For the normal human consciousness, work is generally carried out either to fulfil desire, achieve some specific goal or result, or as a duty of some sort. It can be accomplished either with passion or under a sense of need or obligation. It is clearly rooted in the ego-personality and the action of the three Gunas of Nature.
The path of Karma Yoga, the yoga of works, attempts to transform these normal motives and create a new calm and free basis for work, done without seeking of the fruit of action, but rather, as a sense of action for the Divine. Sri Aurobindo explains this basis: “But the work done by you must be free and desireless; work done without desire creates no reaction and imposes no bondage. Done in a perfect equality and an unmoved calm and peace, but without any divine passion, it is at first the fine yoke of a spiritual obligation, kartavyam karma, then the uplifting of a divine sacrifice; at its highest it can be the expression of a calm and glad acquiescence in active oneness.”
The Gita, however, stresses the importance of the unification of the yoga of works with the yoga of love and devotion. These are not separate and opposite paths, but rather, complementary movements in a larger movement and focus of the entire being on the Divine. “The oneness in love will do much more: it will replace the first impassive calm by a strong and deep rapture, not the petty ardour of egoistic desire but the ocean of the infinite Ananda. It will bring the moving sense and the pure and divine passion of the presence of the Beloved into your works; there will be an insistent joy of labour for God in yourself and for God in all beings. Love is the crown of works and the crown of knowledge.”
Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita, Second Series, Part II, Chapter 24, The Message of the Gita, pg. 570