Karma Yoga is not just work. Karma yoga is working with complete awareness, but without attachment to the fruits of the labor or outcome of the work. The doing of the work is the end in itself, not a means for the ego to attain some reward, pay ment or anything else.
The purpose of karma yoga is to do work for the sake of doing it. It is wrong to think that by doing karma yoga one will benefit. Karma yoga is unconditional and without expectation. This applies to all practices - zazen, yoga, meditation. The purpose of zazen and yoga is not to attain enlightenment - the practice itself is really the only goal.
The obvious and immediate benefits that result from these practices occur almost as by-products, or side effects. Flexibility and clarity of mind, for example, will come to those who faithfully practice the Zen Yoga asanas. One will never, however, achieve enlightenment by expecting it to be delivered as a reward for all the hard work. To work without consciousness of the reward is to be enlightened already.
Enlightenment or self-realization is to realize who you are, your true or original nature. Buddhists refer to this as the Buddha nature, the Hindus call it the Atman, Christians call it the God within. One can attain enlightenment through karma yoga. The attitude towards practicing karma yoga should be no different from meditation. There is nothing that is not a meditation practice in our life. There is no work that is not a meditation practice whether it is work ing in the temple or working in our homes and offices.
One simple technique to use in karma yoga is not to forget to concentrate on the "tanden". The tanden is a focal point located below the navel in the lower abdomen. In martial arts, the tanden has been identified as the center of gravity and power. It is the physical and spiritual center of the body where the "ki" energy is stored. It is where one concentrates one's attention during meditation or any activity.
During zazen meditation, disturbing and negative thoughts in the mind can be eased by refocusing them down to the tanden. Through the practice of "just sitting" in lotus position, straight spine, and "hokkai join" mudra placed on the tanden area, emptiness is attained to let one's Buddha nature reveal itself. Oneness with no subject/object separation is experienced. In yoga, the tanden is concentrated on while doing the asanas, pranayama, bandhas, and mudras. For example, the surya namaskar is practiced while concentrating on the tanden. Try to practice abdominal breathing while concentrating on the tanden when doing karma yoga.
Basically, all religions teach egolessness. Different religions might approach the means to become egoless in different ways but the goal is the same. What is ego? Ego is 1,1,1, me, me, me. Egotistic people only see things from their point of view and think only of themselves and not others. They do not see things as they are but only from their point of view which creates disharmony. Since the goal of being human is to attain enlightenment or self-realization, one has to be without ego first:
I used to live in a roomful of mirrors.
All I could see was me
Well, I took my spirit and crashed the mirrors
Now the whole world is here for me to see ...
- Jimi Hendrix
Until one attains enlightenment, one will never be free from the chain of birth. In other words, you will keep reincarnating life after life until you realize who you are, that you are God (Buddha).
To learn Buddhism is to study yourself
To study yourself is to forget yourself
To forget yourself is to be enlightened by all things.
- Teaching by Zen Master Pogen Zenji
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