“Strive constantly to serve the welfare of the world; by devotion to selfless work one attains the supreme goal of life.”
– Bhagavad Gita 3.19
Love in action
We are working in the spirit of ‘karma yoga’, which we could translate as ‘Love in action’. If you want to grow, learn and deepen the qualities of service and love, you are welcome to apply for joining as a volunteer. Read more about volunteering here.
Karma is a Sanskrit word that translates as ‘action’ and therefore karma yoga could be translated as ‘love in action’. The word ‘karma’ is often associated with the negative action or the energetical burden created through this bad action. In fact karma is the universal law of cause and effect and the word itself means ‘action’ on itself. This could be a negative, destructive action as well as a positive, constructive one. In the context of karma yoga we are referring to this positive action that is serving the benefit of all.
Through performing positive action one is able to burn away the accumulated negative karma. One who creates enough good karma more easily reaches the state of Yoga; the inner stillness beyond good or bad action and source of infinite happiness. That’s why it is easier to meditate after an act of love than after a fight with your neighbour.
Karma Yoga is a spiritual practice. Instead of sitting still to meditate, holding yoga postures or singing sacred songs, this practice is action on itself. Whatever needs to be done to make the surroundings more clean or harmonious, the people around more happy or comfortable, this is the work of the karma yogi. Whether it is cleaning, cooking, teaching, painting, talking, playing music or gardening, the karma yogi does what is needed the most at that moment for the wellbeing of all.
Not only is this path a practice of action, it is as well a constant practice in giving selflessly. One could do a lot of work that benefits an organisation or other person, and it may look like a lot has been given. If this person expects something in return, consciously or unconsciously, this is not karma yoga. When there is a complete detachment from possible rewards (in whatever form) to be received, this is true karma yoga.
“What you give, you shall receive,” says the Bible. If one truly gives without expectations, this will be returned in abundance to the giver. For this to happen, it needs to be given selflessly. The fear of personal lack should become transformed. Through this transformation the desire to truly see the other happy arises. The desire to serve this happiness in whatever way, is the pathway to one’s own happiness.
One could have a good intention and causing a disaster, or one could have a bad intention causing a miracle. What charges karma as positive or negative? It isn’t the action on itself, but the intention behind it. Therefore performing karma yoga is more than just doing the work that needs to be done; it is a work of self-awareness and self-reflection that needs to go hand in hand with the physical action. Through self-awareness one obtains knowledge about himself. In this way karma yoga is leading to another path: jnana yoga. This is translated as the yoga of knowledge.
The ancient scripture of the Bhagavad Gita tells us not to get attached to the fruits of our actions. This is a core teaching that we aim to apply as a karma yogi. We do what we can and believe to be beneficial for all. Whatever is the outcome of these actions, is none of our business. There is a greater force that takes care of that. We should keep firm in our loving intentions and act accordingly. The more we can let go of expectations of how the outcome will be, the more free we are. Whether it turns out a disaster or a miracle, the karma yogi aims to witness the outcome of his actions equally and equanimous.
Karma Yoga goes hand in hand with its sister Bhakti Yoga: the Yoga of devotion. If we are deeply in touch with the Divine Being that underlies all our actions, maintaining an equanimous mind in whatever situation comes out of our actions, becomes easier. Whenever there is a painful situation, offer it to the Divine. Whenever there is a blissful situation, offer it to the Divine. Whatever the fruits of our actions are, we can trust that the Divine is taking care of it and offer it up.
“Man me Ram, hath me kam.” This Hindu saying translates as “In the mind Ram (God); in the hand, work.”
The quality of devotion is strengthened by karma yoga itself, but also by the practice of prayer, ritual, song and mantra.
The most efficient service to humanity or the well-being of the planet can be performed by those who know their life purpose and act accordingly. When this purpose isn’t very clear, it can be helpful to put oneself in service of an organisation where he or she believes in and that supports the well-being of all. Placing oneself in service of love opens up a reconnection with or a deepening of one’s life purpose. Out of this service can grow a life purpose that is not just fulfilling for yourself, but for many others as well, and therefore giving infinite blessings to yourself in return.
Those who are already strongly in touch with their life purpose can also benefit tremendously from the practice of karma yoga. In fact, any true (higher) life purpose is karma yoga on itself. Because it is a practice of giving selflessly, the ego will get transformed and is put in the service of love. This developed quality of selflessness will shine through in all of this person’s relationships, as well as in the work that is aligned with this person’s life purpose. This quality can bring up an instant feeling of joy and has the potential to align one’s work more profoundly with the Divine will, or call it ‘Love’.
One way to liberate ourselves from the limitations of the personal bubble is engaging in karma yoga. By setting the intention to serve something greater than the personal needs and ego, and actually working together with like-minded people, a feeling of connection can easily rise. It is this intention and these acts that flow out of it that create the spiritual community. We believe this to be an essential aspect on the spiritual path. It allows us to feel supported in our individual acts. This co-creation can be a lot of fun! Whatever we are doing in this spirit brings us joy, love and laughter.
Tips during the work
Take every opportunity to offer a gift to someone around you. This can be a helping hand, supportive word, listening ear, a prayer or a material gift.
Become aware of the feeling you have during or straight after the act of giving.
Keep in mind the Divine while performing the work. (“Man me Ram, hat me kam.”)
During the work, stand still now and then, take a deep in and out breath and connect with the underlying silence. Then continue the work.
Ask yourself regularly: “Why am I doing this?”