Yogah Karmasu Kaushalam
The term Yoga is defined in different ways in different classical texts. We come across a beautiful definition of Yoga in this verse from Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 2, Verse 50) – “Yogah Karmasu Kaushalam”.
Let us first look at the meaning of this verse–
Yoga is dexterity in actions or Yoga means performing actions skillfully.
What does dexterity in actions or performing actions skillfully mean? Why is it important to perform actions skillfully? What is the real connection between Hatha Yoga (in particular) and performing actions? Let us discuss.
Ultimate purpose of all paths of Yoga is freedom from bondage and misery and experiencing the core in yourself, which is immense Happiness and Peace. Different paths of Yoga have different approaches to accomplish this purpose.
The verse we are taking here “Yogah Karmasu Kaushalam”, presents a profound technique of transforming every action of ours, whether pleasant or unpleasant, opportunity or obstacle, into a journey of gaining freedom from bondage and misery.
However, in our normal life, as we perform actions throughout the day, we continuously create bondage and misery because we carry intentions and emotions of selfish, ego-centric and impulsive desires. These desires and associated emotions which form the bedrock of our mind, trigger our actions.
Normally we don’t pay attention to or are not aware of why we perform certain actions in certain ways. We don’t realize the universal law of Karma that every action performed with an intention gives certain fruit that one has to experience.
Whether an action is pleasant or unpleasant and whether the fruit of that action is pleasure or pain, both create bondage. In other words, we continuously create a web of Karma for ourselves through repeated actions, unawaringly.
Over a long period of time, due to such repetitive way of performing actions, we have collected loads of what can be termed as Karmic debt, i.e. fruits of our actions that we must necessarily experience. This Karmic debt becomes the driving factor for deciding a variety of things in our life, such as our family, spouse, children, profession etc.
Having created a life context for ourselves by our past actions, the manner in which we conduct ourselves in that life context decides the experiences in the present and future moments of our life. This conduct of ours is determined by the disposition of the mind we have been cultivating.
If we act out of ignorance about the higher purpose of life, with the absence of knowledge and discrimination, or soaked in inertia, such actions are called Tamasic actions. Such actions lead to degradation and further strengthening of misery and bondage and keep the mind steeped in sloth and darkness.
If we act out of impulsive desires for pleasure enjoyment coming out of lust, hatred, anger, greed, jealousy and attachment, such actions are called Rajasic actions. Rajasic actions keep the mind in total agitation and restlessness, thus never letting us experience peace and happiness.
The above two types of actions when performed, deepen our karmic debt, thus carrying us far away from the purpose of life which is freedom from bondage and misery.
However not all is lost. There is a third type of action which takes us towards that higher purpose of life and it is called Sattvic action. An action performed with a tranquil mind, without attachment, without lust and hatred and without selfish desires to enjoy the fruits of the actions is Sattvic action.
Can each one of us evaluate and see what kind of actions are dominating our life?
Here comes in the Bhagavad Gita verse, “Yogah Karmasu Kaushalam”.
Dexterity in action or Being skillful in actions – what does this mean?
Normally we lack awareness in our actions as our mind is continuously agitated, restless, fast, rigid or steeped in sloth and ignorance. So, all our actions end up being impulsive and without any awareness. We don’t carry out skillful actions.
To perform actions skillfully, we need to develop the faculty of discrimination first and then become aware of our thoughts, speech and actions. In this process, when we learn to love people around us unconditionally and learn to perform actions selflessly, we truly have learnt how to perform actions skillfully. This unconditional love and selfless action are nothing but expression of Non-attachment.
In summary, when we transform our attitude from one of attachment to that of non-attachment, we experience the true essence of the verse “Yogah Karmasu Kaushalam”.
How does Hatha Yoga help you develop this?
In the Himalayan tradition, cultivating awareness of your physical body, prana movement and modifications of the mind form the foundation of Hatha Yoga practices.
Be it simple Joints & Glands exercises or Asanas or Pranayama, all of them have one common purpose of making you Mindful and letting your mind be tranquil. You systematically learn to do it.
In the Himalayan tradition, we teach you how to develop Mindful awareness in all the Hatha Yoga practices. You can carry this Mindful awareness into your life context, be it in relationships, profession, etc. and cultivate an attitude of Non-attachment. When you practice this over a period of time, both during your Hatha yoga practice and throughout the day in your life, you learn to perform your actions skillfully – thus attaining freedom from the bondage of Karma.
“Yogah Karmasu Kaushalam”