Is it okay to be a selfish environmentalist?

Karma yoga is the yoga of action; the yoga of selfless service. The definition of karma varies somewhat, depending on the philosophic context (Hindus, Buddhists, and Jains). Lately, the concept of Karma yoga has been phasing in and out of clarity for me.

If, according to ancient laws of karma, everything is exactly as it is supposed to be (as karma dictates) then what is the purpose of trying to make the world a better place? Why do we “go green,” “reduce, reuse, recycle,” and “save the whales”? What about those people who do “good things” only to reap the benefits of recognition, fame, or money?

A recent discussion with a fellow student of yoga offered me a bit more clarity on my understanding of karma: if one of the main tenants of  yoga is to live with full awareness in the present moment, then karma yoga is about living while taking full responsibility for our actions in the present moment.  So, when it comes to the environment, how can we best practice karma yoga? 

We can start by taking responsibility to educate ourselves about the environmental cause(s) we are championing. We must be clear about the intention behind our actions to “go green”–the intention should be selfless, compassionate, without desire for recognition or rewards. We can make the commitment to the cause–don’t just pay lip service– ACT

Karma yoga is selfless service–the performance of actions for the benefit of others without any expectation of personal rewards. Think compassion, caring, kindness.

How often have you done something for the environment partially because it would reflect well on you?

Even if our intention isn’t entirely selfless–if we’re doing it because “everyone else is doing it”–if it’s doing some good for the planet, isn’t that better than not acting at all?

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Ashlee is Assistant Editor for the Earth Current at Yoga Modern and considers herself a lifelong learner. After graduating from university with studies in Political Science and Spanish, she fell headfirst in love with yoga. She loved not only the deep physical experience yoga provides, but also its connection between mind, body, and spirit and seemingly endless opportunities to learn. Having grown up on a fruit farm in rural Maine, Ashlee resonated most with the yogic philosophy of interconnectedness and the observance of ahimsa. She takes her practice off the yoga mat by delving deeper into the interconnectedness of the global food chain, by following the thread of a simple dietary decision to its impacts on the consumer, the local economy and the local and global environments. Ashlee currently lives and teaches yoga in Dallas, Texas.

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