Karma Yoga, the Yoga of Action and Flow Psychology

Learn Karma Yoga, the Yoga of Action and Flow Psychology

From the moment we are born, and the mind has come to existence, our senses always flow in the outward direction. Doing something, engaging in some action, Karma, comes most naturally to us. If you are a person of action, an energetic doer type, work is important to you. But how many of us feel happy with our everyday jobs? Can our job give us so much satisfaction that we might look forward to them?

What is Karma Yoga?

Yoga-with-Flow-PsychologyIn its ultimate sense, Yoga is actually the state of blissful union, which synchronizes the body, mind and spirit, at the microcosmic level and which ultimately leads to the grander union with the macrocosmic universe or the source energy. It can happen even with our ordinary daily jobs on certain conditions, and when this happens through action, it is called Yoga in action, or Yoga of action, which is also known as ‘Karma Yoga’.

Action without a Doer

The ancient text of Bhagavad Gita teaches to act without an expectation for the fruit or reward. It teaches that in reality, nobody is a doer. But, in reality, an individual is a part of the Universe, and part of the great organic whole.

Just as a cell in our body does not have a separate existence independent of the body, in the same way, we do not have an independent existence that is separate from the Universe and can behave at will. Hence, the Universe, the whole existence is the real doer. Hence, we need to work as an instrument in the hand of Existence with an attitude of equanimity about praise or blame.

But there seems to be a problem with such an attitude. Why? You see, ordinarily, we think ourselves the doer, and the ‘doer’ in us asserts itself and extends its hands to reap the reward now or in the future. If we need to work without the expectation for a reward, without an expectation for praise or blame, as an instrument in the hand of Existence, will it not generate lack of responsibility? This is a valid question for the logical brain, sure.

But, we can act without claiming doership, if we look at the concept from the angle of collaborative nature of the job. The teachings in Karma Yoga merely means that while engaging in our jobs we need to shun the ego-self that says, ‘I and nobody else has done it all, and I deserve the full credit for it.’

When a job is an outcome of collaborative effort, no individual should demand full credit for it, nor should anyone get the blame for the any fault. This is the essence of Karma Yoga.

Swadharma: The right type of job for You

The Bhagavad Gita enlightens us in this regard by saying that humans should always be engaged in work which supports one’s natural tendency, in a job which one is efficient in. Such type of work is called Swa-Dharma, meaning the work that follows your nature, suits your temperament.

Such an action will bring benefit to you as well as to the society. Our Swa-Dharma is to be dutifully engaged in a work, which we are skilled to perform, and which follows our natural tendency. Engaging in such actions in a skillful manner without worrying about the end result has been revealed as the secret of Karma Yoga, the Yoga of Action.

Karma Yoga and the Flow: Similarities

It is interesting to note that such definition of Karma Yoga fulfills the conditions of the ‘flow‘ state discussed in the modern psychology. flow-chartRemember, what the psychologists say about the preconditions of the ‘flow’. They say, flow happens when:

  • The challenge in our job meets our skill — It fulfills the definition of Swa-Dharma, meaning rightful Action.

And the second criterion for ‘flow’ is:

  • We get so involved in our job that the doer in us drops away because we become totally engrossed in the job — this can happen when the ego drops away and there is no thinking of future reward or of the end result.

The actions that are done without a feeling of the doer-ship will make us freer, calmer and more playful.

In ‘flow’ you reach a state of spontaneous meditation. It is interesting to note that when you enter the flow, you do not need any effort on your part to drop the doer; the doer drops on its own accord, because you are so absorbed in your job that all other thoughts stop, including the thought of doer-ship. In Flow, you are spontaneously, effortlessly, in Karma Yoga.

Excerpt from the Book: Flow Yoga: The Mindful Path of Action for Transforming Stress into Happiness – by Banani Ray

((This material is copyrighted, and published by permission from Inner Light Publishers)