Home > Philosophy > The Four Paths of Yoga > Karma Yoga
The word “Karma” means “to do, to act”. Any mental or physical act is called Karma. Karma is also the word used to describe the consequence of this act, thus the word also refers to the Universal Law of Cause and Effect.
Everything we do, say or think, gives rise to an effect, which in due time will return to us, in full accordance with this law of consequence. What we call “luck” is the result of our earlier good actions, and what appears to us as misfortune is merely the repercussion of past negative actions.
Therefore, the events of our future do not arise coincidentally, but are actually caused by the effects of our previous and present actions. In this way our destiny is predetermined by our Karma. Just as the destination of an arrow released from its bow is fixed and predictable, unless its course is diverted, or corrected by another event. In the practice of “Yoga in Daily Life”, positive thinking, wisdom and selfless service, we can lessen and alter the outcome of our Karmas and gradually guide our destiny towards the positive.
Our present situation is a result of our past deeds and our present actions will determine our future. Once we understand this, we can no longer blame anybody else for what happens to us, but rather accept responsibility for ourselves.
Selfish thoughts and actions deepen the duality between “mine” and “yours”. Being selfless however, leads us above and beyond the limit of our little ego, to the unity of all beings. Sakama Karma binds us to Chorasi ka Chakra (the Wheel of Death and Rebirth). Nishkama Karma frees us from this.
In India, the rain, the tree, the river and the Saint are all regarded as symbols of selflessness. Rain comes for the benefit of all - humans, nature and animals equally. The tree offers its shade to all that seek shelter and yields its sweet fruit even to those who hurl stones at the tree to knock the fruit down. The river is also there for everyone. The deer quenches its thirst in the same river as the tiger and a Saint gives his blessing to all without distinction.
Nishkama Karma is the way to avoid creating new Karma and may even resolve earlier Karma. To offer understanding, forgiveness and help are the selfless actions that liberate us from the cycle of Karma.