Karma Yoga is a usually misunderstood term. I don’t know if it was always like this but at least in today’s world, I have seen a lot of people speaking from shallow knowledge. A couple of years back, I heard someone making a grossly incorrect use of the phrase “Karma Yoga”. It was used for a person who was passionate about teaching. This person had left some lucrative job and took up teaching as the profession. It seems there was some resistance from the family also but this person prevailed. This person was termed as a Karma Yogi by the Radio Jockey who was quoting it as an inspiration story.
I do agree that we all should do where we fit the best instead of doing which will fill our pockets the most. However, that doesn’t qualify as Karma Yoga. Karma Yoga is something different altogether. It is an attitude with which you approach work. Karma Yoga is a label given to a philosophy and various practises to bring that philosophy in day-to-day life. Karma Yoga is not about doing what you are passionate about. It is about doing everything in a dispassionate manner.
In a world where the general belief is that more-the-passion-better-the-person-and-better-the-resultant-work, it is difficult to sell the idea that everything should be done in a dispassionate manner. Alas, people take dispassionate == disinterested and dull and boring. From where this belief has set in, I do not know but that’s how it is and I wasn’t any wiser till a couple of years back. But as per my experience, dispassionate != disinterested/dull/boring. In fact, dispassionate > passionate > disinterested/dull/boring. And I do not talk from something that I read in some book. Of course, I have read this stuff in books also but I speak from personal experience. And the experience that I have found repeatable.
My personal experience is that when some thing is done with dispassion, it gets done faster and better. In fact, it almost has an inspirational quality about it. The kind of quality that you see in master pieces. Like best of the music, best of the poetry, best of the paintings, everything done in a dispassionate manner tends to be among the best in its class.
And Karma Yoga is not something specific to those who have taken Sanyaas and live in forests eating fruits and grass. It is a very practical thing which is equally applicable while write software, doing shopping or even walking on the road.