by pam ashlund
PART I: This is the start of a series examining nonprofit service and "doing good"
What on earth could karma OR yoga have to do with nonprofits?" you might ask. If you think of yoga as an exercise class with a bit of de-stressing meditation, then the answer would seem to be "nothing". Bear with me on this one.
I think we'd all agree that nonprofit work is based on the principles of doing good, but that it often it is driven by political goals, seeking funds, getting paid, and seeking fame (or at least recognition at the ubiquitous "awards ceremonies").
Where does Karma yoga (Sanskrit: कर्म योग) fit in? Karma Yoga is one of the four pillars of Yoga, consisting of entirely selfless service, in which the Ego is given up. It is the path of doing the right thing, of following ones' personal Dharma and accepting destiny.
In less abstract terms, Karma Yoga might be cleaning toilets or washing dishes. Doing any type of service without seeking any remuneration in the shape of wealth, satisfaction, name or fame.
So this got me thinking about "the work", whatever you call it: a "calling", a purpose in life, all the stuff that "do what you love and the money will follow" philosophy is based on. The thing about Karma Yoga, is that it is done without concern for whether the money follows or not.
I have been mentored by selfless teachers, who always bewildered me: one who loaned me his car when mine broke down and I had no money to fix it. He rode his bike to work and gave me his car. I thought he must be crazy or just wanting to prove how "politically correct" he was. But now I see that he was doing "right action", he knew I lived many miles from the nearest public transportation, he knew he lived close to work; I also think he did it self-lessly and expected nothing in return. That was Karma Yoga.
The question I'm asking myself today is this: can I do my Karma Yoga, can I kill that ego, can I accept that I give my service without expecting recognition, without even expecting to be satisfied. I've always expected to be satisfied. That was the GOAL I was after: to do my life's work by definition included some kind of trade "I work hard and deliver the required work AND I get a sense of meaning and purpose". What I've found out the hard way is that expecting the payoff (meaning and purpose) meant a lot of painful disappointment.
Want to know more? What are the four paths of yoga? They are:
Bhakti: the Path of Devotion or unconditional love This path appeals particularly to those of an emotional nature.
Jnana: the Yoga of Knowledge or Wisdom This is the most difficult path, requiring tremendous strength of will and intellect. This is achieved by steadfastly practicing the mental techniques of self-questioning, reflection and conscious illumination. The Jnana Yogi uses his mind to inquire into its own nature. Jnana dissolves the veils of ignorance. Before practicing Jnana Yoga, the aspirant needs to have integrated the lessons of the other yogic paths - for without selflessness and devotion, strength of body and mind, the search for self-realization can become mere idle speculation.
Raja: the Science of Physical and Mental Control Often called the "royal road" it offers a comprehensive method for controlling the waves of thought by turning our mental and physical energy into spiritual energy.
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