A request and a disclaimer: Before you begin to read this blog, request you to first read the blogs titled ‘A curtain raiser to the blog series on karma yoga, The seed for karma yoga and the other blogs in this series’, as this sets the context for this series on karma yoga. For this blog series on karma yoga, I draw my learnings from the Bhagavad Gita Home Study book and a few other discourses of Pujya Swami Dayananda Saraswati. The language and explanations used by Pujya swAmiji is profound. I wish I do justice by aligning my understanding to his explanation, as I parallelly try to relate it to day to day living. Any error in the way I have blogged, is due to an error in my understanding alone. To understand and introspect further on this topic, I have chosen the dialogue mode – between two of my favorite characters – MAnvi and her thAthA.. Both of them have aged by a few more years. MAnvi has grown far more deep and wide in her spiritual journey; MAnvi’s thAthA knows that his contribution is a catalyst in this journey of hers.
When MAnvi walked into her thAthA’s room to share what she learnt on karma yoga, she found him in his meditative state. She didn’t know whether he had begun his meditation just then or it was a while since he was in it. She decided to wait it out. There was an aura around her thAthA that would bring in a relaxed state of mind within her. There were times when she would just sit in his presence for a couple of hours, showing no sign of restlessness. Today wasn’t any different. For the first many minutes, she waited in anticipation that he would complete his meditation soon. But as time went by, she felt that this was going to take longer. That was when her mind went to what she had learnt the last few days about karma yoga.
While the essence of karma yoga is to take pleasure and pain with equanimity as though they are one and the same, she heard that to follow that one must have the necessary attitude. As though understanding her wishful look, MAnvi’s thAthA opened his eyes. Knowing the routine of her thAthA, MAnvi decided to wait for a few minutes, for him to be ready to talk to her. When he was ready, she briefed him on what she learnt and started to explain it to him.
MAnvi: thAthA, One aspect of the attitude of a person who practices karma yoga is – to look at work as worship or be dedicated to the work that one does. The meaning of this is also ‘to do what one is doing as a dedication to IswarA or the lord’. I am though confused, thAthA. who is this IswarA? I understand when you say that ‘IswarA’ is not a matter for belief but a matter for understanding’; and I know that I haven’t yet understood IswarA.
MAnvi’s thAthA: MAnvi, you are in the flow of speaking and to help you understand IswarA, we need to discuss another time. Will you be able to continue your sharing without having a discussion on IswarA now?
MAnvi (loving this aspect of her thAthA – of ensuring that there was less discomfort within her in any such discussions with him) : Yes, thAthA. whether it is me or whether it is other things around me, it is created and I look at the creator as cosmos, nature, or a supreme power. Whatever is created (which includes me) also has a purpose behind it, that which I may not know. If everything is for a purpose then what I do should also strive to meet that purpose, isn’t it thAthA? If whatever I do is for a purpose and the purpose includes me, then I need to do whatever I am doing, as though dedicated to me.
MAnvi’s thAthA knew that she was leading to a zone which she was not ready for at this moment, but it was very evident that she knew what she was talking about.
MAnvi: You know thAthA, I believe that whatever I do, I do it to make myself happy. That is the primary driver, and all else comes later. Being a human being, I want the best for myself. Then whatever I do, I should do it as a dedication to myself isn’t it? Naturally so, when I dedicate something to myself and consider that as sacrosanct or as worship, then I will give my best.
MAnvi’s thAthA (with a twinkle in his eyes) : Are you saying that you are IswarA, MAnvi?
MAnvi (reciprocating the twinkle in his eyes with her own): I haven’t understood IswarA, thAthA. So I really cannot say yes or no.
MAnvi’s thAthA’s smile widened at her response and indicated her to continue.
MAnvi: The second aspect of this attitude is to accept whatever we get as the outcome of what we do, as a prasAda of Iswara.
MAnvi’s thAthA: Elaborate on this, MAnvi.
MAnvi: thAthA, let’s say we go to a temple or any place of worship, whatever they give us as a prasAda, we don’t crib about it, we don’t whine about it. We just accept what we have been given. That’s the attitude that we need to have with regard to the outcome of what we do as well – Accept it as a prasAda of Iswara.
I think that these two aspects of this attitude are two sides to the same coin, thAthA. On one side of the coin is doing what we have to do as a worship or offering to IswarA; and the other side of the coin is to accept the outcome as though it is a prasAdA from IswarA.
MAnvi’s thAthA: So going by what you said earlier MAnvi, if what you are doing is an offering to yourself, the the outcome that you get should also be taken as a prasAda from yourself, isn’t it? If you are taking it as a prasAda from yourself, then you need to take pleasure and pain with equanimity as though they are one and the same, right? Because if you don’t accept it as a prasAda, then you will only toss between being either elated or sorrowful in every situation and that will perhaps affect your mental state and your spiritual progress as well.
As her thAthA was talking, MAnvi could visualise herself as a pendulum swinging from elation to sorrow; which would leave her no time and energy to pause and contemplate on what she has learnt spiritually and live her life the way she needs to live it.
MAnvi: thAthA, you have taught me a lot on karma yoga and I need to continue to contemplate on it and assimilate what I have learnt. I always thought that karma yoga was not for me but I realise now that what I thought is what I believed and not what is to be understood.
MAnvi’s thAthA: MAnvi, we have spent enough time discussing what you need to know now of karma yoga. As we do more of spiritual study, you will make your connections of that to karma yoga and thereby widen and deepen your knowledge on it. Let us both think of a topic for the next discussion, MAnvi.
Her thAthA’s last few statements gave a spring to MAnvi’s step. She knew that he would say this only if he felt that she has assimilated what she was taught; and that she was ready to move on to another discussion on another topic. Her mind raced looking for the next topic and she knew it would be days before she thought of one.