In my early days when I lived in Sivanand ashram with my guru, I thought that when I left the ashram I would remain quiet and contemplate. However, in 1964, when I started the ashram in Munger, many people came to stay with me, but nobody remained for more than three or four months. This was because there was no work for them in the ashram. They just learned and practised a lot of asanas, pranayama, mantra, meditation, etc., but this did not create stability in them because their minds were not purified.
After a few years, we started a little bit of work in the ashram – gardening, printing, editing, bookwork, typing or kitchen work, and since then the number of inmates has been growing every week. Now people stay in the ashram for years together. Sometimes they remain for five, ten or twelve years, with all the difficulties of ashram life. On Sundays I often tell the swamis to close all the departments. Sometimes I don’t allow them to work at all for three consecutive days and they become so restless. Many of them keep coming to my room asking me to give them some work. So now the swamis and the guests realize that nature has created in man a desire and a compulsion to work. That is the positive role of desire in life. If man did not have desires, he would not be compelled to work and if he did not work, his mind would not grow. For a person who has not evolved beyond tamo guna and rajo guna it is compulsory to work. Even if he has great wealth and all the necessities of life in abundance, he must still work. Only when you have reached the state of sattwa, the highest point of balance and equanimity, may you remain without work, without karma. For purification of the mind karma is essential, and if you practise karma yoga, you attain purity much more quickly.