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Yoga – the Process of Self-realization
Yoga has three sub-divisions which are karma-yoga, jnana-yoga and bhakti-yoga. For an ordinary person in material life beginning the process of yoga, the first step is to adopt the practices of karma-yoga, which refers to fruitive activities like ones occupation or livelihood, or ones daily activities such as domestic chores etc. The practice of karma-yoga must exclude all forms of ugra-karma or sinful activities, which are impious and will cause negative reactions. Karma-yoga refers only to pious activities, or those activities which are prescribed in the religious scriptures. Karma-yoga is meant to be practiced by ordinary laymen who are engaged in working to earn a living. Karma-yoga is a system for gradually developing attachment to God by offering the results as a sacrifice to the Supreme Lord.
In the Bhagavad-gita, Lord Krishna informed Arjuna. “If a sincere person tries to control the active senses by the mind and begins karma-yoga without attachment, he is by far superior. Perform your prescribed duty, for doing so is better than not working. One cannot even maintain one’s physical body without work. Work done as a sacrifice for Vishnu has to be performed; otherwise work causes bondage in this material world. Therefore, O son of Kunti, perform your prescribed duties for His satisfaction, and in that way you will always remain free from bondage.” (Bg.3.7-9) In all Vedic sacrifices, Vishnu, the expansion of Lord Krishna, is the yajna-pati, or enjoyer of the sacrifice. Karma-yoga means to offer ones hard earned money in sacrifice to Vishnu, at least some portion of earnings, up to fifty percent, must be donated to the service of God, because it represents the fruit of one’s hard work.
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The goal of karma-yoga is not simply to achieve a life of material happiness, or a life in the heavenly planets, but to achieve the transcendental platform of pure Krishna consciousness. The heavenly planets are material and temporary, and therefore eventually one must return to Earth, whereas Krishna consciousness is the spirit-souls eternal constitutional identity that is symptomised by sat, chit, and ananda, or in other words, eternal life, bliss, and knowledge. Lord Vishnu is called the Yajna-pati, or the enjoyer of all Vedic sacrifices. Each and every sacrifice mentioned in the Vedas such as those in the Rig-veda, are ultimately meant for the satisfaction of Lord Vishnu. Therefore in karma-yoga, one works with the mentality that one’s work is done as an offering to the ‘Yajna-pati’, Lord Vishnu. “If one acts in his profession according to his position in the modes of nature and gradually gives up these activities, he attains the stage of nishkama.” (SB. 7.11.32)
The word ‘nishkarma’ means ‘no reaction’, or work done without desire for the fruit of one’s endeavor. Therefore there is no karmic reaction to that work; hence it is called nishkarma, or work that does not bind one because it was performed exclusively for Lord Vishnu, which is the ultimate goal of karma-yoga. There are four types of karma mentioned in the smriti-shastras which are:
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