If you see an animal or a man lying on the road bleeding severely, will you be able to tear a piece of cloth from your shirt and bandage him? This is a test to gauge your heart. How many of you have done this kind of service? If you have not done it till now, do it from today.
The practice of karma yoga does not demand that you possess enormous wealth. You can serve with your mind and body. Serve daily, serve till the end of your life. Do not stop serving even when you become a famous yogi. Then only are you safe.
This can happen only if you attune your whole personality to the essence of karma yoga. Try to develop the following qualities and the way will open up for you.
To serve another person you must be able to feel as them. Open your heart. Know and understand the suffering of others, and be ever ready to serve them. Develop atmabhava, feeling of unity with all. Come out of the centre of your egoistic narrow circle and have a broader vision. Be helpful, not now and then, not by fits and starts, but all the time, all through your life. There must not be the least tinge of pride and irritability. You must forget yourself entirely.
Do not fight with others if their viewpoint differs from you. There are many types of minds, many modes of thinking and various shades of opinions. Everyone is correct from their individual viewpoint. Hear their views with love, sympathy and attention. Give a place for the views of all. Then only you will have an expanded life and a very large heart.
Speak sweetly and gently in a courteous manner. Never speak a word that can jar or offend others. Think before you speak and see whether what you are going to say will not hurt the feelings of others, whether it is sensible, sweet, truthful and soft. Carefully note beforehand what will be the consequences of your thoughts, speech and actions.
Live only to be a blessing to others. Cheer up one who is in distress; encourage one who is dispirited; remove sorrow by loving words; make a person smile when they are in despair. Be a lamp to those who have lost their way. Be a doctor and nurse to the ailing. Be a boat and bridge to those who want to reach the other shore of fearlessness and immortality. If you are equipped with the above qualifications, you are a beacon of light to the world at large.
Selfishness, born of ignorance, is a great impediment to yoga. It clouds understanding and is the root cause of human suffering.
A selfish person will do anything to attain his ends. He injures others, robs them and acts indiscriminately in order to satisfy his selfishness. He has neither scruples nor character. Peace of mind is unknown to him. He is always scheming for acquisition of wealth, power, name and fame. He always separates himself from others. He is only attached to his own family and property. Attachment and a sense of separateness are present in him to a maximum degree.
Selfishness constricts the heart. Through selfishness you only create a boundary wall around yourself. You always think, Why should I bother about the welfare of others? Most people are totally unable to feel the suffering of anyone who is a stranger to them. They may present an expensive car to their own child, but they will not spend even one rupee to relieve the suffering of the poor. They have their eyes and their ears closed. They do not hear the cry of people in distress. They close their doors and eat magnificent food.
Give up this constant selfish struggle of life in this world. Your face is beautiful, but your heart is as hard as flint. You have not cultivated mercy and compassion. Scrutinize your motives. The mind is so framed that it always expects something for a small piece of work. When you smile you expect a return of smile from your friend. When you raise your hand in salutation, you will expect a salute from other people. Even when you give a cup of water to someone, you expect them to be grateful to you. When such is the case, how can you perform seva?
It is better to serve the sick and feed the hungry than to see visions. All are children of God. Feel that you are one with the whole universe; therefore, share what you have with others.
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.
Be on the alert when you do service in society. Unselfish service of any kind, platform lectures or any kind of public activity will surely bring name and fame. Name and fame will destroy you like a canker in a young plant. Treat name and fame as poison. Become very, very humble. Let this virtue be ingrained in your heart, in every cell, in every nerve, in every fibre of your being. Many have had their downfall by becoming victims to this powerful intoxicant, name and fame. Their progress was stopped. Hence I seriously warn you.
Restraining and subduing the senses, regarding everything equally, rejoicing in the welfare of all, these alone come to Me, says Sri Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita (3:4). Such a person becomes a good karma yogi. He reaches the goal quickly.
Only a disciplined person can do seva. Only one who has reduced his wants and controlled the senses can perform service. How can a luxurious person who cannot keep the senses under control serve? He wants everything for himself; he wants to exploit and dominate others.
You will have to discipline yourself. Restrain the mind. Control the senses. If you live with your guru, be prepared to do willingly any work assigned to you. If you create interest in work which the mind revolts against, later you will be able to do any kind of work and thus develop your will power.
In the beginning you may fail several times, but you are bound to attain success if you persist in the practice and discipline the mind properly. Every failure is a pillar for future success. Remember this point well.
One way to discipline the mind is to rest it in the Self or Ishwara when you perform any action. Repeat your ishta mantra mentally even when you work in the office. Manual work will become automatic or intuitive. You will have two minds. A portion of the mind will be at work; three quarters of the mind will be in the service of the Lord, in meditation and japa. This is a question of training of the mind. You can train the mind in such a way that it can work with the hand and remember God at the same time. This is karma yoga and bhakti yoga combined. This is the best yoga. Whatever you do with the physical organs of action is offered to the Lord as an oblation. This is Ishwara pranidhana.
You must not do any work perfunctorily or in a careless, half-hearted manner, without taking any interest. You cannot evolve if you take this attitude of mind. The whole heart, mind, intellect and soul must be in the work and then only can you call it karma yoga. Some people have their hands at the work, the mind at the market, the intellect in the office and the soul on the spouse or children. This sort of approach will not help you to evolve. You must do all work efficiently and perfectly. The motto should be: One thing at a time and that done well is a very good rule as many can tell.
Do not do anything in a haste or flurry. Do every bit of work with a cool, unruffled mind. Be perfectly accurate, collect all your scattered thoughts and apply your full mind to the work at hand. Many spoil their work by doing it in haste without reflection or consideration and repent later on. Take your own time, it does not matter. But do it well with geometrical accuracy in a masterly manner.
Be absorbed in work. Do it with devotion. Give your full heart, mind and soul to it. Do not care for results. Do not think of success or failure. Have complete confidence and always be cheerful. Work for works sake. You are bound to succeed in any undertaking. This is the secret of success.
Most people are generally elated by success and depressed by failure. Elation and depression are 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, under all circumstances. This is no doubt very difficult, but you will have to achieve this through constant practice. You will have to do it anyhow. Only then 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, its secret and essence.
Merit and demerit do not affect one who has perfected evenness or equanimity of mind, for he exults not over the good fruit nor worries over the negative fruit. He has equanimity of mind in success and failure. His mind is resting in the Self all the while. Actions that are of a binding nature lose that quality when performed with a balanced mind. The karma yogi who possesses evenness of mind casts off the results of actions. He escapes from rebirths. Clinging to results is the cause of rebirth. He who is established in the yoga of equanimity becomes an expert in the science of karma yoga.
He who has developed a pure, poised reason and rests in the Self is aware that all actions are performed by the divine actor within. He is perfectly conscious that God really moves and operates this body machine. The yogi who practises equanimity or evenness of mind understands fully the fundamental principles that govern all bodily actions. He performs all actions for Gods sake in fulfilment of His purpose without desire for fruit and eventually attains everlasting peace.
Introspect. Watch the mind and see what it is doing. Always have an inner life. When performing actions, use your reason and common sense, follow the teachings of realized persons, the words of a guru or think of God and consult your conscience. The inner voice will guide you.
When the diverse, confining sheaths of the atma have been dissolved by sadhana, when the different vrittis of the mind have been controlled, when the conscious mind is not active, you enter the realm of spirit life, the superconscious mind where buddhi, pure reason and intuition, the faculty of direct cognition of Truth, manifest. You pass into the kingdom of peace where there are no words. Here you hear the clear and pure voice of God.
Practise hearing the inner voice at four in the morning. As soon as you hear the voice, do not delay even a moment. Start the action diligently without consulting anybody. If there is fear, shame, doubt or pricking of conscience, know that you are performing a wrong action. If there is joy, exhilaration or satisfaction, understand that you are performing the right action. Listen to the voice with attention and interest. It will guide you. It is the voice of God.