Man works with various motives. There cannot be work without motive. Some people want to get fame, and they work for fame. Others want money, and they work for money. Others want to have power, and they work for power. Others want to get to heaven, and they work for the same. Others want to leave a name when they die
Work for work’s sake. There are some who are really the salt of the earth in every country and who work for work’s sake, who do not care for name, or fame, or even to go to heaven. They work just because good will come of it. There are others who do good to the poor and help mankind from still higher motives, because they believe in doing good and love good. The motive for name and fame seldom brings immediate results, as a rule; they come to us when we are old and have almost done with life.
If a man works without any selfish motive in view, does he not gain anything? Yes, he gains the highest. Unselfishness is more paying, only people have not the patience to practice it. It is more paying from the point of view of health also. Love, truth, and unselfishness are not merely moral figures of speech, but they form our highest ideal, because in them lies such a manifestation of power. (I, 31 – 32)
Work for work’s sake, asking for no return. What is the advantage? When ideals become integrated into the character there is a wonderful manifestation of spiritual power. To test its validity we have only to watch our Mothers at work. What results do our Mothers expect as they burn themselves away as wicks in a lamp?. When the ideal of Karma Yoga gets fulfilled further, work turns into worship, an idea first muted by Swami Vivekananda drawing inspiration from Sri Ramakrishna.
During his Bharat Parikrama, his countrymen’s laziness, inefficiency and indifference towards work greatly disturbed Swamiji. He found Karma Bhumi Bharat turning into an Akarma Bhumi. He must have yearned to reestablish the glory of Karma Bhumi Bharat and that must have inspired Swamiji to popularise Karma Yoga on a truly scientific basis.