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   Home >> Library index >> Karmayog >> Practical Philosophy: Karma Yoga 
Practical Philosophy: Karma Yoga 
By K Vijayaraghavan 

The Bhagavad Gita tells us: “You have right only to action, never to the fruits” (Ch 2.47). ‘Work without motive’ or nishkama karma or karma yoga is mentioned repeatedly in various chapters and verses of the Gita. Analysis today also bears out the fact that work done for its own sake, for the sheer joy of it, as an end in itself and without thoughts of extrinsic rewards, brings with it a cornucopia of blessings. 
Acharya Vinoba Bhave in a series of discourses given in Marathi in the Dhulia jail to his fellow prisoners during the freedom struggle, also spoke of karma yoga. Goodness of heart, hard work, inspiration, enthusiasm, focus, and concentration go together in its actual performance. Energy and activities, which would otherwise have been dissipated in brooding over and hankering after fruits and the expected plaudits are now channelled into work, the quality of which is thus supremely enhanced. This approach is therefore a recipe for obtaining real success and the attendant rewards, which follow naturally. Indeed, this is work done to perfection, skill in action, which the Bhagavad Gita terms as Karmasu Koushalam. 
Vinoba Bhave also notes, “The karma yogi by giving up the fruit of his action does not lose it but paradoxically enough, gets it”. He also gives the analogy of Rukmini, who, he says through her sheer devotion, “was able to weigh Krishna with just a tulsi leaf when Satyabhama’s ponderous jewellery was of no avail... The tulsi leaf was charged with magic. It was no longer an ordinary leaf. This is true of the karma yogi too... Action attains its value and power by the bhavana (the inner attitude), which goes with it. Action must be moistened with love, filled with the feeling, bhavana...” 
Work done in this manner is an end in itself, a sadhana, an oblation unto Him. 
American psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s work on focus, ‘flow’ and clarity also bears out the fact that power, concentration and effectiveness are concomitant with any work done for its own sake, as a reward in itself, without regard to the status, money or acclaim that may follow it. He also notes that this ‘flow’ brings about an intense centring of attention on the activity where concentration comes automatically. In this process, the individual not only experiences an altered sense of time but also a spatial alteration whereby the object of concentration becomes clearer and more prominent, thus obtaining for him a feeling of supreme control and confidence. In this state of ‘flow’, even work is play, enabling the concerned person to be fully motivated and enthused till the activity is over. 
Each one of us has to find his work upon the earth, his Svadharma and strive to discharge it with unabated sincerity. Such joy and peace can be found even in routine and ordinary work as demonstrated in everyday life by many who whistle a tune or retain a smile even while carrying out their work, stressful, ordinary and dull though it may be. Sulking, moroseness and irritability could thus give way to cheerfulness and pleasantness. 
It is not given to all to be poets, scientists, artistes, sportsmen or barons of industry. Even discoveries and inventions involve much drudgery and thankless hard work as Edison put it: ‘‘Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration’’. Right attitude and approach would enable all of us to apply in practice the concept, ‘Do what you do, well’. This indeed is karma yoga or work without motive or skill in action. This also is synonymous with peace, accomplishment and fulfilment.