How to Make Progress in the Practice of Karma Yoga

We tend to be carried away by the external focus in the work we are doing, and thus, the presence of mind needed to remember and offer is set in the background of our awareness. If we reflect on the state of consciousness we experience when focused on some external work, we soon find that we can be almost totally absorbed, and in fact, that work is generally best accomplished through what may be called a “one-pointed” concentration. So how do we convert this work into karma yoga when we are not paying attention at the time of the work to the spiritual focus?

Patience and perseverance and time. The vital nature, particularly in the mode of Rajas, wants and expects instant results and visible progress. The type of changes that are envisioned in the practice of karma yoga, however, are not easily and completely implemented. They tend to develop over time with persistent, quiet effort. Sri Aurobindo describes several ways to phase in the required standpoint for the individual practicing karma yoga.

After some time, with repeated practice, the resulting status may appear to be almost effortless, as it simply occurs. To reach that stage, however, the sadhak needs to be prepared to keep trying, without any sense of discouragement..

Sri Aurobindo writes: “It is easy for one, comparatively, to remember and be conscious when one sits quiet in meditation; it is difficult when one has to be busy with work. The remembrance and consciousness in work have to come by degrees, you must not expect to have it all at once; nobody can get it all at once. It comes in two ways, — first, if one practices remembering the Mother and offering the work to her each time one does something (not all the time one is doing, but at the beginning or whenever one can remember,) then that slowly becomes easy and habitual to the nature. Secondly, by the meditation an inner consciousness begins to develop which, after a time, not at once or suddenly, becomes more and more automatically permanent. One feels this as a separate consciousness from that outer which works. At first this separate consciousness is not felt when one is working, but as soon as the work stops one feels it was there all the time watching from behind; afterwards it begins to be felt during the work itself, as if there were two parts of oneself — one watching and supporting from behind and remembering the Mother and offering to her and the other doing the work. When this happens, then to work with the true consciousness becomes more and more easy.”

“A time comes for the sadhak in the end when the consciousness and the deeper experience go on happening even in full work or in sleep, while speaking or in any kind of activity.”

Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, Growing Within: The Psychology of Inner Development, Chapter V Growth of Consciousness, Means and Methods, pg. 100