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Tag: karma yoga

Parts of speech

We all know the parts of speech in English right – noun, pronoun, verb, adverb, adjective, preposition, interjection, conjunction – maybe I missed a few?

Now guess which of these is the most important? Not the noun, which is subjective (pun-unintended), or the adjective, which is always flowery. Rather, it is the simplistic, yet potent ‘verb’.

Here’s how google defines it: “Verb: This is the most important part of a speech, for without a verb, a sentence would not exist. Simply put, this is a word that shows an action (physical or mental) or state of being of the subject in a sentence.”

A word that shows an action or state of being of the subject in a sentence. So cool, and so relevant to spirituality too, because verbs are the very essence of karma yoga!

The ‘who is doing?’ is not relevant. The ‘what is being done’ is also not relevant. Neither is ‘why are we doing?’. Instead, the highest focus, is on the ‘doing’ itself. It’s not as if the other things don’t matter, but they matter less. The end result isn’t key, the process of doing is more important. Because if the process is done well, then the other things will be taken care of. And before someone disagrees and says the above questions are important – yes, they are. But not ‘during’ the ‘doing’. For those, there can be a separate session of planning, brainstorming etc. all of which are verbs for their own sakes.

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Behavioural intentions

Here’s a lovely quote by Stephen Covey.

We judge others by their behaviour, but ourselves by our intentions.

This is brilliant because it is not just what it says, but is also the essence of karma yoga. As we have seen before, karma is not just action, as it is often loosely translated into. But rather, it is based on intention.

What Mr. Covey refers to here in a way is our lopsided view of karma. In our minds, we know that we mean the best. If we were late for work or an important occasion, we immediately have an answer ready. Not to the outside world, but to our own conscience. “I really wanted to be on time, but [it started raining] / [the carpenter came later than expected ] / [ got an unavoidable phone call ] / [add other genuine rationale here ].

This is fine. Things go wrong sometimes, and it’s certainly difficult to be perfect in everything all the time. But we apply these relaxations only to ourselves, not to the world. Why? Because we can only see what others do, and not what they are really thinking i.e. intending.

If as the realized masters say, it is intention that is most important even from a karmic point of view, we must introspect thus: are we being too lenient on ourselves, and conversely too harsh on others?

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Qarm& yogA

Chapter 3 in the Gita is all about karma yoga. Here’s my quick 2-part Q&A on this outstandingly practical chapter.

Question 1 – The Lord says that ‘knowledge’ is superior to ‘action’. Should I not then go in search of ‘knowledge’ first?
Answer to that is verse 3 – two paths are given by Lord K – one jnaana yoga, other karma yoga. If the mind is pure, then jnaana yoga is fine. But if we are not ready for it, and still have desires and attachments, then action is the only alternative. But the same goal can reached, irrespective of the path – knowledge or action.

Question 2 – When we feel hopeless and helpless sometimes, and become fatalistic, because “in the long run, we are all dead anyway” – then why should I do any work/action at all?
Answer to that is verse 8 – action is superior to inaction. Through inaction, one cannot even maintain one’s own body.

Question 3 – What qualifications do I need? Do I need to be a doctor, lawyer, MBA for karma yoga?
Answer to that is verse 19, purport 2 – also the favourite of Mahatma Gandhi, and which Guruji has also put onto the back cover of his Amazing Simple Gita. “No qualifications needed.”

Intrigued? Continued tomorrow…

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Shock and Awe 5

Time again for another Shock and Awe post.

Quoting below from the free Amazing Simple Gita.

  1. When we want anything, our mind starts getting perturbed. Are we getting it? or Not? Our mind is disturbed and finds no peace.
  2. 4 important points for peace:
    1. Give up all desires that come to your mind.
    2. Also give up all attachments.
    3. Give up “I”…the feeling I did it, I was responsible etc.
    4. Give up ‘mine’. The possessions, the feeling of mine which separates you from ‘all’, i.e. the Lord
  3. A person attains actionlessness not by withdrawing from action, but by renouncing fruits of actions

What simple yet splendid takeaways!

An important point, is that all of the above are at the mind level. In the material physical world, we need to behave with common sense. Also, these are ‘destination’ verses, and not necessarily something we can perfect in just a short time.

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Our actions – part 1 of 2

In the quest for moksha or liberation, one can take many paths. The path of knowledge, the path of devotion, the path of meditation etc. are some of the ways to the same goal. The easiest and most identifiable path in this day and age though, is supposed to be the path of action, also known as karma yoga.

There are 2 very specific principles of karma yoga, and these often cause much confusion in their applicability.
1. We must give up the fruits of our actions.
2. We must give up the doer-ship of our actions.

What does this even mean? We will explore the first principle now, and the next one in tomorrow’s follow up post.

Let us say we have a bright chance of getting promoted at work. This entails putting in our best work for the next 6 months. How much of our time over the next 6 months goes in actually working, versus in worrying about the result? It is likely that many of us dissipate a lot of our energies stressing about that which is not in our control. We cannot control the promotion cycle or evaluation cycle or the management team that has to vote on the promotions or the macro environment or the overall profit / loss of the company or the number of other candidates that deserve promotions or even whether your recommending officer (i.e. your boss) would still be with the firm! There is only thing we can control however, and this is the quality of our own work.

The first principle of karma yoga drives home precisely this point. Irrespective of what you are doing (studying, giving an exam, working, driving, eating, anything!), focus on doing your best, and forget about the end result. This forgetting about the end result, is called giving up the fruits of our actions. The less the worry, the more the enjoyment of the work at hand, and thereby better the quality of output.

Last but not the least, giving up the result does not mean we say ‘No’ to a promotion if we get it, as that would only be foolish! But we do not need to be mentally ‘bound’ to the promotion either, especially while doing the work. If the promotion does not come through, we can either try for one next time, or look for another role. Part 2 tomorrow!

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