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Karma Yoga Is Not Selfless Service
Fausto: Good morning, dear Arlindo. I was brought up in an Islamic tradition and certain beliefs about the nature of Allah were instilled in my being as a child. For instance, we were made to believe that Allah is genderless, not born and does not give birth, is beyond thought, time and space, and we were taught that whatever we may think of God, he is beyond that. We worshiped him in devotion as the only Truth that prevails, the only eternal Everlasting One, the one who is not affected by anything in his creation as the ever-present witness, motionless, changeless, ever the same. Later I rejected all the Islamic tradition and started to inquire and question everything I was taught to believe, and this is how my spiritual journey began. For the past few years the connection, communication with the divine, was focused as the “divine mother,” not as a personal female deity, but as the substratum of all that is, as the creator of all. I can’t say that I see IT as a female or a male, but as beyond both, and yet it feels more intimate to communicate with IT as HER.
Arlindo: Hello, dear Fausto. If you have a romantic/devotional temperament, I would suggest that you follow your apparent nature and keep up with your worship as before. Just integrate the vision of karma yoga and jnana yoga (Vedanta) with it. The divine mother (Creator/creation) you refer to we like to call Isvara. If you prefer to personify “IT” as a female deity, so be it. Most devotees personify IT as the father – it makes no difference, because both are only symbols of Isvara/God. A time will come when you will love and appreciate Isvara without having to see It as a person, except as a bhakti play.
Fausto, I read your post on karma yoga, and I have a question regarding it; I assume you wrote it, is that right?
Fausto: Hi, Arlindo. Yes, I wrote it, but it is not fully on karma yoga but on how on people who try to escape by extending themselves to help others, using non-dual concepts.
Arlindo: That’s is also correct, Fausto; the knowledge of the non-dual nature of reality can be used (co-opted) for many different forms of escapism and denial. That is why karma yoga is so important! But karma yoga is not selfless service or charity work, although sometimes selfless service may be an expression of the karma yoga true spirit. I have a question for you: Have you fully exposed your mind to the teachings of karma yoga from our tradition?
Fausto: Not yet. I have just begun doing so.
Arlindo: Okay, great! After having done so, I will be happy to talk to you about karma yoga. Let’s wait to see if you will need any clarifications. I say so because in the spiritual world karma yoga is often believed to be selfless service, which is not correct. Selfless service in rare cases may be an aspect of karma yoga.
Fausto: Ah, yes, and I also understand that karma yoga is a way to purify the mind. Correct?
Arlindo: Yes, and most importantly, karma yoga is knowledge yoga – the understanding of the laws (moral, psychological and physical) governing the universe. It is the understanding of Isvara, the jiva, the world and the relationship between them. Karma yoga is the hard and fast knowledge of mithya and its non-conflicting relationship with satya.
Only once one’s mithya-knowledge is clear and firm, jiva will conform and dedicate his actions to Isvara. The mind will purify and relax, and jiva will begin living a life of peace, love, gratitude – a life in harmony with dharma.
And of course the by-product of such a lifestyle is more punya karma, and punya karma is a great purifier. But understanding needs to come first! Otherwise jiva’s bhakti will be blind, unsophisticated and merely motivated by one’s desires and fears. Eventually a highly purified mind will be capable to discriminate and know the real from the apparent real.
Mithya is the manifest apparent reality in which the dualistic, phenomenal “subject/object” emerges. It said to be an appearance, or superimposition on the “one” non-dual reality called consciousness. To know and understand this apparent reality, it is essential to develop a contemplative, pure mind, and therefore the most efficient indirect means of self-realization.
The good news is that Vedanta is the “top of the line.” Once you understand its value, you cannot go back or move on to other methods. For a qualified jiva, there is nothing even close to it.