Life is a school. Just as in a school, if you do not pass the exam, you will have to repeat the class; so also, if you do not learn your karmic lessons, you have to repeat the experience again and again until you understand, class after class, until you graduate.

The graduated souls are the teachers who guide us, like Swami Sivananda and Swami Vishnu-devananda. These people have finished their Karma; they have learned their lessons.

You have to experience in order to learn.  Karma is our specific lessons, and we take on this body and mind with this particular situation and these particular circumstances in order for us to experience–so that we can learn the lesson of that particular experience. To learn, you have to go through the experience without identifying with it. In this way, action can bind you or free you. You have a certain Karma, a certain role to play, and you have to live it, to go through the experience, and at the same time know that it is not you.

It’s not what you do, it is how you do it.  One role is no more important than another. You can be a dish-washer or be President of the United States, but it is all still just Karma. We think that if we can change our role and get a different position, things will be better, but that is not it. To move past the karma, you must go through the experience and play the role, whatever it is, yet also remain detached.  That is the practice of Karma Yoga.


Right Attitude. The number one thing is attitude. It’s not what you do, it’s how you do it.  You can be doing charity work with the motive of gaining more name and fame, or with the idea of helping people – this is a huge difference. The attitude behind is what counts, not the action itself.

Pure Motive. If the motive is selfless, to do service, then if somebody praises you, you are fine – if somebody criticizes you, you are also the same. Otherwise, it’s not Karma Yoga. Constantly work to examine your motives and your reactions to see if you are selfless or not. By examining your reactions, you can come to know your true motives.

Open Heart.  The moment we start to do something, the thought will come: “What is in it for me?” “What about me?”  Most of the time it is like that. Most of the time, if there is not anything for the ‘me’, we will not do it. The Me and the Mine is so strong, because we think that is what will bring us the happiness. But when you let go of “me and mine”  you actually start to feel happy. When you can open your heart, when you can think of others and really giving to others, that is when your heart opens and the energy of the Universe can flow through you; you feel so good!

Doing Your Specific Duty.  Doing your duty means responding appropriately to the demands of the moment.  The practice of doing your duty is the practice of not just going with your tendency and following what you like, avoiding what is not attractive.  You have to go through with the karma and be responsible in your role, until you understand and really get it.  We are constantly scheming to find a way out of the situation or ways to gain more for ourselves–like more time, more position, more pleasure. But that is not the way to work out the karma. Only when you can go through that role, doing your duty even though you do not like it will you make progress. Only then will you be paying up your debts.

Do your best.  Doing your best means you have to put in the effort. That means you have to really find all that you know, use all your resources to do the job to the best of your ability.

Give up results – Detachment.  This is the key of Karma Yoga.  You have to learn to let go of the results of your actions, good or bad, and detach from the sense of doership.  You are only the instrument in the hands of the Divine.

© Swami Sitaramananda 2014 No part of this article may be reproduced in any form without the written permission of the author.


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