Become an Instrument

The karma yogi must give up all idea of agency. He must treat the body as an instrument given to him for the fulfilment of a divine purpose and attribute all activities to the divine actor within. On account of egoism, one thinks that one does everything, and therefore remains bound. Work in the awareness of being pulled by the cosmic will. You will have more strength, less vanity. Work will not bind you. It is through the light provided by the self-effulgent Lord within that you are able to work. Therefore, act as a trustee, not as a proprietor. Then you will not be bound, as there will be no ‘mine-ness’. When you feel you get all your power from a higher source, the doership ego will go.

A gradual process

Remember the Supreme Self is the inner prompter who impels you to action. Feel this every moment of your life. Hammer the mind with this bhava. Do service of others with the feeling that divinity dwells in all and receives your service as worship. People are impatient, they expect to get siddhis or psychic powers after doing a little service. But the real karma yogi, who serves people with humility and who sees the divine presence in every face, is honoured and respected by all. Karma yoga becomes easy for him and purification of the heart is quickly achieved.

By means of constant practice of this nature one will slowly get mental non-attachment towards work. In this manner all actions can be spiritualized. All actions will become worship of the Lord. As the right mental attitude develops, you will realize the godhead in whatever situation you may be placed in life.

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 work. You may even think, “My preceptor is treating me like a servant. He is using me for petty jobs.” However, in course of time, when the heart becomes purer and purer, you will actually feel that some higher power is working through you. You will feel that your body and mind are only instruments in his hands. Every work will then become yogic activity.

Remember and work

Ora et labora. Pray and work. This is the formula of a karma yogi for God-realization. Lord Krishna says in the Bhagavad Gita (8:7):

Tasmat sarveshu kaleshu mam anusmara yudhya cha.

Therefore at all times think of Me and fight.

Give the mind to God and the hand to work. The typist works at the machine and talks with his friends. The player on the harmonium plays on the instrument and talks and jokes with his friends. The lady knits and talks with her comrades. The mind of the girl who has a water pot on her head is on the water pot, though she is talking and joking with her companions while she is walking on the road. A nurse while she is nursing the baby of another lady has her mind riveted on her own baby. A cowherd while he is looking after the cows of other people has his mind fixed on his own cow. Even so, have your mind fixed at the lotus feet of the Lord, while you are doing your household duties and office work.

Keep the reason rooted in the Self. Have a poised mind amidst the changes of the world. Let your hands be ever engaged in the service of the Lord in all. Let your mind be ever thinking of His glories. Let your intellect discriminate correctly. And let your soul be ever in union with the Lord. This is yoga. The karma yogi must achieve this state of balance and equipoise, and self-realization will come quickly.

Make an offering

In the Bhagavad Gita, Sri Krishna tells Arjuna (9:27),

Yatkaroshi yadashnaasi yajjuhoshi dadaasi yat;
Yattapasyasi kaunteya tatkurushva madarpanam.

“Whatever you do, whatever you eat, whatever you sacrifice, whatever you give, whatever you do of austerity, do you that as an offering unto Me.”

Mere philanthropic work out of sympathy without devotion and knowledge is nothing more than social scavenging. It is not yoga or worship. It is on a lower plane. It cannot elevate an aspirant much. The progress is dull and slow, if you can call it progress. Remember, it is the mental attitude or bhava that does immense good. When you serve, remember that you work for God. Do every act as Ishwar arpana, an offering to God. You will soon grow spiritually. You will soon be transmuted into divinity.

In the light of karma yoga, all actions are sacred. The aspirant who always takes delight in doing work which is considered by worldly people 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.

Always scrutinize your motives. A doctor who works in the hospital should think that all patients are manifestations of God. He should think that the body is the moving temple of God and that the hospital is a big temple or Vrindavan or Ayodhya. He should think: “I am doing all my actions to please the Lord and not to please my superiors.” He should never dream even: “I have done such meritorious acts.” He should think that God is the inner ruler, antaryamin, that He alone manipulates all his organs from behind, and that He is the wire-puller of the body. He should think that he works to carry out the divine will in the grand plan of things. He should consecrate all his actions, whether good or bad, at His feet. This is jnanagni, the fire of wisdom or the fire of devotion that destroys the fruit of action, brings about chitta shuddhi, knowledge of the Self and final emancipation.

One with the One

When all actions are performed for the sake of a higher will, for the fulfilment of a purpose, without desire for fruit, the karma yogi gets illumination. He shakes off the bondage of birth. He attains knowledge of Brahman and, through Brahma jnana, liberation or moksha.

A karma yogi who does all work in the form of worship of God in the beginning, who surrenders his body, mind, soul and all his actions as flowers or offerings at the lotus feet of the Lord, who is ever absorbed in the Lord by constant thought, loses himself in God-consciousness by total self-surrender. He gets absorbed in God. His will becomes one with the cosmic will. That is his last and advanced stage. He realizes that whatever is going on in the world is but the lila, play, of the Lord or divine sporting. He feels that he is one with the Lord and that he is a partner in His lila. He lives for Him only. He lives in Him only. His thoughts and actions are now of God Himself.

When you meet a real, sincere karma yogi who has been plodding on the path for several 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 sattwic moments. He has a pleasant feeling of having justified the divine command in the grand scheme of things.

Therefore, allow the divine energy to work unhampered through you. Become an instrument in the hands of the Lord. The moment your egoism enters, there will be an immediate impediment to the free flow of the divine energy. Make your senses perfect instruments for His lila. Keep the body-flute hollow by emptying yourself of your egoism. Then the flute-bearer of Vrindavan will play freely through your body-flute. He will work through your instruments. Then you will feel the lightness of the work. You will feel that God works through you. You will be freed of all your responsibilities. You will be as free as a bird. Of course, your egoism may try to re-enter. You will have to be ever careful and on the alert. By gradual practice you will become an expert in karma yoga. All your actions will be perfect and selfless. All actions will culminate in jnana.