Yoga is something that you live. If you want to be a yogi you should be a yogi always, not just while you are standing on your head. If you are a yogi only when you stand on your head, then what are you when you walk on your feet? If you are a Yoga teacher, you are not a yYogi only when you teach. The Yoga class is a very minor part. You teach by living Yoga, every minute living the life of a yogi, the life of a spiritual person. Living Yoga means living the practices. Practice means you apply it in your daily life. It’s not that you do certain things that are practice, and at other times you aren’t practicing. I sometimes hear people say, “Oh, I missed my Yoga practice today.” By that they mean they missed doing some asana, pranayama, meditation. Everything you do should become a Yoga practice.
During our Yoga retreats we have Karma Yoga sessions. Some may do weeding in the garden, some will do some work in the kitchen, and so on. But what is meant by Karma Yoga? Only when you go and do some cleaning, collect some rocks, pull some weeds, that’s what you call Karma Yoga? Whatever you do is karma. Now you are sitting and listening to me. That means you are doing something. Your breathing is a karma. Eating is a karma. Sleeping is a karma. Karma means action. Is there a time when we don’t do any action? That means continuously we are doing something, within and without. The blood constantly pumps, the heart beats eternally. So when is there a time that we are not doing karma?
Whatever you do should be a yogic action. The entire life should be yogic. What makes it yogic? When you are not motivated by selfishness, when you live not for your sake, but for the sake of others. That’s why we are brought here. It’s not for our sake that we are here. Nobody hires a secretary for the sake of the secretary, but for the sake of the corporation. When the job is over, what happens to the secretary? Fired. In the same way, when our job is over, we are fired. You have been sent here to do some work, so you are constantly doing God’s work. When you do everything with the feeling that “I have been sent here by God, I am doing everything for God,” that is real Karma Yoga.
Anything that you do in expectation of some result—even a mere thank you—is what you call attachment. “If I do this, I want something in return. I must get it!” Even a smile, a pat on the shoulder, a thank you. How often we ruin our life just by looking for this acknowledgment. “I have been working in my department since the past three months. My boss never even came to me and said, ‘Good job.’ What am I doing here?” People grumble, complain. For whose sake are you doing it then? If somebody has to come and say, “Beautiful—you are doing a great job!” then you are not serving. Instead you are a slave to the appreciation of someone else. It’s a borrowed happiness. There is a self-satisfaction that comes from feeling, “I offered everything.” That is a reward in itself. Don’t look for appreciation from outside. If it comes, accept it, but don’t run after it.
The one who knows how to enjoy the world is the one who is not attached to anything. But if you want to learn the lesson quickly, get attached to something, enjoy the pleasure in the beginning, and then later face the pain, and learn not to be attached. The world will teach you that lesson very well. Living a yogic life means to rise above likes and dislikes, wants and don’t wants. If it comes, fine. If it goes, wonderful! Take it easy. That is the reason why there are not that many sages and saints around. It takes a long time to learn this lesson. The world is here to give us really hard lessons—it rubs, scrubs, fries and roasts us.
If a person wants to really enjoy life, non-attachment is the best way. Don’t think that a person with non-attachment doesn’t enjoy life or sits around like a sleepy person doing nothing. Or that when they are serving, they feel, “Oh, it doesn’t matter how I do this. I’m not really getting anything out of it anyway.” No. A Karma Yogi should do a better job than an ordinary person. And that’s why it is a service, not a labor. A labor is something you do to get something in return. Service is one-way traffic. You are just offering what you can. In fact, when you don’t have any attachment you can function even better. Why? Because an ordinary person does something looking for the return. While working that person will think, “How much more work do I have to do today? Let me finish quickly and collect my pay.” That person is more concerned for the pay than for the job itself. When this kind of attachment is there, you cannot so the job wholeheartedly. You are just doing business. You are thinking of your reward first.
With non-attachment you don’t worry about rewards, appreciation and so on. The best result for your doing is your own joy of doing—not the reward that you get, the pay you get, or the return you will see. The very joy in being able to say, “I have done my job well, happily.” And that reward nobody else can give you. You have to get it yourself. In a sense, the people who practice non-attachment really have the most attachment. What is that attachment? They are attached to their peace of mind and will never do anything to disturb that peace. There is nothing wrong in being selfish in that way. Why? Because if you are selfish in this way and become a peaceful person, many others will be benefited by your life.
All the scriptures are ultimately based upon this one truth: Live servicefully, live selflessly; whatever you do, do it for the sake of others. Even when you are eating, it may seem as if you are eating for yourself, but if you are eating to have enough energy to serve others, then it is selfless. You rest, you sleep, not for your sake, but to rest the body so that you can serve more. Eating, sleeping, talking, walking—everything should be based on serving others. If that is your motto, there’s nothing to go wrong in your life, nothing to make you unhappy; and you are living as God wanted you to be.
We should always remember our purpose in life: serve, serve, serve. Serve all. That’s what you call Karma Yoga. Karma: doing for your sake. Karma Yoga: doing for others’ sake. So be a good Karma Yogi, and everything will become alright. Even your health will improve. The main reason for falling sick is stress. Why do the body and mind get stressed? Because of your selfishness: “I want this, I want that, I have to have it.” Your unkind thoughts, ugly thoughts, angry thoughts, jealous thoughts are all based on your selfishness. Those thoughts are transferred to the body. As you think, so you become. Always remember that every thought has a say over your body. Good thoughts make good bodies, bad thoughts make bad bodies. A happy thought will make your face happy; a sad thought will make your face sad. So, be careful of what you’re thinking. All your thoughts should be clean, then the words will be clean, the actions will be clean, and all will be well. So, let your life be based on being useful to people, serviceful, with your body, mind, intellect, senses. Do not hurt anybody in any way. That’s the way one should live. That is living Yoga. May God bless you with that kind of healthy, happy, peaceful, joyful, selfless life. Thank you. OM Shanthi, Shanthi, Shanthi.
By Sri Swami Satchidananda