Action (Karma) is inevitable for a human being and the objective of doing it decides if it will be an aid to our spiritual growth or a hindrance. Our deeds are usually motivated by the desire to make money, earn fame or to simply receive a gesture of appreciation. These expectations leave long-lasting impressions on our sub conscious mind which may sustain beyond a lifetime, if left unfulfilled. Having imprinted on our mind the trail of such actions enslaves us by forging the links of successive lives.
Every self-conscious man aims at salvation or liberation and liberation means being attached to nothing. This statement is not to be misinterpreted as an indication for retiring to a secluded cave because detachment is a subject one’s conscious and not merely body. This has been very well explained in Ch 3 and 5 of Bhagwad Gita. A recluse may have no craving for sensual pleasures but his act of morality done with a thought of prospective salvation will certainly bind him to his desired fruit. On the contrary, if a householder works for no other sake than the work itself, it will not stick to him in any way. So, the desire for salvation also keeps us away from the `real’ liberation.
The fact of the matter is that liberation is our natural state of existence. Innately, we all are absolutely free but the chains of our attachment fasten our mind. No one wills for the iron chain of bad deeds and the golden chain of good deeds is equally binding if one is aspiring for eternal freedom. Swami Vivekananda suggested that the bad tendencies have to be counteracted by righteousness and after subduing the evil, goodness must also be conquered. It implies that none of our actions should cause any ripple on the surface of our mind after it is over. It begins by sincerely taking up the work that comes to us and then progressing towards selflessness i.e. satisfactory completion of work to be considered a reward in itself. This is called a pure action (Nishkam Karam) i.e. outwardly performing the duty but renouncing the result inwardly. In fact, we owe a lot to the creation around us and the opportunity to do good to anyone should be taken as a privilege for enabling us to repay a bit of our debt. Also, we must realize that we have little capacity to make anyone happy, yet we are moved to help somebody for the sake of our own inner joy. Besides, service to our fellow beings can be viewed as a way to express our love for God, which demands nothing in return.
Saints have thus concluded that Action (Karma) is a mirror that reflects the true nature of our mind and is also a means to purify it. Selfless action bears no post-imprint on the mind thereby keeping it free from the law of causation. This is the real liberation, even if we are encased in some physical body.