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Introduction

As we have seen, Hinduism recognizes at least four disciplines or paths. The goal of each of them is moksha - release from samsara. We now turn our attention to how each of these paths is intended to lead to freedom from samsara.

Karma Yoga

As we have seen, karma yoga can be described as the way of faithful action without any interest in its effects and without any personal sense of giving. In other words, one must renounce any selfish motive behind one's act. Those who follow this path do what is required of them by their caste and place in life without any thought of the consequence of their action. In so doing, one avoids the accumulation of negative karma while simultaneously acquiring good karma. As we have seen, Rama exemplifies this way of faithfulness in the Ramayana. 

In the Bhagavad-Gita, karma yoga is actually connected to the concept of devotion to a god. In 3:30-31 of the Bhagavad-Gita, Krishna says:

 Dedicating all works to Me in a spiritual frame of mind, free from desire, attachment, and mental grief, do your duty.

Those who always practice this teaching of Mine, with faith and free from cavil, are freed from the bondage of Karma.

It should be noted that in some ways the Bhagavad-Gita is addressing those who claimed that the only way to keep from accumulating negative karma is to do nothing. Many people had concluded that they would have to renounce the world, withdraw from it, and do as little as possible in order to avoid the negative consequences of action. There were two problems with this approach. On the one hand, it is simply not possible to renounce all activities. On the other hand, if everyone renounced all actions because of fear of negative karma, the cosmos itself would collapse.

The one who does not help to keep the wheel of creation in motion by sacrificial duty, and who rejoices in sense pleasures, that sinful person lives in vain, O Arjuna. (3.16)

Notice in the verse above, the the "wheel of creation" is kept in motion by "sacrificial duty." Thus, complete renunciation of duties and responsibilities is not only impossible, the attempt to do so endangers the order of the world. Karma yoga provides an alternative to the renunciation of duty and responsibility.In karma yoga, one renounces not the world, but the selfish motives behind any actions. One who acts without any thought of reward or punishment has in fact renounces all selfish motives.The result of fulfilling one's duties without thought of reward or punishment is freedom from the effects of karma.

 


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