God Operates In Selfless Service
Sri Swami Sivananda
Actions which are of a binding nature lose that nature when you do them with equanimity or evenness of mind through the help of pure reason, which has lost all attachment to sensual objects and which is resting in the Self. You will have to cultivate and develop this pure reason and equanimity of mind. God has given this marvellous machine, to man for service of humanity and thereby attaining an immortal life. If he uses this body for satisfaction of petty desires and selfish ends, he becomes an object of pity and condemnation. He is caught up in the wheel of birth and death. Rest the mind in the Self or Ishvara when you perform any action. He who has developed pure poised reason and who is resting in the Self, is quite aware that all actions are done by the Divine Actor within (Antaryamin). He is perfectly conscious that God really operates in this body-machine and moves this machine. This Yogi of equanimity or evenness of mind now understands fully the fundamental principles that govern all bodily actions. He performs all actions for God’s sake in fulfilment of His purpose without desire for fruit and eventually attains the everlasting peace.
Work Without Any Motive
Man generally plans to get the fruits of his works before he starts any kind of work. The mind is so framed that it cannot think of any kind of work without remuneration or reward. This is due to Rajas. Human Swabhava is always like this. When discrimination dawns, when the mind is filled with some more Sattwa or purity, this nature changes slowly. The spirit of selflessness slowly creeps in. The quality of Rajas creates selfishness and attachment. A selfish man has no large heart. He has no ideal. He is petty-minded. His mind is full of greed. He always calculates. He cannot do any service in a magnanimous manner. He will say: “I will get so much money. I must put forth so much work only.” He will weigh the work and money in a balance. He cannot do a little more work. He will be ever watching the time for stopping his work. He is mercenary. He is hired for money. He is actuated by the hope of reward. He is greedy of gain. Selfless service is unknown to him. He has no idea of God. He has no glimpse of Truth. He cannot imagine of an expanded, selfless life. He has got into a narrow, circumscribed circle or groove. He dwells within this small grove. His love extends to his own body, his wife and children. That is all. Generosity is unknown to him.
If you expect fruits for your actions, you will have to come back into this world to enjoy such fruits. You will have to take birth again. A Nishkamya Karma Yogi says: “Do all works without expectation of fruits. This will produce Chitta Suddhi. Then you will get knowledge of the Self. You will get Moksha or eternal bliss, peace and immortality.” This is his doctrine. That is the reason why Lord Krishna says to Arjuna:
Karmanyeva adhikaraste ma phaleshu kadachana
Ma karmaphalahetur bhurma te sangostvakarmani.
“Thy business is with the action only, never with its fruits; so let not the fruits of action be thy motive, nor be thou to inaction attached.” Gita: Chapter II-47.
God dispenses the fruits of actions according to the motive. If the motive is pure, you will get Divine Grace and purity. If the motive is impure, you will get rebirth in this Mrityuloka to reap the fruits of your actions. Again you will do virtuous and vicious actions through the force of Raga-dwesha (likes-dislikes). You will be entrapped in the never-ending wheel of birth and death.
But you should not remain in a state of inertia also (Akarmani) thinking that you will not get the fruits if you work selflessly. You must not say: “What is the use of my work now? I can’t get any fruits. I will keep quiet.” This is also bad. You will become Tamasic and dull. There will be mental inactivity. You will get purity of mind if you work in the spirit of Nishkamya Karma Yoga. This is a very great reward for your actions. You cannot imagine the exalted condition of a man of pure mind. He has unbounded peace, strength and joy. He is very near to God. He is dear to God. He will soon receive the divine light. Work without any sort of motive and feel its effects, purity and inner strength. What an expanded heart you will have! Indescribable! Practise, feel and enjoy this state.
No Loss In Karma Yoga
You do not lose anything in Karma Yoga. Even if you do a little service to the country or to the society or to poor sick people, it brings its own advantages and benefits. It purifies your heart and prepares the Antahkarana (mind, intellect, ego and subconscious mind) for the reception of knowledge of Atma. The Samskaras or impressions of these good actions are indelibly imbedded in your subconscious mind. The force of these Samskaras will again propel you to do some more good actions. Sympathy, love, the spirit of patriotism and service will be developed. Nothing is lost when the candle burns.
In agriculture you may manure and plough the land. Your efforts will be rendered futile if you do not get rain in the year. This is not the case in Nishkamya Karma Yoga. There is no uncertainty here regarding the result of any effort. Further there is not the least chance of getting harmed by practising this Karma Yoga. If the doctor is injudicious, if he administers the medicine in over-dosage, some harm will certainly result. This is not the case in the practice of Karma Yoga. Even if you do a little service, even if you practise a little Nishkamya Karma Yoga in any form, it will save you from great fear, from the fear of Samsara and of birth and death with its concomitant evils. That is the reason why Lord Krishna Says to Arjuna:
Nehaabhikramanaasosti pratyavaayo na vidyate
Svalpamapyasya dharmasya trayate mahato bhayat.
“There is no loss of effort here, there is no harm. Even a little of this service delivers one from great fear.” Gita: Chapter II-40.
The path of Karma Yoga, which eventually leads to the attainment of the infinite bliss of the Self, cannot be futile.
Ignorant people say that one cannot work without any motive. It is a great pity that they have not understood the essence and truth of Karma Yoga. Their minds are saturated with all sorts of fantastic desires and selfishness, and as a result, their minds are very impure and clouded. They cannot grasp the underlying truth of Karma Yoga. They judge others from their own standpoint. Selflessness is a thing unknown to them. Their minds and brains are rendered callous and so they cannot vibrate properly to understand what a motiveless action is. Passionate householders cannot dream of doing any work without expecting some gain for themselves and their families.
When the thought of doing good becomes part and parcel of a man’s very being, he will not entertain any motive at all. He takes immense delight in serving others, in doing good to others. There is a peculiar joy and Ananda in the practice of vigorous Karma Yoga. The Karma Yogi gets inner spiritual strength and power by performing motiveless and selfless actions.
He should understand the secret of Karma Yoga. He should plunge himself in selfless work. He must work incessantly. He must nurse people with Atma Bhava. He must serve society in a variety of ways. Gradually he will understand the glory and splendour of unselfish work. He will become a changed being with divine effulgence and sweet Yogic fragrance. Many of his actions may be selfish in the beginning of his Yogic career. It does not matter. He should not be discouraged on this score. But, slowly when he grows in purity, some of his actions will turn out to be unselfish. In the long run all his actions will be unselfish. He should patiently work with indefatigable energy. He has to destroy his old mind of selfishness and build a new mind of selflessness. This is doubtless up-hill work. This demands struggle and constant effort with asinine patience and iron determination. Selfless work elevates and brings freedom. Selfish work retards spiritual progress and fastens one more chain to your feet. If you find it difficult to work without any motive, have one strong motive for freedom when you work. This will not bind you. This will destroy all other lower selfish motives and will eventually die by itself, just as the stick used in burning a dead body burns the dead body and is itself consumed in the end. The joy of a developed Karma Yogi is really unbounded. Words cannot adequately describe his exalted state and inward happiness.
Look at the stupendous and magnanimous work turned out by Lord Buddha, Sri Sankara and other Karma Yogis of yore. Their names are handed down from posterity to posterity. Their names are still remembered. The whole world worships them with reverence. Can you attribute an iota or grain of selfish motive to their actions? They lived for doing service to others. They were examples of absolute self-abnegation.
Expand. Purify your heart. Live in the true spirit of Karma Yoga. Live every second for the realisation of the ideal and goal of life. Then and then alone will you realise the true glory of Karma Yoga. Keep before you the examples of the great Karma Yogis who served mankind and thus radiated peace, bliss and wisdom unto all.