Advaita Vision

Advaita for the 21st Century

The karma yoga attitude

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Any action I undertake I do so with a desired (or expected) objective in mind. For example, when I get a glass of water, I intend and expect that my thirst will be quenched.

I get up from my chair and walk across the room and intend to get to the other side of the room. That's the result I expect from my action.

I take a ride in my car intending to go from San Francisco to Berkeley, and expect to arrive in Berkeley.

Those are my intentions and expectations, and they can be translated to apply to any action which I undertake. Any action I undertake I do so with an expected result in mind (or I wouldn't do it in the first place).

What might happen in the above illustrations?

I might pour myself a glass of water, but before I can drink it the glass slips from my hand and breaks on the floor. My thirst is not quenched. (Not only that, I have to clear up the broken glass if I do not want to cut my feet).

I might get up from my chair intending to walk across the room, and the telephone rings mid-way, so I go to answer it, intending to speak to the caller, but that person hangs up before I get to the phone. So not only have I not made it across to the other side of the room, I also haven't spoken to whoever telephoned.

I might get in my car in San Francisco and drive onto the highway, expecting to go over the Bay Bridge and into Berkeley and what happens? The bridge is closed eastbound because they are retrofitting it during Labor Day weekend. So I have to go all the way round through Marin. I want to get back to Berkeley; that's the result I desire from my action. But what happens? I end up making a circle in the opposite direction in order to get to my desired destination and also get stuck in trafficon the way (of course), none of which was what I wanted or intended as the result of my actions.

So what? What does all of this mean? What is a karma yoga attitude? It is this: I undertake an action fully expecting and intending to receive a certain result, but also knowing full well that the result is not in my hands.

Whose hands is the result in? Who is the giver of the result of an action? The whole. The creation. And for some, the word used to describe that is 'God.'

So I just do my best as an individual, and that is my offering. I do the action wishing to receive a desired result, But whatever result I receive, I receive as prasAda - a gift, a blessing, from the Lord.

This attitude can relieve a lot of tension and may also help with many other psychological issues. It also puts you into dialogue and appreciation of the whole.

Never at any time are you as an individual separate from the whole. This is not Self-realization.  But it is appreciation, and you can take this understanding and attitude a lot farther, all the way to understanding yourself as the Self of the whole. But prior to that understanding, having karma yoga attitude is a good place to begin, and it's where you will end up anyway.

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Page last updated: 10-Jul-2012