Yesterday we explored principle 1 of karma yoga – which is to renounce the fruits of our actions. Employing this principle reduces anxiety and increases efficiency – without physically giving anything up.
Principle 2 refers to giving up doer-ship. What does this mean?
It is said that each of our actions accrues karma. Somewhat like Newton’s 3rd law of action-reaction, but applicable everywhere, not just to motion. Do good, and good will come to you. Ditto for bad. The good and bad we are experiencing today is the result of our past actions – this birth and many countless other reincarnations till now. The life and world we are living in now is considered ‘bonded’ – as we continuously go through ups and downs. Can we get out of this cycle once and for all?
Absolutely, and that is what principle 2 is about. On the face of it though, giving up ‘doer-ship’ seems impossible. Because if I am working in office, then I am the doer (employee). If I’m driving then I’m the doer (driver). If I’m eating, then I’m the doer (eater). How can I give this up? If I somehow give this up, then would I not be the doer anymore?
Great questions – and karma yoga never says anything about giving up the actions themselves. Only giving up doer-ship of the actions, which means parting with the mental notion “Hey, it’s me. “I” am the great (wo)man that did this. And also that and that and that!” When we identify with ‘doing’ things, we accrue karma, which means we continue to be bound to this cycle of re-births. Why? Because our actions spring forth from desires (“I want a promotion”), and this leads to attachment. And herein lies a clue!
To give up doer-ship, we must give up our selfish desires, and instead focus on the ‘greater good’ and ‘welfare for all’. For instance, when we work in the service of others, especially under the guidance of a Guru, there is no question of doer-ship, as we are not doing anything for ourselves, and it is all only the Guru’s vision manifesting itself. When viewed objectively, we will realise that we are all part of a grand plan, and that by ourselves, we really cannot do much at all. Even the energy required to write/read this blog post is not coming from us – but rather borrowed from food/nature. So we are already not the ‘true doers’, but our egos make us think we are infinitely more significant than we actually are.
Note again, that this orientation is more mental than physical. So do not fill your upcoming self-evaluation form at work as “I am not the doer, and therefore do not need a promotion.” Common sense must prevail!
When both karma yoga principles are applied together, and consistently in everything we do, we will find that work truly becomes play.