Apr 7, 2023

Book Review: Karma and Karma Yoga by Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati


Yet another insightful, crisp book from the Bihar School of Yoga. In under 80 pages, the author gives an in-depth understanding of Karma and Karma Yoga and how they are related.

Karma not only refers to action but is also the manifestation of human nature.

Everything in this creation is subject to the law of Karma.

The software analogy used to explain the operating system of Karma is so relatable. The author talks about four different backend software, which forms the core of this book - basic instincts, swabhava or nature, samskaras or impressions, and sense perceptions. Management of these four components is a pre-requisite to practicing Karma Yoga. The author takes up each of these components, breaks them down in detail, and shares perspectives on managing them.

It was quite interesting to understand how the interplay of consciousness and energy results in Karma. The author connects the role of three gunas - tamas, rajas, sattwa - with the four focus areas. He elaborates on how the gunas manifest in the mind and influence our senses and actions. Our mood is influenced by this combination of guna and mind.

The detailed chapter on 5 types of Karma gives a conceptual understanding of what is under our control and what is destined.

The author talks about how it is quite natural for humans to expect certain results from our actions (karmas). It isn't the expectation that is the problem, but the hankering for and obsession with the result. If there is an inner balance between the success and failure of karmas, it is karma yoga.

Every book that I pick up from the Bihar School of Yoga makes me curious to learn further about a topic. Reading "Karma and Karma Yoga" has now made me more interested to dive deeper into the concept of Pratyahara (the 5th limb of Ashtanga Yoga). I had initially understood Pratyahara as a withdrawal of the senses. But this particular sentence in the book made it clear that it is much more than senses:

"Pratyahara means to prune all that you feed to the mind - all thoughts, all ambitions, all desires, all association with success and failure"

Key takeaways:

Karma can be exhausted only through karma, not through sadhana, dhyana, mantra and austerities.

Behind every action, there was and is a desire.

You are progressing spiritually when your desires reduce.

Progress in life is realized when there is a reduction in desires and ambitions.

Our responses to life situations are guided by ego.

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