Karma Yoga - The Practice of Gandhi
By Laura Hansen.
Karma yoga, the practice of Mahatma Gandhi, is the yoga of action (Mehra, 1983). Like prince Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita, who was required to act, karma yoga translates as “to do” (karma) “union” yoga. Practicing karma yoga means accepting that every action has consequences which ripple out, as a pebble thrown into a lake. The consequences of actions have consequences for yourself and for those around you that are impossible to disentangle. As with the time travel paradox – kill a butterfly a hundred thousand years ago and everything might be different today – our actions have untold consequences that may last across the years.
The Bhagavad Gita tells us that we are consciously and unconsciously motivated by selfishness, by getting what we want. I go to the sink to get water because I am thirsty – I go to the sink to meet my own needs. We do need to meet our own needs, but how many of actions are about fulfilling our own desires? How much of our time and energy is devoted to selfish goals, to fulfilling our wants and often at the expense of others? Karma yoga asks that we surrender our actions to a higher power:
“Whatever I perform with my body, speech, mind, limbs, intellect or my inner self,
Either intentionally or unintentionally, I dedicate it to that Supreme Lord Narayana."
Chant or Shloka that may be performed before or after actions.
By paying close attention to his actions, Gandhi was able to liberate millions of people from oppression and create huge social change. Gandhi’s actions were the result of a transformation of his consciousness which occurred gradually over many years. Like Gandhi, most of us have the ability to radically raise our own consciousness. There are 20 practices Gandhi describes in his autobiography which I believe helped him expand his awareness:
- Care of the Body
- Hard Work
- True Firmness
As with the Sutras of Patanjali (discussed in earlier articles), the physical practice of yoga is only a small part of a much larger practice. Gandhi discusses his yoga practices when he discusses caring for the body, but caring for the body is only a small part of the practices which expanded his consciousness.
I propose taking these practices one at a time and meditating on them. I would encourage you to write about these meditations. You may submit your writing to me at email@example.com. If I receive enough feedback on any of these practices, I will publish some of the feedback on this blog.
The first meditation I would ask you to consider is this:
How do my own self-improvement efforts change the world around me?
Take some time to meditate on the consequences of your actions. Your actions have positive and negative consequences. What are the consequences that occur when you seek to expand your own mind? I look forward to learning from you.
Gandhi, M. (2012). Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth, N.Y., N.Y: Renaissance Classics
Mehra, C.P. (1983). Gadhi’s Yoga: Part I, retrieved 12/26/13 from www.yogamag.net/Archives/1983/isep83/gany1.shtml
- Read more of Laura Hansen.
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- 101 Yoga Quotes
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- Cheap Yoga in Toronto
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- The Ethical Code of Yoga
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