The following questions about work, desire and action were posed to Sri Anandamayi Ma.
Question: How can we benefit spiritually by action?
Sri Anandamayi Ma: By doing the work for its own sake, engaging in Karma Yoga (the path of action). As long as a desire to distinguish oneself is lurking, it is Karma Bhoga (working for one’s own satisfaction). One does the work and enjoys its fruit, because of the sense of prestige it brings. Whereas, by relinquishing the fruit, it becomes Karma Yoga.
Question: How is it possible to work without desire?
Sri Anandamayi Ma: By doing service with the feeling that one is serving the Supreme Being in everyone. The desire for God-realization is obviously not a desire in the ordinary sense. “I am Thy instrument; deign to work through this, Thy instrument.” By regarding all manifestation as the Supreme Being, one attain to communion that leads to liberation. Whatever work is undertaken, let it be done with one’s whole being and in the spirit: “Thou alone workest,” so that there may be no opportunity for affliction, distress, or sorrow to creep in.
If for any reason there should arise even the least feeling of resentment, the action can no longer be described as being without attachment. Suppose, for example, after having accomplished by far the greater part of some work, you have to abandon it, and towards the end someone else takes it up, completes it, and gets the credit for having achieved the whole of the task. If you mind this even in the slightest degree, how can the work really have been done disinterestedly? Obviously it was not quite free from a desire for recognition.
Egoless work is full of beauty, for it is not prompted by a desire for self-gratification. So long as the knots that constitute the ego are not unraveled, even though you intend to act impersonally, you will get hurt, and this will produce a change in the expression of your eyes and face, and be apparent in your whole manner. To long, “Let me heart be free from craving for results,” is still a desire for a result. Nevertheless, by thus aspiring after selfless action there is hope of its coming to pass. A know means resistance. Hence, so long as the ego persists, there will be clashes at times, even when impersonal work is attempted, because one is bound and therefore pulled in a certain direction.