See me in everything. Surrender yourself to Me.Do all actions for My sake. Cut off all sorts of attachments. Have perfect devotion to Me. Sing My glories. (Krishna, Bhagavat Gita)
Any attempt to put a sacred message in a human language is prone to distortions. This is because of the limited nature of the language created mainly for the purpose of mundane life. Even what we call “sacred” languages, such as Sanskrit and Hebrew still limited as they are mostly based on everyday languages of those times.
Few books try to convey the sacred through human language. Among those is Bhagavat Gita (we’ll call it “Gita” here). In addition to above problem, the problem of translation to other languages increases the extent of distortions. Only through assisting “intuitive” perception one can break through the distortion and have a clear view of the Truth.
The topic of performing actions with non-attachments in the world, as we read Gita, certainly creates many confusions. The purpose of this post is to make this message of Gita clear from all misconceptions.
Here are typical words related to the right way to perform actions we usually find in many English renditions of Gita:
“You have the right to work, but never to the fruit of work. You should never engage in action for the sake of reward, nor should you long for inaction.
Fixed in Yoga do your actions,having abandoned attachments, having become equal in failure and success, for it is equality that is meant by Yoga.” ( Gita, 2:47-48)
“… miserable are those who perform actions for their fruits” (Gita 2:49)
Now, doesn’t this create a confusion in your mind? Why would we even consider doing something if not to have some results from it? If success is equal with a failure, then – why bother to act at all? Isn’t this difference of projecting a feeling of success versus failure which drives us in first place to start a certain action?
Secondly, are we entitle to the pleasure of success in our actions? If not from actions, then where do we get pleasure from, and also, why act?
Seemingly reasonable questions making the Gita statements kind of … not exactly making sense…
To understand Gita’s teaching of right actions, we have to … drop completely our way of thinking regarding:
- the world
- our role in the world
- our relations with the world
- view on possessiveness
- our reasons to act
Big help in acquiring right concepts comes from Advaita Vedanta as well as from it’s extensions into our times – the latest New Age teachers. And we will start from analyzing our current “normal” perception of the phenomenal world.
We perceive the “I” as a subject which is doing actions. The outside world is our playground to do actions. Our role is like a self-contained unit with mind who performs actions upon the outside world. Our role is “me” versus “them” – the world. Objects of the world always belong to somebody – either “me” or “them”. To have my portion of the world’s possessions, to have my portion of powers, and, to have my portion of the world’s happiness, I need to do a work – to act. Even to get what is rightfully “mine” – I need to act.
How rational are all those “normal” beliefs? Let’s see.
Say for example I am building a house. I am a craftsman who knows how to do it and I am handy with tools. I measure a piece of lumber, pick up a saw and start cutting. I am certain that it is me who is doing it. But – do I consciously direct my hands to pick up saw? How much work have I done to maintain a proper position of all my muscles to maintain my balance of the body, balance of the saw, gradual movement of the saw along the board? How much work have I done to synchronize the optical information coming from my eyes, the electric currents this optical signals converted to, the brain work to synchronize those electromagnetic vibrations with electric signals sent out to a many muscles in the body to maintain the balance-movement-action ? I don’t do any of these. All these somehow happen… We don’t even add into this picture that while I am cutting the lumber, somehow, my complex body parts not only miraculously function, but even the way my body functions is getting adjusted to the work I am doing… my heartbeat increases, breathing frequency increases, blood is getting redistributed differently to different parts of the body because I am doing a physical work, etc etc etc. I did not consciously do anything on re-adjusting functioning of my body to do my work…
Surely your current belief system will kick in bringing a “scientific” explanations: it’s all subconscious mind doing (how? why? with such complex precision?), or it is all DNA per-programmed abilities (even more surprising how?). But we don’t need all these “scientific” beliefs to interfere here. Not interested. It is enough to admit the following:
We don’t do all the work we normally think we do. In fact consciously we do a very tiny portion of the whole work we assume is “ours”. Regardless whether your explanation of the phenomenon is materialistically scientific or metaphysical and spiritual, in any case you have to admit – we never do all the work we usually think we do – the fact is – we do infinitesimally little of it through our individual ego. The main portion of “our” work is somehow done by somebody or something else…
So is with the world at large. In it there is that “somebody” or “something else” in every animate or inanimate object, in every objective phenomenon. Whence our relations with the world must be redefined, replaced with idea which includes in it that “something” or “somebody” that exists and acts in the ways hidden from our perception…
Now comes possessiveness. Would it be right to assign right of the possessor onto one who can’t even consciously maintain his/her own body functioning? Can a puppet or a robot, no matter how advanced, be a possessor of things? Can the result of the robot’s actions belong to this robot?
Dear reader, if you at this point still consider yourself a rightful doer and possessor of the results, you don’t need to continue… for those who came to understand, is the next part.
This “somebody” who is running our lives is given different names in different cultures. Whether we address him God or Universal Consciousness, Brahman or Elohim, Krishna or Logos, we only need to understand that He is the only One who runs the “show” and the “show” not only His but the “show” is Him… including us, individuals…
Our decision to do something is that infinitesimal part of the creative process which God designed for us to desire and to do. He made us. He made us to want. He made us to create. He made us to pursue the idea and act upon it. And He does all the work (most of it) behind the scene to follow up with (seemingly) our idea. Now, when we succeed, whom do the results belong?
For those who still have hard time to answer the obvious, here is a helping question – to whom do you belong, the perceived “doer”, who cannot even run his/her own body without the Master?
And now, when we are clear on “who runs the world”, we are ready to understand the true message of the Gita.
We are but an image/projection/crystallization of the infinite One God-Consciousness making an individualized form of Himself and implementation of His Creative Purpose.
He acts through us allowing us to enjoy His creative abilities even though in our a very limited ways.
We must act with full understanding that we are nothing but His limited form, acting with (mainly) His participation, for His Cosmic purpose.
Therefore all the results belong to Him to whom our very existence belongs and, in fact, is a part of.
Although there is nothing in this world that can belong to this world, yet, as long as we consciously do not separate ourselves from our umbilical cord with God, we, the image of God, can fully enjoy the fruits of our perceived “labor”.
But all above is true as long as, in our mind, we are connected to God and see our role undistorted.
As soon as we think about ourselves as independent “self-contained” ego separate from God-Universe, He will have to wake us up simply to remind us who we are… and all our illusion of possessiveness will vanish.
Now we see that Gita speaks about possessiveness and about satisfaction from the fruits of our labor only in relation to our habitual “self-contained” egotistic view. Drop this view and problem with possessiveness will vanish.Following this worldview will go along with Divine plan and will allow us to enjoy fruits of our labor:
I am the image-projection of God in this whole world which is also His image-projection
I am a creator in my own small scope, yet, as long as I am to benefit to all of His creation, He is my helper and, in fact, he is my true “doer”.
All the results of these actions are mine to the same degree as I am a portion of the whole of His creation, which is surely infinitesimal.
yet the knowledge of who I am and knowledge of Who is working to fulfill my desire, the understanding that I am also add-on to the whole of Creation, gives me enormous power – this is my main satisfaction from the results of “my” labor.
This is my FOREVER joy to keep: I am His image. I am creating with Him. I am laboring with Him.
My limited phenomenal ego is not a possessor neither a doer of anything. But my Ultimate Self – the Source of this world – is possessor and doer of everything. Only by realizing this I can be satisfied.
To a degree I am He, to that degree I am a Possessor of All the World!
Here is an actor’s view:
You are on the stage. You are acting. The theater is not yours, the stage you are put on holds whole world. As a good actor, you play your role well, with dedication and with passion, with whatever feelings seem to be played in that role, you enjoy your acting, but you will never assume that the results of your act on stage are something to keep to yourself… You know you are only an actor on stage…