Monday Morning Greetings 2018 #14 – Kudos to Karma (Yoga)

April 2nd, 2018

A Nor’easter slams your town, dumps a ton of snow and your basement floods. You are knee-deep in ice water draining it out. It dawns on you how deep a hole this will put in your pocket—thousands of hard earned dollars. It sounds like hell. What would you be thinking at the time? I was impressed with my friend’s reaction.


“You know, initially I was disturbed, but then I thought of my studies of the Gītā and how to apply it: I have family so it is my duty to fix the house and my duty ultimately means what God wants me to do. So instead of being frustrated I was grateful to do my duty and serve God.”


My friend is a philosophy professor and he studied the Bhagavad-gītā with me over twenty years ago. It has remained the foundation of his life. I was impressed with his realization. Instead of the normal “kvetching” when things go wrong, he shifted his thoughts to the glory of connecting our “worldly” life to God’s will through dharma, which is, simply put, doing what God wants from us in any situation. Overcoming selfishness and seeing God’s will is the foundation of any spiritual path. As we continued to discuss, he opined how karma-yoga, the essence of the Gītā, was often too minimized in a devotee’s life. “After all,” he said, “Krishna asked Arjuna to fight.”


As we continued our discussion he shared with me some of his ideas on karma-yoga based on his study of the Gītā where he applies those teachings personally to his own life as a family man working in the world. I found his realizations insightful, and especially relevant to most people who like him work and live in the world. I don’t have to tell my audience how difficult it is to re-orient one’s consciousness to the soul in today’s world, a world that often forces us to adopt the mode of being the controller just to survive.

A summary of our discussion:

  1. Basic Foundation of Karma-yoga
    1. Karma-yoga is based on what the Gītā calls buddhi-yoga, which is the practice of conceptual re-adjustment, changing our thinking from material to spiritual.
    2. Two aspects of conceptual re-adjustment:
      1. To transform one’s motivation from selfishness to the desire for purification/liberation and especially to the service of God.
      2. A conscious effort to re-conceive of oneself as the pure soul, and not the body that is enmeshed in various material designations or identifications.


        Although one must act within material designation to perform dharma such as “I am a mother, a father, a husband, a wife, a guru, a leader” and so on, one still tries to remember in a deep way that one is playing a role, so to speak.)

  2. The Components of Karma-yoga
    1. One should try to live according to dharma, since dharma (doing your duties properly) is the basis for karma-yoga.
    2. While performing one’s dharma (work, family responsibilities, chores etc.) one should try to be conscious that one’s dharma is service to God and do it in that spirit conscientiously.


      Rāmānuja often remarks that the laws of religion are God’s commands. As such performing one’s duty is obeying His law and can be done lovingly and gratefully.

    3. Serving others, whether family, members of one’s work, or one’s community or society, can be infused by the consciousness that they are in fact parts of God and one can (and should) respect and love them as such.
    4. Try to constantly remember we are the self and as such are (I) not constituted of prakṛti (matter), and (II) completely dependent on God for everything we do, down to the smallest bodily movements.


      Rāmānuja further notes that as the world is ensouled by the paramātmā, the world is the body of God, and should be seen in that way.)

  3. Daily Mindfulness of the Above
    1. Some kind of early morning prayer, study, and contemplation time to provide focus and alignment for the day.
    2. Centering prayer at various parts of the day, including reading select verses from scripture, recitation of key prayers/mantras to help one be mindful along the lines mentioned in the last section.


      This is hard to do unless one makes certain official times to take a break from work to do this for ten or fifteen minutes, at least once a day.

  4. Other supportive practices
    1. Regular retreats to concentrate, focus, and absorb one in devotion.
    2. Following a liturgical calendar [1] in a serious way.


      The liturgical calendar, in this case the Vaiṣṇava calendar, looks at the year in a spiritually and reformative way, rather than seeing one’s week and month just in terms of family and social obligations. By following such a calendar dutifully, one’s faith is renewed and the year and consciousness is geared toward devotional transformation. For us it means ekādaśī, the appearance and disappearance of saints and special months like Kārttika and Śrāvaṇa (Jhulana-yātrā [2] and so on).

On the path of bhakti we have a rich spiritual tradition to transform our consciousness including deep practices of devotion and a commitment to a spiritual mission that is our primary spiritual focus. People often ask how to juxtapose that spiritual tradition practically within their modern day-to-day life in the home and workplace. Śrīla Prabhupāda was very concerned about that and often recommended a lifestyle based on developing spiritual communities more conducive to spiritual life. Nonetheless, by family circumstance and present economic situations most people and adherents to the bhakti tradition still remain in modern day work and family situations, which are not inherently born to support spirituality. They ask what to do to help spiritualize their situations. I thus am offering kudos to karma (yoga).


[1] Liturgical calendar is a calendar of the communal or public worship of a spiritual tradition based on its beliefs and customs.

[2] Jhulana-yātrā commemorates the pastime of Radha and Krishna swinging in the summer moths. In the temples of Radha and Krishna a beautiful swing is decorated and the deities of Radha and Krishna are placed in it in the evening. For five days the devotees are invited to visit the temple and swing the deities. It is a good example of a liturgical activity listed in a Vaiṣṇava calendar that by following helps one look at their year in a spiritual way.

Comments are closed.