Karma Yoga


Karma (Sanskrit, also karman, Pāli: kamma) is a Sanskrit term that literally means “action” or “doing”. In the West’s never-ending quest for high-speed, user-friendly spiritual growth, an ancient solution to the problem, karma yoga, is usually overlooked. The Bhagavad Gita touts karma yoga—the Hindu path of service to others—as the fast lane to spiritual fulfillment.

One of the greatest Yoga masters of the 20th century, Swami Sivananda, is the inspiration behind the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centres and the author of more than 300 books on yoga and health, including teachings on karma yoga. Swami Sivananda was a medical doctor before renouncing worldly life for the spiritual path. The essence of his teachings are summarized in these six words:

Serve, Love, Give, Purify, Meditate, Realize.

Pamela Tosh, a Constantia, Cape Town resident and local health and beauty business owner, began her work on the streets of Rishikesh, India’s yoga capital, after floods devastated the Northern region of India leaving many homeless.

“I felt compelled to do what I could at the time and my care work evolved into a true expression of love”.

Pamela left Cape Town on 31 May 2013 for India, to complete a 200 hour yoga teacher training course at Rishikesh Yog Peeth ashram. During the second week of her six week course heavy monsoon rains, the worst in 88 years, fell in Uttarakhand and ravaged two hill states. The holy city of Rishikesh, which is situated on the banks of the River Ganges (Ganga), became the centre of rescue efforts by the government who were flying stranded pilgrims bound for the Himalayan shrines back to the holy city for safety. Many lost their lives.

Jainism is an ancient religion from India that teaches that the way to liberation and bliss is to live a life of harmlessness and renunciation. The aim of Jain life is to achieve liberation of the soul. The Jain sadhus, on account of the mode of their life, are unique among all the monks. The entire life of Sadhus (monks) and Sadhvis (nuns) is dedicated to spiritual welfare of their souls; all their objectives, and all their activities are directed towards elevating their souls to the Paramatma-dasha, the state of the Supreme Soul.

They always walk with bare feet. When they travel from one place to another, whatever may be the distance they always go walking. Whether it is cold weather or scorching sun; whether the road is stony or thorny; whether it is the burning sand of a desert or a burning road, they do not wear any foot-wear at any time. They move about on bare foot all their life. The reason for not wearing shoes is while walking, they can avoid crushing the bugs or insects on the ground.

The flooding of the Ganga left many of the already homeless to face the harsh elements. Many Babas (Sadhu – a religious ascetic or holy person) lost what little they had and what they received from begging was reduced to nothing.

With the help of donations Pamela was able to fulfill the same service she provides in the Western Cape’s retirement villages and healthcare centres on the streets of Rishikesh. Working on dirty streets surrounded by dogs, cows and monkeys, extra care had to be taken that equipment was clean and without any gloves that the necessary precautions were taken to avoid any transfer of bacteria. Pamela handed out food, clothing, shoes, towels, soap and other important first aid supplies to those in need.

Pamela continues to provide specialist foot treatments, first aid and personal care to those in need and through her actions hopes to inspire western yogis to do Karma Yoga, to expand on their current yoga practice towards a more holistic way of living. Based on the teachings of Swami Sivananda and with the understanding that what we ‘do’ and who we ‘touch’ has a vital impact on everything around us and a rippling effect on society.

Be the change you want to see in the world – Gandhi