How does karma yoga mature into ashtanga yoga?
Transcribed by: Shalini Ahluwalia
Question: How does karma yoga develop/blossom into ashtanga yoga?
Answer: Its both external and internal. The first four stages are done while one is in the world practicing karma yoga but along with that as one becomes more and more detached from the world. Not just in terms of detached from getting the fruits of one’s action but detached from the body and the bodily actions itself. Then gradually one comes to the level of wanting to just focus on the Absolute Truth. This we see in the Bhagavatam also many kings do this that, even the Bhagavatam describes that when the kings want to..Pruthu Maharaj ..he shuts off all the…he merges this element with that element, that element with that element…So the acharyas explain that the merging is not literally physical, its not that the earth went into the water or something like that in his body. Its more of the withdrawal of the consciousness from all those elements so that one understands that this is simply matter and I am distinct spirit. So the point is that yes nishkama karma yoga leads to knowledge because otherwise when the kaama is there then the focus is more on getting the fruit not on cultivating knowledge. And as that knowledge deepens then the vairaagya also becomes stronger. And when the vairaagya becomes stronger naturally one doesn’t want to act in the world so much. One wants to get out of the world. So that’s how first four stages can be done in parallel but then as one starts turning inwards more and more then shamah kaaranam uchyate (Bhagavad Gita 6.3). Inactivity it is, now the word shamah it has two meanings – shamah if we see it also comes in the characteristics of Brahmana in 18.42. samo damas tapah saucam and there shamah is translated as peacefulness, so if we see that meaning of shamah, that is more appropriate here because immediately after shamah – shamah kaaram uchyate – Krishna talks about the mind. How the mind is the enemy and you have to make the mind a friend. So essentially what leads to liberation is not simply inaction but it is the peacefulness of mind which one has attained, that the mind is itself not craving for material things now. And in that sense the mind has become peaceful and then one can move forward and direct the mind inward. If the mind is restless then one cannot direct the mind inward also. So by the practice of karma yoga detachment comes up and the detachment is adequate enough that one can not only regulate the seeking of the fruits of the work but one can also minimize the action. Then one moves forward towards the practice of renouncing the world and focusing exclusively on ashtanga yoga in terms of pratyahaar, dhaarna, dhyana and samadhi.