Helping man spiritually is the highest help that can be given to him. Spiritual knowledge is the only thing that can destroy our miseries for ever; any other knowledge satisfies wants only for a time.
He who gives man spiritual knowledge is the greatest benefactor of mankind.
Next to spiritual comes intellectual help. The gift of knowledge is a far higher gift than that of food and clothes; it is even higher than giving life to a man, because the real life of man consists of knowledge.
Ignorance is death, knowledge is life.
The miseries of the world cannot be cured by physical help. Until man’s nature changes, these physical needs will always arise, and miseries will always be felt, and no amount of physical help will cure them completely. The only solution of this problem is to make mankind pure.
Let men have light, let them be pure and spiritually strong and educated, then alone will misery cease in the world, not before. We may convert every house in the country into a charity asylum, we may fill the land with hospitals, but the misery of man will still continue to exist until man’s character changes.
Every work is necessarily a mixture of good and evil. We cannot do work that is only good or only bad. Good and evil will both have their results, will produce their Karma.
Gita shares on this bondage-producing nature of work that, if we do not attach ourselves to the work we do, it will not have any binding effect on our soul.
What is non-attachment to work?
Samskâra can be translated very nearly by “inherent tendency” (or conditioning).
Every ripple, every wave that rises in the mind, when it subsides, does not die out entirely, but leaves a mark and a future possibility of that wave coming out again. This mark, with the possibility of the wave reappearing, is called Samskâra.
Every work that we do, every movement of the body, every thought that we think, leaves such an impression on the mind-stuff, and even when such impressions are not obvious on the surface, they are sufficiently strong to work beneath the surface, subconsciously.
What we are every moment is determined by the sum total of these impressions on the mind. This is what is meant by character; each man’s character is determined by the sum total of these impressions.
If good impressions prevail, the character becomes good; if bad, it becomes bad.
If a man continuously hears bad words, thinks bad thoughts, does bad actions, his mind will be full of bad impressions; and they will influence his thought and work without his being conscious of the fact.
When a man has done so much good work and thought so many good thoughts that there is an irresistible tendency in him to do good in spite of himself and even if he wishes to do evil, his mind, as the sum total of his tendencies, will not allow him to do so. When such is the case, a man’s good character is said to be established.
There is a higher state than having this good tendency, and that is the desire for liberation.
Remember, that freedom of the soul is the goal of all Yogas, and each one equally leads to the same result. By work alone men may get to where Buddha got largely by meditation or Christ by prayer.
Liberation means entire freedom — freedom from the bondage of good, as well as from the bondage of evil. A golden chain is as much a chain as an iron one.
Thus bad tendencies are to be counteracted by the good ones, and the bad impressions on the mind should be removed by the fresh waves of good ones, until all that is evil almost disappears, or is subdued and held in control in a corner of the mind; but after that, the good tendencies have also to be conquered.
Work, but let not the action or the thought produce a deep impression on the mind. How can this be done? We see that the impression of any action, to which we attach ourselves, remains.
I may meet hundreds of persons during the day, and among them meet also whom I love; and when I retire at night, I may try to think of all the faces I saw, but only that face comes before the mind — the face which I met perhaps only for one minute, but which I loved; all the others have vanished. My attachment to this particular person caused a deeper impression on my mind than all the other faces.
Therefore, be “unattached”. Work as if you were a stranger in this land, a sojourner; work incessantly, but do not bind yourselves.
Remember the great saying of the Sânkhya, “The whole of nature is for the soul, not the soul for nature.” The very reason of nature’s existence is for the education of the soul; it has no other meaning; it is there because the soul must have knowledge, and through knowledge free itself.
If we remember this always, we shall never be attached to nature; we shall know that nature is a book in which we are to read, and that when we have gained the required knowledge, the book is of no more value to us.
Reference: The original complete lecture is here