How can karma such as fighting in army be spiritualized?
Transcribed and edited by: Vrindasundari Devi Dasi
Question: How can karma be spiritualized? For example, someone working in the army has to fight out of duty, but, in that one may incur vikarma. How can one spiritualize one’s karma in such a situation?
We can spiritualize our karma by spiritualizing our intentions. We can do so by having regular sadhana and developing a strong desire to serve Krishna. Then within that particular activity we try to minimize any bad karma (or vikarma).
There are two points: spiritualization of karma through intention or motivation, and regulation of the karma in action.
Spiritualization of one’s karma through intention or motivation means one does sadhana regularly creating a strong steady connection with Krishna. By that connection with Krishna, one’s life becomes gradually re-oriented and redefined as a service to Krishna. When one has the vision that one’s whole life is devoted to the service of Krishna, then whatever one does becomes service to Krishna. Consequently, whatever social or professional position one is in, one tries to serve Krishna as much as possible in that.
Spiritualization through regulation of karma means that we avoid activities that are directly sinful, or professions that involve direct violation of the four regulative principles. Beyond that, in some professions, a certain level of violence is required.
Krishna says in the Bhagavad-gita. 18.48:
saha-jaṁ karma kaunteya
sa-doṣam api na tyajet
sarvārambhā hi doṣeṇa
Every endeavor is covered by some fault, just as ﬁre is covered by smoke. Therefore, one should not give up the work born of his nature, O son of Kuntī, even if such work is full of fault.
All endeavors are covered by faults. Sometimes a brahmana may have to perform sacrifices in which animal killing may be there, or a vaishya may have to do business in which he may sometimes have to lie or a kshatriya may have to kill in war. The point is that one doesn’t give up one’s duty just because there are some faults in it. Rather, one tries to spiritualize one’s intentions by having regular sadhana and developing a strong desire to serve Krishna. Then within that particular activity we try to minimize any bad karma. We try to avoid as much as possible, but beyond a certain point sometimes it may not be possible to avoid if in the course of duty certain actions are required. We understand that this is the way of the material world. We don’t aggravate the situation, but we don’t try to run away from it also. We do our duty and we understand that this is the nature of the material world.
We have to become free from the contamination of the material world ultimately by practicing pure bhakti. We do our duty— whatever is required—but along with that create our spiritual intention by proper sadhana. We can put ourselves in situation where, despite involving in some wrong activity, we can still transcend it all by practicing bhakti seriously and keeping our intention of serving Krishna and progressively purifying ourselves so that we’ll eventually attain Krishna.