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Secret of Karma Yoga

by Swami Sivananda


The practice of Karma Yoga does not demand that you possess enormous wealth. You can serve with your mind and body. If you find a poor sick man lying on the roadside, give him some water or milk to drink. Cheer him up with sweet encouraging words. Take him to the nearest hospital. If you do service like this, your heart will be purified.

If anyone is suffering from pain in any part of the body, at once shampoo the part. When you massage him feel that you are shampooing the body of the Lord. As you do this, repeat your mantra, or any other name of the Lord. Also pray from the bottom of your heart: "O Lord! Remove the pain of this man. Let him rest in peace. Let him possess good health."

When you massage any person feel that it is the energy from the cosmic source that is flowing continuously through your hands. Some neophytes are afraid that their energy will be depleted by massaging another person. This is a serious mistake. The more you give, the more you will get. You will be in tune with the cosmic energy. This is the divine law.

If you see a man or an animal with severe bleeding, on the road or anywhere, do not run hither and thither to find cloth to bandage them. At once tear a piece of cloth from your shirt and use that for bandaging. This is real Karma Yoga. This is a test to gauge your heart. How many of you have done such noble service? If you have not done it up till now - then do it from today.

God is more pleased with such service of the poor and the helpless, than with service done by rich people with pomp and vanity.

"Do as you would be done by"-remember this motto always. You will not do any wrong action. You will feel unbounded joy.

Never lose the opportunity to serve. Serve to the satisfaction of the person you are serving. It is not enough to serve him just to please yourself. Only by selfless service can you attain God-realisation.

If selflessness becomes the religion of the world, there will be heaven on earth. When work is done as worship of the Lord, it is transformed from karma into yoga. Cultivate cosmic love. Rekindle the light of love in the world.


In order to attain success in yoga, sadhana (spiritual practice) is necessary. Have no patience with theoretical religion. By contemplating in a closed room for years, you may not advance more than a few steps. The effects of past actions can only be washed away by the fresh, virtuous actions in the present-that is, by service. There is no other way of purifying yourself. There is no other method of destroying impure impressions, and desires.

No one can achieve the ideals of Karma Yoga without destroying the ego. And the ego, the accumulated layers of egoism cannot be destroyed without the magic solvency of service. If one wishes to know, one must give and one must serve. To the self-centred, knowledge will ever be meaningless and empty.

God has no use for the so-called pandit who mechanically chants the scriptures, but who shuts his eyes to the sick man on the wayside. The self, the smaller self, of rajas (dynamism) and tamas (inertia), is always prompting one for one's own aggrandisement. It wishes to enjoy, it wishes to have bhoga (pleasure). But the bhoga of the three worlds cannot give a tenth, a hundredth, of the bliss of divine knowledge.

Karma Yoga is very difficult in the beginning due to the ego-ridden impure mind. You have to be strict and firm with the mind. Do not listen to its selfish promptings. Draw inspiration and courage from communion with the Lord in the silent hours of prayer, and from studying the lives of saints and from the sacred scriptures.

Do not think too much about this method of Nishkamya Yoga (the yoga of selfless service). Just begin somewhere. Work with the right intention, the right spirit. The way will open before you.

Do charity. Serve the sick. Serve the poor. Serve the country. Serve your parents. Serve any social or spiritual institution. Spiritualise all of your actions. Then every action becomes an offering unto the Lord, when it is performed in the right spirit.

Karma Yoga is a great leveller. It removes all illusory distinctions and differences. It leads to unity and to a feeling of oneness. It removes idleness and inertia. It gives you good health.

Plunge yourself in the practice of Karma Yoga, 'The Yoga of Selfless Service'. Glory to Karma Yoga which elevates a man to divinity and unity.


The mind is so framed that it cannot work without expectation of fruits or anticipation of rewards for actions. If you smile when you meet your friend, you expect a smile in return. If you give a glass of water to somebody, you expect something in return. If you salute a friend, you expect him to salute you in return. This is the inborn nature of a worldly-minded man.

Train the mind to work disinterestedly. Discipline the mind with patience and perseverance. Worldly-minded people cannot understand the spirit of Nishkamya Seva (unselfish, motiveless service) as their minds are charged with or even saturated with impurities. In the beginning all your actions may be selfish. But if you work hard in the field of Karma Yoga for two years then five actions out of a hundred will be unselfish and ninety-five will be selfish. Scrutinise your motives. Purify them. Struggle hard.

After some years of incessant struggle, fifty actions out of a hundred will be unselfish. A good time will come and all your actions will be unselfish and pure. The time is not very far to reach the ideal if you keep the ideal in front of you daily, and if you struggle hard and are sincere and earnest in your purpose.

Every work is worship of the Lord. In the light of Karma Yoga all actions are sacred. The aspirant who always takes delight in doing work which is considered by worldly man as 'menial services', and who always does such acts willingly, he and only he will become a dynamic yogi. Only he is completely free from conceit and egoism. Only he will have no downfall. The canker of pride cannot touch him.

The world is nothing but manifestation of God. Service of humanity is service of God. Service is worship. People are impatient, they expect to get siddhis (psychic powers) after doing a little service. But the real Karma Yogi, who serves people with humility and who sees God in every face, is honoured and respected by all.


Karma Yoga removes the impurities of the mind and prepares it for the reception of divine light, divine grace and divine knowledge. Service of humanity is service of God. Work always elevates when it is done in the right spirit, without attachment and egoism.

Karma Yoga expands the heart, breaks all the barriers that stand in the way of realising the ultimate unity and takes you to the door of intuition. It helps you to develop divine virtues such as mercy, tolerance, kindness, cosmic love, patience, self-restraint, etc. It destroys jealousy, hatred, malice and the idea of superiority. Karma Yoga is the yoga of selfless action, without the idea of agency and without expectation of fruits. Work is worship of the Lord. There is indescribable joy in the practice of Karma Yoga.

A Karma Yogi should be absolutely free from greed, lust, anger and egoism. Only then can he do real and useful service. A Karma Yogi should have an amiable, loving nature. He should have perfect adaptability, tolerance, sympathy, cosmic love and mercy. He should be able to adjust himself to the ways and habits of others.

A Karma Yogi should have an all-embracing and all-inclusive heart. He should have equal-vision. He should have a cool and balanced mind. He should rejoice in the welfare of others. He should have all his senses under control. He should lead a very simple life.

A Karma Yogi should bear insult, disrespect, dishonour, censure, infamy, disgrace, harsh words, heat and cold and the pains of disease. He should have great power of endurance. He should have absolute faith in himself, in God, in the scriptures and In the words of his guru. Such a man is a good Karma Yogi and reaches the goal quickly.

The man who serves the world, really serves himself. This is an important point. When you serve a man, when you serve your country, always think that the Lord has given you a rare opportunity to improve. Correct and mould yourself by service. Be grateful to that man who has given you a chance to serve him.


Every thought and every deed of yours will generate certain tendencies which will affect your life here and hereafter. If you do good actions with a selfless spirit, you will soar high into the regions of bliss and peace. As you sow so shall you reap.

Good actions generate good thoughts. Wrong actions bring pain, misery and unhappiness. Everyone of us is governed by the law of action and reaction. Your present personality is the total result of your previous actions and thoughts. Your future depends upon your present action. Man moulds his own destiny.

Actions by themselves do not bind a person. It is the attachment and identification in regard to the work that binds us and brings pain and misery. It is the motive that binds you. It is the motive that liberates you.

Work, but work with detachment. In every act kindle the light of divine love. Always remember your essential divine nature and act in the world in a spirit of divine dedication. This world is ruled by the Lord's eternal laws. In the east, the great law of cause and effect is called karma. In the New Testament the same truth is expressed in the words: "Whatever a man sows, that will he also reap". (Gal. 6 - 7 ).

Actions produce samskara (mental impressions) that coalesce and form tendencies. Tendencies develop into habits and character. Evil deeds generate bad character.

Actions, without the idea of agency, without expectation of fruits, without attachment to the action, and being balanced in success and failure, will not bind you. Selfless actions purify your heart and lead to the attainment of wisdom of the self.

Karma Yoga is skill in action. It is a great art. You have to take as much interest in each act that you perform daily, as an artist takes in his dearly loved paintings. Note how, after keen deliberation, the artist puts the brush-his entire mind is centred on the work in hand-his entire being is focussed on the painting-he works self-forgetfully. This should be your attitude. Take this interest in all that you do and at the same time be detached from all your actions. Then you will not be bound to samsara (the wheel of birth and death).


Work for the commonweal; do not work for selfish gains. Give up all profit motives. Work with detachment and you will attain eternal peace and immortality. The wise man does actions but believes himself to be free from actions since he expects no returns there from and has no selfish motive thereto.

Serve without being conspicuous. Serve silently without any advertisement. Without belief in God, without belief in an ordered world you cannot live amicably; you cannot work for the community.

Do what is right and leave the results to look after themselves. Do your duty with more and more confidence in the Lord. Become a lover of humanity. Foster kinship with all humanity.

Feel that the one Lord dwells in all. Feel that it is he who gives you an opportunity to serve him through all suffering mankind. The world is more and more in need of Karma Yogis.

Humanity is your God and service to humanity is your worship. Self-control is a natural corollary to the spirit of love and service. He who works with his mind detached and free from selfish longings is a real sanyasin.

The spirit of selflessness is the key to success in the yoga of action. Service becomes Karma Yoga to the extent one practises self-control and self-denial. With all actions done without expectation of reward, you will gradually become satvic (pure). For one who has faith in God, Karma Yoga becomes easy and purification of the heart is quickly achieved.

Knowledge of atman (self) dawns in that pure mind which is purified by selfless service and devotion to the Lord. When the yogi feels he gets all his power from the Lord-then the 'doership' ego will go.

Selfless service must be based on sadhana (spiritual practice). You must be regular in your prayers, your meditation, in the repetition of the Lord's name, in enquiry and self-analysis. All these are the inner springs of the right spiritual bhava (attitude), which is essential to Karma Yoga.


Karma Yoga prepares the mind for the reception of the light of knowledge. It expands the heart and breaks all barriers that stand in the way of unity or oneness. Karma Yoga is the effective method or sadhana for citta suddhi (purification of the mind).

When the thought of doing good to others becomes a part and parcel of man's life, of his very being, then he will not entertain the least selfish motive. He will take immense delight in serving others and in doing good to others.

There is a peculiar joy and bliss in vigorous selfless service. You get inner spiritual strength and power by performing motiveless and selfless service.

You will develop humility, pure love, sympathy, tolerance and mercy. The sense of separateness will be annihilated. Selfishness will be eradicated. You will get a broad and liberal outlook on life, You will begin to feel oneness and unity. Eventually you will attain knowledge of the self.

If you really want to grow in the spiritual path, you must do all sorts of service daily, till the end of your life. Then only you are safe. Do not stop serving when you become a famous yogi. The spirit of service must enter every nerve, cell, tissue and bone of your body. Then you will become a real, full-blown practical vedantin.

This is a prayer for Karma Yogis by Sri Sankaracharya: "Thou art atman, buddhi is thy consort Parvati; the prana is thy attendant; this body is thy house; the act of sensual enjoyment is thy worship; deep sleep is samadhi; walking by my feet is the perambulation around thee; all my speeches are thy praise; whatever actions I perform, are all thy worship, O Lord Siva".


Give the mind to God and then you will be liberated. You will be free from birth and death. You will get the highest bliss. There is no doubt of this. Worship God in the poor and the sick. Service of the poor and sick is worship of God. Destroy ghrna (disgust and loathing) when you serve the sick. Then you will get citta suddhi (purity of the mind) quickly. Service of the poor and the sick is a powerful remedy to bring about the purification of the mind.

When you meet a real, sincere Karma Yogi, who is plodding in the line for six or seven years, you can at once feel his purity, his selflessness, his inner joy, his inner peace, his inner strength, his inner spiritual growth. You can feel his nearness to God. You can see occasional flashes or glimpses of divine light during satvic moments. He has a pleasant feeling of having justified the divine command in the grand plan or scheme of things.

People do not want to remove mala (impurity) by selfless service. They do not want to remove viksepa (mental distraction) by upasana (worshipful contemplation). They think that service and bhakti are nothing. They at once jump to open the kundalini (the inner spiritual power) and raise the Brahmakara Vrtti (the notion that only Brahman is real). They will only break their own legs. Rather serve and worship. Jnana and Yoga will come by themselves. Kundalini will be awakened by itself.

In the neophytes, in the path of Karma Yoga, the idea of being a separate worker, the idea of agency, may be strong. You feel that you are doing all the works. However, in course of time, when the heart becomes purer and purer, you will actually feel that some higher power, God, is working through you. You will feel that your body and mind are only instruments in his hands.

"When thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth". St. Matt. VI - 3. Begging without any selfish motive, is not begging at all. It is pure yoga. It is for spiritual upliftment only. Remember-you cannot deny pain, you cannot wipe away all the pain in the world-but you can rise above pain by recognising your self.


Half-hearted service is no service at all. Give your whole heart, mind and soul when you serve. This is very important when you practise Karma Yoga.

Some people have their body in one place, mind in another place, and soul in another place. That is the reason why they do not make any substantial progress in the path.

Forget not the goal of life amidst selfish activities. The goal of life is self-realisation. Are you attempting to reach the end and aim in life? Are you doing japa (repetition of a name of God)? Are you doing pranayama (yoga breathing)? Are you doing meditation? Have you kept the ideal before your mind's eye? That day in which you do not do any spiritual sadhana (practice) is wasted. Give the mind to God and the hands to work.

You will have to analyse and scrutinise your motives. It is the selfish motive and not the work itself that binds a man to samsara (world-cycle). Prepare the mind for Karma Yoga. Selfish work cannot be taken as Karma Yoga.

Life is very precious. Live in the spirit of the Gita's teaching. Work without expectation of fruits, and egoism. Think you are nimitta (instrument) in the hands of the Lord. If you work with this mental attitude you will soon become a yogi.

Work never degrades a man. Unselfish work is worship. All work is sacred. There is the story of the famous butcher-sadhaka (seeker) of the Mahabharata. He realised God in his butcher's shop-through serving his parents.

Inside, you have got all the materials for wisdom. There is a vast magazine of power and knowledge within you. It wants kindling. Now wake up!

When you work disinterestedly, without any thought of agency, and when you surrender the works and their fruits as Isvararpana (offering to God), all karmas are transformed into yogic kriya (practice). Walking, eating, sleeping, answering the calls of nature, talking, etc., all become offerings unto the Lord.


Worldly people are generally elated by success and depressed by failure. Elation and depression are the attributes of the mind. If you want to become a real Karma Yogi in the right sense of the term, you will have to keep a balanced mind at all times, in all conditions and under all circumstances. This is no doubt very difficult. But you will have to do it anyhow. Then only will you have peace of mind and real lasting happiness. He who keeps a balanced mind is a Jnani. Karma Yoga prepares the mind for the attainment of Jnana. That is the beauty of Karma Yoga. That is the secret and essence of Karma Yoga.

There must not be the least attachment to any kind of work. You must be ready to leave any work at any time. There may be a divine call upon you for certain work. You will have to take it up at once without grumbling, whatever the nature of the work may be, whether you are willing or not. You will have to stop it also, if conditions and circumstances demand you to do so. This is yoga. There is no attachment to the work here.

Keep the reason rooted in the self. Have a poised mind amidst the changes of the world. Work for the fulfilment of purposes divine. Do not expect any fruit. Do everything as Isvararpana (offering to God). Work in unison with the divine will for the welfare of the world. Allow the divine energy to work unhampered through you. The moment your egoism comes in, there will be immediate blocking of the free flow of the divine energy. Make your Indriya (senses) perfect instruments for his Lila (work, play). Keep the. body-flute hollow by emptying it of your egoism. Then the flute-bearer of Brindavan (Krishna) will play freely through this body-flute. He will work through you. Then you will feel the lightness of the work. You will feel that God works through you. You will be washed of all the responsibilities. You will be as free as a bird. You will feel that you are quite a changed being. Your egoism will try to re-enter. Be careful. Be on the alert. By gradual practice and purification of the mind you will become an expert in Karma Yoga. All your actions will be perfect and selfless. All actions will eventually culminate in Jnana. This is the Yoga of Equanimity.


Every bit of work is yoga for you when you are sincere. Think that the Lord is working through your hands, eating through your mouth. In the beginning some of your actions may be unselfish. But in the long run you can do all actions in an unselfish manner.

Always scrutinise your motives. Every act can be spiritualised when the motive is pure. Work is meditation. Serve everyone with intense love, without the idea of agency, without expectation of reward or fruits.

It is selfishness that has deplorably contracted your heart. Selfishness is the bane of society. Selfishness clouds understanding. Selfishness is petty-mindedness. Pursuit of pleasure increases selfishness. Selfishness is the root cause for human sufferings. Real spiritual progress starts from selfless service. Serve the Sadhus and Sannyasins (holy ones), the bhaktas (devotees) and the poor and sick. Serve them with bhava, prem and bhakti (inner feeling, love and devotion).

The spirit of service must enter deeply into your very nerves and tissues. The reward is invaluable. Practise and feel the cosmic expansion and infinite ananda (bliss). Tall talk and idle gossip will not do, dear friends. Evince intense zeal and enthusiasm in work. Be fiery in the spirit of service!

Have nista (firm devotion) with God and cesta (activity) with hands. You will be able to do both these simultaneously. by practice. The manual work will become automatic, or intuitive. You will have two minds. One portion will be at work and three quarters of the mind will be in the service of the Lord - in kirtan, in meditation, in japa.

A raw, untrained aspirant feels, "My preceptor is treating me like a servant. He is using me for petty jobs." He who has understood the right significance of Karma Yoga will take every work as yogic activity or worship of the Lord. In his vision there is no menial work. In the light of Karma Yoga all work is sacred.

Is there a greater Karma Yogi than Lord Buddha? He still lives in our hearts because of the spirit of service ingrained in him. He spent his whole life serving others.


Lord Krishna expects us to cultivate dynamic peace. He does not want us to be idle for even a single second. He characterises his 'dear ones' as those who are engaged in working for the commonweal. Such activity is known as the practice of yajna, dana and tapas-sacrifice, charity and self-control.

Man should practise self-control. Man should practise charity-he should give, give, give. He should give whatever he has. And he should transform all his daily activities into one continuous sacrifice. He should feel that he, Brahman, is offering the various actions into the infinite Brahman. He should perform all actions in a perfectly unattached manner.

Do your duty but inwardly feel that you are only an instrument in the hands of the Lord. Feel that your true Self, the godhead within you, is the eternal witness That is why Lord Krishna described yoga as karma-kushlam (skill in action). Karma Yoga is an art in itself. The secret of Karma Yoga is to combine deep interest with perfect detachment. If work is performed for work's sake, if such work is performed for the sake of the commonweal, in a spirit of sacrifice-then you will enjoy an ineffable peace, a bliss that surpasseth all understanding, all description. The gates of the kingdom of God will be thrown open to you. That is what the Lord assures us in the Bhagavad Gita. Selfless actions are not soulless actions. Put your heart and soul into all that you do. Live in the Lord and realise that you are an instrument of his will. Whatever is done without this realisation is an act performed in ignorance, is an act that would bind you faster to the wheel of samsara (cycle of birth and death). Three things are necessary when you practise Karma Yoga. You must be free from egoism; you must not expect any appreciation for the work that you do; and you must have a balanced state of mind in success and failure.


The right spirit in service is necessary. Not the smallest insect is to be treated callously. I once found a drowning wasp. I took it out, gave it some warmth and prayed for it. For I know that the Lord is there in that wasp. So work for the benefit of others, because they are divinities, not because you want personal glory.

Even a tiny bit of service in this spirit will be recognised at once-while thousands of pounds, given with a view to self-advertisement, may earn you little merit.

The secret of Nishkamya karma (unselfish, motiveless action) was explained I by Lord Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita. Every selfless worker should study the Gita daily. He can obtain real wisdom from it. The Gita is alive to those who are alive to it. The Gita is a scripture for all time. It is especially addressed to the people of the present age.

Fill your mind with the thought of God. Be devoted to God. Do everything as God's will. Surrender yourself to him. This is, in short, the secret of Karma Yoga. This is the 'Yoga of Synthesis'. This is the yoga most suited to the kali yuga. It helps the development of the human personality. It leaves no loop-holes for maya or ignorance to enter you. It fills every part of man with godliness.

The Karma Yogi should ceaselessly strive to cultivate divine virtues and to purify his heart. He should have peacefulness and mental equilibrium as his constant companions. Only that person who has found peace within himself and who is able to maintain a balanced state of mind in all circumstances, will be able to radiate peace and joy and even-mindedness.

This peace is not inert or tamasic. This surrender is not fatalism. Cultivate dynamic peace. Do not be idle for a single second. He who is working for the commonweal is dear to the Lord. He is a sage. He is a great bhakta. He is a great Karma Yogi.


A Karma Yogi should adapt, adjust, accommodate, in relation to all and under all circumstances. He should share what he has with others. He should be absolutely unselfish. He should keep his senses under control. He should always be truthful and cheerful. He should be social and amiable. He should be simple, noble, humble and gentle.

A Karma Yogi should bear insult and injury. He should observe brahmacarya. Offer all actions and their fruits-body, mind, senses and soul-as flowers at the lotus feet of the Lord.

A Karma Yogi should feel that the world is a manifestation of God and that he is serving God in all beings. He should discipline the mind and the senses and body. He should develop alertness, decision, discrimination, discernment, forgiveness, patience, mercy, cosmic love, tolerance and equal-vision.

A Karma Yogi should have a balanced mind. He should be calm, cool and serene always. He should combine bhakti or jnana yoga with Karma Yoga. He should be good and do good. He should keep the body strong and healthy-practicing asanas, pranayama, running and physical culture. He should keep a spiritual diary and stick to all his resolves.

Put your heart and soul in all that you do. Remember always that you are serving the Lord himself; through all your actions you are expressing his will. You should act like a dutiful manager of the absentee landlord's estate. Have the same attitude towards your worldly concerns that a loving and conscientious nurse has towards the children entrusted in her care.

Do your duty well, inwardly feel that you are only an instrument in the hands of the Lord. Feel that your true self, the Godhead within you, is the eternal Sakshi (witness). Live in the Lord. Repeat his name always. Feel that God does everything. Share all you have-your heart will be purified quickly. Knowledge of the self will descend on you quickly. You will see God in all.


Some ignorant people say: "Karma does everything. It is all destiny. If I am destined by my karma to be like this or like that, why then should I exert? It is my destiny only." This is fatalism. This will bring inertia. stagnation and misery, This is perfect misunderstanding of the laws of karma. This is a fallacious argument. An intelligent man will certainly not put such a question. You have made your own destiny from within by your thoughts and actions. You have a free will to choose now. You have freedom in action. A rogue is not an eternal rogue. Put him in the company of a saint. He will change in no time. He will think and act now in a different way and will change his destiny. He will become saintly in character. Dacoit Ratnagar was changed into Sage Valmiki by the current of Rishi Narada. Jagai and Madai, two rogues of the first order were changed by the current of Nityananda, disciple of Lord Gouranga. You will have to desire, to think, and act. You can change karma in any way you like. You can become a yogi or jnani by right desire, by right thinking and by right action. You can attain the position of Indra or Brahma by good karma. Man is not a helpless being. He has free will of his own.

Man has power to choose between the alternatives which fate brings before him. In choosing between them he may either follow his tendencies produced by his past actions or struggle against them. The will of man is ever free. The arguments which are advanced by determinists in saying that human will is determined are not sound and tenable; they fall to the ground.

Dear friends! Man is the master of his destiny. Wake up now from the deep slumber of ignorance. Never become a fatalist. Think rightly, Act rightly. Lead a virtuous life. Never hurt the feelings of others. Mould your character. Purify your mind. Concentrate. Thou art nitya mukta purusa (ever free spirit). Tat Twam Asi Thou art That.

The samskaras (habit-patterns) of virtuous actions are imbedded in the citta. They are also indestructible. They are real, valuable assets for you. They will prevent you from doing wrong actions. They will push you on to the goal. Selfless works will prepare the ground of antahkarana (the psyche) for the reception of the seed of jnana. The path of Karma Yoga eventually leads to the attainment of infinite bliss of the self.


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 God 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.

Merit and demerit (punya and papa) do not affect the Karma Yogi who has evenness or equanimity of mind, for he exults not over the good fruit of the one nor worries over the bad fruit of the other. He has equanimity of mind in success and failure. His mind is always resting in God all the while. Works which are of a binding nature lose that character when performed with a balanced mind. The Karma Yogi has no attachment to sensual objects. He has purified his mind by constant selfless service. He has given up all idea of agency. He treats the body as an instrument of God, given to him for the fulfilment of his purpose. He attributes all activities to the divine actor within. He who is established in the yoga of equanimity becomes an expert in the science of Karma Yoga.


Asakti is attachment. Man gets attached to the objects of the world and is bound thereby. He takes birth after birth and is caught in the wheel of birth and death. Attachment is death. Non-attachment is eternal life.

Anasakti is non-attachment. Asakti is destroyed by vairagya (dispassion) and viveka (discrimination between the real and the unreal). Look at these-birth, death, old age, disease, impermanence, pain, sorrow, misery, worries, anxieties, fears, etc. Thus you will develop non-attachment,

If you abandon attachment to the fruits of your actions, if you are ever content, if you consecrate the fruits of your actions and the actions themselves to the Lord, you will attain emancipation. Actions will not bind you because you are not doing anything, although you go through the motions of doing something. This is anasakti yoga.

Do not hope for anything. Control the mind and the senses. Give up greed and desire. Free yourself from the pairs of opposites. Be balanced in success and failure. Destroy envy. Though you perform actions you are not bound. Destroy attachment. Be harmonious.

Fix the mind on the innermost atman-now you will not be bound. You will attain salvation. Practise this yoga. You will purify your heart and attain the goal of life.

Selfless work is yoga. Work is atma-puja (worship of the self). There is no loss in service. Work is transmuted into jnana (wisdom). See the Bhagavad Gita, Chapter IV Verse 33. "Sarva karmakhalam partha jnane pari samapyate" - all actions, in their entirety, O Partha, culminate in wisdom.

Service of the sick is service of the Lord. There is no yoga greater than relieving human suffering. If you serve a sick man for half an hour, it is tantamount to meditating for three hours, or doing japa of Om 21,600 times. Do not think that in service there is loss.

Karma Yoga is only a means to an end. It removes the impurities of the mind. As soon as purification is effected, you will have to take refuge in vedanta, the path of jnana (self-knowledge).


All actions are done by the gunas (qualities of nature) only. He whose mind is deluded by egoism thinks: "I am the doer". This is the cause of bondage. The ignorant man identifies the self through the force of avidya (ignorance) with his body, mind and senses which are the products or effects of the three gunas - satva (purity), rajas (activity) and tamas (inertia). Now comes the trouble. If he thinks: "I am the doer", he has to enjoy the good and bad fruits of his actions. He is brought again and again to this mortal plane.

He who sees that prakrti (nature) performs all actions and that the self is actionless, really sees. The wise man who knows the essence of the divisions of the qualities and functions, holding that "the qualities move amidst the qualities" is not attached. He separates himself from the body, mind and organs, He stands as their witness and as a witness of their functions by identifying himself with the pure inner self. He says: "Seeing, hearing, touching, speaking, giving, grasping, opening and closing the eyes, are functions of the senses. I have nothing to do. They are the dharmas (proper functions) of the senses. I am distinct from the senses, The senses move among the senses. I am Nirlipta (untainted). I am Asanga (unattached). "This is the drsti (vision) or niscaya (determination) of a jnani. He escapes from the bondage of karma. He is freed from the wheel of birth and death.

If you identify yourself with Brahman and stand as a witness of the activities of prakrti and its effects, mind, senses and body, you will realise "inaction in action". Brahman is Nishkriya, Akarta, Niravayava (actionless), (non-doer), (without limbs). But he is the primum mobile. He gives a push and prakrti moves and acts . He gazes and prakrti moves and acts. Without his presence prakrti cannot do anything. Therefore it is Brahman only who really does all actions. This is "action in inaction" as taught in the Gita.


When the sadhaka (spiritual aspirant) has combined Bhakti Yoga and Karma Yoga, he feels that God does everything, that he is an instrument in the hands of God. Thus he slowly frees himself from the bonds of karma and attains freedom through action.

When the sadhaka combines jnana yoga with Karma Yoga he feels that prakrti (nature) does everything. He feels that he is the silent witness of the activities of the mind, the senses and the three states (waking, dream and deep sleep).

The Karma Yogi feels the indwelling presence everywhere. He develops adaptability, He shares all he has (physical, mental and spiritual) with others. He observes strict brahmacarya. He offers all his works unto the Lord. Before going to sleep he says: "O Lord, whatever I have done today, is done as worship of thee. May thou be pleased to accept it." Thus he burns the fruits of action, and he is no longer bound.

The Karma Yogi attains freedom through action. Thus he gets purity of heart and, through purity of heart, he attains knowledge of the self.

Some aspirants are humble at the beginning of their career. But, when they get name, fame, some followers, some disciples, they become victims of pride. Now they cannot do any service, they cannot carry anything on their heads or even in their hands.

The yogi that carries the baggage with joy and feeling, amidst a multitude of admirers, without making any show of humility, must be admired.

"Restraining and subduing the senses, regarding everything equally, rejoicing in the welfare of all, these alone come to Me." (Bhagavad Gita Chapter XII. Verse 4). Such a man becomes a good Karma Yogi. He reaches the goal quickly.


The student of vedanta (the path of pure wisdom) develops saksi bhav (witness consciousness) through discrimination and self-analysis. The devotee develops nimitta bhava (the attitude "I am an instrument in the hands of God") and surrenders everything at the lotus-feet of the Lord. Thus they attain a mental attitude of non-attachment to actions and their fruits.

This is the attitude of a Karma Yogi:

"God alone is. God alone acts. Not even a piece of straw moves without his will."

"He is the doer. He alone is the enjoyer. I am but an instrument in his hands."

"He is the power that resides in the senses and the mind; the power of seeing, hearing, touching, tasting and smelling-all these belong to him."

"He utilises my mind and senses and works out his will . "

"My body, mind and senses belong to him alone."

"All actions are done by the qualities of nature only. It is nature (prakrti) that acts. It is prakrti that works."

"I am the pure atman, the eternal self. I am Asanga, Akarta, Abhokta (unattached, non-doer, non-experiencer). I am the silent witness."

"I am distinct from the mind and the senses. I am the eternally pure, perfect, immortal atman."

While serving others, the vedantin (the student of vedanta) should visualise his self in others and the bhakta should see the Lord in other faces.

Understand these bhavas (attitudes) fully. Meditate on them daily. Act accordingly, without attachment to or identification with the work, You will soon attain God-realisation. This is jnana - this is the jnana-agni (fire of wisdom) which burns the fruits of all actions and liberates you from bondage.

In the practice of Karma Yoga, there is no loss of effort. There is no harm. There is no transgression also. Even a little practice can protect you from great fear of birth and death with its concomitant evils. You will doubtless reap the fruit of jnana (self-knowledge) in this path of Karma Yoga. There is no uncertainty here. Matter is indestructible. Energy is indestructible. Even a little practice with the right mental attitude will purify the citta (heart and mind).


Be wise. Discriminate. Analyse. Scrutinise your thoughts daily. Boldly proclaim: "I would devote my entire life to the service of others-no matter whether I achieve salvation or not. Salvation is not my concern. My duty is to serve the Lord in all; to serve the sick and the poor, untiringly; to saturate my entire being in the service of others." This should be your bold proclamation at all times-to everyone with whom you come into contact.

Even while you work you should feel: "I am not hungry, it is the function of the prana to feel hungry. I do not see anything, it is the function of the eye to see. Exhilaration and depression belong to the mind, not to me. I am the witness (saksi of everything. Through such regular vicara (ratiocination), you will soon attain samadhi (self-awareness).

A Karma Yogi must be a hero. He will come across many difficulties and obstacles-he must conquer them one by one. He must do this with an undaunted spirit, He must do it boldly.

There are five obstacles that a man has to face when he does Karma Yoga in the world, even after he has attained purity of heart. They are:

Dispassion wanes by contact with sense-objects - downfall comes.

Thoughts of the reality of the world creep in.

Remembrance of Brahman vanishes.

You cannot keep up the brahmakaravrtti (thought of Brahman) for a long time, owing to viksepa (tossing of the mind).

During work, the idea of duality and triputi (seer, sight, and seen) come in.

To become humbler than a blade of grass-this should be your ideal. Then you will develop patience, understanding, and you will have goodwill on all sides, from everyone. You should introspect in silence and solitude. Analyse points of criticism. Solitude will calm your emotions. The conclusions you arrive at will be sound.

Karma Yogis should never let their emotions and excitement get the better of them. By following these instructions any action, sacred or secular, even if it is service of the family, may be converted into an act of worship leading to the most sublime goal of self-realisation.


Here are some instructions to a Karma Yogi. Do not make any difference between menial and respectable work. Fix the mind on the Lord and give the hands to work. Sing God's name while serving others.

Feed the poor. Clothe the naked, Comfort the distressed. Do actions as your duty. Do not expect any thanks or appreciation, applause, salute, for your work. Spend one tenth of your income on charity. Share what you have with others. Always scrutinise your inner motives. Annihilate all selfish motives.

Give up abhimana (identification, pride) of all sorts. Never feel, "I have helped that man". Always think, "The Lord has given me an opportunity to serve him". Always be on the look out for ways to serve and never miss one single opportunity.

Do not be attached to the work-you must be able to give it up at any moment. Discipline the body and the mind again and again for fiery service. Non-attachment to work does not mean indifference.

Develop a passion for self-realisation, for freedom from birth and death, for liberation from bondage. One strong holy desire annihilates all worldly desires. This will help your progress towards freedom. Understand the theory of karma and cut the three knots-ignorance, desire and selfish action. Then you are beyond the law of karma. Then you are a liberated sage. This is your foremost duty. All other duties are self-imposed through attachment, ignorance and delusion.

Be equanimous in all conditions, knowing that they are nothing but the fruits of your own past actions, Be indifferent to the pairs of opposites. Always be rooted, inwardly, in the self. Always be blissful. Radiate bliss and joy. Now none is foe, none is stranger. Feel and see the self in all beings. Be devoted to the well-being of all humanity. Love for love's sake. Work for work's sake.

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