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"Karma Yoga: Discovering the Path of Selfless Action" Book Summary by Swami Vivekananda

Karma Yoga is a book of lectures by Swami Vivekananda, as transcribed by Joseph Josiah Goodwin. It was published in February 1896 in New York City. Sw

 Today, we'll speak about Swami Vivekananda's book "Karma Yoga," which explains his ideas on karma.

"Karma Yoga" is a book written by Swami Vivekananda, a renowned Indian spiritual leader and philosopher. Published in 1896, it explores the concept of Karma Yoga, which is the path of selfless action. In this book, Vivekananda elucidates how individuals can achieve spiritual growth and realization through dedicated and selfless service to others.

He emphasizes that one can attain liberation by performing their duties without attachment to the results and with a mindset of serving humanity. Vivekananda's insights in "Karma Yoga" provide guidance on how to harmonize action, spirituality, and social responsibility, making it a valuable resource for those seeking spiritual enlightenment and a meaningful life.

"Karma Yoga: Discovering the Path of Selfless Action" Book Summary by Swami Vivekananda

Today, we'll discuss that great thinker, inspiration for the ideal of youth, and man of wisdom.

As a result, we will summarise the book for you in this article. If you don't have time to read the entire book, read the article carefully and learn from it.

We who we are? the freedom to pursue our dreams. We all have it. If our past behaviours are what led to our current form, we can certainly build our future form through our current efforts. So, we should practise acting.

Why read the summary here

There are so many articles and blogs on this book, then why read here at this site?

Reading a summary can save you time and effort while still providing you with the key information you need. Instead of spending hours reading a lengthy article or book, you can quickly skim through a summary to get the main points. This is especially useful for busy individuals who have limited time to dedicate to reading.

Additionally, summaries often provide a clear and concise overview of the content, which can help you better understand complex topics. They can also serve as a helpful reference tool, allowing you to revisit important information without having to reread the entire text. Overall, reading a summary can be a valuable tool for anyone seeking to expand their knowledge and understanding in an efficient and effective way.

Here are the chapters of the book Karma Yoga by Gary Swami Vivekananda:

  1. Introduction
  2. Karma in its Effect on Character
  3. Each is Great in his Own Place
  4. The Secret of karma
  5. What is Duty?
  6. We help Ourselves, not the World
  7. Non-attachment is Complete Self-abnegation
  8. Freedom
  9. The Ideal of Karma-Yoga
  10. The Secret of Karma-Yoga
  11. The Greater the Work, the Greater the Need for Ideal
  12. The Secret of Work
  13. The Secret of Yoga
  14. The Atman
  15. The Real and Apparent Man
  16. Work and Its Secret
  17. Wealth and Its Uses
  18. The Ideal of a Universal Religion
  19. Practical Vedanta

What Is Karma Yoga?

Karma Yoga is about doing our work selflessly and without expecting anything in return. It teaches us to focus on helping others and doing what is right, rather than seeking personal gain.

In brief, Karma Yoga is a path of selfless action. It teaches us that every action we perform has consequences, and by doing our work with a selfless attitude, we can grow spiritually and find inner fulfillment. Instead of being motivated by personal desires or the outcome of our actions, we dedicate our work to a higher purpose or the well-being of others.

By practicing Karma Yoga, we learn to be kind, compassionate, and dedicated in our actions, ultimately making a positive impact on ourselves and the world around us. It encourages us to perform our duties diligently, without attachment to the results, and to approach life with a sense of service and responsibility.

Karma in its Effect on Character

According to Swami Vivekananda, "Karma in its Effect on Character" refers to how our actions shape our character and influence our inner qualities. He explains that every action we perform leaves an impression on our consciousness, creating an impact on our thoughts, emotions, and behavior.

It is a mistake to assume that happiness is the goal

Vivekananda emphasizes that positive actions, such as acts of kindness, compassion, and selflessness, contribute to the development of virtuous qualities within us. These actions create positive karma, which brings about favorable circumstances and a positive mindset. As a result, our character is strengthened and refined, and we cultivate qualities like love, generosity, and integrity.

Conversely, negative actions, driven by selfishness, greed, or harmful intent, accumulate negative karma. Such actions breed negative traits and tendencies within us, such as anger, jealousy, or dishonesty. This negative karma leads to unfavorable circumstances and a disturbed state of mind.

Vivekananda encourages individuals to be mindful of their actions and make conscious choices aligned with values and virtues. He highlights the importance of cultivating positive karma by performing selfless actions and fostering noble qualities. By consciously choosing to act in accordance with higher principles, we have the power to transform our character, purify our consciousness, and ultimately lead a more fulfilling and virtuous life.

In summary, Vivekananda's teachings on "Karma in its Effect on Character" emphasize the profound influence of our actions on our inner being. By engaging in positive actions and cultivating virtuous qualities, we can shape our character, enhance our spiritual growth, and contribute positively to the world around us.

Each is Great in his Own Place

"Each is Great in his Own Place" is a concept advocated by Swami Vivekananda, which means that every individual has greatness within them, regardless of their circumstances or social status. In simple terms, it implies that everyone has the potential to contribute and make a difference in their own unique way.

Vivekananda believed that greatness is not limited to a specific profession, position, or societal role. He emphasized that each person has their own talents, abilities, and strengths, which can be utilized to serve society and fulfill their responsibilities.

The concept encourages individuals to recognize their inherent worth and potential, irrespective of external factors. It reminds us that greatness is not measured by external recognition or comparison with others, but by the sincere efforts, dedication, and integrity we bring to our chosen path.

"Do not look back upon what has been done. Go ahead!"

According to Vivekananda, whether one is a teacher, a laborer, a parent, or any other role in society, they can manifest greatness by performing their duties with excellence, sincerity, and a sense of purpose. By recognizing the importance of their unique contributions and striving to make a positive impact within their sphere of influence, individuals can achieve greatness in their own place.

In essence, "Each is Great in his Own Place" is a reminder that every individual has the capacity to excel and make a meaningful difference in the world, regardless of their background or circumstances. It encourages individuals to embrace their unique talents and fulfill their responsibilities with dedication, thereby realizing their own greatness and contributing to the betterment of society.

The Secret of Karma

"The Secret of Karma" by Swami Vivekananda explores the underlying principle of cause and effect, emphasizing that our actions have consequences and shape our lives. In simple terms, it reveals that what we do comes back to us in some way.

Spiritual knowledge is the only thing that can end our sorrows forever

Vivekananda explains that every action we perform creates an energy or vibration, known as karma. Positive actions generate positive karma, while negative actions create negative karma. This energy influences our experiences and circumstances, both in this life and future ones.

He emphasizes that by understanding the secret of karma, we can take control of our lives and shape our destiny. We have the power to create positive karma by engaging in actions that are selfless, compassionate, and virtuous. Through such actions, we can attract positive outcomes and experiences.

Vivekananda also highlights the importance of detaching ourselves from the results of our actions. While we can strive to do our best, we should not be overly attached to the outcomes. By letting go of expectations and desires, we can free ourselves from the cycle of suffering and find inner peace.

Ultimately, "The Secret of Karma" reminds us that our actions have consequences and that we have the ability to choose and shape our future. By acting with integrity, kindness, and detachment, we can create positive karma, manifest positive outcomes, and lead a more fulfilling life.

What is Duty?

Understanding the concept of duty is crucial in the study of Karma Yoga. Duty varies across countries and religions. Muslims consider the Qur'an as their guide, Hindus look to the Vedas, and Christians turn to the Bible for their sense of duty. Therefore, duty differs based on cultural and religious perspectives.

Defining duty precisely is challenging, as it varies with different situations, historical contexts, and cultural backgrounds. The word "duty" cannot be clearly defined in an absolute sense. Its understanding becomes clearer through practical application and observing the resulting outcomes.

When faced with specific situations, we naturally or through learned behavior tend to act in a certain way. Our minds contemplate the appropriate response. Sometimes, certain actions feel right in specific conditions, while in similar situations, those same actions may feel wrong.

 Any work that brings us down is wrong and not our duty.

For example, in the past, India had infamous gangs known as thugs. They believed it was their duty to kill and rob, considering the more people they killed, the greater their accomplishment.

Interestingly, societal perception influences how duty is perceived. Shooting someone on the street would generally be considered wrong and deserving of criticism. However, if the same individual, as a soldier in a regiment, kills twenty enemies, it may be seen as fulfilling their duty and bring a sense of satisfaction.

This illustrates that duty is not solely defined by the nature of the work itself. Consequently, giving an exact definition of duty is impossible. However, from a personal perspective, any action that brings us closer to a higher spiritual connection or God is considered a good deed and our duty. Conversely, actions that degrade or harm ourselves or others are deemed wrong and not our duty.

From an individual standpoint, some tasks empower and uplift us, while others tend to demean and cause harm.

Nevertheless, there is one idea of duty that remains an unalterable truth across humanity, regardless of age, religion, or nationality. It is the principle that causing harm to any living being is a sin, while refraining from harming others is virtuous.

In summary, duty is a complex concept influenced by culture, religion, and personal beliefs. Although it cannot be precisely defined, we can understand duty through its practical application. Personal duty involves actions that bring us closer to the divine, while avoiding actions that degrade us. Additionally, the universal idea of duty is to refrain from causing harm to any living being, as it is considered virtuous.

We help Ourselves, not the World

In the essay "We Help Ourselves, Not the World" by Swami Vivekananda, he conveys the idea that our primary focus should be on our own personal growth and self-improvement rather than solely trying to change or save the world.

Vivekananda emphasizes that our ability to positively impact the world around us is directly linked to our own development and inner transformation. He suggests that by cultivating our own strengths, virtues, and spiritual growth, we naturally become a positive influence on others and can contribute to the betterment of society.

The essay highlights the importance of self-reliance and self-improvement. Vivekananda encourages individuals to work on their own character, knowledge, and skills, as this is what enables them to make a meaningful difference in the world. He believes that our personal development acts as a ripple effect, inspiring and uplifting those we come into contact with.

Be grateful to the man you help; think of him as a God. 

Vivekananda emphasizes that true change begins within ourselves. Rather than becoming overwhelmed by trying to solve all the problems of the world, he suggests focusing on our own growth and utilizing our unique abilities to bring about positive change in our immediate sphere of influence.

In essence, Vivekananda's message is that by helping ourselves and striving for personal excellence, we naturally contribute to the betterment of the world around us. Through our own transformation, we become a positive force, inspiring others and creating a ripple effect of positive change.

If we were to be genuinely unattached, that is, wanting something without return, we should avoid all this pain of extravagant expectation and happily keep doing good in the world. And what is done without hope will never hurt. So the world will go on with its joys and sorrows for eternity.


There are two types of individuals in the world: those who quietly gather true and noble ideas, and those like Buddha and Christ who travel and preach these ideas. Buddha, for instance, acknowledged that he was the twenty-fifth Buddha, with the twenty-four before him unknown to history. Nevertheless, he knew that his teachings would form the basis for future generations.

The remarkable individuals are often silent and unassuming. They understand the power of thought and believe that even if they retreat to a cave, contemplate five profound ideas, and then leave, those thoughts will endure eternally. These thoughts will transcend mountains and oceans, spreading worldwide and inspiring people to live virtuous lives. Engaging in active service, striving, preaching, and doing good are seen as acts close to God, as a divine purpose on Earth for the betterment of humanity.

Yet, even those who are actively involved in such actions may still possess some degree of ignorance. Recognizing their own limitations and seeking further knowledge becomes their duty.

For those whose desires are absorbed in their inner selves, whose passions are controlled, and who are deeply connected to their souls, there is no other duty. These individuals are truly exceptional in the human race.

While undertaking various tasks, it is crucial to understand that we cannot truly help even in the smallest matters within the vastness of the universe. Hence, we must view this world as a practice ground for ourselves.

If we maintain this perspective and always remember that our current opportunity to work in this manner is a unique privilege, we will avoid attachment to outcomes.

"The only test of good things is that they make us strong." - Karma Yoga

Many people, like you and me, believe we are important in the world. However, we all eventually die, and within a short time, the world forgets us. God's life, on the other hand, is infinite.

Through God's command, the wind blows, the sun shines, life thrives on Earth, and death arrives. God is present in everything and everyone. Our role is to worship and adore Him.

Therefore, let go of the expectations of rewards from our actions and focus on our own well-being. Only then will true fulfillment be attained. This liberation will break the chains of the heart, enabling us to experience complete freedom. Such liberation is the ultimate goal of Karma Yoga.

Non-attachment is Complete Self-abnegation

Non-attachment is Complete Self-abnegation" by Swami Vivekananda, he discusses the concept of non-attachment as a form of complete selflessness and surrender.

Vivekananda explains that non-attachment means letting go of our desires and attachments to outcomes. It involves detaching ourselves from the results of our actions and relinquishing the ego's grip on personal gains.

He suggests that true non-attachment is not about withdrawing from the world or suppressing our desires. Instead, it is an inner state of mind where we perform our duties selflessly, without expecting anything in return.

Vivekananda emphasizes that non-attachment leads to complete self-abnegation, which means sacrificing our own ego and selfish desires for the benefit of others. It is the act of surrendering ourselves entirely to a higher purpose or ideal.

"Stand up, be bold, be strong. Take the whole responsibility on your own shoulders, and know that you are the creator of your own destiny." - Karma Yoga

By practicing non-attachment and self-abnegation, we free ourselves from the bondage of attachment and experience true freedom and liberation. We become selfless beings who work for the greater good without seeking personal recognition or rewards.

In simple terms, non-attachment means letting go of our desires and expectations, and self-abnegation means sacrificing our ego for the benefit of others. Together, they lead to a state of selfless service and spiritual growth.


In conclusion, Karma Yoga, as elucidated by Swami Vivekananda, is a path of selfless action, spiritual growth, and self-realization. It emphasizes the importance of performing our duties without attachment to the results and with a sense of selflessness.

Through Karma Yoga, we learn to act with pure intentions, dedicating our actions to a higher ideal or the service of humanity. We recognize that our actions have consequences and that by performing them with a selfless mindset, we can contribute positively to the world.

Karma Yoga teaches us that every action can be a means of spiritual growth and self-transformation. By cultivating virtues such as selflessness, compassion, and integrity, we align our actions with our inner values and ultimately realize our true nature.

The practice of Karma Yoga is not limited to specific roles or activities but can be applied to every aspect of life. Whether in our professional work, relationships, or daily tasks, we can infuse our actions with a sense of selflessness and contribute to the welfare of others.

Ultimately, Karma Yoga leads us to a state of inner freedom, where we are liberated from the attachments and desires that bind us. By embracing selfless action and dedicating our actions to a higher purpose, we find fulfillment, spiritual growth, and harmony within ourselves and in our connection to the world around us.

Karma Yoga Book Review

The great spiritual work "Karma Yoga" by Swami Vivekananda discusses the way of unselfish action.

In his eloquent explanation of Karma Yoga, Vivekananda highlights its applicability in modern society. He emphasises the ability of selfless service to transform and how it might result in spiritual development and realisation.

The book emphasises the value of detachment and surrender to a higher goal and provides helpful advice on how to incorporate selflessness into daily deeds. "Karma Yoga" offers insightful advice for people looking for a life filled with meaning and fulfilment thanks to its unique synthesis of ancient wisdom and contemporary relevance.

I'm grateful.



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"Karma Yoga: Discovering the Path of Selfless Action" Book Summary by Swami Vivekananda
Karma Yoga is a book of lectures by Swami Vivekananda, as transcribed by Joseph Josiah Goodwin. It was published in February 1896 in New York City. Sw
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