we cried. There must have been some uneasiness inside. Otherwise we would have laughed the moment we were born. Only one man, as far as my knowledge goes laughed the moment he was born. It was Zarathustra. He was an enlightened man, one of the greatest born in history.
2. We have always cried and because of that we were given toys and chocolates. Otherwise why would we need toys? This unhappiness we have been carrying form our birth – We are carrying it from our previous life
3. There is the entertainment industry. If we are not uneasy, then why would we need entertainment?
4. There are drugs available. Why would be need drugs? What makes them so addictive?
5. There is social media these days, and we are addicted.
6. There is a hunger for money. We need very little money to live, why do we need so much money. Money keeps us occupied; it keeps us working and hides our uneasiness that is why money becomes an addiction.
7. We drive very fast and are thrilled – Why is driving fast thrilling?
8. We have adventure sports? Why is adventure sports needed if we were already thrilled?
9. We need holidays to enjoy ourselves? Why do we need enjoyment?
10. There are discotheques around in every city, there is loud music, dazzling lights, alcohol and dancing – makes us forget our uneasiness for some time.
All the above would not be necessary if the underlying unhappiness would not be there. And this is applicable to all of us. We earn all our money for these things. But these things do not help. The unhappiness keeps coming back again and again.
The question of happiness comes when we know that we are not happy. It is in our knowledge that we are unhappy inside, always. But we do not accept it. We cover it. If someone says that we are unhappy, we get angry hearing the fact that we do not look happy. This sadness or our life full of misery today is the driving force that makes us work for a better tomorrow.
This unhappiness inside and the effort of all the people in this world to strive for happiness is making the world go around. This is the law – The Buddha Calls it – Dhamma or the Law.
The continuous underlying unhappiness is the major driving force which makes us move forward in life. We react to this unhappiness. Whenever the unhappiness surfaces, we immediately react to put the unhappiness to an end. But we are misdirected. We feel that the day we earn a lot of money, the day we are secure, we will be happy. This happens because we think that the cause of our misery is the external situation. But it is not. It is the underlying unhappiness we are born with, makes us unhappy.
But this is a wrong way we work. The sadness that we want to eradicate with lots of money is not possible. It will only be temporary. If there is a lot of money, something will come up that cannot be solved with money. The cause of this sadness is something that is very misunderstood. This is the sadness we are born with. It is inherent and cannot be eradicated with money or anything external. It will go on its own one day, automatically – without any effort it will go away and in the process enlighten you. One keeps on seeking happiness through external means till the time they find that this sadness or misery cannot be solved externally. Whatever you do externally, one cannot solve the problem of sadness.
One has to clearly understand that whatever we do, no matter how good or how bad, how great or how small in this world, no matter how much money we gather with good or bad means, no matter how safe we think we are, the misery or sadness is not to go away forever.
We have to know that this misery or sadness is not to go forever. It will completely go once and for all the day we become a Buddha. So we have to work in this world and know that this misery is not to go. We have to do whatever is required, being a part of this world, good and bad world and know that this misery is not to go. You can cover the misery with whatever you want, but it will only be temporary and is bound to come back again.
It is the same underlying misery coming up again and again and we are labelling it differently under different external situations. We label it according to the external situation. But the external is as it is. But it is the same thing that is coming up again and again on the surface.
We think that once we have a house, a car, family and lots of money, we will be happy for ever. But this is not the case, the misery will erupt and we will blame it on some other person or thing for the misery, failing to understand that the cause of misery is the underlying uneasiness which was covered up temporarily by things like money, car, house etc. People with lots and lots of money are also in pain and sorrow. These external things are also not enough to make them happy for ever. This proves that life is full of suffering and cannot be solved by external means.
For everybody, the unhappiness has a quota. It may be more or less depending on the individual, but there is an end to it. I cannot quantify it. There are no units available, but it is for sure that it will end. Had this been not the case, we would not have had people like the Gautama Buddha. There were many people before and after Buddha who were enlightened. For then the unhappiness has flown out completely leaving them enlightened. For these people the quota is over. The unhappiness stored inside has been thrown away completely and they are free. There is nothing left to do. They have achieved perfection.
The unhappiness has to be completely thrown out. The unhappiness is very much willing to come out, but we are constantly keeping it locked inside. It is ready to come out at once, but we have covered it tightly with a lid. We are not brave enough to let it out. We do not know what will happen, what will be the magnitude of our unhappiness. We are scared when we are little unhappy. We immediately rectify whatever even the minutest error to make us happy again, how can we let out the whole unhappiness that have been stored for thousands of lives. We cannot. We are scared. It is definitely dangerous.
Since the unhappiness as an outward flow it has a tendency to come out. But the more we cover it, the pressure increases. The pressure keeps increasing and whenever it comes out, it comes out in more quantity. Day by day, we become unhappier. The magnitude of unhappiness increases whenever the lid is removed even for a small time. In everyday situations we become more and more unhappy. We become unhappier in day to day activities and we need more intense things to cover the unhappiness. By covering it more and more we tend to delay the process. We delay our enlightenment. Enlightenment is bound to happen to all of us. We have the seed, it only needs to flower. The moment we feel sad or uneasy, understand that we are somehow, unconsciously blocking the flow or the uneasiness which is willing to come out. Whenever we block, we feel uneasy. If we allow the uneasiness to freely flow, there will be no problem. We have to allow this uneasiness to flow out completely.
The whole world is a process to make us enlightened. Existence provides us with all the means to get enlightened because this is the goal of existence itself. But we have separated ourselves from existence. For this we have to jump into the world and live it intensely and let out more and more unhappiness out.
To convert this unhappiness into happiness is our driving force. Whatever we do, we do to change this unhappiness to happiness. Without this unhappiness, we would not do a single thing. We would not make a single move. We would come to a standstill.
This effort to change our unhappiness into happiness put us in an unending cycle. We also keep moving round and round being a part of the wheel. This effort to change our unhappiness in unhappiness makes us a part of the law of cause and effect. This effort makes us suffer our past karmas. The objective of Karma Yoga is to make us free from our past Karmas and redeem us from the law of cause and effect.
We make this unhappiness personal. We think that we must do something to do away with this unhappiness otherwise we will remain unhappy forever. We always do something to cover up this unhappiness. This makes things absolutely mandatory.
The urge to do away with this continuously underlying unhappiness is the source of our desires. We start desiring worldly things and think that once we fulfil our desires, we will be happy, but this is not the case. The unhappiness goes for a little while and comes back again. It was only suppressed for some time and it starts flowing again. We see that others are apparently happy and we make our goals into what we see in others today. We fail to understand that the happiness we see in others is also apparent. They are also in the same boat.
This desire to be what someone else is a method to cover the underlying unhappiness. It gets covered for some time, gets pressurised and come out with greater force. This causes us more trouble. The moment we desire, we fall back into the same cycle. We fail and the road leads to further suffering. The fact is that the uneasiness will come out, today or tomorrow it has to. So there is no point covering it up, but we should let it out slowly.
Karma Yoga says one should do one duty, without bother striving for happiness. It says, happiness and duty should be separated forever. For us, generally, happiness means trying to do away with the underlying unhappiness. It says one need not strive for happiness, it is of no use. It will not go, but the happiness you gain will be temporary. All our striving for happiness is nothing but foolishness. Our effort to do away with the unhappiness and strive for happiness makes us forget our duty.
There are two ways to work:
- One way is as a reaction to the underlying unhappiness – striving for happiness and with our little and foolish methods trying to cover the unhappiness. Foolish because the unhappiness will come out with full force today or tomorrow if not allowed coming out. It takes its own time. If one works this way, he is falls into a trap and is affected by the law of cause and effect, he suffers has past karma.
- The second method (Karma Yoga) is to understand that one has nothing personal with the unhappiness at the moment and understanding that one was born with this underlying unhappiness. One has to understand that the external situation, whatever it may be is not the cause of this unhappiness that you are having inside – it is centuries old. In following Karma Yoga, One does not try to do away with the unhappiness but lets the unhappiness or uneasiness come out in its own accord. Without bothering about the unhappiness, one has to do ones duty as per the requirement of the present moment, do whatever is right at this moment, whatever it might be. This world is a dirty place, people are mad. And at the same time, one is born in this dirty world. Being born in this dirty world, one has no option but to have active participation in this world. This may sometime require you to be bad or even worse.
Karma Yoga says, a person, who does not bother about his underlying unhappiness, does not try to cover it up with petty desires of worldly things, and works continuously in this dirty world, doing good or bad, who does not bother about his reputation, and works as per the requirement of the moment – walks the path of Action or Karma Yoga.
In the path of Karma Yoga, one may encounter many blocks, which will make him utterly unhappy. The real Karma Yogi understands and remembers that these blocks or so called unhappiness or uneasiness or misery has nothing to do with the present situation. He ignores or keeps them aside and works towards his goal. Karma Yoga says as long as one does not bother to change his unhappiness into happiness, there is absolute freedom available to him – he may be required to be bad or even worse sometimes as the situation demands, but it will not have any effect on his soul.
Karma yoga takes you out of the cycle of birth and death. It relieves you of your past karmas. It makes you walk the path to Enlightenment.
Sukhadukhe same Krtwa, labhalabhau jayajayau, tato yuddhaya yuyjyasva naivam papamavapsyasi
(Treat joy and sorrow, victory and defeat, gain and loss alike and prepare yourself for battle. Do not fear that you will be sinning).