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Pursuit of excellence PDF Print E-mail
Gita - Gita Articles

yoga-sthah kuru karmani
sangam tyaktva dhananjaya
siddhy-asiddhyoh samo bhutva
samatvam yoga ucyate

Eastablished in Yoga, perform your karma (actions), O Dhananjaya (Arjuna), abandoning attachment, being balanced in success and failure; samatwvam is called Yoga.||2:48||

durena hy avaram karma
buddhi-yogad dhananjaya
buddhau saranam anviccha
krpanah phala-hetavah


Desire oriented action (sakaam karma) is far inferior to that performed with Buddhi yoga (centered intellect); poor are those who depend on sakaam karma and hence seek refuge in Buddhi yoga.||2:49||

Soon after talking about the basics of karma yoga, Krishna comes back to buddhi yoga. Krishna is very methodical. Before he talks about ‘the rights to karma but not to the result (2:47),’ he talked about the importance of decisiveness and clarity of thoughts (ek-buddhi, nischayatmika buddhi). It is obvious that decisiveness is important before we do any karma. And once the conditioning of moha (deep rooted desires) is gone the buddhi can become focused and clarity would set in. This is what Shankaracharya calls nischaltattva.

Desires have to go first. And we have discussed this before in ‘Two steps to dropping of Moha.” We shall explore it a little more here. You work for a big company. Your interest is to make money. You can steal money intelligently and serve your interest. In the process the company will go broke and you will loose the job. And then you find another job and do the same. If you are smart, you will never be caught. Let us look at another scenario. You work for the interest of the company and the company grows. The company pays you more and the cycle continues. Your interest is taken care of by the company. Similarly, when personal desires drop, one works in the larger interest of the existence and if the existence is happy, happiness showers on the individual as well. Moreover, his intelligence is not pulled in zillions of directions and he is able to work with a clear mind.

The person whose desires have dropped gets to clarity. He still has to perform his karma. This karma is performed out of a clear mind. And now comes the question of results. There will be a result of karma, but this does not depend on the karma alone. Other factors will influence the result. And, here in lies the fallacy of the interpretation of these shlokas.

It is mostly believed that we should not expect results. We do work for a result and there will be a result. We can expect a result. That is a normal situation. We choose to expect certain result and if the outcome is not as we expect we go through the cycle of frustration, anger etc. The other choice is to not expect a result. But, this is also a choice; we are still choosing not to expect a result. Krishna in my mind is not talking about not expecting a result. He is talking about a state of choicelessness. He does not want us to be taking any side.

Samatva is staying on the side of a river and watching the flow. It is like watching the traffic go by on a highway. Trucks, sport utility or sport cars, they are all passing by. There is no need to be identified with any of them. It is not a question of ‘not expecting any results.’ It is a question of accepting whatever the result may be.

And this is Krishna’s formula of achieving excellence. Arjuna has to reach to clarity first. This is the first part of Buddhi Yoga. This is achieved by dropping the conditioning of Moha (deeper roots of desires). Then he has to do his karma with this clarity. And then he has to accept the result, whatever it may be. This deep acceptance is a state of being and it also gives a great respect for the existence as it is.

Many people have a formula for success, which applies to sakaam karma (desire-result oriented karma). Positive thinking and positive imaging have been well described. Praying in a temple or chanting mantras are other techniques for getting divine help. Krishna is talking of a technique that is far superior to these. He therefore points out to the fact that result oriented people are inherently poor. They are in some sense hankering for a result. They are in fact glorified beggars in Krishna’s eyes.

Have you ever asked for a favor? And if you have, you know how the person who does favor looks at you in that time and moment. It takes away something from you. There is a beautiful story in this regard about Mahavira. Mahavira was in a forest and had vowed to maun (silence). A man walked by with his cow and asked Mahavira to watch it graze while he goes and does some arrant. Mahavira having vowed to keep his maun (not speaking) did no say anything, but the man took his silence as accepting the assignment. The cow in the meantime walked away from where Mahavira was and got lost. The man was enraged when he came back and started beating Mahavira mercilessly. Mahavira’s not talking did not help him at all. The story goes that Indra, the king of the gods, felt pity and came to offer help to Mahavira and it is said that Mahavira refused the help. He accepted the beating but would not accept favor from Indra.

I am not advising to stop asking for favors. But, I am pointing out to a fact that goes with the territory. Acceptance has a different quality. Then even if you are begging it has a divine property. Buddha was a beggar (bhikhu) and Krishna was just a saarathi (Charrioteer). The charisma is in the state of being and not in the class of karma. Krishna is advising Arjuna to get to the state of samatva of buddhi yoga, and this will be his road to success.

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