This way to Self-realisation can be called Karma Yoga, or yoga in everyday life
By Roberto Assagioli, date unknown, From the Assagioli Archive in Florence. Translated from Italian by Gordon Symons. Original title: La Via Del Servizio Attivo
One of the ways of spiritual approach or spiritual realization can be called the way of dedicated activity, or of active service. It is a way which is accessible to the greatest number because it does not require any special ability or inner qualities or cultural level. The simplest people can and have followed it, even better than the more sophisticated ones.
It means essentially, first recognizing the actual or possible spiritual meaning or higher meaning of everyday activity, and second, to actively dedicate it to a spiritual goal, therefore infusing a meaning into an action which by itself would not possess it. This is a higher correspondence to what we have said on the psychological level concerning many of the psychosynthetic techniques. That is utilizing conditions, situations, experiences, activities of daily life for psychological inner training. It can be called Karma Yoga, or yoga in everyday life. When speaking of the will, we have said that daily life offers countless opportunities for training the will. But, in this connection, we will deal chiefly with spiritual aspects of this way of realization.
It can be called Karma Yoga, or yoga in everyday life.
A clear way to describe it, or to indicate what it is, is offered by the following story: In medieval times, while the building of the huge churches was going on, there were three stone cutters working near a great, unfinished cathedral. A man approached them successively and put to each the same question: “What are you doing?” The first stone cutter said: “What, you see, I am cutting these stones”. The second one answered: “I am earning my living for myself and for my family”. The third answered: “I am building a cathedral!”. Objectively, they were doing all exactly the same thing, but subjectively there was a world of difference between the inner attitude of each and therefore the spiritual value and effect of what they were doing. The third one was doing consciously karma yoga, dedicating his material action to a higher purpose, with the easy to understand subjective effect on things. He most probably was cutting his stones with more care and precision than the others.
Thus dedicated, any activity, the most material, can be made an occasion for spiritual awareness, connecting it with the great process of evolution going on, which includes the smallest details. Moreover, many actions have, or can be given a symbolic meaning, thus connecting them more directly with a spiritual intention or purpose. Every wash day we can give it a meaning of symbol of purification and do the same washing to our emotion and mental nature. Every wife who sweeps the apartment and dusts it puts things in order is performing a small ritual or purification, also of adjusting to the great law of order and harmony which exist in the whole universe. This awareness and this linking can be done in different ways, or different inner attitudes according to the type of the person. For instance, religious people can do it easily and directly by offering to God all their actions, all their outer activities. Others can do it more as yoga, as training and disciplining their functions and faculties in order to later utilize them for larger purposes. For others it can be specifically a more direct training in the use of will and achieving of power. One feels to be a creator or achiever.
Another way of considering it is to feel oneself a conscious active part of the great creative process started, directed by God in the Universe. Of feeling and keeping one’s place in it deep the high-note in the great harmony. In this way the most insignificant can be ennobled so to say, or enlightened by the greatest significance.
All this, I repeat, can be achieved on the usual level of daily life. But in life there are also extraordinary situations in which call for the manifestation of latent energies, of our highest possibilities, in other words, which challenge and call in the superconscious aspect of our being and the spiritual or transpersonal self.
This can be called the HEROIC WAY or attitude, which implies the overcoming of all other natural drives and activities, however good on their level.