Examples of Great Karma Yogis

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When we refer to spiritual models, true greatness lies in humbleness and surrender.

Chogyam Trungpa has a very inspiring description of the paradox of surrender:
“We fall down and down, until we touch the ground, until we relate with the basic sanity of the earth. We become the lowest of the low, the smallest of the small, a grain of sand, perfectly simple, no expectations. … If you are a grain of sand, the rest of the universe, all the space, all the room is yours, because you obstruct nothing, overcrowd nothing, possess nothing. There is tremendous openness. You are the emperor of the universe because you are a grain of sand.

M.K. Gandhi is one of the best examples of a real Karma Yogi. He worked tirelessly on himself and for the welfare of the Indian nation. In pursuing the ideal of Karma Yoga, Gandhi had to completely give up his personal life. He did so with serenity, keeping the name of God, “Ram,” on his lips. He embraced his destiny, trusting that none of his spiritual efforts could ever be lost, as is indeed the solemn promise of Lord Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita, which Gandhi read daily, taking inspiration from Lord Krishna.

Gandhi used to have “respectable” people who came to help his noble mission clean the toilets. Why? Because he wanted to teach them the beauty of Karma Yoga, of surrender, the beauty of serving selflessly without attachment to the act itself.

This is the same lesson Jesus gave when he washed the feet of his disciples. In this way, he taught them to be humble.

St. Teresa of Calcutta (Mother Teresa) is another exemplary Karma Yogi. She served out of faithfulness, in spontaneity and surrender. About her prayers, she said: “I do not pray for success, I ask for faithfulness…” For her, what mattered was to stay faithful.

If our actions don’t come from the Stillness of the Heart, from the feeling that we are not the doer, we will continue to be bound by them, no matter how useful or beneficial they might be. So-called “spiritual poverty” is a state of inner emptiness of the ego and mind, and of surrender, as is movingly expressed by St. Teresa: “I don’t claim anything of the work. It’s His work. I’m like a little pencil in His hand. That’s all. He does the thinking. He does the writing. The pencil has nothing to do with it.”

Rumi, like Mother Teresa, describes the perfect Karma Yoga attitude in a similar way:
“Do you think I know what I’m doing?
That for one breath or half a breath I belong to myself?
As much as a pen knows what it’s writing, or the ball can guess where it’s going next.”

Similarly, St. Bernadette Soubirous said, “The Virgin used me as a broom to remove the dust. When the work is done, the broom is put behind the door again.”


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