“Selfless service is the soap that purifies our mind.” – Amma
‘How can work be purifying?’ We may wonder this while we are immersed in boring, repetitive, stressful or unpleasant duties. The important thing is not the task we perform but our attitude towards it. Action implemented with the right attitude can be transformed into a special form of meditation. Then we can enjoy the peace and joy of a mind truly merged in its actions.
We speak about mental impurity as referring to our desires, our likes and dislikes. The more intense our desires are, the bigger our mental disturbance will be. How do we remedy this? On one hand, we may try to fulfill the desire. Yet, once the desire is fulfilled, the relief is only temporary as a new desire soon arises. Our untrained mind is an incessant factory of wishes and desires.
According to a spiritual perspective, another option is to try to transcend these desires instead of fulfilling them. Transcending desires does not mean to suppress them. Transcendence comes through discrimination and right understanding regarding the true nature of desires. When we have the right understanding and we are able to see the futility of the mere gratification of the senses, our identification with our desires will naturally decrease, leading to dispassion. As dispassion sets in, the ability to renounce our desires grows stronger and stronger as we turn within to the eternal fountain of truth as the real source of our happiness.
To experience the bliss of the Self—the culmination of our spiritual path—we may be able to develop a pure mind, freed from the bondage of desires. Only the true understanding of our true nature—the ever-blissful and eternal consciousness—can eradicate desire totally from our minds. The root of desire is spiritual ignorance. Desires can only exist when we do not recognize our divine origin and we identify ourselves with the mind, the ego, the body, the likes and the dislikes.
We all have the tendency to come back to our original state of perfection—the true source of all bliss. Trying to obtain contentment by fulfilling our desires is not the proper way, but is actually separating us from our true Self. Self-realization is a very subtle process, a seed that needs a properly calm and peaceful ground in which to sprout. It cannot take place in a mind disturbed by desires.
We can accomplish this task of calming and quieting the mind thanks to the different paths of Yoga. According to Karma Yoga, the Yoga of the action, this can be achieved by the performance of actions, with awareness, as a means to perceive our oneness with the Self. The action we perform is not important, what is really important is the mental attitude. Any action, with the right attitude, is Karma Yoga.
The key point is to focus our attention on the work, become one with it, and accept with equanimity any result arising from our actions.
As it is said in the Srimad Bhagavad Gita:
“Seek to perform your duty, but lay not claim to its fruits.”
We have control over our actions, but we cannot influence the results by expectations or worry. We can shift our attention to perfect our actions and offer the results achieved to the feet of the Divine.
Everything around us is a gift of God: we are blessed with our body, sense organs, family, nature, etc. Through these gifts, we can experience, learn and grow spiritually. We may perform our actions as an offering to God—an expression of gratitude for all that He has given to us. Our entire life may become an offering to God when we perform our actions with concentration and devotion.
“Your heart is the real temple. It is there that you must install God. Good thoughts are the flowers to be offered to Him. Good actions are the worship. Good words are the hymns. Love is the Divine offering.”
“When performing actions, we should try to see ourselves as an instrument in the hands of God – like the pen in the hands of a writer or a brush in the hands of a painter. Our prayer should be “O Lord, let me become a purer and purer instrument in your hands.”
The attitude of acceptance that anything that comes to our lives is a present from God and that we are acting as an instrument of the Divine can be a relief for many stressful situations. We have the opportunity to surrender any challenge or struggle that may arise at the feet of the Divine and to keep moving ahead, evolving on the spiritual path.
The right attitude is to focus on our true Self and not on the external perceptions and desires. This will help us to gain equanimity, peace and a calm mind. Nothing we attain makes us truly content; there is no object that can provide us with real contentment. Fulfilling desires is an endless cycle. The clue is to overcome dependence on the objects by cultivating dispassion and detachment, and by seeking the true source of happiness within, not in the ephemeral. We should perform actions with awareness and realize the truth of the futility of material attainments of this world, keeping in mind our main goal of Self-realization.
Practicing Karma Yoga helps us to concentrate more fully on our tasks and to achieve a better performance. This will benefit us as well as all of society. A mind truly purified from likes and dislikes can be happy no matter what external circumstances exist.
As Amma says, “Our happiness depends on our state of mind.”
Karma Yoga helps us to enjoy life more fully by putting the focus of our attention on the action itself and not on the final result. Since we are almost constantly performing actions, this is a way to enjoy ourselves most of the time!
With the Karma Yoga attitude, no action is lost. We learn from our mistakes, therefore, the efforts are not wasted. We are continuously purifying our minds. We are also cultivating good actions, according to dharma, which will assure that we will reap good karma in the future.
We will gradually move on from selfish desires to more and more unselfish ones, as the wish to help others, physically, mentally or spiritually increases. This selflessness will help us to live joyfully in the present moment and to deepen our sadhana (spiritual practice) as we move ahead on our spiritual path toward Self-realization.
The rewarding sense of love and unity that follows any action performed without self-attachment is the best gift we can receive. This growing sense of love within us makes our hearts more and more fit for the Divine.
May we all are able to cultivate this kind of selfless love with our actions.
Author: Silvia Hidalgo Daya