Bhagavad Gita does not subscribe to the view that action is an obstacle to the spiritual freedom. It has rather declared that even while remaining fully active in the world of cut-throat competition, one can still keep his inner life anchored in the Divine. And even while living in the Supreme Self, one can still continue to be fully active in the outer world. This becomes possible when one works in the spirit of karma yoga.
Karma yoga is the means of obtaining serenity of mind through selfless performance of works. It is that path of spiritual evolution which highlights the importance of fulfilling all of one’s duties without any attachment to the actions or the results thereof. In Gita, Krishana has described the concept of karma yoga in detail. It has been explained as to how one can attain worldly glory and also spiritual growth by doing work with dedication and detachment. Though chapter three has formally been designated as karma yoga, many other shlokas of different chapters also deal with this subject.
A word of caution here. Karma yoga is not the same thing as the doctrine of karma. Whereas the former relates to the performance of one’s duties in a detached manner, the latter refers to the principle which states that every cause has an equal effect.
Shloka 2.47 conveys the essential message of karma yoga. In this famous verse it has been stated that one has right only to action, and never at all to its fruits. Let not the fruits of action be one’s motive ; and at the same time one should never be attached to inaction. In other words, no one can have complete control over the outcome of an activity. But one should never abandon a work which ought to be done by him.
One has a right to choose his actions. But he has no right to choose the results of those actions. He can do whatever he wants to do. He can indulge in noble or in evil deeds. But once having done those deeds, he cannot evade or avoid the fruits of those actions. The result of an action is inherent in the action itself. But how, when and in what shape one obtains those rewards is decided not by one’s expectations and desires but by the nature. The nature determines results of actions not through any arbitrary diktats but by well defined principles. One can only strive to understand those principles but no one can ever think of controlling them.
Success or failure in any venture depends not only upon the individual concerned but also on many other factors. Apart from the personal efforts, various other forces of nature play an important role in determining the results of one’s actions. These forces are governed by the laws of nature. Since the nature carries on its work in accordance with these laws, under the will of Ishvara, the Supreme Lord ; these laws are not biased in favour of or against any one. Therefore, one should never react negatively even if the results obtained are totally contrary to his expectations. One should cultivate an attitude of glad acceptance.
The sole purpose of one’s actions should not be the rewards of those actions. One must act with the understanding that work is its own reward. Action is for self-fulfilment. Instead of working for narrow selfish interests, one must work keeping in view the larger good.
Gita is a mandate for action. It has cautioned that one should never be attached to inaction. Inertia can never lead to perfection. Howsoever arduous, painful or unpleasant one’s assigned work may be, one must not run away from it.
Krishna has time and again underlined the need for action. At the same time, the importance of detachment from actions and their results has been emphasised. He has taught that duty must be performed devotedly and wholeheartedly, but without a sense of attachment. Regarding the sense of attachment, it has been explained that all kinds of works are carried out by the three gunas, the modes of material nature. But one’s ego considers itself to be the doer of all actions. It attributes to itself one’s talents, skills, actions and their results. When one identifies oneself with the ego, he attaches himself to them all. He thus remains entangled in various actions.
But he who has gained the knowledge of the self always remains aware that the works are done by the body, mind and the intelligence ; and the soul is different from all of them. He is thus relieved from the false identification of the self with the works. He realises that as the soul, he is actionless and the actions do not belong to him. Accordingly, he does all his assigned work as a matter of duty without any attachment to the works and their results. He does not give any credit or discredit to himself for various successes or failures of life. He is, thus, not carried away by the ups and downs of life. He who is unattached to works, he is untouched by sorrow. There is great joy in whatever he does.
……… to be continued ……..