Every Action is a Step in Yoga

H. H. Shri Swami Sivananda

Many people, even after studying classic works of religion and philosophy, do not know what they should do in practice in order to attain the goal of life, viz., God realisation, and they seek enlightenment on the matter. They are bound by hopes, expectations, works and anxieties. They do not know that their life is passing away. All the hairs may have grown grey. Many teeth may have fallen. Only a few years of life may be left. But it does not matter. Even in a Muhurta one can attain self realisation, through devotion, dedication, discrimination, dispassion, aspiration and renunciation.

The mind is ever hankering after eternal bliss, everlasting peace and perennial joy, because the mind is born of Brahman whose nature is Satchidananda: Existence, Knowledge, Bliss. But we try to get that supreme bliss from all these objects in the world, which are conditioned in time, space and causation. We fail and so we become disappointed. We are attached to sensual objects. So we are not able to get eternal bliss and perennial joy. But there is one supreme principle, Brahman, which is birthless, deathless, timeless, spaceless. We can have this supreme bliss in Brahman alone.

Brahman is hidden in all these names and forms. But it does not shine, it does not come within our intellectual reach. But those who have got a subtle intellect, sharp intellect, pure intellect, free from jealousy, selfishness and greed can behold Brahman in their purified hearts. One may have the brightest intellect and attain qualifications like M.Sc., Ph.D. Lit., etc., but still it is only a gross intellect which cannot comprehend Brahman. We have to cultivate a 'subha manas' (pure mind). Most people have 'asubha manas' (impure mind), with various sorts of petty-mindedness. We think we are very big people. But let us analyse, introspect.

If a room is kept locked for a year and then if you open it and try to clean it, how much dust will come? Like that is the mind, full of impurities. People do not know what is introspection, what is self-analysis. As soon as they get up, they put on dress and get into a car and think that they are the greatest people in the world, next to Ishvara. When the bank balance fails, they become miserable. They depend upon external objects for their happiness and they fail. But he enjoys peace who is endowed with 'Samata' who is free from likes and dislikes (Raga Dvesha), and exhilaration and depression (Harsha Sokaj). Samata is supreme wealth. Vairagyasupreme wealth. Man tries to amass wealth, but Vairagya is the supreme wealth which blows out all other wealth. All other wealth is straw for a man of Vairagya.

The root cause for diseases is selfishness. The root cause is anger. The root cause is malice. When you are angry, impurities are thrown in the blood. Hatred bacilli, malice bacilli, jealousy bacilli enter your system and produce diseases. The body is perishable, the mind is imperfect and a conglomeration of desires and cravings. The scope of the senses are limited and all objects that one sees are transient, but the Atman or Self alone is real, eternal and free from all duality, knowing this one should not get attached to the body, mind, senses and the objects of the world and should cultivate true understanding of the nature of things. But egoism and desire assert themselves at every step. These are obstacles for doing self-surrender. Ignorance is the root cause of human sufferings. You identify yourself with the body. You know that selfishness is not good, yet you are selfish. You know speaking untruth is not good, yet you speak untruth. Many have a sin hardened heart on account of selfishness, on account of money, greed. A purified and soft heart is necessary for spiritual unfoldment, spiritual attainment and spiritual progress.

Life is a process of divine worships. Life is interdependent. Since the one Lord dwells in all, one should not hate another, hurt another or build up a barrier of pride, vanity and egotistic assumptions separating one from the other. When the consciousness of the imminence of Spirit dawns in one's mind, one can have no selfishness, greed or hypocrisy. One can be loving, friendly, kind, helpful and serviceable to others. That understanding must be cultivated.

'Man winneth not freedom from action by abstaining from activity, nor by mere renunciation doth he rise to perfection. Nor can anyone, even for an instant, remain really action less; for helplessly is everyone driven to action by the qualities born of nature'.

When action is thus unavoidable, the Gita ideal is to be detached and selfish. One should perform one's duty, not as 'doer' but as an instrument of the Divine, without expecting any result thereof, for that is the lookout of God and because all expectations from an imperfect world are bound to cause disappointment and pain.

'He, who controlling the senses by the mind, with the organs of action, without attachment, performeth the Yoga of action, is worthy. Perform thou right action, for action is superior to inaction, and, inactive, even the maintenance of the body would not be possible.'

Hence when action is inevitable, it should be of the right type, done with the correct attitude and understanding of the values of life and for the good of others. The Yoga of Action does not constitute merely in selfless service of others. Human nature being selfish and constricted, emphasis is laid on service of the suffering and the needy. That is important, indeed.

But more than that, the feature of one's daily life, one's thoughts, intentions, ambitions, modes of action, attitude himself of primary importance. Only when these relations and others, these, it is that, are have been transmuted into Yoga by right knowledge, self-control, detachment and selfishness, could one be called a Karma Yogi.

Every man is expected to be a Karma Yogi in his life, in whatever condition he be placed, for that is the only way out of all misery anxiety, fear and conflict. If every man realises that he is but an agent of God, not in a sense of domineering over others from a superior pedestal but as a humble, dutiful, detached individual, with an ingrained feeling of fellowship and brotherhood, he can never be a cause of disharmony, dissension, bitter feelings. It is only when one is inordinately selfish, proud and egotistic, covetous, greedy and obstinate, that such an image is automatically reflected in others through a hostile response. Otherwise, there is no reason why there should be mutual hatred, simmering anger, jealousy and tension.

'The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak'. Everyone knows that it is wrong to hate another, hurt another, be violent, disruptive and selfish, but the power of the lower nature is so strong that one is carried away in spite of all good intentions and lofty idealism. The Spirit must be strengthened, the mind and senses restrained, the will and determination buttressed, the heart purified, the lower nature sublimated through the process of Sadhana. Only then could the Spirit achieve victory over the flesh.

Fix your mind on the Lotus-Feet of the Lord. Give the hands to work. Even then you work, work like the typist or the harmonium player who types or plays and talks to you, or the lady who knits and talks at the same time; let your mind be ever attached to the Lotus-Feet of the Lord, while your hands are at work. The mind of the girl who has the water-pot, on her head is the pot even though she talks and jokes with her comrades while walking along the road. You will be able to do two things at a time by practice. The casual work will become automatic, mechanical or instinctive. You will have two minds. A portion of the mind will be at work, three quarters of the mind will be the Lord, in meditation, in Japa. Repeat the name of the Lord while at work also. Even so, you can so train the mind that it can work with the hands and can remember God at the same time. This is Karma Yoga and Bhakti Yoga combined.

Lord Krishna says:

"Taamat Sarvethu Kaleshu mamanusmara yudhya cha; mayyar-pitamanobuddhih mamevaish-yasi aiamiayam"

"Therefore at all times remember Me and fight. With mind and reason set on Me, without doubt thou shalt come unto me."

Though the cow grazes on the pastures having been separated from the calf, her mind is always fixed on the calf only. Similarly you should fix the mind on God when you do Japa like the cow and give your hands to work which is only worship of the Lord. Train and discipline your mind cautiously. This is your master-key to open the doors of the realms of bliss. This is the secret of Karma Yoga. The Goal is not very far, if you keep up the ideal before you daily and work hard to reach the ideal and if you are sincere and earnest in your purpose.

The Yoga of Action thus begins with the culturing of the nature of man. In this process of culture all spiritual practices are implied. Balance of mind is Yoga. Detachment is Yoga. Beholding the one God in all is Yoga. Serving the one God in all is Yoga. Practice of truth, non-injury and continence is Yoga. Performance of one's duty without attainment or desiring a good result there of is Yoga. Desirelessness is Yoga. Following the path of righteousness is Yoga. Every action, when done with right knowledge, is a step in Yoga.

May you all imbibe this spirit of the Bhagavad Gita and effect its best possible fruition in your practical life. May the blessings of Sri Krishna be upon all.