Archive for the ‘Chapter 02’ Category

Sholka 69/2: True Import of Karmayoga

June 5, 2007

या निशा सर्वभूतानां तस्यां जागर्ति संयमी ।

यस्यां जाग्रति भूतानि सा निशा पश्यतो मुनेः ॥ ६९:२ ॥


Translation:  The person who has realised the truth is asleep to the things that the whole world is awake to.  He sees only those things which are unknown to the people of this world.


We are all awake to the possibility of furthering our own cause in this world. Most of us, who are reasonable, try to get ahead by ethical means. For the rest, the end justifies any means. However, the common thread in all our conscious work is to make our position better in this world. This motivation of our living is what the yogi is asleep to. On the other hand, we do not know what it means to live life without having any goals. Even the most noble deed of ours is done with the aim of satisfying our own vision of justice. Therefore,  our most lofty deeds comes with (at least) a tinge of selfishness. A true yogi does all his work for its own sake. Whatever he does is an end in itself. He expects no further dividends of his work. This attitude of his is what we are asleep to.


The above state is a true description of a Karma Yogi. All of us have heard of karma yoga as one of the main paths leading us to the realisation of truth.  It is a common misconception that doing ‘good’ deeds in this world is what karma yoga is. The above sholka tells us that being a karma yogi is having a particular attitude towards work. It is not an external thing like performing good deeds in the society but it is an internal adjustment of the motivation for doing any deed in life.  An attitude of detachment in which whatever we are doing is being done because it needs to be done. There is no other motivation to doing things apart from the fact that your current position in this world begs you to do it. We are so used to seeing an immediate (or some of us have the depth of mind to see a long term) effect of our work. We study in our childhood so that we will get good marks. Those marks are needed so that our parents will praise us. The parents praise us for getting marks because we satisfy some of their wants and so on and so on. For everything that we do, there is always an ulterior motive prompting us to do that particular thing. Even having a good time with our friends is prompted because of our lack of interest in other things. Therefore, doing a thing because it needs to be done is an attitude to which we are all asleep to.


In fact, this is the only attitude to which we are asleep to.  Even the most noblest of social worker is doing work to fulfill an Utopian view of society. Even if you say that we are doing things as a service to God, this is an extrinsic motivation for doing work. We have constructed a concept called God and keeping Him happy is the ultimate aim of our life and thus the work done with this aim is still work done with a motive. According to Vivekananda, even Jesus or Mohammad were not true Karma Yogi because they were doing work for their Gods. Not for its own sake! He says that the only true Karma Yogi the world has seen is Buddha. Who preached no God, nor did he promise salvation. He saw the need to tell certain things to people and went ahead and did them.


Having known what a true Karma Yoga means, how do we implement this doctrine in our life? For the time being be grateful to some force (you may call it God) for presenting an opportunity to do the work that has come in front of you. It may be a socially good deed or an immoral thought. It doesn’t matter what is the exact nature of this work. It has come in front of you because some one wishes it to be done. Do it to the best of your ability and wait for the next job that comes in front of you. It is said that so and so king built a particular city. But does that mean that he took mud in his hand and built the palaces by himself? His workers did the job and the king got the credit. Imagine that we are workers under the king called God and in the end whatever we have done, give the credit to the God king! The mason who actually toiled to build the palace gets his salary and is done with the process. Exactly like that, we have got our salary (the work done by us is our salary also!!) and we shouldn’t expect any further credit for our work. Keep this attitude in the mind as long as possible and then we have taken our first little step towards understanding Karma Yoga.