In Karma Yoga, what is the aim? The aim is to know the Divine’s will, and to make the Divine’s will active through our instrumentality: this is the aim. To discover the Divine’s will, and to make that will active through our instrumentality. The human consciousness, the human mind, the human will becomes simply a channel of the Divine’s will: that is Karma Yoga. What is the instrument? Instrument is human desire and human will. The desire is purified, the desire is sublimated, the desire is brought to the highest level so it becomes a will and the will becomes powerful, so powerful that it can bear the flow of the Divine’s will. So, the instrument is desire and will. What is method? The method first is to cease upon the central point of desire and to operate upon it, to make an operation of it. What is the central sting of desire? It is the desire to enjoy the fruits of action. Therefore the first step in Karma Yoga is to deal with this ‘desire to enjoy the fruits of action’. By means of renunciation, this is the method: renounce the fruits of action which are to be enjoyed; secondly, to renounce action itself. First is to renounce the fruits of action, the second is to renounce action itself: in other words, to offer the action to the one to whom the action really belongs with the knowledge that when we think that we are the doer of action, we are ignorant. Really speaking, action proceeds from a higher source, not from us and therefore whatever action is performed by us is to be brought back to its original source, to become aware of it and to offer it to the original source: you realise that there is a master of action, which we are not ourselves. There is a master of action from whom action proceeds, we are only usurpers of that action, and we believe we are doing action: ‘I am the doer’. To get rid of this ignorance and to refer the action to the supreme Lord from whom the action proceeds. So, offering the action, this is called: the yajñā, the sacrifice of action, so even action you are not doing. Whatever you think you are doing you also offer to the Divine, it is send back as it were to the Divine. The sense, ‘I am the doer’, is also abolished and then we come to the third step of Karma yoga in which action is seen to be proceeding from the Supreme.
As Sri Aurobindo says: ‘the aim of Karma yoga is to become like a bow’. The bow by itself cannot act, it is only an instrument. For an action of the bow, you require an arrow, you require a target and you require somebody who pushes the arrow on the bow and shoots it. the aim of Karma yoga and this is the last step of the method of Karma yoga, it is to become exactly like a bow so that you see very clearly that there is an arrow which is produced by the Divine, there is a target which is also decided by the Divine and there is the shooter which the Divine Himself. So, to realise that the Divine Himself is the shooter, He Himself is the arrow, He Himself is the target and as far as you are concerned, you are only a bow, an instrument. This is the method of Karmayoga: nimittamātram bhava (XI, 33), that’s right, you become only the instrument.
Similarly, Jnana Yoga, what is the aim of Jnana Yoga? The aim of Jnana yoga is to know the supreme, the highest, the ultimate: that is the aim. What is the instrument? Instrument is intellectual discrimination. In Raja yoga, the instrument was the mind and there is a distinction between the ‘mind’ and ‘intellect’. Intellect is the operation of the pure reason in which you see the distinction between the ‘real’ and the ‘unreal’: viveka buddhi. You discriminate between the real and the unreal. So, the instrument is the viveka buddhi. And what is the method? The method is to allow viveka buddhi, to meditate upon the ‘real’, positively, and to withdraw itself from the unreal, negatively. There is a negative method and a positive method. In simple terms it would mean the real is the Supreme and to concentrate upon the Supreme until the consciousness is melted into the Supreme and negatively, to constantly meditate upon the idea: ‘I am not that which is other than the Supreme’. Whatever presents itself as oneself, normally, is to be rejected: ‘I am the body, I am the life, I am the mind’: these are the normal operations of the perception of ourselves. These three propositions are false according to Jnanayoga: ‘I am not the body, I am not the life, I am not the mind.’ Therefore the negative meditation is upon these three propositions. ‘I am not the body, I am not the life, I am not the mind, I am not the ego’: cidananda rūpa śivo ham śivo ham, so you concentrate upon śivo ham, I am what? I am Shiva, I am the Supreme: this is the method of Jnana yoga.