A human being is compelled to act for the normal daily physical functions such as eating, sleeping, breathing, etc; or for a livelihood or occupation; or for attainment of goals such as wealth, fame, etc.
Whatever acts we are engaged in, Krishna’s advice is to dedicate them to Him, and not be obsessed by results according to our expectations, Swami Tejomayananda pointed out in a discourse. This means that one gets involved with one’s ordained duties in a detached manner, renouncing the sense of doership and ownership as well.
An individual who expends tremendous effort, say to accomplish a feat, will not be able to accept that he is not the doer. Anticipating the difficulties in adopting such a stance, Krishna gives many tips to help us. His first lesson stresses that each one be aware of the individual’s metaphysical nature, a miraculous fusion of the divine undying self in a perishable human body. The individual who works and spends the effort understands that God is the source from which all our faculties are derived. He relinquishes his possessiveness over them and is gradually divested of ego sense.
On the question of renouncing the sense of ownership, Krishna asserts: “You have the right to act alone. You cannot claim your rights on the results of your actions.” The psychology behind this dictum is the basis of cultivating detachment towards work while attaching commitment to, and dedication in, the performance. Another truth is evident here. Since the result of every individual’s act is controlled by the law of nature, it is wise not to hanker after the consequences. One has to work with no desire for the fruits.
When a musician gives a benefit performance, his duty is to sing and enthral his audience. He has renounced the tangible fruit of his effort as he does not lay any claim to the proceeds. More apt is the selflessness of a fruit-yielding tree. It grows and flowers and also bears fruits. But it has no desire for the fruits it brings forth.
Karma Yoga’s essence is contained in the individual’s dedicated action that is done purely for the sake of the work well accomplished and not for the results that are governed by other factors.