Therefore, do thou always, without attachment, perform action which should be done; for, by performing action without attachment, man reaches the Supreme.
Bhagavad Gita (3:19)
The secret of karma yoga is to combine deep interest with perfect detachment. Be ever active and at the same time feel inwardly that you are the non-doer and non-enjoyer. Feel that your true self, the godhead within you, is the eternal witness. That is why Sri Krishna described yoga as karma kaushalam (skill in action). However, this attitude does not come easily. Attachment to objects is universal. No one is free from attachment of one kind or the other.
Attachment is, in fact, the first child of maya, illusion. It is the most powerful weapon of maya for binding the individual soul to the wheel of birth and death. You will never come back into this world if you have no attachment for anything. This whole lila of the Lord is kept up by the force of attachment. A sober person just tastes a small amount of alcohol when he is in the company of drinkers and becomes an inveterate drunkard through attachment to liquor.
The first attachment commences with this physical body. Then all the other attachments crop up. Now the relationship of father, mother, sister, brother and wife comes in. One may get attached to a person, place or object. Attachment is like strong glue that affixes the mind to the object. There is in the mind a gummy substance which is like a mixture of castor oil, glue, gum, gluten paste, honey, glycerine, jack-fruit juice and all the other gummy substances of this world. This mind is glued, as it were, to the objects with this mixture. Therefore, attachment is very strong.
Why does the mind get attached to objects, acts or persons? Due to pleasure. Wherever there is pleasure, there is attachment. The mind is attached to wife, son, house or friend because it finds pleasure in these objects.
People always thirst for the possession of objects, people and wealth. This possession of objects generates selfishness. Selfishness causes greater attachment. Wherever there is attachment, there you will find the feeling of I-ness and mine-ness. The full misery now starts. The whole circle of maya begins to revolve. The individual becomes a slave now. Strong iron chains are fastened to his hands, knees and legs. He entangles himself like the spider or the silkworm. This is his self-created trouble through attachment.
Attachment is the root cause of all human ills and sufferings. It is the product of ignorance. It is a modification of ignorance. Wherever there is strong attachment, there one will find infatuation and fear. Infatuation is a delusion. Infatuation and fear are the long-standing associates of attachment. The cause of fear is attachment to this body and property. Attachment and fear are inseparable, like fire and heat.
Attachment takes on various forms. One should always be on the alert to detect its subtle workings. It does not spare even sannyasins who have practically renounced everything. They slowly get attached to their ashrams and disciples, and even to their water pots, sticks and small tumblers, and at the time of death they think of all these petty articles. This attachment is much stronger than the attachment of worldly persons and more difficult to eradicate.
The mind is so framed that it sticks to the old ruts and grooves. People are attached to paltry things, to notebooks, walking sticks, pictures and handkerchiefs. It demands drastic and rigorous discipline and real sadhana to get rid of all sorts of attachment. One has to struggle hard and practise keen enquiry. The mind tries its utmost to get attached to some form or other. It can never remain without clinging to something. It leaves one form and immediately clings to another. This is its nature. This is due to the quality of rajas, passion. If rajas is eradicated, all attachments will die by themselves.
The seeds of attachment are ingrained in the subconscious mind. We have to obliterate or fry all these seeds completely through right thinking, enquiry and knowledge. We have to cut asunder all these illusory attachments with the sword of dispassion or non-attachment.
Non-attachment is dispassion or indifference to sensual enjoyment. It is a purely mental state. The binding link is really in the mind. I-ness and mine-ness are the two poisonous fangs of the mind-serpent. Extract these two fangs and the serpent-mind will be tamed. There can be no bondage then. It is the mind that creates the ideas of I-ness and mine-ness. It is the mind that links the jiva with the body and creates the idea of the body so that the jiva thinks that it is the body. It is the mind that causes attachment to work, family and property. If the binding link in the mind is destroyed, you can remain wherever you like. You can roam about peacefully in any part of the world, unattached like water on the lotus leaf.
Many people get attached to the work they do. They like some kind of work and take interest in it. They dislike some other kind of work. They are unwilling to leave the work they like if conditions require it. They take undue responsibility on their shoulders and pine and labour under cares, worries and anxieties. This is not yoga because there is attachment to the work owing to the quality of rajas.
Work cannot bring misery. It is the attachment and identification to work and the fruits of the action that brings in all sorts of worries, troubles and unhappiness. Understand the basis of karma yoga and work without attachment and identification. You must be ready to discontinue 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 any grumbling, whatever may be the nature of the work, whether you are willing or not. If there is a divine call, you may start a worldwide movement. You will have to stop the undertaking also, if conditions and circumstances demand that you do so. You must be prepared to stop it at any time if God wills. You should not care whether there is success or failure. Simply obey the divine call and act like a soldier on the battlefield. There will then be no attachment to the work. There is great joy in such karma yoga because there is no personal element present here.
Asakti is attachment and anasakti is non-attachment. If you abandon attachment to the fruits of your action, 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.
You will have to train the mind daily in all dealings and actions. The world is like a public inn. People are united for some time and separated after some time. Turn the mind towards God or the Self and do daily japa and meditation, and study the scriptures. Study books on Vedanta. Develop intense internal dispassion by understanding the illusory nature of this world. Always remember the pains of this worldly existence. Place before the mind the glorious life in the atman and the supreme bliss of spiritual life. Slowly the mind will be weaned from sensual objects. It can be gradually turned towards self-realization.
Discipline the mind carefully. The old habits will creep in. Destroy them to the very root. Learn to discriminate between the real and the unreal. Try to develop dispassion as much as you can. Have no intimate connection with anybody. Do not bother a bit when you lose petty things. Think always that the perishable objects of this world are worthless. Repeat mentally the formula, All objects are perishable. Work incessantly without attachment, without any identification. Then alone can you have real happiness. The joy that you will experience is indescribable. You will begin to feel that you are a different being now.