Managing the two sides of life effectively
Yoga is a powerful state of existence that anyone can potentially attain. It is a matter of learning the principles, adopting the practices, elevating the goal of life and consciously applying the principles. One adept at conducting his thoughts and actions by realised yogic understanding experiences a freedom that cannot be curtailed by persons and worldly circumstances. Such resilient freedom is the source of real peace and happiness.
Yogic principles are taught in Vedic scriptures. The most important book on this subject is the Bhagavad-Gita. Lord Krishna, the supreme authority, the source of everything Himself delineates the essence of Yogic living. It is the human being’s best opportunity for a life of happiness.
There are many dimensions of human thought and existence that yoga addresses. The art of work is one of them. Work creates results, favourable and unfavourable. With a lot of energy imparted to work for success, the anticipated outcome is always a source of anxiety.
By yogic standards, as with all other aspects of living, work should not disturb the inner state of equilibrium. To be untroubled by the vagaries of work and its results requires yogic expertise. This is discussed in the Bhagavad-Gita.
karmaṇy evādhikāras te
mā phaleṣu kadācana
mā karma-phala-hetur bhūr
mā te saṅgo ‘stv akarmaṇi
“You have a right to perform your prescribed duty, but you are not entitled to the fruits of action. Never consider yourself to be the cause of the results of your activities, and never be attached to not doing your duty.”
Excerpt From: HDG A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. “Bhagavad-gita As It Is – Macmillan 1972 Edition” 2.46
The first guidance the Lord gives is that that work should be performed as a matter of duty. The anxiety of results should not accompany work. While working the focus should be on the intricacies of the task itself not allowing the worry over success or failure to intervene. A student should focus on studying, understanding, assimilating and writing the exam. The worry of result should not enter in this process. That has a very salubrious effect on the work itself. After having sincerely performed the duty, one should train oneself to not take credit for success or blame for failure. Neither is the result meant for our enjoyment nor are we the cause of it. We can only sincerely perform our duty and that is where we should direct our energies. The contemplation of the enjoyment of successful results or possible suffering due to failure must be checked.
The reason why the Lord teaches us to detach expectations of work from the working process is based on an eternal truth. We the embodied souls within the realm of matter are diseased by an intense urge is to gratify the senses (body), mind, intellect, and ego. This is called as ‘kama’ or lust. Threats to such gratification disturb the mind. The nature of the material atmosphere is such that our desires for gratification are constantly threatened. Thus, a life of lust is a life of anxiety. Expectations from work are born of lust. Thus by giving up the desire for the fruits of work, we defeat lust, the source of instability.
There is another factor that plagues lust-driven work – the temporary nature of material things. The freshness of an object of pleasure eventually fades. Be it a lavish bungalow, a fancy car or a newly wed spouse. They are enjoyable for a limited period. Then these very things become sources of pain. Due to the temporary appeal of hard-earned pleasure objects, the hopes placed on them don’t yield lasting happiness. The problem with self-seeking activities is that they result in karmic reactions, perpetuating the ultimately unhappy state of material existence.
“True yogīs or learned transcendentalists are not attracted by sense pleasures, which are the causes of continuous material existence. The more one is addicted to material pleasures, the more he is entrapped by material miseries.”
Excerpt From: HDG A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. “Bhagavad-gita As It Is – Macmillan 1972 Edition” 5.22 Purport
The all-knowing Lord, therefore, advises us not to be trapped by the glitter of the mundane promise.
yoga-sthaḥ kuru karmāṇi
saṅgaṁ tyaktvā dhanañjaya
siddhy-asiddhyoḥ samo bhūtvā
samatvaṁ yoga ucyate
“Be steadfast in yoga, O Arjuna. Perform your duty and abandon all attachment to success or failure. Such evenness of mind is called yoga.”
Excerpt From: HDG A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. “Bhagavad-gita As It Is – Macmillan 1972 Edition” 2.48
The Lord teaches to act in yoga, unattached to success and failure.
“Kṛṣṇa tells Arjuna that he should act in yoga. And what is that yoga? Yoga means to concentrate the mind upon the Supreme by controlling the ever-disturbing senses.”
Excerpt From: HDG A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. “Bhagavad-gita As It Is – Macmillan 1972 Edition 2.48 Purport
Yogic work is thus meant for the pleasure of the Supreme and not one’s own. Work steadfastly directed at the satisfaction of the transcendental Supreme Being amidst the incessant demands made by lustful senses, mind, intellect, and ego, is called yoga.
The Supreme Being is Lord Sri Krishna. He is not pleased by any great show of mundane opulence. He is pleased by the devotional attitude that seeks His pleasure. Intentions are more important than outcomes. In work, therefore, the right intention is of utmost importance. When intentions are devotional, success and failure are both understood to be the wish of the Supreme. The real pleasure is simply engaging in His service.
dūreṇa hy avaraṁ karma
buddhau śaraṇam anviccha
“O Dhanañjaya, rid yourself of all fruitive activities by devotional service and surrender fully to that consciousness. Those who want to enjoy the fruits of their work are misers.”
Excerpt From: HDG A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. “Bhagavad-gita As It Is – Macmillan 1972 Edition” 2.49
The word ‘buddhi-yogad’ means on the strength of buddhi-yoga. Srila Prabhupada explains
“Buddhi-yoga means transcendental loving service to the Lord. Such devotional service is the right course of action for the living entity. Only misers desire to enjoy the fruit of their own work just to be further entangled in material bondage.”
Excerpt From: HDG A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. “Bhagavad-gita As It Is – Macmillan 1972 Edition” 2.49 Purport
Acting on the strength of the spiritual understanding of the self and of the position of Krishna as the Supreme enjoyer is an enlightened action that never agitates the mind. To work fully surrendered to the Lord for His pleasure and in accordance with His direction is beyond mundane duty. This kind of work for the Lord alone is pure devotion. When one is unable to recognise the problem with self-centred work, he is called a miser for even with the prodigious human consciousness he is unable to see things as they are.
tasmād yogāya yujyasva
yogaḥ karmasu kauśalam
“A man engaged in devotional service rids himself of both good and bad actions even in this life. Therefore strive for yoga, O Arjuna, which is the art of all work.”
Excerpt From: HDG A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. “Bhagavad-gita As It Is – Macmillan 1972 Edition” 2.50
karma-jaṁ buddhi-yuktā hi
phalaṁ tyaktvā manīṣiṇaḥ
padaṁ gacchanty anāmayam
“The wise, engaged in devotional service, take refuge in the Lord and free themselves from the cycle of birth and death by renouncing the fruits of action in the material world. In this way, they can attain that state beyond all miseries.”
Excerpt From: HDG A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. “Bhagavad-gita As It Is – Macmillan 1972 Edition” 2.51
The real essence of maintaining tranquillity whether in success or failure is building a powerful devotional attitude towards Lord Krishna.
- We understand (at least theoretically) our constitutional position as Krishna’s eternal servants
- Our actions are intended for His pleasure
- We are not concerned about the fruits, but with the action itself
- While working we depend on Him for strength, knowledge and ability
- Success and failure are both accepted as His will.
- Selfish motives are gradually filtered out of the consciousness
To come to this stage of life as directed by the Bhagavad-Gita is undoubtedly difficult. But, there is a powerful practice taught by Lord Chaitanya by which we can achieve it and that is methodically chanting the mantra,
Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare
Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare
This chanting creates powerful changes in the consciousness to align it with the directions of Bhagavad-Gita. This mantra is the Lord Himself, therefore infinitely potent. Nothing is impossible for the mantra including transforming a consciousness weak in spiritual understanding, untrained in spiritual practices, absorbed in self-gratification and consequently undergoing the throes of material misery. Everyone should take shelter of the Lord’s Holy Name, learn the art of devotional work and cross over samsara – the ocean of material suffering.