Topics for today:
- Opening prayers and Gita Dhyanam
- Chapter 2 verse 47
Highlights of today’s class:
karmanyevadhikaraste ma phalesu kadacana | ma karmaphalaheturbhurma te sango’stvakarmani ||
- This is a very important verse in the Gita. Krishna talked about Karma yoga and its glory so far but now starting with this verse he really explains what it is all about.
- This verse has been explained by teachers in two ways – 1) contextually with reference to Arjuna’s situation – this is the interpretation of Sankara, and 2) more generally as a statement of fact with regard to any action. We will briefly see the first interpretation and then elaborately understand the second one.
- 1st interpretation per Sankara bhashya: Krishna says here that Arjuna currently had the qualification (=adhikarah) only to perform karma (karmani eva) and not to be established in atmajnana. Even while performing karma (prior to, during or after performing karma = kadacit = at anytime) he better perform it without any craving for results (ma phaleshu te adhikarah, ma karmaphala hetuh bhuh) so that he doesn’t perpetuate samsara. Nor should Arjuna be inclined to inaction thinking, ‘why then must I perform karma which involves effort and pain’ (ma te sango’stu akarmani).
A statement of fact:
- 2nd interpretation as a statement of fact: All human beings have a choice (=adhikarah) with regard to performing action, but have no choice with regard to the result that they will get for that action. This is a truth we can relate to from our own experiences. We may study very hard but narrowly miss admission into a college of our dreams, whereas a less capable student gets in. A hard working student may fall sick just on the day of the exam. A lucky-going average student may find the very questions in the exam that he had studied just the day before and hence may perform excellently. Such instances would not happen all the time but they do happen and when they do, they bring to our realization that we do not pull all the strings in life; there is a factor or factors beyond our control which seem to influence the outcomes. This is a statement of fact which can be corroborated by our own experiences. Our choice is only with regard to the action, the effort we put in. We have no choice with regard to the outcomes.
Work without expecting results?
- There are many notions, some funny, about not expecting results of actions but doing them anyway. We hear such advice but don’t know fully the reason for it and therefore either remain lukewarm to it or remain unsure as to how to practice it.
- Understanding and appreciating the fact that there is an unseen factor which influences outcomes of our actions will help us avoid disappointments. The advice is not to perform actions without expecting results. A popular saying attributed to Mandana Misra (later Sureshwaracharya) is “phalam anuddhishya mudho’pi na pravartate” – “without expecting results, even a fool does not perform actions”. Then what to say of normal or wise people? It is quite normal to start an action expecting a certain result. Krishna did so many actions with certain results in mind. Rama did so; Arjuna did so. We are free to desire certain outcomes and perform actions accordingly. The attitude with which we receive outcomes – which could sometimes be favorable, sometimes unfavorable, sometimes mixed – determines how we get affected by them, whether we become elated or dejected or remain composed.
Karma yoga is more than Pragmatism:
- Having this attitude of acceptance of outcomes because they are not in our control is being pragmatic. That itself doesn’t make one a karma yogi.
- Karma yoga and Sannyasa are two lifestyles available for mumukshu’s, those who have clear understanding of the pursuit of life being moksha. The lifestyle of Karma yoga involves performing actions whereas Sannyasa involves renouncing actions. But the goal is the same, moksha. Karma Yoga is a preparatory stage that leads to Sannyasa. Karma Yoga prepares the mind to assimilate atmajnana. Preparation of the mind is also called antah karana suddhi and involves gaining relative freedom from the pulls of ragas and dveshas, binding likes and dislikes. This antah karana suddhi is gained through performance of actions with proper attitude such that strong ragas and dveshas are neutralized.
Recognition of Isvara:
- A Karma Yogi has an understanding of the scheme in which karma and karma-phalas function.
- As a jiva, the doer is limited in terms of knowledge and power. If the jiva had power over results, it would always be successful. There would be no illnesses or accidents whatsoever. If results of actions are not in the control of a jiva, under whose control are they?
- We find that the universe we live in is governed by numerous laws. There are physical laws, biological laws, psychological laws, physiological laws and so on.
- The author of these laws in creation is Isvara, the Lord, the all-intelligent being, Brahman. The law of Karma is one such law which determines the results of actions performed. The result is produced by this law and the law itself is produced by Isvara. Isvara is therefore the karma-phala-daata, the dispenser of results of karma.
- We will continue in next class.
om tat sat