Jñāna literally means “knowledge, wisdom, understanding, or cognition,” and refers to existential knowledge. The Greeks called this revealing power epiginosko (ἐπιγινώσκω). The word yoga means “union.” Thus, jñāna-yoga is a path that aims to realize the essential...
In karma-yoga–or the art of selfless action–we learn to act in harmony with dharma, or the role we have been assigned in life, without expecting any results. The fact that every human being, regardless of age, sex, race, or nation, is doomed to act, makes this path one of the most essential within yoga.
The word karma stems from the Sanskrit root kri, whose meaning is to do or act. Karma means action or activity, and also includes the result or effect of the action. Karma-yoga is “union through action”.
It involves the complete dedication of all our actions to the supreme will, renouncing any interest in selfish gain or desire for the fruits of our efforts and devoting them to humanity as the manifestation of God.
Karma-yoga or the path of action is based on love and attention to the work and not merely out of interest in its fruits. We learn to situate ourselves in the present and appreciate the process of the work, relinquishing the results which are to come in the future.
This path of liberation goes far beyond acting with intentions to do good, or philanthropy. Good works do not lead to liberation, but to continued reincarnations, albeit in more favorable conditions. Charitable works can lead us to a more pleasant cell, but not to release from prison. Instead, the direction of karma-yoga is to stop the accumulative process of reactions, both good as well as bad, liberating us from the repeated births and returning us to our divine origin.
Karma-yoga is that wisdom that allows us to act without becoming bound or fettered by the action. It teaches us the delicate art of turning action into a tool that liberates, rather than enslaves.
Karma-yoga is the art of transforming our automatic reactions into conscious actions, and thus, our karma into yoga.
The way of action does not see in activity and work an obstacle to a meditative life. Far from advising us to leave our jobs and dedicate our lives solely to prayer and meditation, this path suggests instead that we transform our labor into worship and meditation. It suggests that we adopt a new perspective that will transform our tasks and our work, however boring, difficult, or demanding, into instruments to grow and evolve, into tools to reach higher levels of consciousness.
Hinduism is no justification for escapists. The Sanātana-dharma religion does not allow itself to be utilized as a pretext to elude responsibilities towards family, society, and country. Rather, Hinduism advises that we consciously engage with the world, to know, confront and understand it, in order to ultimately transcend its limitations, which cannot be overcome without first being understood.
Thus, every spiritual aspirant should enter deeply into the art of action and make it a part of his sādhanā. Karma-yoga offers us a spiritual life without the need to isolate ourselves in a cave in the Himalayas. It allows us a spiritual development in the midst of the activity required by life in our modern society.
(An excerpt from Prabhuji’s writings).
We usually refer to karma yoga as “the yoga of action” or “the yoga of activity.” However, more than just teaching what action is and how to act, classic karma yoga is a wisdom that guides us to transcend reaction or the deed at its instinctive, mechanical, and automatic levels in order to wake up to the world of action. For this purpose, it is very important to understand the difference between reaction and action.
Reaction emerges from the mind; its origin is our internal, subjective world of dreams, nightmares, chaos, and disorder. Therefore, reaction always originates in the past, because the mind is past; it is yesterday. Reaction comes from the world of thought, which is past. Being past—coming from the memory— reaction has no relation at all to the moment, the other person, the situation. It is totally disconnected from the now because reaction is no more than an activation of specific behavioral patterns that were acquired in a past.
Action emerges from the moment, the present. Its roots are in the depths of existence, as it’s an expression or manifestation of it. Action has the vitality of what’s real; it doesn’t originate in the past. Like dancing with the present, it’s to be in harmony with this instant, to be in tune with the other; it’s a kind of conversation with the moment. Action occurs in the present, meaning everything you do, everything you touch, will have a profound meaning because it’s alive. The difference between an action and a reaction is something like the difference between a genuine, natural flower, and a plastic flower. A reaction may be pleasant, but it’s always trite.
(An excerpt from Prabhuji’s book “What Is As It Is“)