Karma = Action

Neither bad nor good, karma means work or action.
We’ve incorporated many Sanskrit words and concepts into our Western vocabulary such as guru, pundit, mantra, and karma. Among them, it is karma in particular, which has gotten a bad rap. Often bandied about with a negative connotation, in reality it is a neutral term and simply means an action. Actions produce a result, or phala. Therefore, Karma Phala describes your present circumstances. That is, the decisions you’ve made and the actions you’ve taken in the past have created your current reality. As Paul tells us in the Bible, “For whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.”

It’s universal and timeless.
Moreover, the subject of karma is deep. A full understanding of this concept is complex. However, an acceptance of this principle is key to our spiritual growth. It’s a path to living a moral and purposeful life. Above all, it’s a way we can find solace in accepting there are reasons for the way things are. From this premise, comes empowerment.

“You are free to choose. But you are not free to alter the consequences of your decisions.”
– Ezra Taft Benson

Yoga has many paths, practiced in a variety of ways. The Sanskrit word yoga comes from the root yuj which means to unite or connect. It’s an Indian philosophy dating back some 5,000 years. In the West, we are most familiar with Hatha yoga, which entails physical poses and breathing techniques. There are a number of methods of Hatha yoga, such as Iyengar, Ashtanga, and Viniyoga to name a few.

Bhakti yoga, is the path of devotion, exemplified by monks, nuns, and spiritual aspirants who dedicate themselves to prayer, chanting and meditation. Jnana yoga, the path of knowledge and the scholar, is practiced by those deeply dedicated to studies which heighten spiritual awareness. Karma yoga is the path of working for work’s sake, with no other motive than “it is right to do right.” Karma yogis view their work — whatever that work may be — doing the labor to the best of their ability with purity of heart and mind, yet remaining detached regarding the results.

“Plant seeds of happiness, hope, success, and love; it will all come back to you in abundance. This is the law of nature.” — Steve Maraboli

Understanding karma is a way to live with conscious awareness.
Coming to the realization our current circumstances are the result of our past thoughts, words and deeds, encourages us to live mindfully and with intention. It is a way to find peace in the here and now.

Swami Vivekananda explains the karma theory:

  • It does not believe in chance.
  • We are the creators of our own destiny.
  • Our present experience is determined by our past actions.
  • Our future experience will be determined by what we do here and now.
  • We shape our own future. Karma yoga is equal to this tranquil pathway through a forest.

Detachment is key. Furthermore, when we surrender our attachment to the results of our efforts we free ourselves of anxiety and stress. Finally, Karma yoga promotes joy in present-moment engagement.

See related blog on Seva: Selfless Service!

Additional Reading:
Walking the Walk – A Karma Yoga Manual by Swami Tyagananda (Amazon)