Saturday, February 24, 2007

Teachings of the Bhagawad Gita: karmayoga

mayi sarvani karmani
nirasir nirmamo bhutva
yudhyasva vigata-jvarah

3.30 Devoid of the fever of the soul, engage in battle by dedicating
all actions to Me, with (your) mind intent on the Self, and becoming
free from expectations and egoism.

Bhagwaan Shankara's commentary

Vigata-jvarah, devoid of the fever of the soul, i.e. being free from
repentance, without remorse; yuddhyasva, engage in battle;
sannyasya, by dedicating; sarvani, all; karmani, actions; mayi, to
Me, who am Vasudeva, the omniscient supreme Lord, the Self of all;
adhyatma-cetasa, with (your) mind intent on the Self-with
discriminating wisdom, with this idea, 'I am an agent, and I work
for God as a servant'; and further, bhutva, becoming; nirasih, free
from expectations ['Free from expectations of results for
yourself']; and nirmamah, free from egoism. You from whom has
vanished the idea, '(this is) mine', are nirmamah.

This sloka is one of the most important slokas of the Bhagawad Gita,
and carries tremendous significance for reflection as well as

The Self referred to here is Vasudeva or Ishwara as karmaphaladaata.

Let us see what is implied and explained.

What is karma? Any action done with an intent.
Whenever we do any action there are two things involved icchashkati
and kriyashakti - the capacity to desire and the capacity to do.
(Now a doubt may arise - suppose I trample an insect while walking
on the street? Is that a karma - i didn't intend to trample it - yes
it is - it is an act of omission - the intent was to cross the
street but in performing that task, care should have taken to not
cause harm.)

So karmas are intentional acts of both commision as well as omission.

Now no action is possible without desire. And desire is always for
the fruit of the action.
A surgeon performs a surgery. It is an act. What is his desire? That
the surgery be successful. Now can he perform the action with no
desire that the surgery be successful? Of course not. Then how can
he be free from expectation? The Lord and Sankara make it clear -
free from expectations of the results for "my"self - nirasih
nirmamah. He wants the surgery to be successful. But he knows this
result is not in his hands. It is in the hands of the Supreme
Bestower of the results of all actions - the Karmaphaladaata - which
is Ishwara. And is this Ishwara sitting in some place and watching
this action(surgery) by live relay - no - the very Laws of the Order
that will determine the results of that action is Ishwara itself.
You jump from a tree - the very law that forces you to hurtle down
at 9.8m/sec is Ishwara.

Now Bhagwaan asks this surgeon to surrender "his action" to Me, the
Supreme Self - mayi sarvani karmani sannyasya. How?? I can surrender
to you something i have with me. You can ask me to surrender my
watch, my money, my food and so on. The results of my action are not
mine - what/how then to surrender? I do have one and only one thing
I can surrender - my attachment to the result for myself. My self
right now is my ego-sense- the sense of insignificance and
separation from Ishwara. Hence the result becomes important to me -
because in that result I falsely see myself becoming a little more
significant a little more complete - by gaining more respect, money,
pleasure, validation, honor, etc.

And these sow the seeds for me to get the results also for myself
alone - and these results can be the same, different or opposite of
what I expected for myself. So by attaching myself to the results of
the action I am setting my"self" up for an unexpected occurence.
This then sets up the lifelong struggle of ups and downs, which we
call samsara. A good result results in elation which is however
shortlived as the next thought is focussed now on either
safeguarding it or repeating it. A bad result results in depression
and frustration. Either way it leads to mental agitation. This is
what the Lord refers to as fever or agitation.(jvarah)

So instead for the good of my own self, the Lord advises me very
kindly - "Look, you do not have an iota of control over the results
of your actions. So why attach yourself to that. Surrender that
attachment to me."

Going back to the example of the surgeon - his attitude would/should
be "O Omniscient Lord. I am a mere instrument in your hands. You
brought me to this world. By your Grace have some small skills been
imbibed my me whereby You have now given me this ability as well as
opportunity to be of some service in a very limited way to one of my
brothers. My performance of this task is for You alone. Let my
skills, which You alone have imparted, not fail me as I perform this

Adhyatma chetasa refers to this attitude soaked in devotion to the
Supreme Self whilst engaged in action.

Now if the surgery is successful or not, the surgeon is prepared.
His mind is at ease, at peace. He can now focus his attention solely
on the job at hand. His entire inner equipments of his mind and
intellect as well as his outer equipments of his hands and eyes are
now completely in sync. His whole being is now focussed wholly and
solely on the action itself - and this lends itself to dexterity in
action - and that the Bhagwan says is what is yoga. "Yoga karmasu

As Swami Chinmayananda-ji puts it so beautifully -
"If hope is the child of the unborn future, ego is the lingering
memory of a dead past. To revel in ego and hope is an attempt on our
part to live, either with the dead moments of the past, or with the
unborn moments of the future."

If the action is not "my" action, then the result is also not "my"
I do not see myself as the "karta" and hence I do not see myslef as
the "bhokta"
What happens happens in strict accordance Ishwara's perfect order,
and I accept it gracefully as His prasad. Thus a surrendering
intellect gives rise to an accepting intellect.

This can be made applicable to each one of us - whatever activity we
do - we do it in this same spirit of surrender - we surrender the
expectations of the false self at the altar of the true self.

(As a byside - the word yudhyasva - gear up to fight.
Shouldnt we believe in ahimsa? This is where in my humble opinion
the Hindu doctrine and understanding of ahimsa is quite different
from the Buddhist/Jain doctrines of Absolute ahimsa. In absolute
ahimsa you never raise your hand no matter what - no exceptions. In
Hinduism, ahimsa is always with reference to the context. Allowing
himsa to take place to the righteous person without intervening is
not ahimsa - it is as bad as the person perpetrating that himsa.
Hence it is that all our Gods (and even more so our Goddesses) are
always depicted with magnificent weaponry. There are hardly any God-
images we can see which do not have at least one powerful weapon of
massdestruction! This is quite different from depicitions of God in
non-Hindu streams. Why is this so? I think this is because we do not
attach an absolute and nonthinking value to ahimsa.
Battle/war/killing/punishment, etc is very much accepted by us
PROVIDED it is the last and only recourse AND himsa to dharma is at


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