Om Namo Bagavathe Vasudevaaya
3rd Chapter – karmayogaḥ
यज्ञार्थात्कर्मणोऽन्यत्र लोकोऽयं कर्मबन्धनः।
तदर्थं कर्म कौन्तेय मुक्तसङ्गः समाचर॥ ९॥
yajñārthātkarmaṇo’nyatra loko’yaṁ karmabandhanaḥ |
tadarthaṁ karma kaunteya muktasaṅgaḥ samācara || 9 ||
Meaning: Human beings are bound by Karma (or works) other than those done as Yajna. Therefore, O Arjuna, do your duty efficiently as a service or Seva to the Lord, free from attachment to the fruits of work. (3.09)
यज्ञार्थात् = done only for the sake of Yajna; कर्मणः = than work; अन्यत्र = otherwise; लोकः = world; अयं = this; कर्मबन्धनः = bondage by work; तत् = of Him; अर्थं = for the sake; कर्म = work; कौन्तेय = O son of Kunti; मुक्तसङ्गः = liberated from association; समाचर = do perfectly.
Explanation: The Lord is highlighting that action should be done as yajna (as a service). Lord is clearly stating that live life as a prayer to the Lord. When we invoke the presence of the Lord and perform all actions with that mindset, such attitude will lead one to become a vairagi (dispassionate person).
Everything in this world is given to us. We have air to breathe, we have the sunlight /the fire to give us warmth, we have water/plants to nourish us, we have the earth to stay on, we have eyes to see, nose to smell so on and so forth. If we reflect on all that is given, will we not come to recognize the giver? For something which is given, the inference will highlight to us that there must be a giver. Sastra says that the giver we are discussing is “isvara (Lord)”. The recognition of isvara as the giver, in and through our living is essential, for all our activities can be obstructed by 3 obstacles.
- Adhyatmika – those that originate from myself like aches, pains, unnecessary worries and thoughts can disturb.
- Adhiboutika – disturbances from my surroundings like loud noise, insects, mosquitos, TV nearby can be obstacles.
- Adhidaivika – the forces of nature over which I have no control like rain, earthquake etc. can also disturb.
To ward of these obstacles, to protect me from these obstacles, I invoke the blessings of the Lord, in fact there is uncertainty every moment. Starting with a conclusion that I am a limited person, conducting my life with what is already given in this world, helping me to infer the giver and recognizing that entity to be without limitations, I start looking upto that entity without limitations to help me from my limitations (which includes the above 3 obstacles too) and start calling that entity as the Lord and I start bringing him into my daily life for protecting me. This invocation is called leading a life with prayerful attitude.
Sanatana Dharma through its vast body of knowledge has given a structure for that invocation and has spelt out mantras (combination of powerful sacred words which adds strength to the individual, who repeats them regularly and which protects the individual who is repeating them) for all activities of a human.
When one gets up in the morning, the first shloka to be chanted invoking the Lord is,
Karaagre vasate Lakshmi
Karamule Sthitaa Gauri
When putting the foot on the ground,
Samudra Vasane Devi,
Parvata Stana Mandale.
Paada Sparsham Kshamasva Me.
When eating food,
Brahmarpanam Brahma Havir
Brahmaiva Tena Ghantavyam
Before going to bed,
Kara-Caranna Krtam Vaak-Kaaya-Jam Karma-Jam Vaa
Shravanna-Nayana-Jam Vaa Maanasam Va-Aparaadham
Vihitam-Avihitam Vaa Sarvam-Etat-Kssamasva
Jaya Jaya Karunna-Abdhe Shrii-Mahaadeva Shambho
Like this sanatana dharma has introduced the idea of bringing in the divine in all our actions and this is what is called as living a prayerful life.
The Lord is highlighting in this shloka, by the word yajna that one should lead a prayerful life amidst all his actions, and importantly, he should do those actions as the service unto the Lord. The reason why it should be done as the service unto the Lord is, to remove the personal likes and dislikes. Why personal likes and dislikes should be removed, because they bind one to the action/reaction cycle. Then the type of action plays a role, wherein one should choose such actions which doesn’t bind. They are the selfless actions (nishkaama karma). Example of nishkaama karma is the “pancha maha yajna’s” which we saw in the last post as well.
The whole idea here is, as humans possessing discriminative intellect; we should evolve from seeking tertiary pursuits and align our life with the natural laws, in order to realize the truth about ourselves. The pursuit of realizing one’s true nature involves emotional maturity, which will happen when one is able to drop, binding desires with the full understanding that they don’t give us permanent happiness/peace.
The key to note is that, doing sakama karmas(actions for the personal benefit) is fine as long as i) they are righteous and in line with the scriptures and ii) one doesn’t leave out the selfless actions. Doing both is best and in time, for one endowed with discriminative intellect, the sakama karma’s will drop off and nishkama karma’s will increase.
The Lord further advises Arjuna, that action should be done with an attitude (yoga). He says be free from attachment (mukta sangha). Attachment to what will be the question, the response is, attachment to the ownership of action and attachment to the fruits of action. This attitude of lack of attachment to both action and the result is called as “Karma Yoga” which we have been discussing for a while. One may ask, how can I not be attached to the action or the result? Will it not result in indifference?
One should recognize that the ownership to the action can’t be claimed because for a particular action to happen, there are several factors which have happened for that particular action to take place. In the same way, after the action is done, it is not in one’s hand to control the result. If one is cognizant of these facts, then the attachment to action or the result won’t happen, but the intensity or the focus in the action won’t be compromised.
To sum it up one should have clarity of thought for understanding the truth about oneself and that clarity of thought can come through dispassion, dispassion will come with the help of discriminative intellect, that discriminative intellect will help one to choose the right type of action, the attitude to perform the right type of action and the attitude to receive the result. On the whole, one will become prepared to understand the truth about oneself through systematic study, because he/she would have become an integrated personality (his/he thought, speech and action are aligned), he/she would have resolved his/he conflicts with himself and the world. This is the whole purpose of Karma Yoga, which is to become a person ready to embark on realizing the truth.
As we are talking about dispassion, one anecdote comes to my mind. Once a husband and a wife were talking and the husband was a person who is deliberating person, thereby he was growing in being dispassionate. The wife was telling him that her brother was threatening to become a sanyasi, and that he is slowly taking steps one by one, to become a sanyasi and that she is worried, because he would be leaving a helpless family behind. The husband after listening to it, tells the wife that she should not worry because her brother won’t take to sanyasa. The wife asked him that how can he be so sure? Husband replied, vairagya can’t be partial it has to be total and your brother is taking a step by step approach in renunciation. Becoming a vairagi (dispassionate) can be after a deliberation process, but claiming to be a vairagi but still renouncing one by one, means that he has not become a vairagi yet. Hence he won’t become a sanyasi. Wife asked, what your final conclusion is, is that my brother’s threats won’t lead him to sanyasa. The husband said, yes it won’t lead him to sanyasa, a vairagi should be like this. Telling her “like this” he simply left the house as it is.
The idea conveyed here is, such vairagya which marks one’s emotional maturity in handling the vagaries of the world, has to be obtained through properly resolving the interactions with this world. And for that one has to focus on performance of action and receiving the result with a difference. The difference is to perform them as a duty (Niyatam), as a service to the Lord (Yajna) and with an attitude of “lack of ownership” /”lack of enjoyership” (Yoga).
The Lord will now talk about Karma Yoga from the angle of “Dharma” and will also elaborate on “Yajna” in the coming shlokas.