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Secret of Karma Yoga

by Swami Sivananda

Attachment is the first child of Maya. This whole Lila of the Lord is kept up by the force of attachment. A sober man just tastes a small peg of champagne when he is caught up in evil company and he becomes an inveterate drunkard through attachment to liquor. A teetotaler just takes a whiff of gold-flake and becomes a terrible smoker in a short time through attachment. There is in the mind a gummy substance which is like a mixture of castor oil, glue, mucilage, gum-arabic, gluten paste, honey, glycerine, jack-fruit juice and all other pasty substances of this world. The mind is glued, as it were, to the objects with this mixture. Therefore the attachment is very strong.

Man always thirsts for possession of objects, wife and cattle. This possession of objects surely brings selfishness. Selfishness causes attachment. Wherever there is attachment there are Ahamta and Mamata-'I-ness' and 'mine-ness'. The whole Mayaic Chakra has begun to revolve. The man has become a slave now. Strong iron chains are fastened to his hands, knees and legs. He has entangled himself like a spider or the silk-worm. This is his own self-created trouble through attachment.

Never say: "My wife, my son, my house." Attachment is the root cause of the whole miseries and troubles of this world. Discipline the mind carefully. The old habits will creep in. Destroy them to the very root. Lead a life of non-attachment. This is the master-key to open the realms of Brahmic bliss. But work incessantly without any attachment, without identification. Then alone can you have real happiness. You will feel that you are a different being. Karma Yoga elevates a man to sublime, magnanimous heights. One should work patiently. No meditation or Samadhi is possible without a preliminary training in Karma Yoga. To work without attachment is doubtless a difficult task. It is uphill work. But it becomes easy and pleasant for a man of patience and determination. You will have to do it at any cost, if you want final beatitude and immortality. Everybody will do it, though not now, after taking five hundred births. But the question is, why not now? Cut short the cycle and enjoy the supreme bliss right now in this very second, in this birth. That is wisdom.

Do you expect anything from your small son, if you do something for him? In a similar manner you will have to work for others also without expecting anything. You will have to expand your heart and think that this whole world is your own Self. It gives you a little pain in the beginning because you have never worked up to this time in this line of selfless and disinterested service. When you have tasted a bit of the Bliss of Karma Yoga, you can never leave it. The force of Karma Yoga will induce you to work more and more with great zeal and enthusiasm. You will begin to feel that this world is a manifestation of God. You will gain immense inner strength and purity of heart. Your heart will be filled with mercy, sympathy and pure love. Your spirit of self-sacrifice will grow ad infinitum. Selfishness of all sorts will be annihilated. Those who work in the public field for the welfare of the country and suffering humanity can realise the truth of this statement.

Non-attachment is dispassion or indifference to the sensual enjoyments. Non-attachment is Ihamutrarthaphala-bhogaviraga-indifference to sensual pleasures of all kinds, herein and hereafter, which is one of the items in Sadhana Chatushtaya, or the four means of salvation for the aspirant on the path of Jnana Yoga or Vedanta. It is purely a mental state. The binding link is really in the mind. Ahamta and Mamata are the two poisonous fangs of the mind-serpent. Extract these two teeth and the serpent-mind is tamed. There can be no bondage. It is the mind that creates the ideas of 'I-ness' and 'mine-ness'. It is the mind that links the Jiva and the man thinks: "I am the body." It is the mind that causes attachment to wife, son and property. If the binding link in the mind is destroyed, you can remain wherever you like. You can roam about peacefully in any part of the world unattached, like water on the lotus-leaf. Nothing can bind you. The whole mischief is wrought by the mind. A man may rule a vast dominion and yet he can be unattached. Queen Chudalai and Raja Janaka had not a bit of attachment for their wealth and estate. Janaka said: "Even if the whole of Mithila is burnt, nothing of mine will be lost." Look at the exalted mental state of Janaka! He was resting in his own Svarupa or essential nature. He had not a bit of attachment. The mental state of Chudalai also was the same as that of Janaka. Though Sikhidhvaja; the husband of Chudalai, lived in the forest with a piece of Kowpeen and a Kamandalu, his mind was full of attachment. He was attached to his body and his Kamandalu. A man may be intensely attached to a small piece of Kowpeen or a stick or a small tumbler or to his body, although he has left his family and property. At the time of death the mental pictures of a tumbler or stick only will come to his mind. Jada Bharata was attached to the deer, and the thought of the deer only came to his mind at the time of his death and he had to take the birth of a deer. Such is the power of attachment.

Worldly people generally judge the state of dispassion of a Sadhu from external conditions. If a Sadhu has one Kowpeen and a long beard and matted hair, he is regarded as a first-class Virakta Mahatma. This man may fight with another Sadhu for his share when a pilgrim distributes an eight-anna piece to them. His mind may be full of passion and attachment. Householders are deceived. Some hypocrites put on an external show of Vairagya just to collect money secretly. Matted hair is ingeniously glued to the head. There are experts in Benares who do this for two rupees. Householders should be very cautious and should not be led away by the external physical nudity of some Sadhus. What is wanted is mental nudity. The mind must be completely shaved. Then only can there be real non-attachment.

The mental state of non-attachment to the fruits of works can be achieved by two ways. The student of Vedanta or Jnana Yoga develops Sakshi Bhava through discrimination and self-analysis. He says: "I am the silent witness of the mental modifications and the works done by the different organs of the body. I am distinct from the body, organs, mind and Prana. The Prakriti does everything. The Gunas operate. The Svabhava functions. The Indriyas do their respective Dharmas. Everything is the Dharma of the mind. I have nothing to do. I am an Udaseena. I am quite indifferent. I am mere Tatastha. I do not want any fruits. This world is Anitya and Mithya. There is no real happiness in this world. There are countless Doshas in worldly life. There is supreme, eternal, infinite bliss in the Atman within. In reality I am Satchidananda Atman. I will utilise the Indriyas, mind, Prana and body as my instruments for the well-being of the world, for Lokasangraha. This whole world is my own Atman. It is my body. This whole universe is my home. The Atman is Nishkriya, Akarta, Niravayava and Avyavahara." He does constant Vichara and reflection in this manner and gets himself established in his own Svarupa. He burns the results of his actions in the fire of wisdom by reflecting in the above manner.

A Bhakta does self-surrender and dedicates all his actions at the Lotus Feet of the Lord as Isvararpana unto Him. He says: "I am an instrument in the hands of my Beloved. I have no individual will. I am Thine my Lord. All is Thine. Thy will be done. Thou art everything. Thou doest everything. Even an atom cannot move without Thee. Even a leaf cannot move without Thee. Thou workest through all my organs. Thou speakest through my mouth. I offer to Thee whatever I do or eat. I offer to Thee my Tapas and everything. Thou canst do whatever Thou likest. I live for Thee alone. I work for Thee alone. I cannot live without Thee even for a second."

Work cannot bring misery but it is the attachment and identification to work that brings in all sorts of worries, troubles and unhappiness. Understand the secret of Karma Yoga and work without attachment and identification and you will soon attain God-consciousness. This is Jnana. This is Jnanagni (fire of wisdom) which burns all the fruits of actions.

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