The yogi philosophy teaches that the best way to accelerate one’s personal spiritual evolution and thus, the journey home, is through the practise of yoga. There are considered to be three primary sub-categories of yoga: Raja yoga, Gnani yoga, and Karma yoga. We’re going to focus on being a Karma yogi here, because in a fast-paced and materialistic world where many people feel burdened by a sense of powerlessness, misfortune, heavy responsibility, and/or dreary obligations, the option of sitting, meditating and living like a yogi may seem neither practical nor appealing.
As personalities, we were all “born” from the One timeless consciousness—the Eternal/Absolute/Brahman—and it is back to this awareness that we all wend our unique paths. There are as many paths back to Reality as there are people—and we all arrive in the end.
You may therefore find it reassuring to consider that you may have been practising as Karma yogi without realising it.
The term “Karma” comes from the Sanskrit word “Kri” meaning “to do” or “to act.” Thus, Karma yoga is the yoga of work or action, ideal for the more task-oriented and perhaps less philosophically inclined individual. One need not be an impressive intellect, a sage, a natural philosopher, or in any way mystically or religiously inclined in order to walk the path of Karma yoga. Indeed, proclivities towards those other areas suggest the paths of Gnani, Raja, or Bhakti yoga instead (though they are all complimentary).
How do you know if you have been operating as something of a Karma yogi? Easy. A Karma yogi works for the sake of doing the work. They participate in an act not for the promise of a gratifying end result—glory, a dizzying high, an ego boost, or some kind of material gain—but because they enjoy the act in itself and embrace their duty to do it well. The work is its own reward, and thus is intrinsically satisfying. Performed to the utmost of their ability, their task benefits all whom it touches, even if it only connects with others indirectly and impersonally. This is the mentality of the Karma yogi, though truth be told he is operating in accordance with some fundamental truths that are still poorly known in “civilized Western society.” Those truths are key to being an “everyday Karma yogi.” They include the facts that: