Karma Yoga – 4 Fundamental Principles

In the Bhagavad Gita, Shri Krishna Lord known as Nurturer of Beings in India, stated, ‘Do your duty without the concern for the fruit of it’. Some people may get confused with Karma Yoga being denoted as volunteer or social work. 

The word ‘Karma’ signifies action, so Karma Yoga is defined as the Yoga of Action or Duty or Responsibilities. To put it simply, Karma Yoga can be best defined as ‘Doing your duty at your best without any involvement of ego or attachment’.  

In short “Karma yoga Means Selfless service”.

However, in this aforementioned definition of Karma Yoga, 4 essential words are noticeable: duty, ego, attachment, and expectation of rewards or accolades. So, to get a know-how of the Principles of Karma Yoga, it’s important to understand the 4 fundamental principles.

Four Principles of Karma Yoga


Every person is entrusted with the duties that life bestows on us. Some duties or responsibilities are assigned to you, without any choices or options left. For instance, duty as citizens, members of society, sons/daughters, brothers/sisters, etc. 

Other duties include, for example, duties as employers, husbands/wives, parents, etc.

In the Principles of Karma Yoga, it’s important to prioritize your duties or responsibilities and realize that the highest duty you can have is the duty towards yourself, meaning that you should first take care of yourself, do what’s good and beneficial for you, and then only you can do good to others. 

Furthermore, it’s of paramount importance to fulfill your duty to the best of your ability. 


Ego, being one of the principles of Karma Yoga, is all about the ideas or notions you have about yourselves or others, which constitute our likes, dislikes, preferences, desires, aspirations, etc. 

With every action we perform or execute, we tend to think about the outcomes and consequences for ourselves; How does it affect our lives, our images, etc.? 

Karma Yoga is all about carrying out your duties without thinking about yourself, its main purpose being controlling and eventually letting go of your ego. 

A fine and refined example of Karma Yoga is the selfless services of prominent leaders and visionaries like Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Teresa, etc., who worked selflessly and tirelessly for the benefit and upliftment of the people of India as well as globally and the society at large, without thinking about their vested interests, leaving aside their egos and preferences, with single-minded focus and devotion to do good to others without expecting anything in return-reward, laurels or accolades. 

There are many remarkable leaders and social workers in society today who carry the legacy of continuing philanthropic deeds adhering to the path shown by such torchbearers and forefathers.

It’s imperative that in the practice of Karma Yoga, you do need not to involve ego because only then you will be able to do it without any desire and attachment. 

The ego is akin to a cancer that keeps spreading its dreadful and poisonous tentacles, thereby making us visualize what we want to, as well as acting as a barrier to reality that awaits us. It tends to take charge of our perception and understanding. 


Practicing and imbibing the Principles of Karma Yoga signifies carrying out your duties and responsibilities devoid of any attachment. 

Whether you like your duty or not, you still find your way of doing duties to the best of your capability without any kind of attachment to the process or outcome.

Expectations of Reward

When we do something, we rarely execute it without expecting something in return. On the contrary, when we do something without expectation of reward, the outcome of our actions doesn’t tend to affect if and how we perform our duties. 

You view and do it as it’s your duty, not because you want to get something out of it. To get the picture clear, there are many Non-Government Organizations (NGOs), orphan house NGOs, who have taken upon the mantle of doing good to others and helping out people, who have either been looked down upon or ostracised by society owing to their identity crisis thereby providing them with a secured environment which they can call their own. 

And this philanthropic zeal is not restricted to humans alone. There are several NGOs, including dog shelter homes, which take care of stray dogs in different localities, providing them with shelter, food, and water places where they can survive without any fear, inhibitions, or apprehensions. 

And all these humanitarian deeds they’re doing selflessly, without expectations of reward, accolades, or laurels! Kudos to them!

Misconceptions about Karma Yoga 

  • An exchange – People often tend to think if they offer time and service in exchange for another service, it’s Karma Yoga. But actually, it’s not.
  • Working for free – Working for free in the name of spirituality or humanity is not ascribed to Karma Yoga, precisely, the Principles of Karma Yoga.
  • Cheap labor – Working for cheap in the name of Karma Yoga is certainly not so.
  • Social service – Not all social service is essentially Karma Yoga.

How to practice & master Karma Yoga

  • Make a list of all duties/responsibilities you’re entrusted with in your life, irrespective of your likings/dislikes. You must contemplate and jot down all your roles on paper for future courses of action.
  • Prioritize them by their importance or necessity. Understand the importance of your role in the duties you’re about to perform.
  • Kickstart your role of finishing and fulfilling them regularly.
  • The best is to help others without expectation. Just sheer action of helping at the moment who needs help. 

However, there may be some duties that you may not be able to fulfill because of unexplained reasons or reasons beyond your control. 

Carry out the duties you’re obliged to, not much like the way you want them to do.

Benefits of Karma Yoga

  • The main benefit of Karma yoga is the sheer joy of helping someone who is in need and seeing a smile on their face. Karma yoga is about the nourishment of the hearts of others and that nourishment helps our hearts to be happy too.
  •  It also aids in decreasing ego. When you practice Karma Yoga, you perform duty/help devoid of any ego whatsoever. You do what needs to be done, not what you would like to do. When you stop involving your ego in daily activities, slowly and gradually your ego begins to diminish.
  • Priorities become clear. You begin to understand and realize your roles and responsibilities, completing them without any sort of attachment or personal desire.
  • You tend to balance your karma without creating new karma owing to performing your duties without attachment and ego.

Learn and practice the Principles of Karma Yoga at Diya Yoga – Yoga Alliance RYS200 school situated at the breathtaking beach of Arambol, North Goa, India. 

Our best yoga teacher training programs juxtapose ancient Vedic knowledge with modern asanas taught by skilled and competent Indian and International yoga teachers and motivators. 

We deliver a comprehensive theoretical and practical training program during our 25-day structured course. On completion of our 200-hour teacher training program (YTT course), you’ll emerge as a confident teacher teaching lessons to yoga aspirants.

Come, be a part of our noble effort to propagate the all-encompassing benefits of yoga far and wide! 

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