Stress has become a normal part of life. You can feel stress when you worry about things like your job, money, relationships etc. However, when you are constantly reacting to stressful situations without making adjustments to counter the effects, it becomes chronic that can threaten your health and well-being. Here, spirituality can be used as one of the ways to find bliss. Regarding Karma Yoga, a famous verse in the Bhagavad Gita says “Don’t hanker after the fruit”. However, it also insists that you should act with full energy and skill. Attachment with the result leads to stress, competition and aggression. It is evident that no work remains fruitless. It will give either positive result or negative result. It is the positive psychology by which we learn to be happy. Lord Krishna also emphasizes to focus on the present not on past or future. It is similar to giving up the desire and result.

If we divide life into spiritual and non-spiritual aspects, we devote most of the time into the non-spiritual side, whereas the spiritual part takes the least priority. The solution to this is to spiritualise life itself ,i.e, make spirituality a part of work or every day actions. The 6th Chapter of Bhagavad gita is about meditation in which we can know that even the great Arjuna had difficulty in controlling the mind. Here, Lord Krishna suggests the path of Karma Yoga as a solution. For those who are starting the spiritual path, work is the best form of meditation. Karma yoga is meditation with eyes open, i.e, in our very interaction with others and in our actions. Once the mind is under control or has become finer, the sitting form of meditation becomes more effective.

As said by Swami Vivekananda, the difference between an ordinary person and a great one is the degree of focus or concentration. The method to make focus a part of our lives is through dhyana or meditation. We have dumped a lot of impurities/impressions into our minds all through our lives that keeps distracting us during meditation. The solution to this is to purify the mind. One powerful technique used is karma yoga. Work done with desire or sakama karma creates latent tendencies in the mind. Work done without desires or without personal gain for the welfare of others is called nishkama karma and is a powerful purifier. Thus karma yoga is the foundation of spiritual life or journey.


Everyone on this earth work for a living and are ambitious. However, inspite of your honest efforts only a few achieve high level of success. In the 3rd Chapter of Bhagavad Gita, Krishna instructs Arjuna the secret for great achievement that forms the backbone of Karma Yoga. People give up or dissipate all the excitement in work with memories of the past, imagining about the future and loss of interest in the present. Focusing all the excitement towards the work on hand is the secret of achieving high level of success. The routine work cannot become monotonous if we have a higher goal in mind and work towards achieving the goal.

To do any action is Karma. Even a machine can perform some action, but cannot be categorized as Karma. An action performed by a living entity using the body, mind and senses with awareness or consciousness is called as Karma. This will provide results based on how the action is performed. Your performance at work is your identity or shows your capacity. If you are able to make conscious choices then only you can become a high performer. However, if you are driven to make choices then you create only fate. This is also the secret to become a good leader. A leader is a person who can see more than what others can see and has the ability to inspire and co-ordinate the will of the employees together to reach the company’s goals. A leader who is not able to control his/her mind is a sure micro manager. They will be restless, indecisive and will keep checking on people’s task.

Theory of Karma

Any work has two effects, one is external and another one is internal. The external effect is the visible one or the physical results of our actions. The internal effect is that it has generated a solid impression in the mind or a sanskar has been created. There is also a third effect which is also not visible and is called the karmashaya / cosmic effect. If we do a good act with good intention it will come back to us at some point in time. Karma is based on the cause and effect theory. It is not fixed and is relative to the actions you perform. As a result even a present negative situation can be turned around with our willful or conscious action. So put forth such positive forces so that life becomes positive always.

What we are today is due to our hard work but without the contribution of the society we would not be able to attain the position in the life that we are currently in. Hence, the natural impulse of a karma yogi is to give as much as possible. The hobby of doing good to others should become part of your life. The sum of karma that we do and have done is like a bank account, the more the deposit of good karma we do to others will result in developing our character and will take care of the third effect as well ,i.e, our destiny. So one should take pride in serving others.

The sum total of all the karma over many lives is called the Sanchita Karma. A slice of the Sanchita Karma that needs to be experienced in this life is called Prarabda Karma. Beyond the Prarabda Karma, a notion of free will has been installed that is called Kriyamana Karma, using which the Prarabda Karma can be changed and with intense practice, even the Sanchita Karma can be changed as well. In other words, through your decisions and actions you can change the course of your life. By tracing causation you are being empowered to fashion your destiny which is the core of Karma theory.

Every action we take molds our characters for the future. Both positive and negative traits can become magnified over time as we fall into habits. This behavioral tendency or karmic imprint is called vasana which influences the present behavior and are the seeds of one’s personality. Vasanas are acquired by your past actions. Vasanas produce thoughts, thoughts produce desires and desires produce actions. You are what your vasanas are, so if you have business/sporting/any other vasanas u become a businessman/sportsman/any other person. So you need to be mindful of your actions and not become a victim of your vasanas. Everyone is governed by this law of karma. However, the law of destiny precedes the law of karma. Your destiny is determined by your own past actions. Your get what you deserve and not what you desire.

Since your life is your doing and not the creator’s trap so it can be undone. You are doing some action always. If you are aware of your action, you will cause a karma of liberation but if unaware you will cause the karma of bondage. To give a better picture of this using an analogy, humans are like silkworms that spin a cocoon for themselves. The silkworm will spin a cocoon for itself, that needs to be broken in order to emerge out. But, if it is unable to do so the adult silkworm will die inside the cocoon. That’s how karma is, where karma is all your doing. Karma is not because of somebody else, since the bondage is my creation the liberation should also be my doing which is an inside job.

Six dimensions of Karma Yoga

It is said that if we understand and follow the below six principles of karma yoga, we can surely perform karma yoga in whatever profession we are in. This being part of the sakama karma ,i.e, performing karma with desires and within the boundaries of dharma. This can also be considered as a summary.

  • Whatever activity you do should not be against the socio-ethical code of conduct of society. Socio-ethical code of conduct means, what you don’t want others to do to you, even you should not do to others.
  • Whatever role we perform at home/office should be done with utmost diligence. Excellence at work is itself karma yoga as per the Bhagavad Gita which says, “Yogah Karmasu Kaushalam”.
  • Focus on the present without thinking about the future or the results. Since whatever activity you do is bound to produce results, doing it with utmost diligence should be the main criterion.
  • Inspite of putting your best efforts, if the results are not good, you have no option but to accept it. We have control over the actions but the results are not under our control. This law of cause and effect is quite mysterious. That is the reason why Lord Krishna says in the Gita : “Gahana karmano gatih”- The intricacies of Karma are very hard to understand. So, just do your duty and move on.
  • One should have an absence of doer-ship or ego. Do not have the sense of Me/I. Whatever you achieve in life is all a result of others contribution.
  • Whatever fruits we get in life needs to be shared freely. One should give whatever is possible which can be either money or knowledge.

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References :

Lectures of Swami Mukundananda, Swami Chinmayananda, Jaggi vasudev, Swami Sarvapriyananda, Swami Parthasarathy, Swamini Pravrajika

Further Reading :