Swamiji on Facebook Swamiji on Twitter Swamiji on Youtube

A Study of the Bhagavadgita


Chapter 5: The Karma Yoga Principle of the Bhagavadgita (Continued)

Joy is shared in giving. Inasmuch as your joys are egoistic in nature, body-conditioned and not actually universally placed, it is good that you share your joy with other people. In sharing the joy, you are also sharing a little part of your ego, because joy and ego go together. The ego it is that is happy, for whatever reason. Let its happiness go a little bit. It pinches. Nobody likes to give anything. You feel sorry that something is going. The ego feels that at bit of it is also going, and feels great grief. Let it feel the grief so that the more you give as a sharing of your own joy, the more also is the ego part that goes with it. The less is the ego, the more is the universal aspect that will enter into you, the more spiritual you become, the more godly you become, and the less human, finite and drab your existence becomes.

So here is a point in the expectation of no result. When you give charity to somebody, do you give it thinking what that man will give back to you? That is like a brother-in-law giving to a brother-in-law. It is not charity. If a father is educating his son under the impression that he will take care of him in old age, he is not doing any charity. It is some kind of social work or family work. Total joy has not gone. He expects something. If charity is given with the expectation of return, it is not charity. When you arrange a banquet, a large feast, it is said not to invite only your friends because you know they will also invite you to a banquet one day. This is no good. If you give a banquet to your own relatives and invite all your friends and relations, know the motive behind it. Your ego swells more and more on account of the expectation of a very good result. If you arrange for a function in your house and your relatives come and pour gifts upon you, they will also expect you to give the same when they arrange for a feast or a function in their own homes. Otherwise, what will they feel? “This fellow has not given anything.” This is not charity; this is not giving. This is not spiritual action at all. Hence, mere giving in a mechanical or commercial way is not to be considered as charity.

Thus, the Bhagavadgita doctrine of duty, giving, participation, is minus expectation of a recompense that will follow. You may be very worried as to what kind of work you are being asked to do, and do not want to simply drudge for no purpose. I have already given you the knowledge of the organism of the body. The participation of the limbs of the body to the body’s requirement also provides their own necessity, as the body sustains the legs, the eyes, the hands, and the nose, etc. If the stomach eats food, the legs and fingers also get strength, the eyes will shine, and the cheeks will bloom. Why should the cheeks say they have no connection with your eating? If this universal principle is maintained behind your every act, the Universal Being will protect you. How it will protect you will come in the later chapters of the Gita. The introduction is laid here, in the Second Chapter. Your duty is to be the motive, and say not anything else; and in this participation of yourself in the scheme of things, which is your dharma based on your svabhava or your inner constitution, you will lose nothing and will gain everything. Ne’hā ’bhikramanāśo ’sti pratyavāyo na vidyate (Gita 2.40): In doing duty one loses nothing. One only gains.

You will not easily understand how you will gain a thing by expecting nothing from your work. It requires a new type of education to appreciate how it is possible that you can be happy and secure while you get nothing out of your work. It is not actually the work that is the source of your satisfaction; it is the connection of this work with the consciousness of your identity with the whole cosmos. That is why I am again repeating that karma is based on buddhi. It is not merely the work that brings results; it is the consciousness of your participation in the setup of the whole thing.

For instance, even an ordinary fitter in a factory may not be divested of the consciousness of his organic relation with the whole setup. He is not merely doing something independently, unconscious of why he is doing it. A consciousness of unity of purpose is there even in an organisation such as a factory, a government, etc. If that consciousness of unity of purpose is not there, it is a mechanical action that is being done, and he will be suffering, crying and cursing everybody, “How long will I work?” But if he knows the output will sustain him also, he will joyously work in a family, in an organisation.

In this great world of duty, no one is exempt from action. Na hi kaścit kṣaṇam api jātu tiṣṭhaty akarmakṛt (Gita 3.5); karmaṇy evā ’dhikāras te mā phaleṣu kadācana (Gita 2.47). Your duty is to act, and not to expect the fruit of an action. Here is the essence of the whole matter. Karmaṇy evā ’dhikāras te: you have the right to work. You have duties, but no privileges. You will be shocked to hear this because you feel, “Why should I work? I will get what I want at the end of the month.” People sit outside factories, banks and offices: “I will get my salary whether I work or not.” This attitude arises on account of not understanding the connection of your very existence in this world with the atmosphere around. Do not go for visible satisfactions. The Gita will tell you that immediate, visible satisfaction will be the source of sorrow afterwards. In the beginning, life looks very hard. It pricks like a thorn, but it will give you fruit. All good things look bitter in the beginning but they will yield the sweetness of honey later on, whereas all things that bind you will look like honey poured into the mouth, but later on they will strike, and you will repent for it.

The philosophy of the Bhagavadgita is not merely work, but participation in the production of a value that is transcendent to the action itself. When a large machine is working, every little part works and contributes to the machine’s output, the output being transcendent to the machine itself. The machine is an instrument, and the parts are also participants. Something is automatically produced as a transcendent result by the participation of the parts in the work of this large machinery of the world.

What follows from all this? You cannot sit quiet, nor can you motivate action by your own self independently. You are wound up inextricably, warp and woof, as in the fabric of a cloth, in the arrangement of things in this universe. Again to repeat, every individual is a cosmic representation, a little avatara, an incarnation, as it were, of God Almighty Himself. Remember the cosmic scheme which we described previously Purusha, Prakriti, Mahat, Ahamkara. These adhibhuta, adhideva, adhyatma, etc., are all simultaneously working in you now at this very moment. Just now, under the roof of this building, near the desk at which you are sitting and the way in which you are positioned, the whole cosmos is working though you. And so you will feel secure in this world. You will not feel dejected: “What is there? Nobody talks to me. I get nothing in this world.” Do not say that. You have everything in this world. Your feeling that you have nothing is your sorrow. When you are vitally connected with the life of the whole universe and are joyously participating in its requirement, how would you say you have nothing? You can touch the source of the world, and it will fall to you. The abundance of the universe will be in your hand. The world will be at your beck and call. You need not cringe before the world; the world will cringe before you. It will fall at your feet. Why should you fall at the feet of other people? There are no other people in this world. You are connected to everything else.

The mind is so tricky that it will not allow you to think like this. The moment this session is over, you will get up with a feeling as if nothing has happened. You have heard nothing. It is all gone, as water poured on a rock. This should not be. It should sink into your feeling. These discourses, this teaching, this academy is not a diversion from your daily duties or routine; it is a transmuting process of your very personality itself. It is intended to make you a new person altogether. When you return from this place, you will not be the same person that you were. You are a super person, a higher person, a slightly transcendent person, you may say. You have enlarged your being itself.

Therefore, the Bhagavadgita gospel of duty hinges upon two factors: In the universal setup of things everybody has to participate in some way or the other according to their proclivity, due to the predominance of the gunas of Prakriti in one’s nature; and this participation should be based on the nature of one’s consciousness of one’s unity with the cosmos dharma based on buddhi, karma based on jnana, in a state of equilibrium, or poised attitude of the mind. You will never be disturbed afterwards. Nothing can shake your will. Nobody can cause you sorrow, and nothing will cause you unhappiness. Is the body not maintaining a balance? It is always in the state of harmony. The world will, in a state of harmony, see that you are also placed in that harmony.

Samatvaṁ yoga ucyate (Gita 2.48): Equilibrium is Yoga, harmony is Yoga, adjustment is Yoga, adaptability is Yoga, unity is Yoga, the blending of the subject and the object in harmony is Yoga. In everything that you do, you must be in a state of harmony. You should not come in conflict with anybody neither with nature nor with people. The moment you set up an atmosphere of conflict and you are not able to adjust your personality with the object, the adhibhuta, there you have failed in Yoga. Yogaḥ karmasu kauśalam (Gita 2.50) is another great dictum. Yoga is harmony, and it is also expertness in action. Expertness means the ability to see unity in everything that you do, and in every position in which you are placed.

Here is a brief outline of the Karma Yoga principle of the Bhagavadgita. Therefore, Arjuna is asked to take a particular step under the prevailing circumstances, out of which he could not extricate himself. He is bound to do whatever is expected of him. Even if you think you will not do, you will actually be ruminating over that, and your ‘not doing’ is also a kind of action. Do not be attached to doing, and do not be attached to not doing. When you are doing some work, you may feel you are getting attached to it, and so you may desist from action under the impression that you are not going to be attached. But you are going to be attached to the other, negative aspect of it, namely, cessation from action. Your consciousness of action may be attachment, but your consciousness of non-action is also attachment. Mā karmaphalahetur bhūr mā te saṅgo 'stv akarmaṇi (Gita 2.47): Do not cling to your duties and works as if it is your performance. It is not yours; it is a universal action. Also, do not cling to non-action. You are caught from both sides. Neither can you have the so-called independent privilege of doing what you like, nor the option of not doing, under some circumstances.

But how will you adjust yourself to this condition? This is exactly the difficulty. It was not easy for even Bishma to decide what was proper under the given conditions. Even Drona, the great master, slipped under conditions which were very critical. Arjuna was a lesser man. His mind was reeling in a state of confusion.

No saint can be a saint all the time. There are a few moments when he comes down; he has difficulties and is unable to decide what is to be done. It is difficult to maintain God-consciousness all twenty-four hours of the day. Not even the greatest of saints can do that. Sometimes they act like human beings; but they rise up to God-consciousness afterwards, of course. Incarnations also do not always behave in a universal, uniform manner. There are ups and downs in their behaviour, whatever the reason be.

So with spiritual freedom, moksha, being the ultimate aim of existence, it becomes necessary on your part to be cautious. Yoga is not merely harmony, samattva, and it is not merely expertness in action. It is also caution. Vigilant is the Yogi. Apramattas tadā bhavati (Katha 2.3.2), says the Katha Upanishad. Heedfulness is the watchword of the Yoga student. If you are heedless and not able to catch the situation that is presented before you, you become mistaken in your attitude. Caution is the watchword. What is the caution? You must never forget that your particular behaviour and action that you perform is not disconnected from the consciousness of unity of purpose. This is the caution. You have to be vigilant to see that your behaviour and action at any given moment of time is not out of context with the unity of purpose that is to be at the back of it. Otherwise, it will be a drab, desultory work which will please nobody neither you, nor anyone else.

So in this outlook of life you will find there is no such thing as secularity or spirituality isolated from one another. Nowadays people talk of secular existence, political existence, social existence, and spiritual existence. There is nothing of the kind. These are all unnecessary departments that we are creating psychologically in a single, seamless arrangement of life. That which is predominantly extrovert looks secular, but that which is predominantly extrovert is also not spiritual; nor is it an introverted action, or merely a political administration all which, of course, are capable of being blended into a great Yoga of existence. A person can be a great statesman and politician, and also be a great Yogi. Lord Krishna himself is an example. He was a master statesman, master warrior, master Yogi, master politician, master sannyasin, master householder, and master incarnation of God. He blended together every aspect.

Thus, you can be a very good servant in any walk of life, and there is no such thing as menial labour or better work, a white-collar job. They do not exist. Every work is dignified because of the fact that every work is connected to a spiritual connection of your life with the whole godly arrangement of things. So ‘spirituality’, ‘secularity’ and so on are words that have to be used in the proper sense. There is only one action, all divine in its being; and only one person acts it is the supreme Purusha and Prakriti. There is one purpose, the unity of existence, the blending of adhyatma, adhibhuta and adhideva in which you are involved.

It is all joy. You seem to be in a kingdom of heaven even when you think of all these things. You are not living in hell. You are actually living in the heaven of God even now. The illusion of hell is only a temporary makeshift or a trickery of the mind, as in the end of the Mahabharta, Yudhishthira was made to see a kind of hell which was really not there; it was heaven itself. His perspective, his vision was distorted for some reason, and he began to see hell even in heaven. But the hell vanished, and heaven started shining before him.

In this very world, at this very place, in this very context, you will see all trouble vanishing in one second as if you have woken up from sleep, from a phantasm of dream, and you see a new world altogether. The awakening of the spirit, which is the intention behind the teaching of the Bhagavadgita, is instantaneous action of rising from hell to heaven, from mortality to immortality, from finitude to infinitude.