"WHAT IS KARMA YOGA?" excerpt from a practicum at the 2013 Lilleoru Summer Retreat

Ingvar Villido answers the question "What is karma yoga?" at a practicum-lecture at the 2013 Lilleoru Summer Retreat.

"Karma yoga is a very effective technique.

Karma means the law of cause and effect. That which you do, you will get.

We have been acting all our life – we’re constantly doing something - if not with our feet or hands, then with our emotions or thoughts. Our awareness has been directed in some direction, and we have acted in that direction. No human being can be without acting, even for a moment. But all these actions have consequences.

The consequences of this life influence both this life as well as form the causes for the next incarnation. During this life, a person prepares for his next birth with his current actions. If a person has lived unconsciously, not aware of what he is doing, his life goes as it goes. If a person lives consciously, however, he can change the course of one’s life quite significantly. He is able to change the consequences, which is not usually possible for people. This is a great advantage.

Karma yoga is also action. In order to change or resolve Karma, this action has to, at the very least, serve good aims. Good deeds have good consequences, which significantly influence your current life. With these same deeds a person prepares for the next birth as well, since good deeds produce the causes to be born into good circumstances.

In the Western world, people are used to getting a reward for their actions. This can take the shape of verbal praise or monetary pay. It can also be recognition in any form- people usually desire to have a result, as some kind of a reward. But out of these kinds of desires grow motives for their actions. The motive is the force that actually conducts the action. This means, the whole action gets accounted for according to its actual motive.

For example, a person can be super-generous: participate a lot, do volunteer work, but the whole time harbor a background motive of receiving praise for these actions. In this case, the person grows proud and, karmicly, sets up the next birth where pride will be the decisive factor, creating life experiences and sufferings that spring from pride.

The second principle of Karma yoga says: do good and you will receive good. Now, if we’re looking at motives, which are the best? Do for others. Without hope for a reward. Simply doing good for others. Because when a person hopes for a reward, he already has an ulterior motive.

Pure goodwill is when a person simply shows up and acts. It’s necessary, and he does it. The more selfless an action, the smaller the karmic consequence. The greater the selfish motive, the more powerful the karmic consequence.

Karma yoga is a path for changing one’s karma. When one has sufficiently changed one’s karma- become liberated from one’s ego, karma yoga becomes simply doing. Not thoughtless doing (it can, however, be doing without thoughts), but simply doing what’s necessary.

Karma yogi does not even think “What’s the reward for this, why is this action necessary?” He simply knows what has to be done, and does it.

Karma yoga has one more aspect: contemporary people have a lot of freedom to stop or interrupt a particular action- to take a break, change the location, go talk to someone- it’s the freedom of distraction. When something unpleasant starts to arise, they take a little break. If it’s really unpleasant, they take a longer break. There is freedom to interrupt or stop the activity at hand.

Karma yoga is not this kind of unsteady action. Karma yoga is steady uninterrupted action, in terms of duration and time. An action where you don’t leave in the middle of doing it. One does not take the freedom to leave when inner world problems start to arise. When one leaves, it is in effect an escape from the process that caused these inner phenomena to arise. One escapes, in order for these phenomena to subside. One returns when the phenomena have subsided.

Those who cannot allow themselves distractions, suffer. Their suffering becomes great and the activity that they were engaged in becomes secondary, less important for them. Karma yoga can turn into suffering as well, if one considers it just work.

Karma yoga takes place for several hours in the row, in order to have time for the inner world phenomena to arise. For example, weeding for several hours is likely to provoke something to arise, whereas weeding for half an hour provokes hardly anything. After a whole day of weeding, suffering may start to show its face. Why? Because the inner world starts to bring out obstacles: emotional and mental obstacles that don’t allow one to continue the chosen activity.

When this happens, people usually use force to overcome the resistance by using other motives: “I have to do this, I have to prove myself”, etc. This, however, is not the goal of karma yoga.

The goal of karma yoga is to release all the emerging obstacles that will not allow one to continue the same activity over a long period of time.

In this way, karma yoga is a method for shaping your future. A method for liberating your karma.

Skipping out on an activity is also an action, which has its own consequences. A normal, liberated person can do anything, without obstacles.

The highest goal of karma yoga, as practiced at Lilleoru, is to become liberated from karma altogether. To not produce even good karma. If one wants to become completely free in the yogic sense, one cannot have a speck of ego left, even in the deepest recesses of one’s being.

One dzogchen story tells the following: (dzogchen is an ancient teaching, of which it is said it does not originate on the planet Earth. It doesn’t derive from Buddhism or Hinduism, but it is very similar to Kriya yoga teachings):

There once was a person who wanted to learn dzogchen. He had heard of the teaching and, as usual, he took off in search of the teacher whom he had also heard of. He wandered around in the mountains, asking if anyone knew where this teacher lived. People directed him hither and thither. Eventually he reached a hut with a woman in the front yard. The student asked her “Where is this famous teacher here?” The woman replied with a question: “What famous teacher?” The student mentioned the name. “Oh that? My old man?” asked the woman, “over there, he’s plowing the field behind the house”. A human being must be as universal as all of nature.

Haidakhan’s holy man Babaji taught only two things:

The practice of karma yoga while continuously reciting the mantra Om Namah Shivaya (I bow to Shiva).
Everyone practiced that, everyone worked: men and women, old and young, even hard work. They practiced this until they were completely released from their ego, from their wanting and not wanting. Even today, these old residents at Haidakhan are still good friends with each other, still have a sense of strong togetherness. If something needs to be done, they are an excellent team for the task. How beautifully they manage and work together!

When you want to start to change your life - change your karma - you will be often tested. When you want to emerge from the bosom of unconsciousness, you will be thoroughly tested.

Passing these tests is indeed the price of freedom. What counts is the certainty you have in this.