One of the four paths to liberation from all suffering in the tradition of Yoga is Karma Yoga, which is the path of achieving Cosmic Consciousness (Self-Realization, Enlightenment) through service unto others. Karma Yoga is often viewed as the Yoga of selfless and altruistic service. Stated another way, Karma Yoga is the attainment of union with God through work or service. Karma Yoga is based on the teachings of the “Bhagavad Gita,” a sacred Vedic scripture associated with Hinduism.
A Sanskrit word, karma is derived from the word kri, which means “to do.” Karma simply means action, and Yoga translates to union with All That Is. Thus, Karma Yoga literally translates to the path of union through action. Karma Yoga can be viewed as a way of thinking, speaking, and acting by which the person orients toward a path of self-realization by acting in line with one’s life purpose or dharma. The karma yogi acts without being attached to the fruits of his/her efforts. A karma yogi knows that he/she is contributing to the greater good and does not ask for anything in return; therefore, the spiritual service-provider tends to avoid suffering that is associated with our worldly existence here on earth.
As every action is followed by an equal and opposite reaction; no action is able to be separated from the result it produces, just as no cause can be absolutely detached from the effect that it produces. Wherever there is activity of any kind, it can be viewed as karma. In this sense, devotion, love, concentration, and meditation are all deeds of karma. Consequently, the secondary meaning of karma encompasses all reactions or results of the original action. Also known as the Law of Causation, the chain of cause and effect is referred to as karma; and every action of the body and mind is governed by the Law of Karma or action and reaction. Famous examples of karma yogis include Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela, and others.
We all can practice Karma Yoga to some extent by being kind and compassionate to all sentient beings, while being of service to others.
Through the practice of Karma Yoga or selfless service, we can live with in peace and harmony with Mother Nature and act with love and compassion toward all living creatures; this means practicing the universally accepted way of non-aggression or non-harming. This correlates with the Christian principle of “do not kill/harm.” Further, we can find personal balance among action and rest. We can seek to contribute to a happier, more just world. We can make inner happiness the center of our lives. We can also practice meditation to help solve our tensions and in turn we will be able to find inner tranquility. Lastly, we can focus on the positive qualities that were given to us and share these skills and abilities with our community and possibly the world.
The author of this article teaches a free Community Yoga class in Northside. The class he teaches is currently hosted in the gym of North Presbyterian Church, Monday evenings 6:30 – 7:30 p.m. He has been facilitating and teaching a free yoga class in Northside since March of 2013. The Community Yoga class in Northside is part of a larger organization that is known as the Greater Cincinnati Yoga Project, which offers no cost, weekly yoga classes to underserved populations in the Cincinnati area.
By Christopher Bueker
Christopher Bueker is a yoga and meditation teacher who resides in Northside. He teaches at World Peace Yoga, other local Yoga studios, and the University of Cincinnati Recreation Center. He is passionate about sustainable living, community-building, and mysticism.