My Amma—a true karmayogi

Ganesh Krishnan

In today’s day and age, where consumerism and materialism is the norm, not too Karmayogis can be found who can succeed the test of Bhagavad Gita. However, I have been fortunate to be with more than one karmayogis amongst my close family and friends’ circle. In this article, I would like to reflect upon one such person, who in her entire life has been a true karmayogi. It is none other than my mother, who left her mortal body three weeks ago (on May 25, 2019).

In Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna has characterized karmayoga as:

  1. Renunciation of attachments for all Karmas and all objects (chapter 6, verse 4)
  2. Renunciation of the fruit of all Karmas (Chapter 18, verse 11)
  3. Absence of craving for the fruit of Karmas (Chapter 6, verse 1)

Unlike the cliché that “spiritualism and renunciation is for the elderly and retired”, I have always known my mother as someone who had no desires of her own. However, that never kept her quiet or indifferent. She was one of the hardest working people I have ever known. She gave her best to everything she did!

As I was growing up along with my sisters back in Calicut, Kerala, she had a full-time job as a college professor. To make sure our futures were safe, she had to work even harder and gave tuition to many students outside her full-time job. This didn’t slow her down on all the household work she had to do (a shout out to my father who did a fantastic job in assisting her in the kitchen!). Bhakti was a part and parcel of her. She went to temple every single morning since the time I can remember all the way until the day she was hospitalized (May 21, 2019). She not only found time to chant Vishnu Sahasranama and Lalita Sahasrama every day, she also made it a point to teach both Sahasranamas to me and my sisters. She was so disciplined in her teaching that I, even today after 30-35 years, can chant these Sahasranamas!

As we got older and started getting out of our home, she started spending more time practicing bhaktiyoga. This meant learning more chants, monthly visits to Guruvayur, annual long stays in Kollur Mookambika and Guruvayur are just to name a few. She also started getting more time to accompany my father on his never-ending passion to travel on pilgrimages all over India. Together, they visited the Himalayas (Haridwar, Rishikesh, Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri, and Yamunotri) multiple times, Amarnath, Vaishnav Devi, Amritsar, Ayodhya, Dwaraka, Mathura/Brindavan, etc. beyond all the temples one can think of in South India. They were also fortunate to witness Kumbh Melas in all four locations (Allahabad, Haridwar, Ujjain, and Nasik). Their last trip together was in February to the only Bhakt Meera temple in Chittorgargh, Rajasthan.

Looking back at her life, the following two slokas from Bhagavad Gita comes to mind:

Chapter 5, verse 11:

कायेन मनसा बुद्ध्या केवलैरिन्द्रियैरपि |
योगिन: कर्म कुर्वन्ति सङ्गं त्यक्त्वात्मशुद्धये ||

YOGIS, having abandoned attachment, perform actions merely by the body, mind, intellect and senses, for the purification of the self (ego).

Chapter 5, verse 12:

युक्त: कर्मफलं त्यक्त्वा शान्तिमाप्नोति नैष्ठिकीम् |
अयुक्त: कामकारेण फले सक्तो निबध्यते ||

The united one (the well-poised or the harmonised), having abandoned the fruit of action, attains Eternal Peace; the non-united (the unsteady or the unbalanced), impelled by desire and attached to the fruit, is bound.

Karmayoga and Bhaktiyoga are two separate pathways to attaining chittasuddhi or purity of mind, and I was so fortunate to witness my mother practicing these two pathways to perfection. My respectful homage to my amma.