Tuesday, 23 April 2013

05. Karma Yoga

Right action and right attitude

5.1. Right Action

In the previous four sessions, we saw the Purushārtha, the human goals of life. We also saw about the scriptures which want to help us in the fulfilment of these human goals. Then we saw the scriptural infrastructure, the Varna Āshrama scheme which is the infrastructure presented by the scriptures for the pursuit of these fourfold human goals.

Now in the following sessions, we propose to see the course of discipline prescribed by the scriptures for accomplishing these goals. What we previously saw was the infrastructure or the atmosphere. The very social and family condition was presented before. Now, we are going to see the course of discipline prescribed by the scriptures for the realisation and accomplishment of the human goals. These human goals, include all the four goals – material accomplishments (Dharma-Artha-Kāma) as well as spiritual accomplishment (Moksha). According to the scriptures, all the human accomplishments should culminate in spiritual accomplishment of Moksha. Without Moksha, the human life is incomplete. And therefore the scriptures keep the material accomplishments as incidental goals and the spiritual accomplishment as the ultimate and primary goal of life. In fact that alone gives the sense of fulfilment at the time of death. Minus Moksha the total sense of fulfilment cannot come – there will be wants and regrets.

Therefore keeping all the goals and especially the spiritual goal of Moksha in mind the scriptures prescribe a course of discipline which we generally call Sādhanā. Sādhanā means a course of discipline that we undertake to accomplish a goal – the goal is called Sādhyam. To accomplish the Sādhyam, the goal, we take to a course of discipline called Sādhanā and when we take to this discipline we are called Sādhaka. Therefore the scriptures want us to become Sādhakas taking to Sādhanā for accomplishing the Sādhyam. And once we accomplish the Sādhyam, we will be become Siddhāhā. So, Sādhaka through Sādhanā should attain Sādhyam and thus become Siddha. Sādhaka to Siddha is the journey of life.

Siddha is not related to miraculous powers. Siddha is one who is totally at home with himself. And this entire course of Sādhanā is broadly classified or divided into three levels or segments for the convenience of understanding and practice. Each level being called a Yogaha. The very word Yoga meant that which links the Sādhaka and the Sādhyam – the seeker and the sought. Yoga is derived from the root Yuj – to combine or unite. Unite the Sādhaka and Sādhyam. Yujyate Sādhyena Saha Sādhakaha Yena Saha Sādhanā.

What are these three levels of Sādhanāni or Yogas. These are

  • Karma Yoga
  • Upāsana Yoga
  • Jnāna Yogaha

Therefore you can visualise the entire course of discipline as a staircase with three steps. Three stepped staircase through which you can climb and reach Moksha. We will study each one of the Yoga. Because these three Yogas are not presented as alternative methods. This should be very clear to a Sādhaka that these three Yogas are not presented as alternative or optional methods. According to scriptures all three are important and compulsory and necessary for all the people. Just as when you climb the staircase, you have to step on every step – you cannot skip any one step if you want to safely and comfortably reach the goal.

Therefore we have to necessarily know all the three Yogas and we have to necessarily resort to all the three Yogas. We will now deal with one Yoga at a time, starting with Karma Yoga.

Karma Yoga consists of two words. It is a compound word consisting of two words – Karma and Yogaha. The word Karma in this context refers to proper action or appropriate action. The word Yoga means proper attitude or appropriate attitude – in Sanskrit Bhāvanā. In simple language Karma Yoga is nothing but proper action with proper attitude. Now we have to understand what is meant by proper action.

All the human actions possible for us, are broadly classified into three types by the scriptures. This is based on their spiritual influence on the human beings. This is because, the scriptures consider the spiritual personality and the spiritual goal as the most important thing which we cannot ignore and therefore they categorise actions not based on their materialistic benefits and influence. But actions are categorised based on their spiritual influence on you. There three categories are

  1. Uttamam Karma : those Karmas which have maximum positive spiritual influence
  2. Madhyamam Karma : intermediary one, those Karmas which have got limited or nil spiritual influence. They might have a lot of materialistic benefits which are not kept in mind.
  3. Adhama Karma : those actions which have got a negative spiritual contribution which means those which will cause spiritual fall or retrogression.

Now we will try and understand these.

5.1.1.Uttama Karmāni

This is otherwise known as Sāttvika Karmāni. In the 17th and 18th chapters of Bhagavad Gītā, Krishna deals with these topics in detail. Uttama Karmāni or Sāttvika Karmāni are defined as Para Upakāra Karmāni – all those actions which will benefit maximum number of beings, where you help or contribute towards other’s wellbeing. The Para Upakāra Karmāni are greatly praised in our scriptures. There is a verse that says

Shrūyatam Dharma Sarvasvam,Shrutva Chaiva Avadhāryatām,Paropakāra PunyāyaPāpāya Parapīdanam

All the noble Karmas or punya Karmas or elevating Karmas are Para Upakāra Karma – helping others.

Para Upakārāya Vahanti NadyahaPara Upakārāya Duhanti GāvahaPara Upakārāya Phalanti VrukshāhāPara Upakārārtham Idam Sharīram

In short, Uttama Karmas are those Karmas where you give more and take less. So the greater is your giving, the greater is your growing. Therefore our culture is a giving or Dānam or Tyāgam culture. Whereas a materialistic is a grabbing culture.

This Para Upakāra Karmās are otherwise called Nishkāma Karmāni. Thus all these words are synonymous – Uttama Karmāni, Sāttvika Karmāni, Para Upakāra Karmāni or Nishkāma Karmāni – they contribute to the maximum spiritual growth.

The next question is what are those Para Upakāra Karmāni ? And the scriptures help us in identifying these Para Upakāra Karmās and they are presented as Pancha Mahā Yajnāha – the five fold Yajnāhā. In these five Yajnāhā, I will be contributing to the welfare of the world. Deva Yajnaha

The first Yajnaha is called Deva Yajnaha. This is the first and foremost Para Upakāra Karma. And in this Deva Yajnaha – worship and prayer of God, what am I supposed to do ? I just stand in front of the Lord, and with my full and total heart utter a prayer. The prayer is the noblest one known in the scriptures –

Svasti Prajābhya Paripālayantām,Nyāyena Mārgena Mahīm MahīshāhāGo Bhrahmanebhya Shubhamastu NityamLokāha Samastāha Sukhinaha Bhavantu

May all of humankind be happy and well.May the great noble lords protect the earth in every way by the path of just virtue.May there be perpetual joy for those who know the real nature of things.May all the worlds be happy and free.

A sincere heartfelt deep prayer is the most powerful contribution which will help not only the entire humanity, animals and plants but it goes beyond the terrestrial plane to 14 Lokāhā

Sarve Bhavantu Sukhinaha,Sarve Santu Nirāmayāhā,Sarve Bhadrani Pashyantu,Mā Kaschid Dukhabhāg Bhavet

May everybody be happy,May everybody be free from disease,May everybody have good luck andMay none fall on evil days.

So when I utter these prayers in front of the Lord, in any language, I am doing the greatest contribution to the creation. In any other service, I can confine to only a particular geographical area. No human being or no institution can reach all areas of creation, but this one prayer is the most extensive prayer which will benefit the whole creation. So this is the most extensive and least expensive Para Upakāra Karma. The expenditure is a few minutes and few words and the sincere most heart. And along with this prayer if you offer something to the Lord, whatever you offer will also be distributed to the entire creation. Because God does not depend upon your contribution. God has a trust called Universal trust, Him being the trustee. Whatever is offered in any Pūja or Abhishekam, nothing will be waster and everything offered will be taken by the Lord and distributed through the Universal Trust of God to every human being, living being including plants and micro-organisms. Therefore the Sevā or service offered to the Lord, will ultimately go to humanity only.

Nowadays people say that Mānava Sevā is Mādhava Sevā. It is a good concept and is declared by many social service people who sometimes look down upon the religion people going to temples. They have the holier than thou, we are doing service, and that the others are doing useless Pūja . This is because they see only one side of the equation. They know Mānava Sevā is Mādhava Sevā but they don’t understand the other side that Mādhava Sevā is in fact more extensive Mānava Sevā because when I worship or offer, it is reaching the entire humanity. Therefore Mādhava Sevā or Deva Yajnaha is the first and most extensive and least expensive Paropakāram . And this is to be done daily. Pitru Yajnaha

This is the second Yajnaha. In each one of them, there is an expression of gratitude. Gratitude + Upakāra = Yajnaha. I express my gratitude to my Lord for what the Lord has given to me and then I contribute to the creation. In this Yajnaha, I express my gratitude to all my forefathers because of whom I am here. So my parents have contributed by giving birth to me, having brought me up without knowing whether I will do anything in return.

The greatest service is the parental service. And if my parents are able to do that, it is because of their parents and so on. In Pitru Yajnaha, I contribute to the well being of and express my gratitude to all the ancestors.

Then you may ask, how can you call this Paropakāra? Because you are only bothering about your ancestors. In all the Pitru Karmas there is another contribution to a special ‘fund’. This is required because there are many ancestors who do not get the Shrāddham because either they don’t have children or they have children who do not believe in Shrāddham. And imagine the plight of all such ancestors. The scriptures understand that in Kaliyuga, more such non-believers will come and the values will come down and hence we have an offering.

Eshām Na Mātā Na PitāNa Mitrajnāti BāndhavāhāTe Sarve Trupti MāyāntuMayā Utsrushtaihi Kushodakaihi

There are orphans like ancestors who are not contributed to by anyone, ungrateful children are there. For all such ancestors, let my offering go. All the Pitru Yajnaha like Shrāddham or Tarpanam, are great Paropakāra Karma because ancestors are also a vast community. Brahma Yajnaha

The third Yajnaha is called Brahma Yajnaha. This is expressing my gratitude to all the Rishīs who have given the Vedas and other secondary scriptures. Brahma means Vedas here and Brahma Yajnaha means Veda Yajnaha in which I worship both the scriptures and the authors of the scriptures, the discoverers of the scriptures – the Rishīs. It is because of them alone, that I am enjoying this wonderful holistic culture.

And in what way am I going to help these Rishīs ? These Rishīs do not need any help from me as they are already free. They want to spread this teaching in the entire creation. This is their one intention. They have given out the wonderful scriptures and only want the preservation and propagation of this wonderful teaching. Whatever I do to preserve and propagate the scriptures is a very great service. This is because scriptures help the humanity. This is in two ways :-

Firstly, the very sound of the scriptures help the humanity in creating peace. That is why we value Pārāyanam as a great Sādhanā. When I chant the scriptures aloud, the very Shabda, the very Veda Ghosha (loud chanting), purifies the creation. Therefore Pārāyanam becomes Brahma Yajnaha.

Secondly learning and teaching of the scriptural content is beneficial. This propagation of the teaching is called Adhyāpanam . Scriptural teaching is considered to be the best form of Brahma Yajnaha.

Adhyāpanam Brahma YajnahaPitru Yajnastu TarpanamHomo Daivo BalirbhoutahaNriyagnyo Tithipūjanam

These are the five definitions of Pancha Yajnaha. There is a very big difference between teaching and preaching. Preaching is giving a set of stray discourses on unconnected topics. It is some form of a Satsanga, where somebody shares some through or advices or stories spending some time uttering nice words. This is certainly useful but there is big difference between such preaching and systematic teaching in the form of classes.

In teaching there is a development, connection between every topic and all the ideas are supported through scriptures , logic and experience. So with the help of Shruti, Yukti, and Anubhava support, when systematically the teaching is presented, it is totally difference from preaching. Preaching is useful to inspire. But Brahma Yajnaha is teaching.

The difference is like dumping some bricks in the courtyard. Bricks dumped will not be of any use, they have to be arranged in a systematic manner. Arranged bricks alone will form a house in which you can live. When I give some stray ideas through preaching, I am only dumping some bricks which will not be useful to you. You will have to re-arrange it and make it a total teaching. And you cannot arrange the bricks – a mason is required.

Teaching is not only giving ideas but arranging the ideas in a systematically developed manner so that you have a beautiful vision in which you will get security, peace and happiness. And therefore Brahma Yajnaha is a very important one.

Previously Brahma Yajnaha was there in Gurukula Sampradāya where this teaching was given. But nowadays, this practice is going away. And if it has been revived to a certain extent, the credit goes to Swami Chinmayānanda and Swami Dayānandā. They brought the scriptures in the form of teachings. Previously discourses were there and teaching was only minor. But now in a major scale as a movement, teaching people, taking students and conducting classes and requesting them to write notes and compare notes, ask questions, clarify doubts like a University education has been done by the Swāmis. Brahma Yajnaha is a systematic teaching as this is also a science which has to be thoroughly understood. It is not a set of beliefs to be blindly followed but is a set of teaching that has to be understood.

Thus Brahma Yajnaha also comes under Para Upakāra because

Vidyā Dhanam Sarva Dhanāt Pradhānam

You can give different forms of money, do different forms of charity, but the best among them is Vidya Dānam Brahma Yajnaha. That is why in the end of the Gītā, Krishna says, whoever teaches the Bhagavad Gītā, I love him the most. Manushya Yajnaha

The fourth Yajnaha is Manushya Yajnaha. All forms of social service will come under this. Running orphanages, helping old people who cannot have any help, building schools, hospitals etc.

The problem now is Manushya Yajnaha can replace all the other four Yajnāhā. This is because of lack of proper understanding. This is like saying human beings need only carbohydrates. Manushya Yajnaha, a social service can never be a replacement for others. In addition to Manushya Yajnaha, we have to handle the others also. Bhūta Yajnaha

This is the fifth Yajnaha - Bhūta Yajnaha. All forms of contribution to all living being other than living being – non human living beings. I should remember that all the other living beings are also contributing to my happy life. This has been proved only now by the study of ecology. Therefore I should remember the animals, plants and just as they are helping for my survival, I should also contribute.

Ashvattho Vata Vruksha Chandana Tarur Mandāra Kalpa DrumauJambū Nimba Kadamba Chūta Saralā Vrukshāshcha Yeh Kshīrinaha

Sarve Te Phala Samyutā Pratidinam Vibhrājanam RājateRamyam Chaitra Ratham Cha Nandanavanam Kurvantu No Mangalam

Let the banyan, fig tree and sandalwood tree,Let the flowering coral tree and the wish giving tree,Let the Jamun, Lime, Kadamba, mango and the pine tree,Which are the chose ones among trees,And which daily are fruitful,And create rules of plenty,Let the pretty chaithra forest and garden,Do all that is good to us.

Let me remember all the trees, let me grow and nourish so that they will do Mangalam to the entire humanity.

And not only trees, this applies to rivers as well.

Gangā Sindhu Sarasvati Cha Yamunā Godāvari NarmadāKāveri Sarayu Mahendra Tanayā Charmanvati VedikāKshipra Vetravati Mahāsura Nadi Khyātā Cha Yā GandakiPūrnā Pūrna Jalaihi Samudra Sahitāhā Kurvantu No Mangalam.

Let the rivers, Ganges, Indus, Saraswathi and Yamuna,Let the rivers Godavari and Narmada,Let the rivers Kaveri, Sarayu who is the daughter of Indra,Let the vedic river Charmavathi,Let Kshipra and Vetravati the great river of gods,Let the very famous Gandaki,And let the ocean with its completely full water,Do all that is good to us.

From the rivers in top most India to the rivers in the south, I will remember all your contribution. If will not do any kind of contribution to them, at least I will not pollute or destroy them. So this contribution, if I cannot do in a larger scale, they have a Tulasi tree at home; at least pour water to the Tulasi tree. If you cannot offer to all animals, before eating, at least keep some rice outside – some crows or cows will eat.

This is awareness of the totality. Vaidika means universal citizen. This is because he is aware of this world, he remembers the stars and planet. In the daily Sandhyāvandanam , all the planets are invoked – Ādityam Tarpayāmi, Somam Tarpayāmi, Angārakam Tarpayāmi. He remembers all the planets and the entire solar system. This grand awareness I should have and I should contribute and this is called Pancha Mahā Yajnāha. This is called Nishkāma Karmāni, Sāttvika Karmāni, Uttama Karmāni, Para Upakāra Karmāni – they will contribute to spiritual growth primarily.

5.1.2.Madhyama Karmāni

These are the second set of Karmās. These are all the Sakāma Karmāni also called Rājasa Karmāni also called Para Udāsana Karmāni. Para Udāsana Karma means those actions in which I ignore other people and am indifferent to others where I don’t bother about even their existence or problems. I am concerned only about my selfish karmas. They will help in the material well being but they do not contribute much to the spiritual growth – either nil or limited.

All Kāmya Karmās – selfish Karmas, whether ritualistic or non-ritualistic come under Madhyama Karmāni.

5.1.3.Adhama Karmāni

Finally comes Adhama Karmas, Tāmasa Karmāni, or Nishiddha Karmāni – prohibited actions or corrupted actions or destructive actions or Para Apakāra Karmāni. In this, I benefit but it is harmful to others and these Karmāni not only do they not help me spiritually but also bring us down spiritually.

Hence the first one leads to spiritual Elevation, second one leads to spiritual stagnation and the third one leads to spiritual retrogression. These are the three Karmāni introduced by the scriptures. The scriptures point out that the Karma yogi’s attempt is to change the proportion of the Karmāni in such a way that the Uttama Karmāni are dominant in our lives, Madhyama Karmāni are less dominant and Adhama Karmāni are to be zero. The scriptures point out that even if some inevitable Adhama Karmāni are there, because of unavoidable situations – called Sūna – unavoidable Para Apakāra Karmāni (e.g. using insecticides) they can be neutralised by Uttama Karmāni. Thus Uttama Karmāni help in two ways – they contribute to spiritual growth and also neutralise the Pāpam born out of inevitable Sūna.

5.2. Right Attitude

Any attitude is born out of right understanding. One can never develop a healthy and lasting attitude unless he understands the principles. Whenever you do an action, the moment you do an action, it becomes part of the universe. It has left my hands. And once the Karma has become part of the universe, all the universal laws will act on the Karmas. That is because everything in creation is acted upon by the laws in the universe.

The thus processed Karma is called Phalam. Thus every Karma is processed by the universal laws, becomes Phalam and is handed over back to me. The scriptures point out, all the universal laws are tools in the hands of the Lord to maintain the harmony of creation and therefore when I say the laws are processing the Karmas, it essentially means God is processing the Karmāni through the tool of his own universal laws. Therefore Karma is going to God for processing and is coming from the Lord in a processed form called Phalam.

The moment you know this fact and remember this fact, every Karma becomes Īshvara Arpanam. For an enlightened Karma yogi, every action is Īshvara Arpana and this is called Ishvara Arpana Bhāvanā – born out of this awareness. And when I perform the actions out of Ishvara Arpana Bhāvanā, and when I receive the processed Karma in form of Phalam, I don’t call it Karma Phalam, but I call it Īshvara Prasādaha. Because what comes from God is a Prasāda, therefore sacred, therefore cannot be rejected or criticised and received with a sense of fulfilment.

Hence while acting, Ishvara Arpana Bhāvanā and while receiving the result, Prasāda Bhāvanā, this is called Yogaha. And when I have these two Bhāvanāhā, I enjoy an equanimous mind, Samattvam Yogaha Uchyate because I am enthusiastic in every action. There is no dullness, there is no drudgery or boredom because every action is offering to the Lord. Hence I love everything that I do and accept all experiences in life because they are Īshvara Prasādaha which will lead to Samattvam. Samattva Bhāvanā is the result of Īshvara Arpana Prasāda Bhāvanā. These two put together will lead to very fast spiritual growth. This is called Chitta Shuddhihi.

Chitta Shuddhihi can be put in the simplest context as – I can understand that all my problems in life are not caused by the world, but are caused by my wrong handling of the world because of my ignorance. So the ignorant I handle the world wrongly, and hence I suffer. If I become the wise I, I know how to handle the world which is Nandanavanam – Sampūrnam Jagadeva Nanadanavanam. So ignorant-I is the problem and wise-I is the solution – this diagnosis is the result of Karma Yoga which is otherwise called Chitta Shuddhihi.

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