Monday, 20 April 2015

Is Nishkam-Karma Possible?

Work has always been a prime element in human life. It is through work that we meet out our physiological, mental and social needs which are necessary for survival and growth. However, in addition to these needs, there is one more dimension attached to the work. That dimension is called the spiritual dimension. 

Bhagavad-Gita clarifies beautifully “how” one should do one’s work or in other words, what should be the attitude towards one’s work. That attitude which Gita calls for is called the attitude of nishkam-karma. Nishkam-karma means having no desire for the fruits of one’s work. Whatever the results maybe explains the Gita, be not attached to it. Let the work be done for its own sake and not for the fulfillment of selfish ends because work done without attachment to its fruits leads to the attainment of the supreme divine.

तस्मादसक्तः सततं कार्यं कर्म समाचर ।
असक्तो ह्याचरन्कर्म परमाप्नोति पुरुषः ॥ 

                                     (गीता 3.19)

Psychologists say that no action is possible without any motive. That motive may be either in conscious or unconscious mind of the doer but motive has to be there. But Gita states that having any motive in work is the cause of bondage. This approach of Gita towards work has mesmerized many. However, Gita beautifully provides the answer to this dilemma. The answer to it lies in deep understanding of Vedanta philosophy.

एवमुक्त्वा हृषीकेशं गुडाकेशः परन्तप
योत्स्य इतिगोविन्दमुक्त्वा तूष्णीं बभूव

                                                                                  (गीता 2/9)

“I shall not fight” was the statement made by Arjuna in the battlefield of Kurushetra, bringing mysterious smile on Krishna’s face. The smile is mysterious because in it is hidden the answer to niskam-karma. Krishna explains to Arjuna that it is in ignorance you believe that you are the body-mind and going to fight and kill. “Know that with utmost clarity and faith that you and others with whom you are going to fight are the soul and soul neither kills nor it cannot be killed”.

एनं वेत्ति हन्तारं यश्चैनं मन्यते हतम्
उभौ तौ विजानीतो नायं हन्ति हन्यते

                                                                                    (गीता 2/19)

Krishna explains that this soul is immortal, ever existent and does not die when the body dies and encourages Arjuna to fight..

जायते म्रियते वा कदाचि-
न्नायं भूत्वा भविता वा भूयः
अजो नित्यः शाश्वतोऽयं पुराणो-
हन्यते हन्यमाने शरीरे   

                 (गीता 2/20)

अन्तवन्त इमे देहा नित्यस्योक्ताः शरीरिणः
अनाशिनोऽप्रमेयस्य तस्माद्युध्यस्व भारत   

                               (गीता 2.18)


 Geeta says, the thought that “I shall not fight” is also erroneous because soul is a non-doer. All actions, mental or physical, even the body, mind and intellect are in the domain of prakriti (nature) and carried out by it.

प्रकृतेः क्रियमाणानि गुणैः कर्माणि सर्वशः
अहंकारविमूढात्मा कर्ताहमिति मन्यते

                                (गीता 3/27)

Krishna explains Arjuna; “you as a soul is non-doer of action so how can you fight, kill and desire? Give away such mistaken thoughts and guilt, rest peacefully in your soul and let nature do it works. Such person even if he kills, in reality does not kill.


प्रकृत्यैव कर्माणि क्रियमाणानि सर्वशः
यः पश्यति तथात्मानमकर्तारं पश्यति

                            (गीता 13.29)

यस्य नाहङ्कृतो भावो बुद्धिर्यस्य लिप्यते
हत्वापि इमाँल्लोकान्न हन्ति निबध्यते

                            (गीता 18.17)

This was the knowledge imparted to Arjuna for being nishkam.  

This understanding given by Krishna in accordance to sankhya philosophy is simple and straightforward but difficult to comprehend, for the conditioning of mind has been very deep, existing since countless years. Soul attached to the ego of nature continues to think itself as the doer of all actions. Only a man of deep wisdom has the capacity to give away such erroneous thought. Krishna finding Arjuna still in dilemma, compassionately elaborated before him the second approach of being nishkam.  

“Vasudevam Sarvam” was the krishna’s second approach. Krishna says in Gita: “Arjuna know that all beings and non-beings exist in me and I exist in them. Know that I am the true source of all that there is and is the supreme doer. Nothing exists without me and I am all pervading”.

अहं सर्वस्य प्रभवो मत्तः सर्वं प्रवर्तते

                         (गीता 10.8)

“Be my instrument, play your role unattached in this wheel of existence. Surrender unto me all that you do, free from desires, fight and be established in yoga”.

निमित्तमात्रं भव सव्यसाचिन्

                    (गीता 11.33)

चेतसा सर्वकर्माणि मयि सन्न्यस्य मत्परः।
बुद्धियोगमुपाश्रित्य मच्चित्तः सततं भव॥

                            (गीता 18.57)

मयि सर्वाणि कर्माणि सन्नयस्याध्यात्मचेतसा
निराशीर्निर्ममो भूत्वा युध्यस्व विगतज्वरः

                                 (गीता 3.30)

“Yogesth Kuru Karmani” meaning, “be firmly established in yoga and carry out the work”; is the central message of the Bhagavad-Gita. A person who attains the state of evenness of mind is said to be in yoga (samatvam yogah uchyte).  Only a yogic mind can realize the non-doer nature of the eternal soul and be desireless. Krishna’s both the approaches towards being nishkam points to realization of only one fact that you are not the doer. Know it undoubtedly that you are the soul and its nature being of a non-doer or know that Krishna is the supreme lord of the entire existence and is the only doer.   

Thus it can be concluded that not only the desire for the fruits of one’s action has to be given up but the wrong belief of one being the doer of actions is also to be given up. Only then a person can have the attitude of being nishkam in his works. Works thus done have the capacity of purifying the mind and over the period of time leads one to the state of self-realization and freedom from the bondage of birth and death; the ultimate goal of human life.

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