By Nicole Yong
Today, people appear to be carrying out multiple business activities round the clock. Most are affected by the rhythms of the world. You might notice that when you ask your friends, “How are you?” The answer may automatically be, “Oh, I’m fine. I have been very busy recently.” Somehow, the word “busy” has become an “honour mantra” to some people to prove that they are really invaluable to the company, society or even to the family.
Way back in Dec 2014, I volunteered myself at the National Yoga Camp organized by the Malaysian Yoga Society. While holding on to a full-time job, I was also pursuing my yoga instructor course. I felt a calling, and hence, I took time off to join the camp as a volunteer. I must confess that throughout the camp, I wrestled with the concept of karma yoga, which means real practice or service in the real world. It was my first time at such a camp – doing karma yoga. I learnt the difference between personal yoga asana practice and yoga practice in the real world. I also came to realise that advertising our poses on social media like the Facebook and Instagram, participating in retreats or attending classes do not make a complete yoga practice.
My journey at the Yoga Camp is simply unforgettable. I assisted teacher Pushpa, who was in charge of the children’s welfare at the camp. Not only did she inspire me, but she also guided me patiently. I noticed that many of my seniors were exceptional in their demeanour – they were really busy carrying out various tasks from the back end to the front line, but they did not utter the word ‘busy’. On the contrary, they willingly did everything for the children; some even stayed overnight at the camp and went to work the next morning from the campsite. Others took time off or took their annual leave to simply do their part at the camp. Some volunteers went a step further to sponsor the underprivileged teenagers to enroll in the camp.
I kept on reflecting on what my master had taught us in class and what I observed at the camp. There was one evening after bringing the children to the bathroom to clean themselves, a five-year old girl approached me.
She spoke in Tamil and passed a comb to me. I had no clue as to what she had said as I do not speak the language, but without dilly-dallying, I took the comb off her and started combing her long knotted hair.
She continued to come to me the next few days at the camp to get me to do her hair. What was amazing is, each time we met, she spoke in Tamil and I spoke in English. We barely understood each other, but above all, it was the gesture, smile and eye contact that brought the two of us to a different dimension of communication. Her smile and eye contact merely melted my heart. Never had I felt this way before.
The yoga camp was so well structured and run by my seniors under the guidance of Master Mani. Besides learning asanas, the children were educated not only about the philosophy of yoga but also about the traditional cleansing practices and yogic diet. I noticed that throughout the camp, the children were served only healthy vegetarian food. Nourishment definitely plays a part in one’s transformation. Being a food therapist, I could attest to how healthy food improves the digestive system in children.
During my discourse with Master Mani, I stumbled upon two meaningful words (1) “Karma Yoga”, which means to serve, or seva, which is an act of kindness, and (2) “Dharma” which refers to the duty born of who we truly are”. This motivated me to read the teachings of prominent swamijis and dive deeper into the philosophy of yoga. The Yoga Camp really helped me put the theory into practice.
Karma Yoga “burns” Ego
|Please allow me to share a beautiful extract from the book “Teachings of Love”, written by Thich Nhat Nanh:
“Practising the Immeasurable Mind of Love extinguishes anger in the hearts of living beings. Practicing the Immeasurable Mind of Compassion extinguishes all sorrows and anxieties in the hearts of living beings.”
Believe it or not, Hatha Yoga alone is insufficient to keep us strong and flexible physically and emotionally. In the outside world, we work hard and we yearn for acknowledgement of our hard work. The ego in us continues to battle for fame, rewards or recognition. In the process of trying to achieve all these, the mind may be lured towards negative thinking. Negative emotions may arise and if this goes unchecked, it may lead to physical and mental health problems.
The practice of Karma Yoga helps “burn” our ego when we serve or work selflessly and purely from the heart. When ego disappears, we will be happy and be able to live in harmony with all living beings.
Karma Yoga is a real life lesson
Karma Yoga is a real life lesson that needs to deepen and to be practiced continuously. It is a life-long practice. This little realisation came to me in 2014 when I started seeing change in myself after participating at the Yoga Camp.
I remember telling my father that I have started teaching yoga to senior citizens at a temple. He was quick to ask if I was getting paid. Nevertheless, he was elated when I told him that I had asked the practitioners to donate the fee to the temple. Over the course of time, I have learnt to practice and teach yoga with love and compassion. I believe that when we are calm, happy and contented, we will be able to heal our negative emotions of anger, insecurity, sadness or hate, and practice empathy.
The Teaching of Karma Yoga from The Bhagavad Gita
|Here are meaningful lines extracted from the book “Ethics of The Bhagavad Gita”, written by Swami Sivananda:
Chapter III The Yoga of Action (Karma Yoga):
The Bhagavad Gita is a Yoga Sastra that teaches us about humanity and cosmic love. When we understand this concept, we will serve relentlessly, not blame others, not be selfish, and be at peace at all times.
Teachings from Taittiriya Upanishad
|Here are some beautiful lines extracted from the book “The Twelve Principal Upanishads”, written by Dr .E. Roer:
“From joy we have come,
In Joy we live and have our being,
And in that sacred joy
We will one day melt again”“From that (Brahman) who is this Self-manifested space,
from space air, from air fire,
from fire water, from water the earth,
from earth the plants, from plants foods,
from the food the being.”
I realised that the whole wheel of life set by the Great Creator is on the basis of serving and giving. Sunlight and water are needed for plant growth, and it is from these plants, human beings and other animals obtain food. The whole cycle, akin to a wheel, simply repeats itself.
Time to Reflect
To sum up, if you are the type who always get so worried and complain about everything at work and in your personal life, you may want to start practicing Karma Yoga. Learn to let go of the “Ego”, and learn to love and forgive. Spread your positive vibrations generously, and you will soon find room to grow.
Om Shanti Shanti Shanti.