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What Does Karma Yoga Mean?

Karma yoga is one of the four classical schools of yoga alongside Jnana (knowledge or self-study), Bhakti (devotion) and Raja (meditation), each offering a path to moksha (spiritual liberation) and self-realization.

Derived from the Sanskrit term for “action”, karma is understood by both Hindu and Buddhist traditions to be the sum of a person’s deeds in past, present and future states of existence. In yoga, karma is known as the path of action, or selfless service towards others.

Karma yoga is considered to be one of the most practical and effective means of spiritual development.

Yogapedia Explains Karma Yoga

Karma yoga was first outlined in the Bhagavad Gita, the 700-verse Hindu scripture estimated to date back to somewhere between the 5th and 2nd centuries B.C.E. The Bhagavad Gita offers several approaches to liberation from suffering, self-realisation and connection with the Divine, of which Karma yoga is arguably the most practical.

The text highlights the importance of selfless action, in which service is offered from the heart, with full attention and awareness.

Attachment to the outcome of one’s actions is said to bring suffering, particularly when something is expected in return. In order to truly practise Karma yoga, the practitioner must act with no expectations and serve others without thinking of the results.

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