What are steps for following karma yoga (in all aspects of life)?


Bhagavad Gita describes 2 ways of Moksha (liberation): SAmkhya & Yoga. [BG 5.5]
It describes Yoga in 4 ways: Karma-Yoga, GyAna-Yoga, DhyAna-Yoga, Kriya-Yoga [BG 12.12]
(Bhakti should not be considered as part of Yoga)

But before we delve into the Karma-Yoga, one should ask oneself:

"Why do I want to follow Karma Yoga?"

  • The product of any Yoga (or SAmkhya) is "indifference" (i.e. no purpose)
  • The indifference results in liberation

Liberation means, you have purchased a ticket to watch a popular movie. You find movie boring and pay a blind eye & deaf ear to happenings on the silver screen.

So the Qn transforms into:

"Why do I want to get liberated?"

If the answer is something among below:

  • Because, world is too good for me
  • Because, world is too bad for me
  • Because, "liberation" is cool & better than heaven/hell
  • Because, Hinduism only "offers" liberation, unlike other religions
  • Because, I want to give it a try to see how it "feels"
  • < put any reason, which has a 'reason' in it >

Then we may want to re-review such thought-process.
Liberation doesn't suit among any of the above. If I want to have pleasure or bliss, there are heavenly planes to enjoy.
Moksha is neither guaranteed to 'good' person nor it's rejected for 'bad' person. Liberation is beyond heaven-hell and is Not comparable.

Hence, you may ask:

"When should one opts for liberation?"

Usually "Indifference" is the key to Moksha (liberation)[14.23].

From above movie example, when instead of getting interested in the storyline, one just sees the movie as various kinds of colours being displayed on the screen, then one has become indifferent.
In real life, if one starts seeing friend-enemy as same, happiness-sorrow as same, Brahmana-Dog as same, Good-Bad as same[5.18, 14.24] , then that person is towards indifference.

In the immature stage of indifference, it may show up as a confusion as well. That's was the state of Arjuna's mind, where he started seeing victory & loosing as same, as discussed in this answer. Hence Krishna discussed the Gita with him.

Karma Yoga = SAtvika way = Following Dharma

See the interlinking among these 3 terms:

Karma Yoga: What is Yoga according to Bhagavad Gita?

BG 2.47 - You have right only on actions; Never on [its] results; Let not be [an agent] for results of actions; Let not be attached to inaction.
BG 6.1 - Blessed lord said, without depending on the result of action, the one who performs action as duty -- that is retired (sannyAsi) and seeker of the Union (Yogi); and not the one, who's without fire and without action

SAtvika way: What is the reason behind Gita favoring the SAtvika way over others?

BG 18.9 - O Arjuna - When the usual work is performed, just because it's to be performed; Association with its result is renounced, then such is illuminated (SAtvika) renunciation

Dharma: What is Dharma according to the Bhagavad Gita?

BG 18.30 — The one who knows activity & retirement, duty & non-duty, fear & boldness and bonding & liberation properly, has SAtvika Buddhi.

Hence, it boils down that in Karma Yoga, one is ought to follow one's own Dharma. People may have their individual Dharma-s, but certain would be common:

  • 4 classes (Brahmana, Kshatriya, Vaishya, Shudra) have their own Dharma-s to perform; In case of confusion, follow what your father does or suggests
  • While doing job or running business, follow whatever the law of land says
  • While in married life, follow what a normal spouse should act like
  • As a citizen, follow what is said in the country's constitution

Now if one applies own logic & manipulates whatever is prescribed, then one deviates from "Karma Yoga". It doesn't mean good or bad though.

For example, if a businessman keeps paying Govt. prescribed taxes, then he may not be able to enjoy the luxuries of life. Hence, he may start "fair evasion (avoidance)" of taxes, "expecting" to earn more. Doing a Karma based on expectation, rather than what is prescribed -- brings "Karma Yoga" away.
Technically he might be right, if the Govt. is imposing unfair taxes. Yet, he has applied his mind/logic. For example,

  • Lord Krishna during his childhood evaded the taxes in form of butter from the Kamsa's government
  • Mahatma Gandhi broke the salt tax by directly collecting it at sea shore, during the British rule

Both of the above cases, though morally right, may not fit the "Karma Yoga" for that localised instance. Because they couldn't show indifference to the atrocity of then government. Though "Dharma" & "Morality" go hand in hand most of the times, they are not exactly same.

On the other hand, the great Bhishma [& even Drona] could be said in continuous Karma Yoga throughout their lives. Bhishma was aware of wrongdoings of Duryodhana, insult of Draupadi, being on side of wicked people during Mahabharata. Yet, he just did what was prescribed according to rule book of Hastinapura's throne.

That's called "indifference"! As said above, all kinds of Yoga would ultimately produce "indifference". One such way is "Karma Yoga", which is the best ways according to Bhagavad Gita.

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