In the few minutes before 9 A.M. the office karmis are rushing to each other for idle talk. Pray that you will have no business with anyone which will divert you from those thoughts that lead like arrows back to home, back to Godhead. The work begins, and hopefully the chant is in everything and everything is in the chant.
Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare. Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
Karma yoga is not only a matter of the paycheck going to Krsna and not to the sense gratification of the worker. It has to be done favorably. (The Lord doesn't need your karma yoga at the office; your joy in the morning doesn't sustain Him, nor do you cause the planets to float in space. But your faith and devotion please Him "My devotee is dear to Me." (Bhagavad Gita, 12.14). You must establish moment to moment links with the Supreme. Therefore, the practice of penances in mind, speech and body is prescribed, and we shall see why.
The Gita declares purity, uprightness, continence, and non-violence to be the penance of the body. "The utterance of words which give no offense, which is truthful, pleasant and beneficial" is said to be the penance of speech. Serenity of mind, gentleness, silence, self control, the purity of mind is called the penance of the mind. (Bhagavad Gita, 17.14-16) These penances, performed without expecting reward, put one in the nature of goodness. Goodness is the level from which we can most easily progress to the Transcendental. If you are shackled in the illusion of nonsense-talk, or is you are gambling with co-workers on the outcome of sports, and "killing time" whenever possible, then you are not likely to be performing actions acceptable as yoga (toward union with God). Be absorbed. The work is the medium. "Hard to understand is the way of works." (Gita, 4.17)
When the actual eating-up of work and work-time commences that Krsna consciousness is not merely a sentiment or spiritual recreation, that your love for Krsna is not merely a good-time, speculative, "fair-weather" friendship these truths get tested in the fire of work. To the limited eye, what is going on in the office is simply the action of fruitive workers engaged in mundane turmoil. The boss is saying he is God, and he is applying the full force of his authority upon the workers and clerks. Of course in some instances, the boss-worker relationship is going smoothly. Whether he is favored or oppressed by his boss does not concern the karma yogi; he is really not concerned this way or the other with the prevailing mundane temperament. It is part of a karma yogi's skill that he is able to perform work expertly. He maintains an even temperament under fire, and as a constant activity of work he avoids all embarrassment. To the karma yogi, this desk, these drawers, these forms and files are the paraphernalia of a sacrifice. He is practicing celibacy, and concentration, and meditation and worship. "He who is trained in the way of works … he is not tainted by works, though he works." (Gita, 5.7)
The true yoga of the Bhagavad Gita, in which one takes a firm seat covered with sacred grass, a deerskin and a cloth one over the other, in a solitary place, for the purpose of the purification of the soul is a way leading to the same realization (love of Krsna) for which the karma yogi, in his shirt, pants and neck-tie, is ever intent on. In the Chapter of the True Yoga (VI) the Lord describes him at his task:
"Serene and fearless, firm in the vow of celibacy, subdued in mind, let him sit, his mind turned to Me and intent on Me alone." (6.14).
"With the heart undismayed," and disconnected from union with pain, the karma yogi makes his hymn to Krsna while fully engaged in the tasks of the office. Because he is using the body which includes the mind to perform these tasks, his senses are occupied with the sense objects in sacrifice: by offering each act to God, he "is not touched by sin, even as a lotus leaf (is untouched) by water." (Gita, 5.10) Even in the beginning stages, a sincere devotee can practice such work in relaxation and with no uneasy sense of being scrutinized by the world. The devotee is confident that everything belongs to Krsna. Fixed in the assured protection of the Supreme Lord, there is no worldly power that can drag him down. The medium of work is a constant purification, a form of penance, and its end-aim is to achieve love through His service. As long as he works, he can't go wrong.
Karma yoga has been described by Swami Bhaktivedanta as yoga for those who are addicted to work and activity; in this sense it is being practiced by the man who "can't stop" fruitive work itself, but who is enlightened enough to dovetail his labor with the pleasure of the Supreme. This description of karma yoga places it in a transitional stage between material and spiritual life. The direct, karma-less service is called bhakti yoga, or devotional service. Bhakti is loving service of man to the Supreme Lord; such a devotee in bhakti performs only the Lord's work in the world, as a direct, confidential servant, who is compact in love for his influential Master. We can understand that the karma yogi is on the path to bhakti. He (the karma yogi) is working behind enemy lines (with the karmis) and waiting for the day when the Supreme Lord will bring him closer into confidence. Man cannot presume to speed up his approach to God he can't take Krsna by "storming" His abode. A man in karma yoga turns over his work to the Supreme Personality, Krsna, Who is realized within his heart where he perceives that he himself is part of God. And it is also realized personally in that ecstatic inconceivable name of Krsna found kindly dancing on the karma yogi's tongue when saying the Maha Mantra:
Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare.
Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
Average workers who are trapped in the material (non-spiritual) concept of work believe that they themselves are matter, and the work is matter, and so they slug it out one piece of matter against another for a fixed rate of pay, for a certain number of hours a day. They will make demands for reduced hours and more pay and better lighting, but they make no demand for karma yoga, the only process which can relieve them from hopeless labor.
As a fellow worker we humbly invite each and every employee at any job whatsoever to take to this process of dove-tailing with God-consciousness in action. The principles of karma yoga are sound. The results are definite and immeasurably good. Try it whole-heartedly for one week chant the Holy Name all day and sing it at lunch hour, and chant yourself to sleep at night. See for yourself. No one will have to tell you.