- Best Yoga for a Modern Man
by Swami Sivananda
It is my firm belief that disinterested service is the greatest force to inspire and elevate man to high levels of evolution. It brings about an all-round development of man's character, makes him manly and effects a spontaneous spiritual awakening. Selfless service is, indeed, most essential for the physical, moral and spiritual regeneration of the youth of the world.
The practice of Karma Yoga is very necessary for developing important virtues. Virtues can be developed by service alone. Without possessing the basic virtues, one cannot dream of attaining God-realization, in spite of the understanding of the Vedantic oneness, tolerance, equanimity, kindness, mercy, fellowship, adaptability, humility, goodness of heart and broad-mindedness can be cultivated only through the practice of Karma Yoga. The raw diamond requires cutting and polishing before it gives its brilliant colour and lustre. Even so, the raw aspirant requires constant rubbing and polishing through service and contact with people of different temperament. If he can truly serve and please others even under trying circumstances, if he can keep up a cheerful countenance in spite of difficulties, if he can maintain equanimity in the bustle of a city and can acquire concentration of mind there, it clearly proves that he has outgrown his external environments and is ready for spiritual enlightenment.
Willing Helpfulness: Sitting with closed eyes in a room bolted from within is no true Sadhana if the people around happen to be in agony or in trouble. Selfishness and Sadhana can never go together. The aspirant must subordinate his own interests to those of others. He who attends on a helpless man when he is in great distress does more Sadhana than a man who practices meditation, Asana and pranayama. If one does service to the needy for one hour, it is equal to meditation for six hours. There is no dearth of opportunities for service. A merciful doctor who attends on a helpless, poor, patient at midnight, without any fees, is a better Yogi than the Dhayana Yogi who passes along the road silently when he sees a poor man in a famished, dying condition, without even speaking to him an encouraging word, without even asking, "Brother, What do you want ? Can I be of help to you in any way ?" To a real Karma Yogi meditation comes automatically and the knowledge of the Upanishads dawns on him easily. He gets all knowledge from the Book of Knowledge Within through the grace of God. Mere service alone is not enough either. In the early morning the Karma Yogi should spend some time in Japa, Kirtan, meditation, study of religious books and a little of Asanas and Pranayama. During work also he may repeat the Name of God, silently. He may have another sitting for meditation before retiring to bed at night.
The Sadhaka engaged in selfless service may at times, encounter vexation and disappointment. But let him proceed undaunted. Let him be staunch in his devotion to duty. His sincerity will turn all obstacles into aid; for the Lord Himself will mysteriously help and sustain him in his work. This has been invariably the experience of all self-sacrificing Sadhakas. Therefore, let courage and trust in God be your watchwords every moment.
Means to Realization : The practice of Karma Yoga is a sure means for developing devotion to the Lord and attaining the Vedantic realization of Oneness. Without its practice no one can even dream of attaining either Bhakti or Jnana even through years of effort. Service, it may be said, is Bhakti or Jnana expressed through action. The true expression of love is not through words, but through service. Jnana or the knowledge of oneness of life is experienced through service of the one Self in all. In the plant of Karma Yoga blossom the flowers of Bhakti Yoga and Jnana Yoga.
Karma Yoga is the best Yoga for modern man. It enables you to attain God-realization quickly. King Janaka was a dynamic Karma Yogi, and yet, at the same time, he was a Jnani. MahatmaGandhi had exalted himself through Karma Yoga. There is in the daily routine of life a vast field for everyone to purify and elevate oneself. Even in family life, Karma Yoga is an essential requisite. If everybody were selfish, there would be no peace in the home. Strong attachment breeds possessiveness, which is a selfish trait and is a negation of true love. Adaptability, amity and understanding, a little of self-denial and co-operation, help much in the promotion of peace in the house. All these can be effected through Karma Yoga. Duty for duty's sake, without expectation of its fruits (which is the bane of worldly life), without inordinate likes and dislikes, without selfish attachment, offering all actions and fruits thereof to the Lord (viz. as worship done as an instrument in His hands), should be the ideal.
Glory be to the selfless workers! May you all rejoice in bliss eternal by doing selfless service!
Jo J Vancheel Toh Tay Laho
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