Karm yog is made up of two words: ‘karm‘ means performing one’s duty; ‘yog‘ means to join. Hence, karm yog means keeping the mind joined with God while we perform our physical duties in the world. Therefore, when the involvement of the mind is required for the performance of any action, how can the same mind be used at the same time for the remembrance of God? Can the mind be in two places at once? The answer is both yes and no.
The mind cannot be in two places at the same time
The flight of the mind is incredibly fast, which can make it seem like it is in two places at once, but actually it is not possible. The mind can only think of one thing at any given time. Which means that if we are thinking of God, we cannot do our work, and if we are doing our work, we cannot think of God. If you are visualizing the form of Shree Krishna (a type of devotional meditation called roop dhyan), or thinking of His leelas, you will not be able to hold a conversation with someone, or write computer code, or read an article, etc. Then how could you do karm yog?
Is it possible to have your mind in God and perform your work? Is karm yog possible?
The secret to remembering God while we perform our work lies in our sense of identity and the deeper motivation behind our actions, both of which remain in the subconscious mind. In other words, although it is not possible to have your conscious mind engaged in two different places simultaneously, it is possible for the conscious mind to be involved in one activity, while the deeper attachments of the subconscious mind remain somewhere else.
For example, there is not a time in the entire day when you forget that you are a human being. This is because the deep identification with your body has created an attachment in your mind that is constantly experienced on a deeper level, even while you are involved in activities like talking, listening, planning etc, that require the full engagement of your conscious mind. Similarly, you never forget whether you are a man or a woman, what race you are! Yet these are only superficial, temporary qualities of ourselves, related to our body.
In addition, according to our sense of identity, we form attachments to other people and things. When we identify ourselves with the body, all people and things related to our body take on prime importance, and reside in our mind as attachments. These attachments are so deep in our mind that they become a part of our sense of identity. Does a mother ever forget that she is a mother? No, it remains in her subconscious mind throughout the day, no matter what activity she performs. Yet, this is also just a superficial part of her identity, related only to her body, and concerning a temporary physical relationship with her children.
Just think: what would happen if the same person understood themselves to be the soul, which is eternally related to God? What if they understood the fact that God is the only one who has always been with us, and will never leave us? Then the attachment to God would go so deep into their mind that they would never forget Him, even for a moment.
Then the aim of that person’s life would become the attainment of God, since He is the only one related to our soul. When God realization becomes the prime aim of life, then all the physical actions are also performed with this goal in mind. This means that even while we perform the mundane tasks related to our daily survival, like eating, working, sleeping, the reason behind those actions can be God realization. For example, “I am eating because I need this human body – it is the only chance to attain God. I must maintain it in good health so that I can do more devotion and service to God.” “I am working because I need money to buy the basic necessities required by my body. Having acquired these necessities, I will use my time for doing devotion and service to God.”
In this way, we can remember God even while performing our duties in the world, and we can live the philosophy of karm yog of the Gita. In the next article, I will share more techniques for remembering God throughout the day.