Wisdom in Practice


Developing Witness Consciousness through Karma Yoga
by Joshua

Sri Ramakrishna has stated that karma yoga is a very difficult path toward God realization. This is because desire for the fruit can easily and stealthily creep into the mind, often without the aspirant’s knowledge. Those living in the world might ask, “Of what spiritual benefit is the performance of action? Of raising a family? Of job and duty? Why is karma yoga important if it cannot lead us to God?” One answer noticed lies within striving to maintain Witness Consciousness while performing work.

Witness consciousness is the mental posture of constant remembrance that one is the Atman and not the body, mind, ego, or fluctuations associated with these two bodies. The field of karma provides the stage to develop this Awareness. Thus, while attempting to do work in a detached state, one must watch for frustration or enthusiasm based in the desire for results, the inflation of the ego, or whether aversion or attachment towards the act are forming in the mind. Doing work in a detached state of mind leads to efficiency in work, which as Sri Krishna states in the Bhagavad Gita, is “verily yoga.”

The practical benefits of employing Witness consciousness are numerous. First it allows one to truly perform selfless service because we realize that we aren’t really “helping” or doing “good” to others; rather we are learning to stay in awareness of our true Nature. Second, it allows us to muster an abundance of love and compassion for all beings as required if we are to realize the Advaitic Truth. An example of this could be serving and sincerely edifying a difficult coworker without complaint or resistance, regardless of whatever petty issue you have had with that person in the past. A third benefit is we can begin to take the mind and body beyond the three gunas by training it to identify with the Witness. Finally, and most importantly, is the realization that job, family, residence, and business have an important spiritual purpose and that the things that we think impede our progress are really baskets of fruits ready to be ripened in order to reveal their Divine sweetness.