Inaction in Action ~ karma yoga in embodied life⁠

I've been reflecting on the teachings in the Bhagavad Gita (4.18) around Karma ~ action and reaction. Sri Krishna explains that action or "doing" rooted in desires creates karma and bondage. Inaction is a state wherein our acts do not create new karma and deeper bondage. These teachings, which support the path of yoga known as Karma Yoga, teach practitioners how to gain clarity and freedom while executing our duties in this world by not identifying with the action itself. ⁠


karmany akarma yah pasyed⁠

akarmani ca karma yah⁠

sa buddhiman manusyesu⁠

sa yuktah krtsna-karma-krt⁠

4.18 "He who seeth inaction in action and action in inaction, he is wise among men; he is a Yogi and performer of all actions." Sw Sivananda⁠

Consider 'inaction' as a mindset of expectation. What would it look like to drop the expectation for recognition/ fame/ reward/ praise around the duties we perform? The teachings share that the "wise" are those who release expectation from all action and turn those acts into service to The Divine/ The Universe/ Wholeness⁠

Let's apply it to housework. Can we do the dishes without expecting any praise or recognition from other household members? Can we do the dishes simply because they need to get done? Can we do the dishes as service to something outside of ourselves? ⁠

The teachings of karma yoga guide us to ask:⁠

* Can we be unattached to the result or "fruits" of our labor? ⁠

* Is it possible to perform our duties free of expectation of a certain outcome?⁠

* Can we do something for someone without expecting praise or a returned favor? ⁠

* Is it possible to 'do' for the sake of 'doing' alone? Give for the sake of giving? Help for the sake of helping? Love for the sake of loving?⁠

The result, if we work towards this, is lightness and freedom. We can be engaged, vital embodied beings while also being unattached. It doesn't mean we care less. It means that we are less attached to what happens. In this way we can be "inactive" while active. ⁠


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