There are numerous activities we undertake in our lives that engage us with more, or less, interest. Some we treat as purely mechanical, some we detest but do them because we ‘have’ to. Some elicit very positive and focused interest from us and we tend to like those activities. Our vital nature creates, in its normal action, a response of liking or disliking and we then tend to be attracted to those things we like, and repulsed by those we do not.

In the practice of karma yoga, these vital reactions need to be resolved so that we can undertake any action called for with at least a measure equanimity and without the attraction/repulsion force operative. There are several methods to achieve this. One is to actively cultivate the equanimity throughout the being and train ourselves to keep our minds quiet and our vital energy focused on carrying out whatever the task may be. Another is to work on the separation of the witness-consciousness from the active outer nature and thus, not let the desires and the avoidances of the vital affect our deeper consciousness. Yet another is to find a way to accept whatever action as a means of gaining deeper knowledge about the nature and how to manage it, in other words, make even the most mundane acts part of the psychological evaluation and yogic development process. And there is a method of focusing on each action as a sort of mindfulness or awareness exercise and finding out how to enjoy each thing without impatience, or disturbance.

Sri Aurobindo observes: “It is not that you have to do what you dislike, but that you have to cease to dislike. To do only what you like is to indulge the vital and maintain its domination over the nature — for that is the very principle of the untransformed nature, to be governed by its likes and dislikes. To be able to do anything with equanimity is the principle of Karmayoga….”

“It depends on a certain extension and intensifying of the consciousness by which all activity becomes interesting not for itself but because of the consciousness put into it and, through the intensity of the energy, there is a pleasure in the exercise of the energy, and in the perfect doing of the work, whatever the work may be.”

Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, Growing Within: The Psychology of Inner Development, Chapter V Growth of Consciousness, Means and Methods, pg. 99

Author's Bio: 

Santosh has been studying Sri Aurobindo's writings since 1971 and has a daily blog at and podcast at He is author of 17 books and is editor-in-chief at Lotus Press. He is president of Institute for Wholistic Education, a non-profit focused on integrating spirituality into daily life.