Can Karma Yoga Take Us to Samadhi?


Patanjali has described the eightfold path to Realization in the Yoga Sutras called Ashtanga Yoga. Is it possible to reach the ultimate superconscious state through karma yoga? Can a person attain samadhi through sincere and pure work even after being engaged in work for carrying out oneself's and others' welfare?

—Ashutosh, India


Dear Ashutosh,

Karma Yoga, when practiced in its fullness, is indeed a path to the ultimate states of consciousness. An excellent step toward that is as you put it, “sincere and pure work” and “carrying out oneself’s and others’ welfare.” In the Gita, Sri Krishna emphasizes two further steps that are essential to the full expression of Karma Yoga:

Acting without ego-motivation — without any desire for personal gain, gratitude from others, respect from others, acclaim, power, importance, and so on. Sri Krishna advises us to make every action “yagya:” self-offering to God or to put it a different way, offering oneself away from ego-gratification.

Feeling God as the doer of all one’s actions — not merely believing that God is the doer, but experiencing God as the doer with no sense of personal agency.

Karma Yoga is not about what you do. It’s about how you do it: your motivation, your attitude, and your perception of who is acting. Almost any activity can help loosen the grip of ego-consciousness when you feel that you are not the doer, that God alone is acting through your body and mind. Then such activities become tangible, joy-filled steps away from ego-confinement, and toward soul-freedom.

The challenge, of course, is that we habitually feel that we are the doer — and in modern life, our days are filled with doing, doing, doing. Paramhansa Yogananda cautioned that, with only activity and no meditation, we become restless, which keeps us from the inner perception that God is acting through us. So meditation is essential to Karma Yoga. When we taste the inner fulfillment of meditation, outward gratification loses its appeal. And the more we carry the inner stillness of meditation into outward activity, the easier it is to feel God acting through us.

So make regular meditation a part of your “sincere and pure work.” Then, in your outward activities, you’ll experience more freedom, harmony, and uplifted awareness. This video below will get you started with a classic meditation technique.

May you find the ultimate freedom in this lifetime.

Blessings on your service,
Nayaswami Gyandev