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Karma yoga, or the "discipline of action" is based on the teachings of the Bhagavad Gita, a holy scripture of Hinduism. One of the four pillars of yoga, Karma yoga focuses on the adherence to duty (dharma) while remaining detached from the reward. It states that one can attain Moksha (salvation) by doing his duties in an unselfish manner.


The Bhagavad Gita is the dialogue between Lord Krishna and Arjuna just before the battle of Mahabharata, a war between the virtuous Pandava brothers and their cousins, the unrighteous Kauravas. The dialogue is prompted by Arjuna as he is engulfed by sorrow and misgivings on fighting his relatives. The Gita consists of spiritual/philosophical advice, mostly unrelated to the setting, that Krishna gives to Arjuna. Karma Yoga is one of the yogas propounded by him as a path to Moksha (salvation).

Karma Yoga or Nishkam Karma translates as acting without desires or emotional attachments to the fruits of one's deeds.

In the Gita, Lord Krishna preaches Arjuna to fight the battle of Dharma and remain detached from the consequences. He tells Arjuna that his duty is to fight and he has the right only to fight; he does not have any control on the outcome (2-47). The duty of a person as a Karma Yogi is to do the rightful Dharma, as worship almost, without expecting anything in return for the deeds thus performed. Selfless work done with wholehearted effort and perfection is the Karma Yoga way for the worldly person to realize his inner self.

Lord Krishna advocates Nishkam Karma Yoga as the Yoga of selfless action and as one of the ideal paths to realize the truth. He says that allocated work done without expectations, motives, or anticipation of its outcome purifies one's mind and gradually makes an individual fit to see the value of reason and the benefits of renouncing the work itself. In order to achieve Moksha (liberation), it is important to control all mental desires and tendencies to enjoy pleasures of the senses. The practice of Karma Yoga in daily life makes an individual fit through action, meditation and devotion to sharpen his reasoning, develop intuitive power of acquiring knowledge and to transcend the mind itself.

Per Hinduism, the gist of mundane life centers on Karma. An interesting analogy is that virtual currency unit in the virtual bank of "Sanskarí" is Karma. The understanding of Karma, Nishkam Karma, and Karma Sanyas is essential to overcome it. It is believed that a man is born with certain Sanskars, his past pushes him towards doing certain Karma and these Karmas are then deposited in his virtual account. The process continues until the individual attains a zero balance, wherein one achieves liberation from the cycle of rebirth. Esha Upanishads propounds the whole philosophy of Karma Yoga in two words - "Tayktena bhunjita" (1.1), which means use only what have been set apart for you, that is your quota.

Following the practice of Karma yoga, an individual can potentially become a true spiritual seeker and realize his true nature as Atman. He can live in & work for this world but still remain untouched by the grossness of mundane pleasures.

References in Hindu Scriptures

  • Karmayoga - Chapter 3 of Bhagavad Gita
  • Karma Yoga - Swami Vivekananda
  • Story of Dharmavyadha and Vyadha-gita from Mahabharata
  • Defn. of Karma according to acharyas
  • Shankaracharya says by practicing Karma, one's mind gets purified. Thus, he interprets Karma yoga as a path to Jnana yoga. Jnana yoga ultimately leads to Moksha or realisation.
  • Ramanuja interprets Karma to mean ritualistic worships etc.
  • Story of King Janaka who attained Moksha by following Karma yoga.

See also

External links


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