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From Ordinary Actions to Buddhi Yoga to Karma Yoga

Using your intellect to plan out an action, the fruits of which would benefit someone else, as was the case of the grandfather planting a tree that was enjoyed by future generations of his family, can be called buddhi yoga. In buddhi yoga, you inquire into the consequences of your actions, and thereby base your actions on the reasoning power of your intellect. Intellect goes far beyond the narrow selfish considerations of the lower mind and the senses. But even here there is still a tinge of selfishness.

When you are completely free of all selfishness, totally indifferent to the results, acting effectively and with full concentration, but without any attachment or desire, and offering all your actions to God, then you are practicing karma yoga; that is far superior to buddhi yoga. Such a high state is not easily accessible to ordinary people. But that does not mean that you should give up trying to attain it. With whole-hearted effort and with God's grace, seemingly impossible things can be achieved. If you persist in your efforts, then with practice you will be able to reach this high level of karma yoga in all your activities.

To succeed in this, the inner vision must be developed. In order to firmly establish that inner vision, you must keep a particular principle constantly in mind. It is this: no matter how hard you search, whether it be in this physical world or in the world of your dreams and imaginations, or any other world, all you will ever see, wherever you look, will be combinations and variations of the five elements, either in their gross or subtle forms. They are the only things you will ever be able to find anywhere. There can never be anything else; there is no such thing as a sixth element.

These five elements are all reflections of the unlimited effulgence of God. They are his aspects. Their basis is the one divine principle. Therefore, perform all your actions with full consciousness, regarding all objects in the world not as the different, multifarious names and forms that they appear to be, but as mere combinations of the five elements, energized and illuminated by the one divine principle. When you know that, when you see everything in the world to be the sacred manifestation of divinity, then all your actions will automatically become offerings to God.

By keeping such lofty ideas in view while performing your actions, you effectively turn your vision from the limited outer vision to the liberating inner vision, and thus become a sacred human being. Constantly reflecting, in this manner, on the divinity that is everywhere, is the best way to develop the inner vision that will establish you in karma yoga. But such inner vision is very rare among people; even the greatest pundits and scholars are steeped only in the outer vision. Here is a story that illustrates this.