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He sees karma (doing) in akarma (non-doing) PDF Print E-mail
Gita - Gita Articles

karma[y akarma ya+ pa%yed akarma[i ca karma ya+
sa buddhim|n manu^ye^u sa yukta+ k&tsnakarmak&t

One who sees inaction in action and action in inaction, is a wise person. Such a person is a yog$ and has accomplished everything. (See also 3.05, 3.27, 5.08 and 13.29) (4.18)


Karma is being done all around
There are vibrations
And there are noises all around
Inside though is all peace and quiet
There is no doer in sight
Such is the ways
Of the wise
He sees non-doing in all doing
And doing in non-doing
And thus becomes the doer of it all. ||4:18||

We all live and die working. As long as we live we work. Doing is synonymous with our lives. Krishna talks about efficient working (karmasu kaushalam) and outlines his karma yoga. Karma yoga for all practical purposes means nishkam karma yoga. The focus is not on the result; it is on the doer and the process itself.

I was on an internet chat at Times of India office in January. The discussion focused on karma yoga and was going fine. Towards the end of the discussion a surfer asked me a question similar to this:

“Let us be practical. Karma yoga is not possible in our daily lives. Is it?”

This question tells a lot of truth about many of us. Arjun must be in the same position at this juncture of Gita. He is wondering if Krishna’s karma yoga is applicable in the time of war. Krishna is a very practical person. He would not talk anything that is pure philosophy.

This question signifies how difficult we feel understanding the basics of karma yoga is. It is not really that hard but we want to brand it hard and then it is easy to stay away from the whole idea. We can continue to live our lives as usual and not feel guilty or bad about not following Krishna’s message. It is after all so hard.

I invite you all to start saying to yourself that the message in Gita is not that hard. Arjun understood it and so can we. It needs a little opening up the heart along with keeping an open mind.

Why am I bringing this up right now? The reason is because if we do not open up to the basics of karma yoga, we will never understand what Krishna is saying in this verse. It is hard enough to get the basics and the basic premise of karma yoga lies in the fact that doer-ship is the most important aspect in any karma. Karta is the focus. Result is not the focus. In fact the result is not in your control. There are multiple factors apart from your karma (actions) that contribute to the final result.

That leads to the understanding at some stage that there is akarma (non-doing) in all karma (doing). This is what we discussed in our last column. It is conceivable to understand this by becoming a witness to all that happens around. Karma happens by me; yet there is silence inside. Nothing at the center has moved. The center, my real being has always remained undisturbed. There is no doer in sight. In such a situation the karma has no binding on the doer. I am working as if I have been under the influence of some external force. The difference is that I am allowing myself to be controlled by this external force. This external force happens to be Parmatma. I am working now for the existence itself. Yes, it is conceivable to think that this experience is possible.

The next one is harder and almost impossible to comprehend by our mental faculty. This is the reason why so many people question contributions of Buddha or Mahavira and so many others. What did they do? It is easy to see Mother Theresa’s service. It is in your face. How many of us can sacrifice so much? The sacrifice is so obvious. Buddha on the other hand looks selfish. He leaves house and his family for his own enlightenment. He does not serve the poor. He is begging himself instead of giving to others.

We need to get deeper in the existence’s working to be able to understand what Krishna means when he says that there is karma (doing) in akarma (non-doing). Karma is all around. Existence as we see it is a very active and vibrant one. The sun rises in the morning. The moon waxes and wanes. The ocean lives on its waves and the wind blows all around. The trees sway and the birds chirp. The grass grows and the lawn mowers try to keep it down. We live and we die. Karma in existence keeps happening whether we live or whether we die.

There is no action in the center. There is pure silence in the core of our being. There is pure silence in the core of the existence as well. All karma originates from this center. The vibrations arise and become realized in form of karma. “Seeing karma in akarma” is possible by close ncounter. Krishna uses the word “pashyed” which means seeing. Krishna is not talking about understanding. He is talking about seeing face to face. It ought to be experienced and then and then only can it become realized. Seeing karma in akarma is the ultimate realization of karma yoga. Krishna really wants us to get to the core of existence, let alone just think or not think about the results.

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