Karma Yoga / Volunteering

Volunteerism is a common practice in ordinary corporate, non-profit, educational, government, and such enterprises. In many cases it is a way to build up a resume or to gain access to certain positions, which means there is a personal benefit expected from the action. In other cases it is a true desire for service that comes from the soul. In the science of Yoga, volunteerism is framed as a very clear practice called Karma Yoga.

Karma means action therefore Karma Yoga means the action, or the action of “service,” or “devotional service” meaning action performed for the love of God or its multiple manifestations like human or sentient beings etc. Karma Yoga specifically establishes that the action should be performed without any expectation for the fruit meaning no expectation of a result, reward or any form of tangible benefit. Yet there is something very valuable in its practice if we look at it in its right context as in the inspiring words of Swami Sivananda: 

A karma yogi should adapt, adjust, accommodate, in relation to all and under all circumstances. He should share what he has with others. He should be absolutely unselfish. He should keep his senses under control. He should always be truthful and cheerful. He should be social and amiable. He should be simple, noble, humble and gentle.A karma yogi should bear insult and injury. He should observe brahmacharya. Offer all actions and their fruits – body, mind, senses and soul – as flowers at the lotus feet of the Lord.

A karma yogi should feel that the world is a manifestation of God and that he is serving God in all beings. He should discipline the mind and the senses and body. He should develop alertness, decision, discrimination, discernment, forgiveness, patience, mercy, cosmic love, tolerance and equal-vision.

A karma yogi should have a balanced mind. He should be calm, cool and serene always. He should combine bhakti or Jñana yoga with karma yoga. He should be good and do good. He should keep the body strong and healthy – practicing asanas, pranayama, running and physical culture. He should keep a spiritual diary and stick to all his resolves.

Put your heart and soul in all that you do. Remember always that you are serving the Lord himself; through all your actions you are expressing his will. You should act like a dutiful manager of the absentee landlord’s estate. Have the same attitude towards your worldly concerns that a loving and conscientious nurse has towards the children entrusted in her care.

Do your duty well. Inwardly feel that you are only an instrument in the hands of the Lord. Feel that your true self, the Godhead within you, is the eternal sakshi (witness). Live in the Lord. Repeat his name always. Feel that God does everything. Share all you have – your heart will be purified quickly. Knowledge of the self will descend on you quickly. You will see God in all.
- Sivananda, Daily Readings, 15th April, Swami Venkatesananda.

For a full understanding of the depth and breadth of Karma Yoga, see Why Volunteering? by Vyasa on our CSA website.

One of the purposes of the School of Life is to offer Karma Yoga opportunities for any and all who wish to participate. You may work alongside members of the School of Life or others in the community, work here alone, or perhaps work in conjunction with our projects at your home. Special skills can be applied to any project such as administrative help, promotion, Spanish translation, website development, research, graphic design, repair and maintenance, etc. Ideas abound so those with time and interest may have the opportunity to experience Karma Yoga directly in many forms.