Sadhguru looks at the importance of the process of karma yoga, its role on the spiritual path, and how one can go about using action as a means to spiritual growth.
Question: What is the role of karma yoga in sadhana?
Sadhguru: It is not needed really. Yoga does not need karma. Yoga is to go beyond karma. Why karma yoga has been brought in is to bring about balance in a person. Whatever we call as our awareness, our love, our experience or our glimpses of our reality, if it has to be sustained, the path of non-doing is a very wonderful path, but it is very slippery. Extremely slippery. It is the simplest and the most difficult. It is not difficult but it is not at all easy, because it is simple – right now, here and now. But that here and now – how to get it? Whatever you do, it is not in your hands. It is never going to be in your hands. But your hands need something right now, you need to hold something. That is why the crutch of karma yoga.
Without the crutch, most people will not be able to walk. There are a few beings who can walk without the crutch from the first moment. They are very rare beings. Everyone else needs the crutch to manage your awareness. Without this, most people are incapable of remaining aware. So karma yoga is brought into your life to properly temper sadhana with the right kind of action.
Activity – liberating or entangling
Karma yoga has unfortunately been described as service, but it is not so. It is a way of undoing the impressions that you have gathered. If you can joyfully involve yourself in any activity, that is karma yoga. If you do it with great effort, only karma will come, noyoga will happen!
Generally it is through various activities that you perform that you get entangled and enmeshed with life. But if the activity becomes a process of liberation instead of entanglement, it is karma yoga. Whether it is work or walking on the street or talking to someone, the nature of the activity is not important. When you do something only because it is needed, where it does not mean anything to you but you are capable of involving yourself as if that is your life, it transforms you and action becomes liberating.
When we were building the Dhyanalinga, people thought, “This is it! He wants this to happen. Let us do it! Once this is done, we can relax.” They worked like their life depended on it. They went from house to house, raising funds and bringing the necessary support and made it happen. When it was done, before they said “Ooff…” I announced ten different projects. I will always keep it on because people need that kind of action. They need to do what is needed without worrying about their fulfillment and their likes and dislikes. Anyway we are doing something for our growth, so let us do something that is useful to everyone. Let us do sensible action.
There have been many masters who created action like this. When Gurdjieff started his centers in Europe, the European elite went to him. In the morning he would give them a shovel and a pickaxe and tell them, “Dig trenches.” In the hot sun, they stood and dug and dug. These were not people who are used to labor of any kind. By the time they had worked a few hours, they had blisters all over. He stood there and drove them on. By late evening, they were hungry but they worked and worked, digging trenches. Then he would look at the watch, “Okay, it is seven o‘clock. Looks like dinner time. All of you can close the trenches again before we go for dinner.” A whole day’s work!
Doing something that does not mean anything to you with total involvement is what breaks the karmic structure. Karma means action. If action has to become yoga, action should be liberating. If your activity has become a process of binding yourself, it is karma. So the question is not about how much activity you do. How you are performing the activity is what makes the difference. If you are crawling through your work, that is karma. If you are dancing through your work, that is karma yoga.