Monday, January 5, 2009

Karma Yoga - Action with detachment

Credit - The article below is based on reading various translations of the teachings of the Bhagvad Gita esp. a new work in progress translation from someone I know, who added that "yogah karmasu kaushalam" - Doing the best we can with what we have and where we are- after all that is the best any one can do!

Life is a set of actions, some voluntary and some involuntary and internal.
Action is inevitable, giving up action is impossible for our very nature forces us to act.

It is possible to renounce the attachment to the results of the actions. Either by realizing that all actions are due to our connection with material nature or by making all our actions as an offering to God. This is the spirit of Karma yoga - the yoga of renouncing the attachment to the fruit of the actions.

Karma Yoga is not one of defeatism, on the contrary it is one of incessant action where the focus is not distracted by attachment to the results. Where the action is the focus. You should have goals but you need to also realize that the action is in your control where as the results are controlled by many factors. You, the doer are just one of the factors. There are tools and ways the tools are used, there is of course the timing of your action and finally there is a chance factor or providence. All these factors influence the results - hence the need to focus on your action without attachement to the results.

Experiencing the fruit of your action is also unavoidable. There will be good results and sometimes bad results. Savour the good results ... and bear the bad ones with patience.

Strive to be good ... Realize that the universe around you is in perpetual motion...
Perform action while striving to stay detached for lasting peace!

Relevant Gita Verses:

2.47 You have control only over your actions but never over their results. The expected results should not be the motivation for action.
Also, don’t shirk away from your work. One is never in complete control over the outcome of an action. See 18:13-15.
It is pointless to worry about something that we cannot control. Focus on work without fear of failure or greed for success.

2.48 Do your work without getting attached to it; treat success and failure alike. Such equanimity is called yoga. Attachment to work indicates clinging to a possible outcome.

18.13-15 Five factors govern the outcome of all actions as proclaimed in the scriptures.
The situation, the individual, the tools one has, how one uses the tools, and the unknown causes. Whatever one does with his body, speech, or mind, with good or bad intention, the same five factors determine the outcome.
“Unknown causes” imply many events and forces that shape the outcome of our initiatives. We have limited or no control over them, because the “unknown” by virtue of being unknown is untamable. It can positively or negatively impact the out come- we may get lucky or lose out entirely. Because, it is not just us, four other factors determine the outcome.
Thus, the individual does not have control over the outcome.
See 2:47.

Credit for Bhagavadgita translation - Coming soon... The New Bhagavad-Gita: Timeless wisdom in the language of our times by Koti Sreekrishna and Hari Ravikumar is a fresh translation of the Bhagavad-Gita into plain English.