Wednesday, February 24, 2010
How does an average person work? He works with a sense of weight and drudgery or he works with feverish intensity. Either will break him. If he works with indifference you cannot expect him to achieve anything significant. Because his heart is not in it and his mind and his energies are divided. If he works with nervous excitement, he will not last long. Sooner or later he will break down himself.
The truly great do not differentiate between big tasks and little tasks. They want to do well what they do whatever may be the task. Men of vision, men of genius, never feel that any work is beneath them. There is nothing beneath us and nothing beyond us. That should be our attitude. “There are no menial jobs, only menial attitudes.” said William Bennett. By doing well small tasks whole heartedly, with concentration and skillfulness, we evolve within ourselves a power which will enable us to perform greater tasks. Opportunities will come when we have proved our fitness.
Karma Yoga is the predominant topic of the Bhagavad Gita, though the book deals with other Yogas as well. Lord Krishna says in the Gita “Thy right is to work only, but never with its fruits; let not the fruits of action be thy motive, nor let thy attachment be to inaction. (Gita, Ch. 2, Verse 47). Every action, following the causal law, will surely produce its fruit; why long for it? ‘Wretched are they who work for results.’ If an action is done without attachment to its fruit, evenness of mind is sure to follow. Action should be natural and spontaneous, prompted by the exigencies of a situation.
Swami Chinmayananda said beautifully, “In fact, the reward of an action, when we understand it properly, is not anything different from the action itself. An action in the PRESENT, when conditioned by a FUTURE time, appears as the fruit of action. In fact, the action ends or fulfils itself as reaction or fruit in future.” Lord Krishna’s advice here is a call to man not to waste his present moment in useless dreams and fears, but to bring his best to the PRESENT and vitally live every moment because future shall take care of itself without fail.
Karma Yoga is not merely work. Karma Yoga means to perform work to the best of our ability and with awareness, without being overly attached to the outcome or the results (or to the fruits, the term used in Yoga and in the Bhagavad Gita. Ideally, moment to moment, work is an end in itself, the sense of self-importance diminished and work is done more and more without the obsessive sense of ‘me’, ‘I’ and ‘mine’. One becomes an instrument of action.
In fact, Karma Yoga flies in the face of what we have been conditioned to expect from work since the day we were born: payment, a pat on the back, self-expression, a sense of achievement. Yoga is not saying that we shouldn’t be paid, nor that we shouldn’t enjoy our work or develop our talents. All this is a natural part of life. It is not renunciation of action itself, but renunciation of the longing for the fruit, that is the secret of karma yoga. When we do that we are able to be open to inner guidance and to flow in the stream of grace. The Intelligence-Power that sustains the universe has a plan and a purpose. When we are in harmony with It we are free, even while involved.
Martin Heidegger, the German philosopher, once said: “The artist should turn himself into that which wants to be revealed and permit the process to happen through him.” This doesn’t only apply to art: it also applies to every act in our lives. Karma Yoga is the endeavour to transform every act, every thought and every feeling into a work of art. Acts should be revealed through us. The Ineffable, the Inner Presence, should be allowed to express Itself perfectly, moment to moment, through the medium of our personality. Then we become an artist in the real, or Spiritual, sense of the word.
In our ignorance, we feel that ‘I am doing’. This creates pride in us and brings about strife and disharmony. We don’t know, or realise, that we are only given the mandate to be able do or act by an ineffable Intelligence which is far vaster and more all-encompassing than our personality. If we know this - really know it - then the ego-sense tends to diminish; moreover, we start to see the same Intelligence working through everyone and everything in the universe
When the individual no longer considers himself the doer but only an instrument, then work becomes spiritualised. The individual becomes efficient in action and develops equanimity of mind at all times and in all situations.
In every form of success or accomplishment, let us try to give less recognition to the ego, and more to the Intelligence which underlies everything. After all, as personalities, there is a severe limit to what we can do, even though we may think otherwise. The following story from the Mahabharata illustrates this point very clearly:
“After the war, Arjuna was crossing a city with some possessions when some robbers attacked him. Exercising his fighting skills, Arjuna fought with all his strength against the robbers, but could not overcome them. All of his divinely given weapons were useless against them.
Since Krishna had already departed from the earth, Arjuna, totally despondent, went to see Sage Vyasa in order to find out why his weapons were so useless. Vyasa explained, ‘Oh Arjuna, those weapons never possessed any power, nor did you possess any power within yourself. It was all Krishna’s will that made you victorious during the Mahabharata. Now those weapons no longer have any purpose, so you may as well discard them.’ Arjuna then went and threw his weapons into the ocean’
Though the path of Karma Yoga has been explained in detail by Bhagavad Gita, references to it can also be found, directly or indirectly, in other religions. Jesus said "Thy will be done." The entire essence of Karma Yoga is contained in this pithy statement. One tries to tune in with the underlying Intelligence that exists in all things and act accordingly.
Let us have a great ideal, an ideal that will startle us with its greatness. . Every act can be done in such a way as to uplift us or to drag us down. It is not what we do, but how we do it that determines the merit of each action. So work like a master and not as a slave. Little by little our imperfections and difficulties will vanish and instead of regarding life as drudgery, instead of shrinking from it, we shall bless this life with many opportunities.