What is Karma Yoga?

(Duty for Duty’s Sake)
Karma Yoga is the path of action. It is the path of disinterested service. It is the way that
leads to the attainment of God through selfless work. It is the Yoga of renunciation of the fruits of
Karma Yoga teaches us how to work for work’s sake—unattached—and how to utilise to
the best advantage the greater part of our energies. ‘Duty for Duty’s Sake’ is the motto of a
Karma-Yogin. Work is worship for the practitioners of Karma Yoga. Every work is turned into an
offering unto the Lord. The Karma Yogin is not bound by the Karmas, as he consecrates the fruits of
his actions to the Lord. Yogah Karmasu Kausalam—Yoga is skill in action.
Generally, a work brings as its effect or fruit either pleasure or pain. Each work adds a link
to our bondage of Samsara and brings repeated births. This is the inexorable Law of Karma. But,
through the practice of Karma Yoga, the effects of Karmas can be wiped out. Karma becomes
barren. The same work, when done with the right mental attitude, right spirit and right will through
Yoga, without attachment and expectation of fruits, without the idea of agency or doership, with a
mind balanced in success and failure (Samatvam Yoga Uchyate), does not add a link to our
bondage. On the contrary, it purifies our heart and helps us to attain salvation through the descent of
divine light or dawn of wisdom.
A rigid moral discipline and control of senses are indispensable for the practice of Karma
Brahmacharya is, indeed, essential. Cultivation of virtues such as tolerance, adaptability,
sympathy, mercy, equal vision, balance of mind, cosmic love, patience, perseverance, humility,
generosity, nobility, self-restraint, control of anger, non-violence, truthfulness, moderation in
eating, drinking and sleeping, simple living and endurance, is very necessary.
Every man should do his duties in accordance with his own Varna and Asrama, caste and
station as well as stage in life. There is no benefit in abandoning one’s own work in preference to
another’s work.
Some people think that Karma Yoga is an inferior type of Yoga. They think that carrying
water, cleansing plates, serving food to the poor and sweeping the floor are menial works. This is a
sad mistake. They have not understood the technique and glory of Karma Yoga. Lord Krishna, the
Lord of the three worlds, acted the part of charioteer of Arjuna. He also acted the part of a cowherd.

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