The Best Definitions of Karma and KarmaYoga

Certain things in life are necessary to know, whether or not you welcome that need. This necessity persists constantly because you cannot attain the higher realms of your life without at least ‘knowing’. After all, only ‘knowing’ is the onset of wisdom.


Life is often called ‘path’. It’s not merely a philosophical dogma, for life is path, only because it seeks you to continually advance towards the wisdom. On this path, however, there are three stages. ‘Knowing’ from others is the first stage, attaining the acquired knowledge in your ‘Self’ (in your being) is the next, and disseminating the same among many more is your last.


Out of the three stages mentioned above, do you know which remains to be the most important one? 


It’s the second stage, which means – Attaining the acquired knowledge in your ‘Self’, or to say in your being. First stage is not important because merely amassing the knowledge doesn’t benefit anyone. Third stage, itself becomes impossible unless the second is crossed; therefore it’s dependent and subjective. The most crucial stage only remains to be the second stage. This is where ‘Karma’ and ‘KarmaYoga’ come into spotlight. 


About both, ‘Karma’ and ‘KarmaYoga’, unfathomable commentaries have been written. Innumerable books and articles have been published. Avid readers always read and appreciate those, but still limit for them the usability of the two only up to the feats of reading and appreciating alone. Most people ‘lack’ the attaining of both precepts in their conduct, because in the ocean of descriptions they miss out on the real perspectives of ‘definitions’.


On this page, instead of adding to the descriptions, we are bringing the concise, yet most accurate and effective definitions of both, ‘Karma’ and ‘KarmaYoga’. Readers must beware, we are not quoting here the thesaurus meanings, but these are in pure practical context.





In Hindi, the definition is – “Praapt Kartavya hi Karm Hai”. It means that Only the duty which is bestowed on you is the Karma.


Let’s elaborate it a little:


Only the duty: Which is a meaning and a purposeful act; endowing beneficence upon others;

which is bestowed on you: You’ve not selfishly clenched it out of some overt or covert motive; which has been created for you by the neutral and random circumstances; and which has been spontaneously received by you;

is the Karma: Is the action to be carried out by you skillfully, being aware and diligent.


Let us not expound this definition in great detail. If you mediate on above, it will suffice for your ‘Second Stage’ as aforementioned.


Now, let us move on to the next.





‘KarmaYoga’ is the higher plane. It’s most accurate definition is given in the Hindu scripture – Bhagavat Gita. It writes in Sanskrit, “Yogah Karmasu Kaushlam”. These three words, which are very high in efficacy, have been defined by exponents in two opposite ways, such as:


(i) Putting skill in the Karma is Yoga. Here Yoga is taken in the sense of ‘worldly perfection’;

(ii) Putting Yoga into Karma is the skill. Here Yoga is taken in the sense of ‘Godly perfection’.


Out of the two given above, the first definition of ‘KarmaYoga’ easily runs out of context, and therefore it’s less useful. For example, even if a thief ransacks a palace most skillfully, he cannot be termed as ‘KarmaYogi’. Putting skills in our day to day life actions are only meant for our survival and not for our advancement, such as in Yoga.


Only the second definition of ‘KarmaYoga’ can lead us to our higher realm. Only we, the human beings can possibly have an appetite for wisdom, for the beasts, flies and fishes can never have that. Or have they? Even if such beasts, flies and fishes also do the Karma, but for lack of wisdom, those never become ‘KarmaYogi’. It’s possible for the human beings only, us only.


Let us, break and then analyze the second definition of ‘KarmaYoga’ now. It says, Putting Yoga into Karma is the skill’.


Putting Yoga: Seeing your ways in the ways of God; uniting God’s will with your will; living in even-mindedness about success of failure in your venture;

into Karma: Already described above

is the skill: the highest level of perfection for man, for it is as high as are the ways of God Himself.


Now you must meditate on below:


Do you have an option to – not live?  No you never have that. Death is not your business, for your business is only life. Living is not a choice; it’s a compulsion upon you. Therefore, when you HAVE to live any way, why not live skillfully? 


And when you HAVE to live skillfully anyway, why not live Godly skillfully?




Sudhir Mittal is a thinker and author. His profile can be seen at: