18.2 Ishopanishat p.2
Only in Vedanta does renunciation reach such a powerful consummation, comments Swami Vivekananda. This renunciation is not an alibi for indifference or negligence of duties. Renunciation is of desires and not necessarily a physical renunciation of one’s possessions or obligations. Possessions by themselves are not wrong; only attachment to them is wrong. The sense of possession is wrong; ‘I possess this; it is mine’ – such attitudes have to be won over. This subtle point about enjoyment through renunciation is what is generally missed by the uninformed reader. The world in which we live or the things of the world in the midst of which we carry on our life – none of it is ours. Once we have that conviction we can enjoy our life. So it is the attachment that is to be renounced. The word ‘bhunjIthAh’ stands for the experiencing and enjoying whatever is the visible universe. This enjoyment comes after renunciation of attachment to the desires. How is this so? This is so because everything is His. There is nothing that we can call or covet as ours. So the very idea of possession by us insignificant mortals is ludicrous. IshA-vAsyam-idam sarvam. In fact even saying that it is His is wrong. It is He. Everything is the Lord. Sarvam-khalvidam brahma. Indeed all this is Brahman. This oft-quoted truism from the mass of Upanishadic literature is to be felt in the bones and perceived as a way of life. It is for this purpose the three steps of shravaNa (hearing and listening), manana (mental analysis and synthesis of what was heard) and nididhyAsana (introspective contemplation of Being instead of Becoming) have been recommended so that theoretical knowledge can result in application. What this application is, is what is said in the second line of the verse. The two cornerstones of such application are: renunciation of attachment and non-covetousness of any possession.
Injunction to do one’s duties
Right in the next verse it says one should wish to live a full life of one hundred years. By doing what? Not by renouncing but by doing one’s duties and being involved in Action. There is no other way to live, we are told. We think we have to live our secular life by our own standards and norms. We think the religious-philosophical-spiritual way of living is something different. Not so, say all the Upansihats. Here the Ishopanishat links the two sides of man’s living by giving a prescription: kuvan-neveha karmANi – doing here all duties and actions – and na karma lipyate nare – actions do not bind the man --. Do your actions in such a way that they don’t bind you. What is that way? Enjoyment by renunciation of attachment. So even secular actions have to be done with an attitude -- an attitude motivated and prescribed by a philosophical understanding of things – an attitude of non-attachment. Such actions will not bind the real YOU within. This YOU, being nothing but Brahman, cannot be contaminated by any of the actions which the body or mind does.
Operational Plan for Karma Yoga
Kurvanneveha karmANi jijIveshhet-shatam- samAH /
Evam tvayi nAnyathethosti na karma lipyate nare // 2 //
Performing one’s duties in this life here one should wish to live for a hundred years. Thus and by no other way will karma not contaminate you.
This verse, along with the second half of the first verse gives the operational plan for how to live. What is said in the Gita in four chapters as Karma Yoga is given here in just three lines. There are always three urges in Man: to live, to know and to enjoy. These three arise from the three facets of Divinity inherent in Man, namely, sat, cit, and Ananda – existence, consciousness and bliss. All these are alreay with us. We wrongly think we are limited. We keep wanting to live, to know and to enjoy. The moment we want something, our unhappiness begins. The unhappiness is not in the absence of things, but it is in our wanting them. Happiness is already with us. Unhappiness arises from our searching for it outside. No one can be completely happy without knowing that He is Happiness, Pleasure and Bliss. They are all with us, in us. Look for the Ultimates in these rather than looking for them in their material sense. Looking for pleasure in the material sense as an end-in-itself leads to unhappiness. Our initial state is happiness. Whenever we want something, we have disturbed that initial state. When the want is fulfilled we go back to our initial state, happiness. Therefore happiness is not what was given to us by the thing we sought and thought we obtained, but it is our real state. This is the quintessance of all Upanishadic messages. That is why Ishopanishat in these three lines prods us to live for hundred years, happily, doing our duties and actions, enjoying as a sAxi (witness) without any attachment to anything that is external to the Real. ‘Such a doer of actions, without attachment, without the arrogance of doership, with enthusiasm and determination, unperturbed by success or failure is the sAtvika kartA (the divine kind among doers)’ (Bhagavad-Gita 18-26).