For progress in karma yoga, we need a foundation: (1) righteousness in our karma (actions), (2) lack of attachment to the results of our karma, and (3) faith in God,* who grants the results of all karma. Gandhi’s approach in India’s independence movement demonstrated his perfection in karma yoga.
“For Gandhi, independence of India by expelling members of the imperialist team out of India by any means was not the objective; as his Hind Swaraj says, removing any attachment of the Indian native to the British way of thinking and living, which he perceived as the reason for British presence in India, was the primary motive.” This spiritual action plan was fully harmonized with the Bhagavad Gita, which holds that “controlling sense organs by force is not ample for spiritual rise, but all desires have to be purged from the mind.” And due to Gandhi’s spiritual goal, alignment with dharma, and faith in God, “only righteous tools like satyagraha, compassion, and ahimsa could be used to gain independence of thought and territory from the British.”
“History tells us that there were instances that could have accelerated the independence movement by means that did not appear to be righteous, but he did not utilize them. Because of a higher focus on the morality of the chosen path than the object itself, he supposedly did not have a deadline in his mind to accomplish the task of independence.” This disattachment to results, no matter how significant they appear to an observer in the material world, is the key to our attaining perfection in karma yoga.
While Gandhi will always be remembered as a karma yogi, we can not ignore the devotional colors he had added to his yoga by coupling it with other spiritual practices including chanting, fasting, writing, and remembrance of God during work.
Happy Gandhi Jayanti!
*Though karma yoga works for an atheist as well, faith in God is required in the popular version(s) of karma yoga, supported by the Gita.
All quoted text is from Devotional Hinduism: Creating Impressions for God (iUniverse, 2008).