“Perfection in action is Yoga”
A yogi can sit well, talk well, and enjoy things without getting caught in them. A yogi can enjoy the world because he knows the limitations, and knows how far to go. Who is a good surfer? The one who can ride the big waves! Because he knows he’s not going to get caught, the yogi will even watch for the big wave. He has a board and knows how to balance himself on it. Balanced means tranquil. If you have a balanced mind, that is your surfboard. You are steady on it. Whatever wave comes, you just go out and enjoy it without getting caught. You are in the world, but never of the world. That means Integral Yoga embraces the entire life, from morning till evening. Everything should be yogic, from the minute you start brushing your teeth to the minute you go to bed. Do it well, and do it now.
Test Yourself in the Field
Karma Yoga, the path of selfless service, is the best form of Yoga. Even if you don’t have time to meditate, to do asanas, to eat, to sleep, it doesn’t matter. If you have an opportunity to do Karma Yoga, do that first. Through Karma Yoga, your heart, mind, and body will be soon cleaned. You will see your limitations and drawbacks in Karma Yoga, not in your meditation. You will understand your attitudes and moods, but not when you are all alone. So test yourself in the field.
Not that you shouldn’t spend some time in meditation. If you really get tired, or get into emotional or psychological problems, contemplate and analyze. “I went to serve him, but got annoyed because he didn’t thank me.” That’s your meditation when you return home. Yes, meditate on your own feelings. “I offered my service. Why should I expect him to thank me? That’s not right. Next time, I’m going to do the same thing, but not wait for his thanks.” Then you are shaping your mind well.
“Karma Yogam ondre nammai kakkum ennum Vedam,” said a great saintly poet, Subramanya Barati. He knew a lot about devotion and self-analysis. But here he was saying, “My impression is, the essence of scripture is Karma Yoga.” That alone can save you; that alone is enough for you. Master Sivananda always said this: “Serve, Love.” Serve comes first. Serve with love, because without love you cannot serve. Is it not so? Without dedication, you cannot serve. Without control of passion and selfishness, you cannot serve. Serve well and all things come automatically. Become a yogi just by serving.
Karma Yoga means a selfless act. If you are motivated to do something for others, and don’t expect any result or reward for you, such an action is called Karma Yoga. But if you expect a result for your benefit, then it is merely karma. It’s just a labor. “I do this so that I can get that.” But true Karma Yoga is service for the joy of serving. You don’t even wait for thanks. That way you can keep your mind calm, without any disturbance. Whether people appreciate your action or not, even if they criticize you, that is their business. You have done your job to your capacity. You are satisfied with what you have done and don’t expect anything in return. So your mind is always calm. That is Yoga—calmness of mind. If you keep calm during the karma, it is Karma Yoga. If you are going to get disturbed during your action, it’s karma.
Whatever you do, it can be done as Karma Yoga—even your meditation. Many get disturbed because they look for something to happen in meditation. If they don’t feel any sensation after a half-hour, they think the mantra is not good; they already look for another mantra. They are meditating to get something. Yes, even in meditation, even with God, don’t do business! Don’t do it to get something; do it only to retain your peace. The flower doesn’t know it is giving fragrance. Does it even say, “I want to give a nice smell. Here is a nice person. I want to be extra nice to him?” A candle doesn’t know it is giving light. It doesn’t worry you, “Look. I’m wasting my time; I’m melting away. Come and read something with my light.” Does the candle ask you that? No, it is just there, the same as a Karma Yogi. Because of his very presence, people enjoy the light; people enjoy the smell, and people get the benefit.
The Bhagavad Gita says, “All that you are entitled to is to act. Just do, but don’t wait for the result.” Because when you wait for the result, you build a tension and become upset. If you don’t get the result, you are frustrated and angry. If you do get the result, you become greedy. Even if you don’t want more, you still want to protect what you have, because you feel that having it will make you happy. You are afraid of losing it, because your happiness seems to depend on that possession. The fear of losing is always waiting. To be more happy, you want more things. Then if anybody puts up a barrier to prevent you from accumulating, you will hate that person. Your own selfishness causes hatred, fear, jealousy, and anger. If you don’t want anything from anybody, you are freed from these tendencies. That is why Karma Yoga will relieve you from all this strain. You are always happy, always peaceful.
If we only know how to act—not waiting for the result, without any selfishness, we won’t lose our happiness or our peace. Do anything you want, even your personal eating. It may seem like you are doing it for your own sake. You are tasting it; you are filling the stomach. Is it not karma then? No, when you want to take the car on the road, you have to fill up the tank. Your body is the same. Even your eating and drinking is not for your sake, but to serve others.A person who has dedicated his life for the sake of humanity has to take care of his body and mind. Just as you take care of your car, he takes care of the instruments with which he serves. That is why, if a dedicated person forgets to take care of his body, the people who receive the service come forward to take care of it. They remind him, “Swami, eat a little food. You have had a long day. Please rest a little.” If the dedicated person has a family, don’t think that he should ignore it. Since it is given by God, the family is not really yours. But you still have a responsibility. If God has given you a few people under your care, you are their servant and caretaker. The mother is the servant of the baby and the husband is the trustee of both. We all have responsibilities, but let us do our duties without attachment.
The Honored Guest
The Karma Yogi works with more zeal than an ordinary person. Because he is doing it as a service to God, he has more interest than the person who works just for his own benefit. If you are cooking your dinner, it can be just anything. But if you cook for some honored guest, you want nicer items. The plates will be well polished. You will take out all your special dishes and silverware. There is a joy in doing something as an offering. You will never get that joy when you do it just for yourself. Many, unfortunately, have never tasted that joy. It’s unforgettable. If you really do something for somebody else and experience that joy, you will never want to do something for yourself. You will always look for opportunities to serve. It’s even sort of selfish—because you miss that joy. It’s something sweet and delicious. That’s what is called a dedicated life. There is supreme joy in it. Once a month or once in two months, try to set aside some time and say, “This is my Karma Yoga week. The whole week I should be totally selfless. I won’t be doing anything for my sake.” Or, choose just one day—like you choose a fasting day.
Say to yourself, “This is a selfless day.”