My favorite line from the Bhagavad Gita is “yoga is skill in action.” I love it foremost because it acknowledges that there is no avoiding action. Elsewhere in the Gita, the teacher Krishna points out that you can’t NOT act. The warrior Arjuna perhaps would prefer to withdraw to a cave and avoid the battle he faces, but if you think about it, even that is an act. It is making a choice. This non-avoidance, and the necessity of action is elaborated in the text as the path of Karma Yoga.
And, as advised, we want to act skillfully. This is the tricky part, as we know. It is quite often very hard to know not only what to do, but how to do it skillfully. In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna offers us a way to knowing: Jnana Yoga, the Path of Knowledge.
This path has two components. First is an intellectual knowledge, like what you might receive from reading this essay or any other kind of textual knowledge. In many domains of our activity it is extremely important to create an intellectual knowledge through study.
But the second component of knowledge is also very important: Knowing your Self. This is knowledge of who you are inside, beyond all the surface definitions of your life. It is a knowledge of that source place deep within you.
Krishna gives several means to creating that connection to source, one very clearly laid out is meditation. Through the Yoga of Meditation, one begins to traverse from the every day surface awareness through the depths of your being to connect with the place described in various ways: the Divine, your source, essence, or heart.
And as is also described in the Gita, uncovering your source-essence-heart connects you with a place of unlimited love and devotion. Love and devotion, and a knowledge of the interconnectedness of all things. And a devotion to that fundamental ground being of heart-love.
And that knowledge, love, and devotion creates and supports the desire to serve. A desire to act in service to the Divine, to love through action.
Which brings us back around to Karma Yoga as we more commonly think of it: selfless service. Another way to think of it is service from the Self. Serving from the heart of Knowing. And this is how we come to fully manifest skill in action.
Through our practice of yoga, particularly meditation, we come to Know and connect with the heart and the deepest wisdom within ourselves. As we establish that connection on a daily basis with our practice, we create a pathway, an access, so that in any given situation we can summon our wisest self to guide us to our most skillful actions.
In this way we act from our hearts, in service of the Heart of Being. This is the yoga of skill in action.