You do not lose anything in Karma Yoga. Even if you do a little service to the country or to the society or to poor sick people, it brings its own advantages and benefits. It purifies your heart and prepares the Antahkarana for the reception of knowledge of Atman. The Samskaras or impressions of these good actions are indelibly imbedded in your subconscious mind. The force of these Samskaras will again propel you to do some more good actions. Sympathy, love, the spirit of patriotism and service will be developed. Nothing is lost when the candle burns.
In agriculture you may manure and plough the land. Your efforts will be rendered futile if you do not get rain in the year. This is not the case in Nishkamya Karma Yoga. There is no uncertainty here regarding the result of any effort. Further there is not the least chance of getting harmed by practising this Karma Yoga. If the doctor is injudicious, if he administers the medicine in over-dosage, some harm will certainly result. This is not the case in the practice of Karma Yoga. Even if you do a little service, even if you practise a little Nishkamya Karma Yoga in any form, it will save you from great fear, from the fear of Samsara and of birth and death with its concomitant evils. That is the reason why Lord Krishna says to Arjuna:
Nehaabhikramanaasosti pratyavaayo na vidvate
Svalpamapyasya dharmasya trayate mahato bhayat.
"There is no loss of effort here, there is no harm. Even a little of this service delivers one from great fear." Gita: Chapter II-40.
The path of Karma Yoga, which eventually leads to the attainment of the infinite bliss of the Self, cannot be futile.
Ignorant people say that one cannot work without any motive. It is a great pity that they have not understood the essence and truth of Karma Yoga. Their minds are saturated with all sorts of fantastic desires and selfishness, and as a result, their minds are very impure and clouded. They cannot grasp the underlying truth of Karma Yoga. They judge others from their own standpoint. Selflessness is a thing unknown to them. Their minds and brains are rendered callous and so they cannot vibrate properly to understand what a motiveless action is. Passionate householders cannot dream of doing any work without expecting some gain for themselves and their families.
When the thought of doing good becomes part and parcel of a man's very being, he will not entertain any motive at all. He takes immense delight in serving others, in doing good to others. There is a peculiar joy and Ananda in the practice of vigorous Karma Yoga. The Karma Yogi gets inner spiritual strength and power by performing motiveless and selfless actions.
He should understand the secret of Karma Yoga. He should plunge himself in selfless work. He must work incessantly. He must nurse people with Atma Bhava. He must serve society in a variety of ways. Gradually he will understand the glory and splendour of unselfish work. He will become a changed being with divine effulgence and sweet Yogic fragrance. Many of his actions may be selfish in the beginning of his Yogic career. It does not matter. He should not be discouraged on this score. But, slowly when he grows in purity, some of his actions will turn out to be unselfish. In the long run all his actions will be unselfish. He should patiently work with indefatigable energy. He has to destroy his old mind of selfishness and build a new mind of selflessness. This is doubtless uphill work. This demands struggle and constant effort with asinine patience and iron determination. Selfless work elevates and brings freedom. Selfish work retards spiritual progress and fastens one more chain to your feet. If you find it difficult to work without any motive, have one strong motive for freedom when you work. This will not bind you. This will destroy all other lower selfish motives and will eventually die by itself, just as the stick used in burning a dead body burns the dead body and is itself consumed in the end. The joy of a developed Karma Yogi is really unbounded. Words cannot adequately describe his exalted state and inward happiness.
Look at the stupendous and magnanimous work turned out by Lord Buddha, Sri Sankara and other Karma Yogis of yore. Their names are handed down from posterity to posterity. Their names are still remembered. The whole world worships them with reverence. Can you attribute an iota or grain of selfish motive to their actions? They lived for doing service to others. They were examples of absolute self-abnegation.
Expand. Purify your heart. Live in the true spirit of Karma Yoga. Live every second for the realisation of the ideal and goal of life. Then and then alone will you realise the true glory of Karma Yoga. Keep before you the examples of the great Karma Yogis who served mankind and thus radiated peace, bliss and wisdom unto all.