Karma Yoga focuses on the perfect alignment of thought, word and deed — the basic tenet of Yoga Sastra — in daily life. A subtle ideal is embedded in this concept that encourages an individual towards an overall perfection through the path of action, explained Swami Bhoomananda Tirtha in a discourse. It shows how one can live in this world and work in a manner that benefits oneself and the milieu in which he is placed. Man’s action is necessary to maintain world order and this cannot happen if one withdraws from the environment and remains idle in the name of meditation or Jnana. But one may ask: “all actions bear consequences and how one is to escape the effects of karma, good or bad?” The answer is in the attitude of and motive behind one’s actions. Desire for specific gains will cause bondage, but deeds done with a sense of dedication and in the spirit of service to God free one from such bondage.
Faced with the turbulence of worldly life and the compulsions of the inherent three gunas, an individual is deluded by doubt and confusion. His sense of discrimination becomes dormant as in the case of Arjuna who is unable to see what is beneficial to him. The Lord points out in the Gita that by the practice of Karma Yoga one can insulate oneself from worldly pulls that entangle one in the cycle of birth; and learn to overcome the effects of the three Gunas.
This is a matter of mind and inward life where the consciousness is turned towards enlightenment. Krishna also points out that even those who have attained this highest knowledge continue to work tirelessly towards perfection in whatever they do.
The benefit for the individual is not in terms of selfish material ends but a gradual realisation of Jnana or wisdom.
A realised soul unites his consciousness with God and attains a state of poise when he is able to see the inaction (akarma) in action and the action in inaction. This is the wisdom gained by the seer who is able to draw his senses inward as a tortoise withdraws its legs into its shell. The fire of knowledge turns all karma, good or bad, to ashes.