Verse 47 To action alone hast thou a right and never at all to its fruits; let not the fruits of action be thy motive; neither let there be in thee any attachment to inaction.
In the journey of reconnecting to Self, we see that there are many layers that attach us to separation, individuality, and the illusion that we are not already a part of that essential bigness which is incomprehensible to the limited faculties of our minds.
One of the most powerful ways we can start to embody our trust and enduring relationship to self-lessness (our true nature) is to practice Karma Yoga, ideally in all of our actions. Shloka 47 in Chapter 2 of the Bhagavad Gita gives us a profound picture of what this overarching concept of Karma Yoga encompasses.
Krishna shares that indeed, as karma yogis, as spiritual seekers, as humans on the path to connection, we must release our expectations or attachments to the outcomes of our actions. Instead we are asked to open to receiving the grace of Ishwara in whatever form it takes, acting only from a sattvic place, offering our actions in service to the divine and expecting nothing in return. This process of releasing attachments to outcomes allows us to cultivate not only our Shraddha in the unfolding of a far greater divine orchestration, but also allows us to live in contentment, gratitude and with the potential to receive all of our experiences in life as sacred offerings or prasad. At the same time, resisting dharmic and sattvic action by attaching to inaction is also out of congruence with the journey to greater connection to Self.
Karma Yoga is thus the embodied expression of offering all of our actions to the Self, rather than ‘doing’ any of them with regard for the separated ‘self,’ and trusting in the process to unfold as it will. Baba said, “Life is a bridge. Enjoy crossing it but don’t build castles on it.” Attaching to those castles (which could be seen as outcomes), and perceiving any of them as that which lies beyond the bridge, would be misguided. It is easy to attach to fruits of our actions, feeling that we deserve something because we worked for it, or that we have suffered enough so why are we suffering more after devoting ourselves to seeking Truth? We live in a world that breeds these kinds of thoughts. But if we look to the Bhagavad Gita, and the larger scope of existence, we can see that these single lifetimes may only be one small glimpse into a far greater story of relationship to samsara. Each action we take from a dharmic or sattvic place, in the released practice of Karma Yoga, of self-lessness, allows us to inch closer to liberated connection to all that is.
While Karma Yoga can look like seva in the context of a community like Vedika, and that is a wonderful place to explore the practice, it can also be a way of seeing and being in the world at all times. To live from a place of pure presence, to act as the flow of Ishwara’s grace guides us, and to release attachments to what results from those actions, is a beautiful life goal.
In my own life, I see how I am able to offer my seva to Vedika as an embodied practice of Karma Yoga, trusting that wherever my energy is needed, and whatever that looks like, I can flow into it, and give as I am able. I see how the little resistance moments come up occasionally, such as immediately after reading an email or in the midst of a meeting. I love to watch those waves of resistance or reaction flow on, and see that when I let any attachments to roles go, none of them matter. They just disappear. It’s easier to offer this kind of presence to Vedika, as the community involved so deeply understands this practice.
In the world (beyond Vedika), I see how many more ripples and waves come up and sometimes stick around rather than flowing on. While I am pretty good at practicing the energy of Karma Yoga in my food and medicine gardens throughout the growing season, I see how much I could benefit from embodying this practice more widely in all of my relationships and some projects (especially when there are specific timelines that are created by someone other than myself). Particularly, the most challenging place to practice Karma Yoga is in my intimate partnership, where many decisions we make and actions we take influence each other. As I continue to grow into my expanded embodiment of Karma Yoga in all parts of my life, I look forward to the release of attachments or expectations also occurring in my intimate partnership. Opening to the grace of all aspects of my life at any given time, through contemplations and reminding myself when I have access to the awareness, will be a primary tool for my growth. Other possible tools are remembering my smallness (and ultimately my absolute bigness), deepening my faith, and recognizing and releasing my desires (but acting dharmically as appropriate).
AUM Sri Krishnam Vande Jagat Guru