Advaita Vision

Advaita for the 21st Century

How to Act - Karma Yoga

flower picture

In this world we have to act. At the most basic level, breathing and pumping of blood etc. take place. We must feed ourselves to keep the body healthy. We have fundamental obligations (called 'dharma') such as bringing up our children etc. and occasional ones such as telephoning for an ambulance if we encounter someone who is injured. But to act only at this level would only maintain us at this level. If we are to develop ourselves and try to uncover the ignorance preventing the realisation of our true nature, we need continually to act in response to what is in front of us in the world.

This is where the difficulties arise of course. The way in which we mostly respond is habitual, based upon what has happened to us in the past. We re-act instead of responding freshly. One of the most common modes of behaviour is of acting in order to try to bring about a particular result (what the ego wants). Even when we act unselfishly, it is more often than not specifically for the other person, not a simple response to the need without any attachment to a specific outcome. The only way to act which moves one forward on a path to enlightenment (you must always imagine the words "whatever that means" when such an expression is used) is in a spirit of sacrifice, as the Gita would say. We have to surrender all attachment to the action and dedicate it to the Self, as it were.

In all of this, we should allow our own particular nature to suggest the general direction which our life should take e.g. if our natural inclination is toward leading men, we should not shy away from such a course. If we have always been interested in nature and wildlife etc., then by all means act appropriately in response to environmental problems around one. But beware the ego! If the interest is brought about by 'righteous anger' alerted by the media, any consequent action is unlikely to be beneficial.

In all of this it must be remembered that this world around us is all part of the play of Maya. It is not real. There will always be heroes and villains and, at the end of the performance, both get paid equally. In each and every moment, everything is perfect. It is only the ego which wants things to be different.

The 'Perfect Prayer' - so called - is the invocation to the Isha Upanishad. A nice translation [though less than perfect ;-) ] is as follows:- This is perfect. That is perfect. Perfect comes from perfect. Take perfect from perfect; the remainder is perfect. May peace and peace and peace be everywhere.

Other Discourses in this Section:
The Unreal Spiritual Path The Real
The Unreal The Spiritual Path The Real
We are not the Body A Brief View of Advaita Adhyaasa - the Nature of Error
Control of the Ego How to Act - Karma Yoga There is Only the Self
States of Consciousness The Process of Enlightenement Fate and Free Will
Meaning and Purpose   We cannot think or talk about Reality
Pleasure and Happiness   Time, Change and Memory
Desire for Objects    


Page last updated: 08-Jul-2012