By the empiric process of philosophical research, one can possibly distinguish the metaphysical subjects from the physical objects; but unless such seekers of truth can reach the personal feature of the Absolute Truth, they gain only dry, impersonal knowledge of Him, without any actual transcendental profit. It is therefore necessary that leaders like Gandhi establish themselves on the transcendental footing of the personal feature of the Absolute Truth, known as Viṣṇu or the all-pervading Godhead, and arrange for His transcendental service by karma-yoga, so that they can do good for the people in general.
The people in general are extremely busy in the affairs of the material body and mind. Those who are in the lowest stage of such mundane activities very rarely can understand the activities of the spiritual plane. These people are generally baffled because their various acts of sin and virtue are directed merely toward ameliorating the distress and enhancing the happiness of the temporary body and mind by behavior like eating, sleeping, defending, and gratifying the senses. The material scientists—the modern quasi priests who invoke such material activities—invent many objects to gratify the material senses such as the eye, ear, nose, and tongue and ultimately the mind, and there results a field of unnecessary competition for enhancement of such material happiness, which leads the whole world into the whirlpool of uncalled—for clashes. The net result is scarcity all over the world, so much so that even the bare necessities of life, namely food and clothing, become objects of contention and control. And so arise all sorts of obstacles to the traditional, God-given life of plain living and high thinking.
Persons who are a little above such gross materialists believe firmly in life after death and thus try to rise a little above the plane of gross sensory enjoyment of this one life. They try to accumulate something for the next life by acts of virtue, just as a man banks some money for future happiness. But these people do not understand that neither any sinful nor any virtuous act can bring freedom from the bondage of work, as we have explained above. On the contrary, both sinful and virtuous acts will bind the worker up in the wheel of action and reaction.
Neither the sinful nor the pious materialist can understand the essence of karma-yoga as the means to attain liberation from the always uncongenial bondage of work. The expert karma-yogī therefore behaves just like an attached materialist to teach the people in general about the way one can get rid of the tangle of action and reaction in ordinary work. By such acts, the karma-yogī himself and the world at large are simultaneously benefited. The Personality of Godhead therefore says as follows: "O descendant of Bharata, better you continue to perform work like an attached materialist who is not conversant with transcendental knowledge, so that you can recruit men to the path of karma-yoga, or work with transcendental results."
So those who are aware of transcendental knowledge, and who thus are actually learned, perform all acts needed for maintaining the body and mind, but with a view to satisfying the transcendental senses of the Supreme Godhead, Viṣṇu. Ordinary men regard these learned transcendentalists as common workers, but in fact, the transcendentalists are not workers for mundane benefit—they are karma-yogīs, or workers for transcendental results. And in such transcendental work, the material results are gained automatically, without any separate endeavor.
In the present age we are witnessing an enormous expansion of material activities, an endlessly variegated multiplicity of material engagements. Mills and factories, as well as hospitals and other institutions, are now in vogue. In ancient times, there was not so great an expansion of material activities. In those days the mode of living was simple, and yet the thoughts were sublime. So now there is a very good field of activities for the karma-yogīs, who can engage all the various modern institutions in the transcendental service of Viṣṇu, for the satisfaction of His transcendental senses.