43. How To Practice Karma Yoga Without Conflict

Krishna With Gopis

by Jayaram V

Notes: I have translated the Bhagavadgita twice. The first one was a loose translation. The second one was a word to word translation with a detailed commentary. The commentary is however different from what you will find here. In this section I will share with you my thoughts about the knowledge, philosophy and wisdom of the Bhagavadgita as I understand it from my perspective. Jayaram V



In traditional sacrifices (yajna) you have to make offerings to gods in a structured manner. Each offering has to be carefully selected according to a prescribed procedure, and the offering has to be accompanied by a set of specific mantras. There are also rules governing your conduct before and after the sacrifice. Even after you take all precautions, in the end you still have to perform expiation ceremonies seeking forgiveness for your mistakes.

Ritual sacrifices are external sacrifices, which require prior preparation, time, money and organized effort. Since you involve gods in performing them and want to please them through your sacrifice, you cannot take liberties. Therefore, you invariably require the help of qualified priests. Tradition also prohibits you from performing certain sacrifices depending upon your social, economic and caste background.

The Vedas were once very popular. Kings and rich people used to perform sacrifices to obtain favors from gods or to please the Brahmanas. They also provided the hosts of the sacrifices with opportunities to interact with people and indulge in good karma. In today's world the Vedas as well as the ritual sacrifices have lost much of their appeal. Many people do not have the time or the inclination to make offerings to gods. Vedic sacrificial ceremonies (yajnas) are not largely replaced by domestic worship and temple worship. There were no temples in the Vedic times. People worshipped gods through sacrifices in open or at home.

Although the Vedic rituals and ceremonies lost their exalted place in Hinduism, the idea of sacrifice still occupies a central place in the religious and spiritual life of Hindus. From spiritual perspective, you can bring sacrifice into every aspect of your life. Without having to organize elaborate ceremonies as in the past, you can perform them internally or externally by transforming every action of yours into a sacrifice and offering its fruit to God or your eternal Self. The idea of sacrifice is inherent in karma yoga, which itself is rooted in the idea of Dharma or the notion all actions and duties arise from God, and we are his instruments upon earth. When you perform actions without expectations or desire for their results, you also bring in the idea of renunciation into your thinking and attitude, without having to renounce the world and lay the foundation for your liberation.

Karma yoga becomes a strenuous effort if you perform actions with a sense of duality. It is because you cannot easily live for another person, even if that person happens to be God, without breaking the wall of separation. You may work for a salary, fees or remuneration, as most people do, but to work for another entity without reward or expectation is very difficult for the human mind. Therefore, as long as you think that you and God are two entities, you cannot successfully practice karma yoga. Each time you have to remember for whom your actions are meant and to whom the fruit should go.

However, there is another way, which is easier and less painful. It is by removing the wall of separation of the notion that you are different from your Self or from God. Identify yourself with your inner Self, and assume that you are an eternal self, giving up your attachment to your mind and body. With that idea firmly established in your mind perform your actions. Accept your spiritual identity as your real identity. Then, you do not have to struggle to practice karma yoga. You do not have to even make a conscious offering of your actions. When actions are performed by stabilizing yourself in the Self, your life becomes a continuous sacrifice and each action you perform becomes an offering along with their fruit.

In every act of sacrifice there are three parts, the offerer or the sacrificer, the offering or the sacrificed, and the recipient or object of sacrifice. Because of duality and delusion you may believe that they are separate, whereas in truth they are all aspects of Brahman only. Therefore, take your name and physical identity out of the equation and bring your true identity or the Self into your. Make your life a continuous sacrifice, and your actions sacrificial offerings. Then you truly make your life divine. This is the secret of karma yoga. Perform your duties as if you are an eternal Self, and an aspect of God only. When you bring that idea into your thinking and actions and make it a living reality, your life becomes an act of surrender, and you are freed from all the consequences of your actions.

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