How can karma yoga be summarized?
Swami Satyananda: The aim of karma yoga is to become the perfect reflector of the cosmic consciousness in the arena of the manifested world. Usually this perfection is impossible to attain due to personal whims which have to be eradicated. When one no longer considers oneself to be the doer but merely the instrument, everything that one does becomes spiritual and perfect. Actions become super-efficient. One becomes the expert of experts in action, and the least effort produces the greatest results. The individual has equanimity of mind in all situations. An instrument cannot become angry, upset or egotistical. It is the ego and personal desires that make one react adversely with others and the environment.
Karma yoga develops the faculty of concentration, which is essential in all fieldsand spheres of life. It vastly improves the benefitsthat one gains from meditation practices.
Higher stages of karma yoga become meditation. While performing actions, the karma yogi reposes in the state of meditation even amongst the most intense activity. The karma yogi rests, floats, dissolves in the divine bliss of higher awareness. The object acted upon, the actions themselves and the karma yogi become one and the same. This is real meditation and real karma yoga.
Awareness is essential in karma yoga. It is important to develop the ability to do the work while simultaneously being a witness to the actions. One should aim to become a detached, disinterested observer. Though seemingly a paradox, the karma yogi is able to work more efficientlyin this manner without being swayed by personal whims and prejudices, or motivated by likes or dislikes. He does what is necessary in the given circumstances from the core of his being, the inner self.
Does the practice of karma yoga require a particular way of life?
Swami Satyananda: Karma yoga is a wonderful yogic path that is open to everyone. It is an easy yoga which anyone can practise as everyone is performing action, whether internal or external. The brain and nervous systems are acting as well. Writing, digging or washing are external actions; thinking, the flowing of blood, the functioning of glands are interior actions. One becomes aware of actions through which this reality, this universal consciousness and perception can be realized. The personality evolves in each and every performance in life.
Therefore, everybody should try to transform life and the actions performed in the spirit of karma yoga. Whether one is a householder or an ascetic, it makes no difference. The practice of karma yoga purifies. A person can do any action in this way and it will not bind him. There is obviously no need for renunciation, for giving up or accepting something.
Karma yoga only requires training the mind in a certain way. It is a mental renunciation that can be done in any profession. Through karma yoga one can practise yoga twenty-four hours a day, using actions as a means to gain higher awareness.