28) Self Knowledge (Atmajnan) – Karma Yoga

TALK 28 by Prabhuji (13 April 2016)

Now the question is for all the human beings, “What to do? We have to spend out time in Artha and Kama as we have to make a living or livelihood for our survival.”

Typically men have to go and work and now-a-days women also go and work, to make a living, this becomes a Kamya Karma. Is there a way out for them?First you have to understand that karma is not what you do, karma is what intention you have. What intention you have and what is your inner attitude brings the Karma Phala.

Any action can be done with different attitudes. To give and example, there are three stone cutters. The three cutters were working under hot sun and one person was very tired. Somebody who was passing by asked him, “What are you doing?” This stone cutter replies, “Cant you see, I am cutting the stone. Such a horrible living ! ” The second stone cutter says, ” I am cutting a tone for this building.” The third stone cutter was very joyful and energetic. He replies, ” I am cutting stone for a temple, for the Lord and so many people will visit this temple.” The attitude towards doing the same job is different from person to person. Depending on your attitude, your acts will become purified.

So ‘what you do does not matter, but why you do matters!’ So this is the secret of  Karma Yoga. When you do something,  let us say you are going for work to earn for livelihood and if you do the work with an attitude that whatever you are doing is service to the God. The work can be small, it doesn’t matter, but the attitude should be that let this work be worship of god, then your whole work will become Puja. Don’t think that what you do in the morning is Puja, the work you do is also Puja.

Saint Basavanna said, ‘Kayakave Kailasa’, ‘work can be converted to worship’. That’s your attitude to the work. If you convert work into worship, very soon your inner consciousness gets purified.  So work can be worship of God and liberating also.

Similarly if work is done with an attitude of Dharma, duty, then it will qualify you for Punya and going to Heaven. So the same work which you do for survival can be converted into a path of Mukti or Punya, depending on the attitude which you have.
Story of Dharmavayada. There was a rishi called Koushika who did intense meditation for 12 years in the forest, and had gained some mental powers. One day he was sitting under a tree, there was a crow sitting on a branch of the same tree and it shits on him. He gets very angry and looks at the crow and because of his intensive meditative power, the crow gets burnt into ashes. He was so happy that he got lot of power because of meditation. Later, he goes for a Bhiksha and stands in front of the house and says, ‘Bhavathi Bhikshandehi’. The lady of the house was in the middle of serving her family members and gets delayed to bring Bhiksha for the Rishi. The Rishi gets very angry and when she comes out with the Bhiksha he looks at her with anger.

The lady says, “Oh Kaushika, I am not a crow to get burnt.”. Kaushika gets rattled and thinks how does she know about the crow. The lady says, ” You are a monk and you have the luxury of going to a forest and do meditation as a full time sadhana. But we dont have that luxury as we are the householders and for us survival is a very difficult and we have to work. I have to take care of my husband, children but then when I serve them I only see the divine in them. When I am cooking I am cooking for the divine in my family members. Because of this all my work got converted into Puja and I have attained the highest wisdom.” This is Karma Yoga. This attitude of the lady is what they used to say in olden days as “Pati Vrata”. But in these modern days, ladies think that as an old fashioned attitude.

‘Vrata’ means a spiritual practice, ‘pati’ does not just mean a ‘husband’, ‘pati’ means ‘the one who protects’ and the one who protects is not the husband but the ‘divine in the husband’. So with that attitude when the wife takes care of the husband she becomes eligible for highest wisdom. There are stories of many Pati Vratas, modern day wives don’t understand this concept at all.

An ordinary house wife can convert her work into Karma Yoga and that can be converted into Bhakti Yoga.  It is not the work that you do but it is the attitude with which you do the work. This is the secret of karma yoga, the intention. Now Koushika gets rattled, by doing meditation for 12 years all that he had acquired was just Ahamkara. He just falls at the feet of her, and says ‘you are my guru’. The lady could still see the Ahamkara in him. The lady says, ‘ It is not possible for me to be your Guru. I am a householder woman and a monk becoming a Shishya of a householder lady is not a acceptable thing, and it is not a right thing for you.” Then Koushika says, ‘No you are my guru, you have the wisdom’. The lady says , “No”. The he says, “What should I do then?” which means that he still has the ego. This lady says, ‘You go to the city and there is a person called Dharmavyada, you get wisdom from him’, because she saw that Kaushika still haass some traces of Ego in him. So she sends him to another person.  Kaushika goes to that place and he finds a butcher shop there. In that shop, a person is cutting animals and selling meat.


Kaushika being a vegetarian all his life could not see the meat and starts vomiting.  And he has to sit and listen to this person who is selling meat. He waits till evening for the butcher to close his shop. He goes inside washes his hands and takes a bath. Slowly lot of people have started gathering to listen to the discourses by the butcher. He has the highest wisdom and he is called Dharmavyada.

This Koushika is shocked and he asks, ” How did you attain the highest wisdom?” Dharmavyada says ‘See, I am born in a hunters family,  I do not have any other means of living. I have to take acre of my family. This is my living and whatever I did  I did that ass an offering to God and in return God gave me the highest wisdom. From morning to evening I do my work and evening people gather here to get that wisdom from me.”

So please don’t underestimate work, work itself what you do doesn’t matter, but why you do makes a lot of difference and with what intention you do. Any work can become service to god, any work can bring you liberation, any work give you punya depending on your inner attitude with which you do the work.

Transcription by Atmajyothi Satyavathi

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