The Grace of Right Action (Karma Yoga)

By Rudra Shivananda

There is an image of a spiritual practitioner as one who performs esoteric techniques of Kindnessmind, energy or body control – one who practices meditation, yoga, tantra etc. However, this is only a partial picture. The mark of a spiritual practitioner is the degree that he or she can raise consciousness and bring it to bear on day to day activities – a practice called Karma Yoga. The goal of Karma Yoga is to do the right thing at the right time without ego interference – however, right action at all times is not possible until one is Self-realized and one can only aspire and try one’s best in the meantime.

When a person finds less attraction for the fruits of the world and turns towards the spiritual world, that person becomes a spiritual aspirant. One then starts to look for a means to achieve certain spiritual goals and becomes a seeker, searching for answers to overcome unhappiness. When a seeker settles on a path he or she becomes a practitioner (sadhak) and the spiritual practice that is undertaken is called a sadhana.

It is important to setup a regular sadhana because it is by the once or twice daily practice that basic ignorance can be dissolved and karma overcome. It is more effective to have a short daily practice than to skip certain days and perform a long practice sporadically because karmic blockages accrue every moment. The karmic traces overlay each other and forms more linkages with the passage of time and so become more difficult to remove.

It is usually said that there is nothing more important for a sadhak than the sadhana because it is by means of the sadhana that the obstacles to eternal happiness can be removed.  However, in order for the practice to progress faster, it is necessary to put aside the ego and attachment towards even the sadhana itself – it needs to be performed without expectations and desires. This of course is not truly possible until one is very much evolved.

A highly recommended way to overcome one’s ego tendencies is to perform karma yoga for the sake of others or seva. This is not the charity that we do with expectations of praise or heavenly reward; it is performed selflessly without expectations or reward of any kind. It is a giving not only of material benefit, but emotional sustenance and even spiritual guidance.

Start from where you are now and decide how you can best help others. Do you have some special knowledge of some subject you can share? Do you have more wealth than is necessary for you and your family’s needs and so can share some for the destitute? Use your imagination and inspiration – there is no lack of needs in this world.

For the spiritual student, one can aspire to help the spiritual teacher in spreading the awareness of the particular path and to help others on the same path. For the spiritual teacher, one can aspire to be a Servant of Humanity, not someone put on a pedestal and venerated but someone who shares and cares in the trenches with those who are suffering.

One of the great benefits of a sadhak who is a householder in the midst of the world of glitter and glass is the possibility of combining sadhana with seva – this is something that is not available to a renunciate practicing in a dark cave. Greater progress is made with the practice of right action because of the development of compassion for our brothers and sisters. Don’t waste this grace of the divine.

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