Eternal Law


brahman - Vedic Universe
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aum namo nArAyaNAya

kayena vAchA manasenriyairvA buddhyAtmanA vA prakRti svabhAvAt karomi yadyat sakalaM parasmai nArAyaNAeti samarpayAmi

What ever I do, with my body, mind or the senses, motivated by either intellect, my essential or material nature, I offer that to Narayana.

In saMsAra we saw how every action we take modifies our karmic state and sets us up for the next action. This cycle of action and consequences can go on endlessly. There is nothing inherently wrong about this. Unfortunately, more often than not, we act in a way that is detrimental to our well being; we act in a way that leads to regress or diminishing of our personality. This in turn brings unhappiness in our lives. Eventually some of us grow weary of our lives and wish for some respite from our troubled lives. It is at this point that one begins to wonder if there is some way to escape from the bonds of karma.

Emphatic answer to this puzzle is given by bhagavad gItA which also shows us the way to gain freedom from karma or a way to attain naiSkarma siddhi - literally success in halting karma.

This can be achieved by performing karma with detachment. "karmaNyeva adhikAras te mA phaleSu kadAchan, mA karma phala heturbhur mA te saNgas tu akarmANi", says bhagavad gItA. Shri kRSNa tells us: "You have the power to act, but you do not have the power to determine the results of your actions. Do not act intent on rewards and do not resort to inaction". In short, gItA is telling us the following: We should not perform actions with the intention of reaping benefits from our actions but perform actions out of sense of duty (kartavya), without attachment to the actions or their consequences, to carry on bodily journey (sharira yAtra), as sacrifice(yaJya), and for common good or weal of the world(loka saMgraha). This is my understanding of karma yoga.

As gItA explains it, karma attaches to us because we claim it. kRSNa is perfectly willing to "take away" our karma if we only let him. We claim karma (i.e., ahaMkAra) because the focus of our consciousness is misplaced by identification with guNas. And we take on as ours what is really the doing of guNas.

"prakRte kriyamANAni guNai karmANi sarvashaH, ahaMkaRA vimuDhAtmA kartAhaM iti manyate. tattva vittu mahAbhAvo guNa karma vibhAgayo, guNA guNeSu vartanta it matvA na sajjate", so says kRSNa in gItA. It is the guNas in prakRuti that do all the work that is done. A person befooled by misplaced ego thinks - it is I who do. But he who knows things as they are, understands the connection of guNas to karma, thinks guNas are interacting with guNas. Thinking thus, he is not attached to karma. This, I think, is the basis of karma yoga.

On practical level, karma yoga starts by dealing with intentions. Intentions lead to plans and plans to action. Our plans should be aimed at common good.  In her own inimitable way, my guru says, "when we stop planning, kRSNa starts planning (for us)". When plans are his, karma belongs to him and we are free from karma.

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