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Krishna and Karma Yoga III PDF Print E-mail
Gita - Gita Articles

We examined already that there are four different aspects that need to be considered in Karma Yoga proposed by Krishna.

  1. Kaamana (desires) are the driving forces for most of us and this is what generates a project for the next step Karma (action). We have also discussed about other driving forces before in our coumn on “From Parents to Parmatma.”

  2. Karma is needed to have the project completed. How can we bring efficiency in to Karma? How can we keep our mind off the eventual result and bring all the energy to the karma itself, is what Krishna focuses on when he talks about his karma yoga.

  3. Karma will produce a result. The net result also depends on other factors. Krishna focuses on how we deal with coming of results. Should we expect the result, not expect the result, accept the result or not accept the result. Many interpreters have place excessive focus on not expecting the result. I personally do not see that conclusion in Bhagavad-Gita. Krishna clearly favors accepting the reslutin 3:22.

  4. What do we do when the results have arrived? How do we process them? This is an important aspect of karma yoga. Do we want to carry on all the baggage of results or do we want to drop them (karmaphal-tyag). Krishna will argue that all results become garbage. We might treasure them as medals that we have won. The results are what we have to show for.

Let us examine today about how Gita approaches these in a little more detail. Krishna addresses these in the shlokas 3:22 and 3:23 as well.

End of desires:
Life starts with desires. We are all born in a family. That is beginning of our infrastructure. Our life then depends on our parents. We live their desires. Most of our personality is built around the desires of our parents. We then grow our own desires as we grow and become an adult. There usually is a generation gap. Teen period is difficult period because of this conflict. Parents’ desires have to end. We know that this conflict continues in many relationships. Our own desires also need to end. The desires which have helped us reach where we are, have to go as well. We do not like it. Yet, we have come to a point where the same desires that brought us to this point is becoming a hindrance in going forward. Arjun has achieved the pinnacle of success with his training through ambition and his personal drive. Now he is the middle of a war where he has to fight the mightiest of the mighty ones. Bhishma has a history of having had no defeats. Drona was his Guru. Karna was as good if not better that Arjun. The best of Arjun is yet to come. Krishna wants to take him there.

The key to success lies in the end of kaamana (desires). How does this help? It is not only the change of the driving forces that works here. Intrinsic driving force is stronger than the desires as we discussed before. But that is not all. The important part is the change is the level of clarity and decisiveness. A person who is torn apart with different desires cannot be decisive by default. A person whose desires have come to an end can see things clearly and can be decisive. This is what makes the big difference. Clarity and decisiveness is important before the next step of karma. That is where Krishna wants to see all of us before we get to work. Efficiency will be natural in such a situation.

End of Efforts
The project is at hand. It is time to go to work. We all know how to make effort for work. I learned swimming late in my life. My son learned it when he was young. I still use so much more effort when I try to swim compared to Amit. My swimming is not as effortless as most good swimmers. The same applies to my learning to ride a bicycle. The more effort I put into riding the bike, the more I fell. Now I can ride and talk at the same time. Effort is not needed.

No one has learned riding a bicycle or any other skill without making an effort. Arjun also learned his skills by making an effort. We all know that the effort has to end before we really become proficient. The doer has to disappear. This needs to be understood. Effort and presence of doer-ship go hand in hand. As long as the process and the doer are separate effort continues. Riding a bicycle has now become a part of my life. It is as if an extension of my body parts.

Efficiency has to come to such a situation. I and my bicycle are one. There is no separate-ness between me and the skill. The painter and his brush are not separate. The dancer and the dance are one. The samurai and his fight is one. Life or deaths do not matter now. Effort is needed but it has to go as well.

Desire is a social need but end of desire heralds a new life. Effort is needed to start but end of effort is what brings the efficiency. This is where Krishna will like us to be.

End of Results:
Results will come. We treasure our successes and hate our failures. We welcome successes with open arms and reject failures by all our being. This is how we live. We do not know any better. We are brought up to be successful. We also know that failures come.

Krishna will argue that both the results have a weight. They will weigh us down. The results will become a burden as time goes on. This weight will then start affecting our performance. This needs to be understood deeply. Krishna is not against results. He is not against holding on to the results either. Krishna is not in the business of choosing one over the other. He is just laying down the facts as they are. We can reject the result that we get. We can go on expecting what we want. That will not change the outcome that has already arrived. It will however affect our performance today that is going to produce a result tomorrow.

Krishna proposes accepting the results as they are. This will free us up for performance without any strain today. Tomorrow’s result depends upon my performance today. Result also depends on other factors, but my performance is an important part of. That needs to be as efficient as possible. Waste in my performance today has to be eliminated. Struggling with result that has already happened is a wasted effort in Krishna’s opinion and there is no need for that.

End of desires brings about clarity and decisiveness (ek-buddhi). End of efforts brings about a natural flow in work and performance. Accepting results as they come brings about freedom today. Karmaphal-tyag reduces the burden we carry on our shoulders. This is Krishna’s key to efficient working (karmashu kaushalam).

End of Karma Cycle:
These steps form different points in the karma cycle. The circle continues. A thought is the starting point for desires. Desires create a project which is executed by karma. Result follows and needs to be filed. The cycle is ongoing. The results that we see are obvious. Or is it that obvious all the time. I am taking part in competition. I train well and win the competition. I am happy. Many people come to congratulate me. I happen to ignore an old friend of mine. It was not deliberate, but it set off another cycle on the side. He did not show his unhappiness on the outside. The result was not so obvious here in this case. The friend may never forgive me for my ignoring him. I am sure he will let me know at some time or the other.

Karma produces a result that we can see and there are also impacts and reverberations that we do not see. According to Krishna Karma also produces bondage. Krishna’s whole effort in Gita is to educate Arjun how to perform karma and yet not become victim of this bondage. Knowing the details of karma cycle helps. There are two important aspects of this cycle where freedom from this bondage is possible.

The first is to work with the beginning and that is how the project is generated. If the project is generated from desires, bondage will follow. If the project is generated without desires then freedom is possible. Details of this desire pathway have been discussed in my article, “desire pathway.” The second is to do with how we deal with the results as discussed above.

The freedom from this cycle was an important consideration in Krishna’s times. It was easy for Arjun to see that freedom from the karma cycle is so wonderful. We do not see bondage in this cycle. I want to be rich. I work for it. I have a big house, a big car and I even have a plane. What is wrong in this? Krishna also does not see anything wrong in this. Krishna will be happy if he has these amenities the same as he will be if he looses all of these. We have become bondage of what we have. I will go insane if I loose my car, my house and my plane. I had worked so hard for all these. We all fear insecurity so much. This was my security and now I have lost it all. We will keep exploring more of these in our future columns on Bhagavad-Gita.

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