Karma Yoga – the Yoga of Action

I recently started reading Rolling Thunder by Doug Boyd, a book my sister Renee gave me for Christmas last year.  This passage really struck me,

“It’s not very easy for you people to understand these things because understanding is not knowing the kind of facts that your books and teachers talk about. I can tell you that understanding begins with love and respect. It begins with respect for the Great Spirit, and the Great Spirit is the life that is in all things – all the creatures and the plants and even the rocks and minerals. All things – and I mean all things – have their own will and their own way and their own purpose; this is what is to be respected.”

“Such respect is not a feeling or an attitude only. It’s a way of life. Such respect means that we never stop realizing and never neglect to carry out our obligation to ourselves and our environment.”

Of all the teachings I have heard, these words are most important and the most valuable for the contemporary aspirant upon the path of Karma Yoga, the yoga of action. No teaching for the path of action could be more fundamental or primary than the teachings of love and respect- for oneself, for one’s world, and for the Great Spirit, which is all life in all things. The aspirant can perform no greater service for his world than to be mindful that his acts, even his thoughts and speech, become a part of the condition of the world.[1]

I’ve lived at Yasodhara Ashram for over a year doing Karma Yoga, selfless service, and in reading this passage I am able to better understand what Karma Yoga, the yoga of action, is all about.  Karma Yoga is right action.  It is every thought, every word, every interaction.

And I’m realizing that it’s a yogic practice I’ve been doing for a long time. As a child, I tried to “be a good person,” as an activist I was trying to make positive change in the world. And I my journey has been refining what Right Action really is. I have been learning that the word kindness doesn’t mean doing whatever the other person wants, or taking responsibility for another person’s pain. True kindness is supporting each other to take responsibility for ourselves.

And I have this warrior part of me and I am realizing that this warrior has to do Karma Yoga. This warrior must act. Right now my Karma Yoga is growing nutritious food for this community that I care about and being kind (using my new definition) to people who come into the garden. What’s next is not totally clear but it will definitely be Karma Yoga.

Thank you to all who have offered support – visible and invisible – that continues to allow me to become who I am meant to be.


[1] Boyd, Doug. Rolling Thunder. New York: Dell Publishing House, 1974. p. 51-52.

Author: Bryn Bamber

Career Coach Bryn Bamber helps people like you find a career that’s aligned with your goals. Her Burnout to Brilliance program teaches you how to make small shifts that will free up tons of energy for the things you really love. Start today with your FREE Checklist: Decrease Stress and Get an Hour of Your Day Back! Get it here - tinyurl.com/getanhourback. Learn more about Bryn & the Burnout to Brilliance program at www.brynbamber.com.

One thought on “Karma Yoga – the Yoga of Action”

  1. In my experience, the daily grind of karma yoga is where the teaching got real … down to earth … humbled. Hatha and meditation were essential, but so was mixing cement and cleaning the barn and washing the floors and dishes. Oh, yes, and making all those loaves of bread every Monday.

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