50 If you have an interest in freedom, you have only to be rid of your karma.

Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 2, Vs 50 

One who is firm in the understanding of Yoga, casts off here in this world both good and bad karma. So yoke yourself to Yoga. Yoga is skill in action.

Yoga is skill in action.
In this verse the word yoga refers specifically to Karma Yoga, the action-yoga of the last verse.

One who is firm in the understanding of Yoga.
When you understand action, you understand yoga
The magical language of Sanskrit gives us the necessary clues to reach this understanding: Yoga, which means ‘union’, implies action—something uniting with something else is an action. In the last verse we learned that this action is called Karma Yoga, ‘action union’, and that it will unite us with Truth, Absolute God.

Casts off here in this world both good and bad karma.
If we understand yoga, we can practice it and rid ourselves of our karma. 
We usually think of karma as ‘good’ and worth keeping if we like what it brings, and ‘bad’ if we don’t. But this verse suggests that both good and bad karma need casting off, so having any karma at all is not in our best interest.

After this life, it is our karma that throws us back into another body, and we pick up where we left off. This appeals to some, others not so much. If things have gone fairly well for you in this life, you may not be motivated to avoid having to come back and do it all over again. (But do you know what’s in your Pandora’s box?)  

When you truly understand what yoga is, you will understand action. When you understand action, you can use it to end your karma. The end of karma is the beginning of liberation (moksha), freedom from the bondage of rebirth.

The superior action of Karma Yoga ends karma and leads to freedom.

Karma Yoga is something of a double entendre. ‘Action’ is the meaning of both karma and yogaKarma derives from the root kri, ‘to do’, and yoga, derives from the root yuj, ‘to yoke together’. Both suggest action but point to different kinds of action.

Remember the previous verse where we learned about a superior kind of action that was called ‘yoga‘, and an and inferior kind of action that was called ‘ordinary’? Ordinary action brings about karma, whereas superior action does not, but ends karma. Hence the process is called Karma Yoga.

Karma – Action, root ‘to do’ = doing: ‘Inferior action’ requires the use of the will and accumulates karma.

Yoga – Action, root ‘coming together’ = uniting: ‘Superior action’ is natural and spontaneous and ends karma.

So yoke yourself to Yoga. The root of the word ‘yoke’ is the same root as ‘yoga‘, suggesting that we become united with uniting.

Yoga is skill in action. When we understand yoga, we understand that it is a skill. But we were told in previous verses that yoga is ‘indifference’. Indifference yields union. With repetition it becomes a skill.

Indifference + skill in action = Yoga.

Now that we understand this, as with any skill the next step is to develop it through practice. In my lineage, this is accomplished through a radical form of meditation in which ‘indifference’ is synonymous with ‘surrender’.

Surrendering ourselves to Absolute God, Absolute Truth, both indifference and the development of the skill of superior action take place automatically. We call this practice Shaktipat Kundalini Yoga, or Surrender Meditation, a spontaneous experiential meditation in which the evolutionary force, kundalini, is activated naturally and safely, as the accumulation of karma diminishes and ultimately ends.

Jaya Bhagavan! (Victory to God!),
Durga Ma

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The Dharma of Karma 4 — Variables

Have you ever heard someone say, “You only get what you deserve”? Hearing this bit of karmic wisdom, your mind starts scanning its contents for bad things that have happened to you in the past, and immediately lays the blame on you for all of it: “It couldn’t have happened to me if I didn’t have it coming.”

Karmic Absolutes

“Nothing can happen to you (or for you) that you don’t have coming.” “You can only get what you deserve.” Such statements, while minimally useful to some, are virtually useless, even harmful, to most. Though they have a grain of truth to them, they are incomplete, and can take you on a journey through a kind of self-battering, and seriously impede your spiritual development.

Dharma – Law. The established nature, character, peculiar condition or essential quality of anything.

Karma – Action. From, kri, meaning ‘to do’. One’s destiny or fate, following as effect from cause.

The Dharma of Karma – The law of cause and effect: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

Over the past few years, inspired by a passage in Yogananda’s Autobiography of a Yogi, I have been giving a lot of thought to the workings of karma. In this particular passage, the immortal Babaji is sitting around a fire with his disciples, when he picks up a burning brand and touches one of the disciples on his shoulder, burning him. Stricken with horror, one of the company asks him why he did it. Babaji explains that he did it to rid this disciple of his karma to die a horrible death by fire, and precedes to lay his hand on the burn and heal it completely.

This got my attention. What happened to “equal and opposite”? How was a small burn, lasting only a short time, going to short-circuit this fellow’s karma to die a horrible death by fire? This could only mean one thing: I had to rethink my understanding of karma.

I thought about throwing a ball against a wall, and how the ball never seems to come back quite the same way—it comes back, but usually at an angle and at a lesser velocity. I thought of boomerangs and other things, and there always seemed to be a good possibility that a reaction could vary.

How does this relate to us and our karma, and what changes the reaction?

Taking Responsibility

When we take responsibility for our actions, we have thrown the ball, we have created karma. Karma doesn’t care if an action is good, bad, or neutral, it will still bind us. But we care because we don’t want bad things to happen to us, so we try to do the right thing.

A few years ago, I realized that a decision I had made a long time before in the name of doing the right thing, had been a terrible mistake. I had made this decision believing that nothing bad could happen if I didn’t have it coming anyway, and took a terrible risk. The outcome was not only harmful to me, but it enabled the other person involved to continue harmful behavior, which was harmful to him, and to those whom he would harm.

I spent years afterward listening to my mind accuse me with, “You only got what you deserved”. This seriously handicapped my sadhana with self-denigrating thoughts and beliefs of unworthiness. This is not humility, it is negative reinforcement, the most powerful and effective means of growing the ego.*

Taking the Blame

Don’t let this happen to you. If someone socks you in the jaw, it’s on him. Do not let people tell you that you must have had it coming—you don’t really know this for certain—and not to blame the other guy. Even if you do have it coming, if he hit you, that’s on him. He is responsible for that sock on the jaw, it was his action, his choice. Not yours. So don’t take it on. Surely you have enough of your own karma? And consider this: the act of taking it on creates more personal karma.

Karmic Variables

What affects, or changes, the returning trajectory, the reaction, is us—all of us. Because we are all interconnected, what one of us does affects the rest of us to greater and lesser degrees. These variable effects alter the karma of every one of us, helping or hindering our forward movement toward happiness and fulfillment. Understanding this inspires us to follow fundamental principles for successful living° so that we not only serve ourselves in removing obstacles and oppressions, but we serve everyone else as well, at the same time.

Yoga teaches that all action occurs in nature, and that what we really are is not nature and does nothing at all. What we really are is divine. We acquire karma because of our ignorance of this Truth, but when we realize Truth directly, we become free of the influences of karma. 

Now we see through a glass darkly, but then, face to face.
1 Corinthians 13:12

Having surrendered all actions (to God), the embodied one sits happily, the ruler in the city whose gates are nine (the physical body), neither acting, nor causing action.
— Bhagavad Gita, ch 5, vs 13.

Durga Ma

* The word ‘ego’ is used to indicate the sense of oneself as the doer of action, from the Sanskrit, ahamkara, ‘I do’.

° ‘Successful living’ – The first and most important of these principles is ahimsa, non-injury. All other principles and teachings hinge on it. (See Ten Keys to Success and click on Learn more.)


  • In an online course, Mental Yoga will give you the skills needed to neutralize anything.


The Dharma of Karma 3 – Desire

As I sit here in my sunny room, doors and windows open, looking outside at the grass greening, the blooms beginning to open and a few clouds scudding across the sky, a nice breeze on my cheek, I find myself drifting back to an old desire. I guess no matter how good we may have it on any given day, there’s always another desire waiting in the wings. And I am very proficient at having both conditions present in the same moment. I am content, but there’s that other thing I want that would make even a day like this, seem better.

Dharma – Law. The established nature, character, peculiar condition or essential quality of anything.

Karma – Action. From, kri, meaning ‘to do’.  

The Dharma of Karma – The law of cause and effect: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

As a yoga practitioner, this would be an excellent opening for a discussion on how desires keep us bound in ignorance, but I am of the opinion that suppressed desires have a way of becoming the most powerfully domineering desires of all (we talked about how that works before).

Anything that we suppress becomes hidden from us—that’s the whole point of suppression. This includes thoughts and feelings, but hidden desires have a foot in both worlds (mind and emotion) and they drive us to try to force life, even though we may not realize it. Hidden desires relentlessly drive us to get them satisfied. They dominate our lives. We adjust things to meet their demands, and we turn into raving fast-laners or couch potatoes. Some of us wonder why we’re so stressed or depressed and what we’re doing wrong. Some of us blame someone else, preferring to try to control the people and things around us to practicing a little self-honesty and looking inside. But inside is where the solution lies.

I am not suggesting that you shouldn’t have what you want. What I am addressing is the problem of those pesky hidden desires and what you can do about them, not to mention the ones you do know about—you know the ones I’m talking about, the ones you’ve tried everything possible to get to come to fruition and it’s just not happening no matter how hard you try, no matter how many affirmations you do, no matter how much you try to stay positive.

Incidentally, it is a smart move to watch out for this insidious type of suppression: “Oh well, I really didn’t want that anyway, what I really want is _________,” or “All those affirmations I’ve been doing must be working, just look at that parking spot I just manifested!” These tactics just push away from you the very thing you’ve been wanting. They are evidence that you are still in a state of want, whether you admit it to yourself or not.

Want, or desire, is an affirmation of lack that reinforces the thought-idea that you don’t have what you want. This negative affirmation stops the manifestation of the object of desire. Tricky, isn’t it? This principle is what is behind the teachings of ancient sages who tell us to abandon desire—not because desire is bad or wrong, but because it doesn’t work. Not only does it not work to nurse a desire, it has the opposite effect.

Desire is a negative affirmation of lack.

The key is self-honesty and bringing hidden desires to the fore. You won’t succeed in this without self-honesty. It is one of the most difficult things you’ll ever undertake to do. It can be down right humiliating, and even scary. But if you want to make improvements in your life, you really must practice self-honesty. It has a way of creating profound shifts of a very rewarding nature.

What does all this have to do with karma? Well, I’m thinking about how self-honesty allows for the opportunity to avoid creating more karma. I’m also thinking about the difference between the presence of a desire, which doesn’t of itself create any karma, and acting on that desire, which does create karma. Our karma is what binds us, limits us, so who wants more of that? More bondage, less freedom.

Riding the Desire

While you’re practicing self-honesty and waiting on The Big Shift, here’s something else you can try: Enjoy the desire itself. Ride the desire. It’s already there and you didn’t put it there, so why do anything with it? It is enjoyable in itself, so enjoy it, don’t avoid it—that would be doing something (= karma).

Desire: don’t drive it … ride it !

That’s what I was doing this morning before I started writing this to you. I was content, but when the desire I spoke of surfaced, I just enjoyed the desire itself. I didn’t try to do anything about it because I knew that trying to do something about it would ruin the contentment I already had, and just create more karma.

I’ll close now, and wish you happiness and the effortless fulfillment of all your desires.

Namaste (I bow to the Divine One that You Really are),
Durga Ma


  • In an online course, Mental Yoga will give you the skills needed to neutralize anything.