If you like this article, check out the first episode of the Karma Yoga Podcast.
By Wes Annac, Editor, Karma Yoga Daily
Continued from part 1
In this part, we’ll look at karma yoga from a biblical perspective. Because of this, I should make a disclaimer regarding the heavily religious nature of the things we’ll read here. In this article, we’ll read Bible verses that exemplify what religion could and should be.
I’m a little more comfortable with Buddhism, Hinduism (the religion that gave us karma yoga), and similar beliefs than Christianity or Catholicism. I think that the core of every religious teaching is to have empathy, help others, and be a good person; something Buddhism seems to encourage far more than Christianity. Despite this, the flaws of organized religion are obvious.
I could repeat them for the thousandth time, but you’ve heard it before. Religion has been responsible for war, hatred, and general nastiness throughout history. It’s not any better today.
I can’t explain why there’s a massive difference between the idea of empathy that’s at the heart of most religions and the pure evil that inspires so many “religious” people. All I can do is share the positive teachings religion has given us while condemning the nonsense.
So, again, there will be Bible verses here. Hopefully, they can show us that religion has its redeeming qualities. I think it would improve greatly if every devotee could live for these basic principles, but despite its upsides, it might be best to do away with religion altogether. That’s another topic for another time.
James 2:24 and 2:26 tell us:
Faith without works is dead…. By works a man is justified, and not by faith only. For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also. (1)
In II Corinthians 9:7, St. Paul encourages us to be selfless.
Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver. (2)
He tells us in II Corinthians 8:15:
As it is written, He that had gathered much had nothing over; and he that had gathered little had no lack. (3)
In Matthew 10:42, Jesus tells us:
Whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward. (4)
The message in these verses is that selfless service is a divine quality. If you want to be closer to the creator, then try to see him/her/it in everyone. Instead of worshipping God at the altar, worship through service. Think of some ways you can help people, and remember that your service doesn’t need to be anything special. Small acts of kindness are welcome.
The simplicity of this idea tends to turn people away. Maybe it sounds too good to be true. People generally prefer the complex and sensational ideas that trump the small, humble ones because sensationalism entertains and distracts us. It’s difficult to let all that go for something that despite its simplicity will have much more of an impact.
Paramahansa Ramakrishna tells us that “Work is only a means to the realization of God.” (5)
Swami Vivekananda explains how service to a higher power can manifest as service to humanity.
“For the next fifty years let all other vain Gods disappear from our minds. This is the only God that is awake: our own race – everywhere His hands, everywhere His feet, everywhere His ears, He covers everything. All other Gods are sleeping.
“Why should we vainly go after them, when we can worship the God that we see all around us, the Virat [Cosmic God]? The first of all worships is the worship of the Virat, of those all around us. These are all our Gods – men and animals; and the first Gods we have to worship are our own countrymen.” (6)
Quoting Colossians 3:23 and Ecclesiastes 9:10, Jiddu Krishnamurti encourages us to strive to consistently be our best.
“‘Whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men.’ Think how you would do a piece of work if you knew that the Master was coming at once to look at it; just in that way you must do all your work. Those who know most will most know all that that verse means. And there is another like it, much older: ‘Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might.’” (7)
According to Krishnamurti, our service should be the first thing on our minds in any moment.
“You must be so filled with the intense desire to serve that you are ever on the watch to render it to all around you — not to man alone, but even to animals and plants. You must render it in small things every day, that the habit may be formed, so that you may not miss the rare opportunity when the great thing offers itself to be done.
“For if you yearn to be one with God, it is not for your own sake; it is that you may be a channel through which His love may flow to reach your fellow-men.” (8)
We do the work because we want to be a conduit for something greater than ourselves. Through our service, we hope to bring into the world a transcendent force that helps us heal our collective emotional wounds and encourages us all to move forward.
So many people have an “intense desire to serve” because they want that force in their life. They want a future free of the wounds that seem standard in life, and they’re inspired join everyone else working to make it happen. We could try to explain what this force is or where the inspiration comes from, but all that matters is that we acknowledge and act on it.
If you feel compelled to do something good in the world, there’s probably a reason. Follow it and see where it takes you. If you’re religious, it might bring you closer to God. If you’re not, you’ll still have used your existence for something positive. Why not give it a try?
To be continued in part 3 soon.
- James 2:24 and 26.
- St. Paul in II Corinthians 9:7.
- St. Paul in II Corinthians 8:15.
- Jesus in Matthew 10:42.
- Swami Nikhilananda, trans., The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna. New York: Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center, 1978; c1942, 143.
- Swami Chetanananda, God Lived with Them. St. Louis: Vedanta Society of St. Louis, 1997, 52.
- Krishnamurti, At the Feet of the Master. Adyar: Theosophical Publishing House, 1974; c1910, 59-60.
- Ibid., 75.
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