Karma Yoga: A Path towards Work in Positive Psychology

By Kumar, Arun; Kumar, Sanjay | Indian Journal of Psychiatry, January 2013 | Go to article overview

Karma Yoga: A Path towards Work in Positive Psychology


Kumar, Arun, Kumar, Sanjay, Indian Journal of Psychiatry


Byline: Arun. Kumar, Sanjay. Kumar

Karma yoga is the path that leads to salvation through action. Salvation is the ultimate state of consciousness. Work is the central and defining characteristic of life. It may have intrinsic value, instrumental value, or both. Instrumental value includes incentive, dignity and power, etc., which is the result expected from the work. The Gita teaches us to do work without thinking of result (work with intrinsic value). Attachment with the result leads to stress, competition and aggression. Stress further gives rise to heart ailments, depression and suicide. Positive psychology studies the factors and conditions leading to pleasurable and satisfying life. Understanding Karma yoga and its practice has a similar role that lead an individual towards work and leading to a satisfied life. This may play a unique role towards practical aspects of positive psychology to improve one's lifestyle and aid in the treatment of stress disorders.

Introduction

Bhagavad Gita is probably the first recorded evidence of crisis intervention psychotherapy. [sup][1] It describes the various forms of yoga relating to spirituality. Spirituality is associated with mental health, managing substance abuse, marital functioning, parenting, and coping. It has been suggested that spirituality also leads to finding purpose and meaning in life. [sup][2] This article focuses on the karma yoga described in Bhagavad Gita and its meaning in relation with positive psychology.

Bhagvad Gita

The Gita teaches the doctrine of uttermost detachment. [sup][3] It is a Sanskrit text written in Bhisma Parva of Mahabharata epic, comprising 745 verses. [sup][4] Philosophical concepts of Gita's are Ishvara (The Supreme Controller), Jiva (Living beings/the soul), Prakrti (Matter), Karma (Action) and Kala (Time). [sup][5] Bhagavad Gita proposed that true enlightenment comes from growing beyond identification with the temporal ego and self. According to Krishna, the root of all suffering and discord is the agitation of the mind caused by a selfish desire. The only way to douse the flame of desire is by simultaneously stilling the mind through self-discipline and engaging oneself in a higher form of activity.

The Gita formulate theories of the three paths (Bhakti, Gyan and Karma Yoga) without creating any conflict. In the current article, we are more focused on Karma Yoga or Yoga of action.

Karma Yoga

The following lines are taken from the book "Karma Yoga," written by Vivekananda. [sup][6] The word Karma is derived from the Sanskrit word "Kri" meaning to do; all actions are Karma. This word also means the effects of actions. The cause of all the miseries we have in the world is that men foolishly think pleasure to be the ideal to strive for . Our Karma determines what we deserve and what we can assimilate. With regard to Karma-Yoga, the Gita says that it is doing work with cleverness and as a science; by knowing how to work, one can obtain the greatest results. Man works with various motives. Some people want to get fame, and they work for fame, money, power, etc. We read in the Bhagavad Gita again and again that we must all work incessantly. All work is by nature composed of good and evil. The Gita teaches us about detachment from the result of work. If working like slaves results in selfishness and attachment, working as master of our own mind gives rise to the bliss of non-attachment.

Positive Psychology and Wellbeing

Positive psychology is concerned with the enhancement of happiness and well-being, involving the scientific study of the role of personal strengths and positive social systems in the promotion of optimal well-being. The central themes of positive psychology include happiness, hope, creativity and wisdom. [sup][7] Understanding and facilitating happiness and subjective well-being is the central objective of positive psychology. [sup][8] Identifying factors that contribute to happiness is not a simple matter. …

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