A c t i o n, D o i n g a n d B r a h m a n
“While working with the ideation of Brahman (Consciousness, Awareness) in time you’ll be able to perceive Brahman in everything around you.”
“Where there is no Love there can be no complete self-surrendering to the Highest, wherefore Karma takes its toll.”
“Where there is the arrogant feeling of “I”, an effect coexists with action. Whenever there is an “I” that does an action, this same “I” experiences effects. Separating the “I” from action, not making it its doer, cancels the effect. Unattached, Unidentified action is not limited by effect since whatever a man does he surrenders to Brahman, wherefore the effect belongs to Brahman too. In other words, both the action and the effect belong to Paramatma. Therefore, you must surrender yourself as an instrument of Narayan (the Highest) and do what you do with internal and external Non attachment.”
“Ideation” is a constant feeling that there’s no difference between separated Self and the Absolute. The one who feels Brahman is Brahman himself, for He cannot be seen by anyone other than Him. Feeling this and doing an action is Karma Yoga, the highest part of it. Karma Yoga is usually interpreted as “working without attachment to result”, “without attachment to the fruits of action”. The man doing Karma Yoga seeks to become one with the Highest through this very action, through the work which serves a higher aim.
As in all things, this too can lead into profound self-delusion. One can proclaim something to be Karma Yoga when in reality there is a series of motives standing in the background and justifying themselves through “selfless action”, through “working for the sake of work”, or “working for the glory of God”.
For Karma Yoga to be effective the one following this path ought to erase himself. It is already here that problems abound, for “erasing oneself” is followed by a variety motives lurking from the background – clever ways in which one tries to fool oneself, others, or even God himself. As in any discipline, there are traps coming from the “doer” himself, the one doing this practice.
Practicing Karma Yoga without someone who is placed above us as an authority can easily turn into self-delusion, bringing about wrong results. There is a variety of reasons why a man trying to reach the Supreme Self would embark on this step, on this way. Usually, those reasons are not pure and are strengthening the wrong parts of a man, resulting in greater arrogance, conceit, and superiority; in clever cherry-picking of what a man does for “god” and what he does for himself; in avoidance of his duties or doing them in a wrong manner, and so on. Merely proclaiming something to be “a work for the Higher” or “God” doesn’t make it such. By himself, a man is unable to take up the means of working which require a Will placed above his own. The reason is that the system in man would never jeopardize itself, unless it had previously been “whipped” by someone who had taught him what it all means, how it is to be done and how to make super-efforts, as Gurdjieff called it.
Don’t think karma yoga is something you can do without learning. You learn it by sacrificing your will to another man; by being prepared on a series of tasks which make no sense to you, which are by no means easy and you repeat them dozens of times – up until the importance of the one doing this kind of Yoga is destroyed. In order to destroy all ideas of spirituality the tasks you get are utterly non-spiritual: digging canals which start nowhere and lead nowhere, building houses you’ll demolish and relocate from place to place because the Master suddenly doesn’t like their position, or dislikes the place on which you had put a rock or a brick, as in the case of Milarepa. Or, you live with your Master, go to work and give him all your money, work for him, but feed and sleep where he tells you to. Or, you wash the dishes all day long, even though they had already been washed dozens of times, because he dislikes the manner in which you had been standing while washing them, etc. All of this is aimed at crushing your will, at crushing any logical reason the mind might have for wanting Karma Yoga. In other words, if you don’t come to hate Karma Yoga, you’re not ready for it.
Karma Yoga is pure action which excludes you. You are simply a means for executing an action, work, deed that is being done by your body, your mind, your soul – without any reward, without a wish to get something; to become enlightened; or reach God. If you can do this you can do karma yoga. Seeking to do Seva (selfless service) comes out of cleverness by which you’re trying to get something, earn something – you like the idea of it because it supports your immaturity, selfishness, desire for accomplishment, self-importance, spiritual worthiness. All of this cancels the idea of Seva, Service, right from the start. A servant has no will. A servant is simply a servant because he is a slave. People who entertain the idea of Seva ascribe it the meaning it doesn’t have, they wish “to be somebody” while they are serving which is creating new Karma – while the whole point of this technique is cancelling Karma.
If a certain work is not oriented on the right goal, all that had made you work from the background will turn into the goal. Therefore, the one doing this kind of action ought to remain awake, aware of all that happens in him, and at the same time – he must surrender all of this to the Highest, he must struggle with his human-animal nature without breaking his effort. Breach of effort happens in the moment when he is on the pinnacle of self-negation; when he had reached rock bottom of depression, uselessness, thinking himself to be a fool for doing all of this without even knowing why he’s doing it – since all of his ideas about god, sense, and awakening became null and void by this very work. This is precisely what is needed for Karma Yoga. If in this moment he lacks internal direction or Ideation of the Highest what happens is the breaking of personality: it either quits or surrenders to the Highest. All spiritual ideas are wonderful until you come to know them. When you try them, make the effort to work with them you see the utter madness behind of it all, madness with which you mustn’t identify, from which you must detach, and making an even greater effort, a True Effort, an effort BEYOND effort – you need to continue the action you had started.
“Karma” means cause and effect. Effect is not different from the cause. But what is a cause on one level is an effect on a higher level, and vice versa. On the other hand, “karma” also means physical plane, the final plane where the higher bodies, or planes, are materialized, where they manifest. Mind and emotion are materialized through corporeality and actions of the body. Karma yoga unites mental and emotional into one which is directed by an idea, or an aim, of the internal aspiration. Just as everything we do in life has a goal so Karma Yoga has a goal, which is surrendering, disappearing in the Highest. Without Ideation, i.e. focusing on the Highest, a complete burning out of what is human in us, there is no Karma Yoga. Up until everything that embarked on Karma Yoga breaks up – there is no Karma Yoga. Up until the human in you breaks up, quits, yet you still keep doing what you had set upon, without any regrets, justifications, or sense, you won’t experience the boon of Karma Yoga.
Surrendering completely all activities unto Me
With consciousness firmly established in knowledge of the Self
Being without any desire for gain, free from proprietorship,
Fight without grief (BhG, 3.30)
There is a deep understanding behind the idea of Karma Yoga, not a deep self-delusion but an objective knowledge. A knowing that there is no man; that he is a sum of forces playing and discharging through him; that he as a man doesn’t exist, that it is Him or It which is working through him; that a man is a series of various levels of forces and laws, a sum of this and that, or as Gurdjieff said – man is nothing. Realizing this on the level of mind initiates a deep internal conflict, one carrying the boon of resolution with the death of doer. Death on the level of personality which ends and a new life beings, one in which man is not a man anymore, but God is still God. Without Love – which is the focus on Unification, or better yet, which is focusing on completely debasing everything we know and surrendering humanly will to Him – Karma Yoga has no sense. When a man is ready to sacrifice himself completely and without reservations; ready to live for Him regardless of liberation or uniting with the Highest; to sacrifice himself for others; to burn everything in himself all for His Power and Glory – only then does Karma Yoga have sense. Humility, Ordinariness, Goodness, the sense of the Highest, profound Awakeness, Truthfulness, Flow – all of this, and much more, comes by itself even without him (doer of Karma Yoga) wanting it. Even when he gets all of this, when he has it, when it manifests through him – it isn’t his, for he had died for this world and had let Him live this life. He is all and nothing, The Cause and The Effect, the beginning and the end and all that you want is that feeling of Loving (the flow of love) which makes you joyful. But even when you lack this feeling, when you’re the lowest of the lowest, the mere possibility of working for Him is your joy. This is Bhakti. This is Devotion. This is sacrifice. Without background awareness revealing processes, snares of the clever devil in you, who is you yourself – Karma Yoga is impossible. You must keep vigil over everything going on inside you, unattached to the external and the internal alike, oriented toward the Highest – with the understanding that the Highest might NEVER, EVER come to you – yet remaining undeterred and not losing direction.
And when everything inside you breaks, when all is destroyed, then it happens. IT starts living because the space had been freed from you. Two things cannot be in the same place, it’s either you or IT, HIM, THAT.
There is a substitute, a level below the highest goal of Karma Yoga which is making an effort of will; making effort into work without any sense, doing it without attachment and constantly remembering to remain internally focused on witnessing the processes which appear without being identified with them. Physical work under another’s will. Breaking the armour of personality and confronting all levels which arise when its layers are breaking. But, without consciousness, without being focused on witnessing, without being mentally and emotionally focused on the act you’re doing, and without cooperation of all three minds, centres, all of this is impossible and will produce wrong results.
The level above is already the beginning of surrendering one’s will to the Highest. On this level it is no longer you who are doing the witnessing but the Highest. You can’t even be the witness for witness is a manifestation of the Three Gunas, where Sattva provides the feeling of I Am, which isn’t yours. This level is possible only once the previous one had been perfected and produced results. On the first level you work for someone, for someone else’s will with no expectations or results that are yours. On the second level the work you are doing is done for the Highest which is manifesting through someone to whom you had sacrificed your will, and the act of awareness is not your own but is an act of the Highest. The third level is when there are neither you nor the one who gave you the task; where witnessing, the work you are doing, the one who had given it to you and the act itself, when all of that is the Highest itself. This is Vaeshnaviiya Sadhana: being directed on pleasing the Highest, on Uniting with Him for His Power and Glory. Then, He starts living (through) you, your life doesn’t exist. There is only Him who is living, doing, and enjoying the fruits of the actions, Him who is joyful, capable. When you disappear, when everything which started the work on oneself disappears, and when all of this is a non-effort, when there is no difference between your and Him, i.e. you are United with the Highest – it is Shaeva Sadhana, the Sadhana of Transcendence. This is Liberation.
Start with minor, almost meaningless tasks. Feel the Divine in whatever you are doing with this aim in mind. But remain aware of everything which appears in you. When you’re with someone whom you don’t like, who stirs up all kinds of reactions in you – surrender: see the Highest in this man, surrender your will, your self-will, and, from the background, remain aware of everything that may arise without analysis or attachment. Impose this idea on your system without fighting it and allow the idea its pre-determined time. In the beginning practice in simple and easy and situations, learn how to surrender to the Highest that which your mind and body are doing without being identified with processes or the act itself. Stay silent, quiet, aware in the background, no regrets, no self-pity, without accepting any identification with the processes going about in you – yet alive, filled with strength arising from awareness and emotion that’s focused on Him as its aim. Even if Devil himself knocks at your door keep doing your practice for as long as you had determined, without quitting or running away. Even if Death comes before you, keep doing your practice. Gradually, this will give you a taste of what it’s all about and show you the value of this practice.
If the mind starts giving significance to what you’re doing, if it starts calculating, do the opposite of what it wants. (Be careful with this, there are exceptions which may also come from the mind, and which may lead to injury or death. Don’t be a fool; be wise in this game until you have someone placed above yourself to lead you.) Know that, in the beginning, while you’re doing this on your own and learning, you can end it at any moment. Later, when you learn it and have experience, when you have someone above you to whom you gave your self-will he will keep an eye on you. Remember, this is a practice, a means, not a suicide on the physical level, not masochism or sadism. This is Work which requires a Responsible human being, a terrifically critical mind, awareness from the background, clarity of aim, emotional focus. Owing to self-will anything else might lead to harsh consequences so be careful with these ideas. If you see that you are not ready for this AT THE MOMENT, do other, simpler practices, they will lead you to the same goal as Karma Yoga.
Karma is action. Yoga is union, unification of all human possibilities, of all minds into one, and also, their union with the Highest. Therefore, Karma Yoga is the act of unified minds working toward the goal of unification with the Highest and Its manifestation on all levels of man’s existence.