ONE of the significations of the word "Yoga" is "Dexterity in work." To render this meaning still more specific, the Sanskrit term "Karma," derived from the root verb "Kri," to act, is added. Taken in its literal sense, therefore, Karma signifies action, and refers to all actions whether of mind or body. Wherever there is activity of any kind, it is Karma. In this sense devotion, love, worship, meditation, concentration, discrimination are all Karma; as are also, for the same reason, eating, drinking, walking, talking, or performing any organic function.
Again, every action, as we are aware, is followed by reaction. No action can be separated from its result, as no cause can be absolutely disconnected from its effect.the secondary meaning of Karma embraces all reactions or results of actions. The chain of cause and sequence, known as the "law of causation," is also called Karma; and every action of body and mind is governed by the law of Karma or of action and reaction. Being subject to this natural law, we have been working in this world from the beginningless past, and reaping the results of our efforts, whether pleasant or unpleasant, good or evil.
When, furthermore, we consider that the effect of each action leaves its impression on the mind-substance, which impression becomes the seed of a fresh action of a similar nature, we understand the third meaning of the term. In this sense the word Karma includes the accumulated results of past actions or rather the seed forms of future activities.
Hence the character of an individual, which is the aggregate result of the works of his previous life may be called Karma. In the same way, the future life will be the sum-total of the results of the mental and physical actions of the present life.
Karma Yoga is, therefore, that branch of the Science of Yoga which discusses the three ideas conveyed by the word "Karma," explains the philosophy of work, describes the method by which the individual soul can extricate itself from the wheel of action and reaction, and having escaped from the irresistible law of causation by which every one is bound, can attain to perfect freedom, fulfill the highest purpose of life, and thus through right action alone reach the ultimate goal of all religion. It is the path best fitted for those who believe in no creed, who are not devotional, and who do
not care to worship or pray to a personal God.
Karma Yoga teaches that the cause of the suffering, misery, disease, and misfortune, which overshadow our earthly life, lies in our own actions. We reap the fruit of that which we ourselves have sown. These causes are within us. We should blame neither our parents nor any evil spirit for our sufferings, but should look within ourselves to discover the source thereof. This branch of Yoga likewise describes the secret of work, by knowing which we can remove all causes of bondage and suffering, and enjoy freedom, peace, and happiness both here and after death. It tells us that every action inspired by the motive of desire for results attaches the soul to these results, and consequently becomes a source of bondage. The secret of work consists in working for work's sake and not
for fruits. If this principle be applied to the actions of our daily lives, then every work done by us will help us to advance toward the perfect emancipation of the soul. Whoever performs his duties understanding the secret of work, becomes truly unselfish and eventually gains knowledge of his real Self, which is immortal and divine.
According to Karma Yoga, the true Self when it becomes identified with the limitations of the mind and the physical form, appears as "ego," "doer," or "actor," and performing work from various motives, remains attached to its results. We thus feel as one with our body and endeavor to enrich the narrow, limited self or "I" by getting something from that which is "not I." This imperfect knowledge of the "Self," or rather this ignorance of the true "Self," is the cause of selfishness.
From selfishness in turn proceeds all that desire for results which forces us to live and act like slaves. Karma Yoga shows us the way by which we can become conscious of our true Self, and, by widening the range of the limited "ego," can make it universal. When we have accomplished this, we shall live in the world working not from selfish motives, but for humanity, yet with as much interest in heart as we had when we worked for ourselves. Nor shall we then seek the comfort and pleasure of this little personality which is now the chief center of our interest and effort, but shall strive for the good of all.
come back upon the doer; and that, if there be the smallest desire for result, it will be the seed of future action of a like nature. He should also realize that every action produces similar reaction. If the action be in harmony with the moral and physical laws which govern our lives, then the reaction which comes back upon the actor will bring only that which is good,--peace, rest, fortune, health, and happiness. If, on the contrary, these laws are violated, then the result will be evil, producing restlessness, discomfort, loss of fortune, disease, and unhappiness.
A traveller in the path of Karma Yoga should not even think evil of another, because in the attempt to injure others we first injure ourselves. Every thought puts the mind-substance in a certain state of vibration and opens the door to the influence of such minds as are in the same state
of vibration. Therefore when we cherish evil thoughts, we run the double risk of affecting other minds and of being influenced by all evil-minded persons holding similar thoughts, nay, we expose our minds to all the evil thoughts that have been thought in the past and stored up in the mental atmosphere of the world. A corresponding result comes from the holding of good thoughts. This is the reason why evil-doers grow worse and worse every day, and the doers of good deeds become better and better.
A Karma Yogi should realize that there is one Being, or one Spirit, in the universe. Seeing this same Being or Spirit in all living creatures, he should recognize the rights of all and should not injure anyone either mentally or physically. Such a Yogi is truly unselfish; he is a blessing to the world and to humanity.
He who wishes to practice Karma Yoga should abandon attachment to the fruit of his labors, and learn to work for work's sake, keeping in mind the idea that by his work he is paying off the debt which he owes to parents, to society, to country, and to all mankind. Like a wet nurse he should take care of his children, realizing that they do not belong to him, but that they are placed in his charge in order that he and they may gain experience and unfold their latent powers and feelings.
A true Karma Yogi, furthermore, is he who recognizes that his real Self is not a doer of action, but that all mental and physical activity is merely the result of the forces of nature. Therefore he never claims that any work, whether good or bad, has been done by his true "Self." He lets his mind, intellect, and sense-organs work incessantly, while in his soul he holds steadfastly
to the idea that he is the witness-like Knower of all activity, mental or physical. In this way he frees himself from the law of Karma and escapes from all the results of work which bind ordinary workers. Neither does he count success or failure in his daily life. He does his best in each effort put forth by him, and after performing his duty to the utmost of his ability, if he meets with failure he does not grieve, but, saying within himself that he did all that he could under the circumstances, he maintains his calmness and enjoys peace of mind even in the face of defeat.
The aim of a Karma Yogi is to live in the world and act like a master, not like a slave. Ordinary mortals implicitly obey the masters of desire and passion, following them without question or discrimination. But he who chooses the path of Karma Yoga seeks absolute control over
desire and passion and directs the force manifesting through these channels toward the highest ideal of life--freedom of the soul.
In fulfilling all the duties of life the Karma Yogi takes refuge in love, making it the sole motive power behind every action of body and mind; and whenever he performs any duty, it is always through love. He understands that sense of duty is bondage, while work done through a feeling of love frees the soul and brings peace, rest, and, in the end, everlasting happiness.
All the great spiritual leaders of mankind, like Christ and Buddha, were Karma Yogis. They worked for humanity through love, and showed by their example how perfect freedom can be attained by right work. Buddha did not preach the worship of a personal God, but he established
the truth that those who do not believe in a personal God and who are not devotional, can reach the highest goal of all religions by the path of Karma Yoga.
BHAKTI YOGA teaches that the final end of all religions can be reached through love and worship of the personal God, who is the Creator and Governor of the phenomenal universe. It leads to the same destination as all the other branches of Yoga, but is especially suited for such as are emotional in their nature and have the feeling of love and devotion highly developed. It is for those devotees who, conscious of their own weakness arising from lack of self-control and of knowledge, seek help from outside; and who, taking refuge in the Supreme, pray to Him for forgiveness and for pardon of sins committed through ignorance of the moral and spiritual laws that govern our lives.All dualistic systems of religion, like Christianity, Judaism, and Mahometanism, which advocate the worship of a personal God, knowingly or unknowingly preach Bhakti Yoga and direct their adherents along this path.
The word "Bhakti" means devotion, while Yoga in this case signifies union of the individual soul with God. Hence Bhakti Yoga is the method of devotion by which true communion of the soul with the Supreme Deity is accomplished. It shows what kind of devotion and love for God will bring the soul into the most intimate relation with the Divine Being; and how even the ordinary feelings of a human heart, when directed Godward, can become the means of attaining spiritual oneness with the Soul of the universe. Râja Yoga tells us that desire, passion, love, hatred, pride, anger, must be completely conquered
before perfection can be reached. A student of Râja Yoga must not only keep constant watch over his mind, but he must also faithfully practice the eight steps already described, if he would achieve his highest ideal; while in Bhakti Yoga we learn that all desires and passions, whether good or bad, can be directed towards God. Then, instead of binding the soul to worldliness and earthly attachment, they become a means of attaining God-consciousness and absolute freedom from selfishness and wickedness.
A follower of Bhakti Yoga should feel God as closely related to his soul as he possibly can; and regard Him not only as the Lord of the universe, but as father, mother, brother, sister, friend, or child. Even the relation existing between husband and wife may be cultivated and developed in the heart of a lover ofGod, intoxicated by the soul-stirring wine of Divine Love. When the whole heart and soul of a Bhakta or lover of God flow like the unbroken current of a mighty river, surmounting all barriers and dashing headlong toward the ocean of Divinity, he finds no other attraction in the world, holds no other thought, cherishes no other desire, speaks no other word, and sees no other thing than his most Beloved, the Omnipresent Deity. He resigns himself entirely to Him and surrenders his will to the will of the Almighty One. He works, but without thinking of results. Every action of his body and mind is performed simply to please his Beloved One. His motive power is love alone and by this he breaks asunder the chain of selfishness, transcends the law of Karma, and becomes free. Thus a true Bhakti Yogi, being constantly in tune with the Infinite, loses the
sense of "I," "Me," and "Mine," and makes room for "Thou," "Thee," and "Thine."
A Bhakta never forgets his relation to his Beloved. His mind is concentrated and one-pointed; consequently meditation becomes easy for him. True devotion or continuous remembrance of the Divine Ideal leads to unceasing meditation, and ultimately lifts the soul into Samâdhi, where it realizes God and communes with Him undisturbed by any other thought, feeling, idea, or sensation. Becoming dead to sense phenomena, it lives on the spiritual plane of God-consciousness. Wherever such a Yogi casts his eyes, he sees the presence of the All-pervading Divinity and enjoys unbounded peace and happiness at every moment of his life. It is for this reason that Bhakti Yoga is considered to be the easiest of all
methods. What a Râja Yogi attains only after years of practice, a Bhakta accomplishes in a short time through extreme devotion and love. That which a Karma Yogi finds so difficult to achieve, a Bhakti Yogi attains easily by offering the fruits of all his works to the Almighty Source of all activity and the ultimate end of all motives.
Bhakti Yoga has two grades,--the first is called "Gauni," or preparatory and includes all the preliminary practices; the second is "Para," or the state of supreme love and devotion to God. A beginner in Bhakti Yoga should first of all prepare the ground of his heart by freeing it from attachment to earthly objects and sense-pleasures; then by arousing in it extreme longing to see God, to realize Divinity, to go to the Source of all knowledge, and to reach perfection and God-consciousness in this life. He must be absolutely earnest
and sincere. He should seek the company of a true lover of God, whose life is pure and spotless, who has renounced all worldly connections, and who has realized the true relation which the individual soul bears to the Universal Spirit. If, by good fortune, he meets such a real Bhakta, he should receive from him the seed of Bhakti, plant it in the ground of his heart, and by faithfully following the instructions of the master, take special care to keep it alive and make it grow, until it becomes a large tree bearing the fruit of Divine Love. He should have respect, reverence, and love for his master, who will open his spiritual eye and transmit his own spiritual powers to his soul. When these powers begin to work, the soul will be awakened from the deep sleep of ignorance and self-delusion.
The Guru, or spiritual eye-opener, knowing
the natural tendency of the disciple, will advise him to look upon God as his Master, or as his Father or Mother, and will thus establish a definite relation between his soul and God. Henceforth the disciple should learn to worship or pray to the Supreme through this particular relation. At this stage symbols, rituals, ceremonies may appeal to his mind; or he may repeat some name of the Lord that signifies the special aspect of the Divinity corresponding to the relation which he bears to Him. Constant repetition of such a name will help the mind of the neophyte to become concentrated upon the Divine Being. During this period he should avoid such company, such places, and such amusements as make him forget his chosen Ideal. He should live a chaste and pure life, always discriminating right from wrong and struggling to control his passions
and desires by directing them Godward. He should be angry with himself for not realizing his ideal; he should hate his sinful nature because it keeps him away from the path of Bhakti and prevents him from remembering his Beloved. Thus he will gradually succeed in correcting his faults and in gaining control over his animal nature.
A traveller on the path of Bhakti should observe cleanliness of body and mind, should be truthful, and lead a simple life, without injuring any living creature mentally or physically. He should not kill any animal for his food, neither should he covet that which does not belong to him. He should, furthermore, obey the laws of health which tend to make him physically strong, as well as those moral laws the violation of which weakens the mind.
So long as the devotee thinks of God
with a form and believes that He is outside of his soul and of the universe, he can make a mental picture of Him and worship the Divine Ideal through that form; or he may keep before him some symbolic figure like the cross which will remind him of his Ideal at the time of devotion. But a Bhakta should never mistake the imaginary form or the symbolic figure for the real Ideal. Wherever there is such a mistake there is to be found spiritual degeneration and the expression of ignorance in the form of sectarianism, bigotry, fanaticism.
Gradually, as the Bhakta approaches God, he will rise above such dualistic conceptions and realize that his Beloved is not only transcendent but immanent in nature, that nature is His body, that He dwells everywhere, that He is the Soul of our souls and the Life of our life, that He is the one stupendous Whole while we are butHis parts. The Bhakta then reaches that state which is called qualified non-dualism. He sees that from the minutest insect up to man all living creatures are related to the Iswara s a part is related to the whole. Therefore he cannot kill or injure any living being. Understanding that everything pertaining to any part belongs in reality to the whole, he says, "Whatever is mine is Thine"; and it is from this moment that absolute self-resignation and self-surrender to the will of the Iswara begin to reign supreme in the soul of the Yogi. Then he is able to say from the bottom of his heart, "Let Thy will be done," and never again can he forget that his soul is a part of the Iswara. His devotion henceforth consists in remembering this new relation, and his
worship takes a new form. Whatever he does with mind or body becomes an act of worship of the Supreme Whole, for he realizes that he possesses no power that does not belong to God. Eating, drinking, walking, talking, and every other work of his daily life become acts of devotion, and the entire existence of such a Bhakta is a continuous series of acts of worship. Then the heart is purified and selfishness is dead.
The devotee thus rises to the second grade of Bhakti Yoga and begins to taste that Divine Love which is the fruit of the tree of Bhakti. Here all distinction between lover and Beloved disappears; the lover, the Beloved and Love all merge into one ocean of Divinity. The soul of the Bhakta is transformed, and manifesting omniscience, God-consciousness, perfect freedom, and all other Divine qualities, it attains to the highest ideal of Bhakti Yoga.