29.2 FOUR CHARACTER TYPES P.2
Three questions pertaining to ACTION
(Verse nos. 23, 24, 25 of the Gita Ch.18)
Did the individual have the right attitude to Action, without attachment, the action done as a duty, not for love, hate or gain?
Did he have a vain attitude to action, which was always done to satisfy desires impelled by ego and stress?
Did he have a dull attitude, in mechanical obedience to one's instincts heedless of the hurt or wrong done to others?
An action undertaken from delusion in mechanical obedience to the instincts and impulsion, in utter disregard to the strength, capacity, consequences, waste of effort or injury to others is the lowest type of action.
anubandhaM kshayaM himsAM anapekshya ca pauruShaM /
mohAdArabhyate karma yattat tAmasamucyate // 18-25
It loses all its vitality very soon because it was begun by a temporary fancy that turns out to be a misconception of the goal. Also that action which a man undertakes under the domination of desire with an egoistic sense of one's personality in the action and which is done with inordinate effort with a great heaving and straining of the personal will (kriyate bahulAyasaM – 18-24) to get at the object of desire -- like an excited teenager while playing a gambling game or an over-anxious mother while straining to teach her school-going son too much at too close a time to the examination -- that action is a vain one. On the other hand, an action which is regulated as prescribed (niyataM) , performed without attachment (sanga-rahitaM), without a liking for its spur or dislike for its drag (arAga-dveShataH), done without the hankering for the fruit, (aphala-prepsunA) that action is the best. It should better be a labor of love rather than an act for the sake of the law; an act of Grace rather than an act of obligation. Ultimately it would become the highest impersonal action, dictated not by our intellect, but by the spirit in us. It is in that sense wise men say: Work is Worship.
Three Questions pertaining to DOER
(Verse Nos.26,27,28 of the Gita, Ch.18)
Was the individual as a doer, (mukta-sangaH) free from attachment, (anaham-vAdI) free from egoism, (dhRRityutsAha-samanvitaH) full of a fixed impersonal resolution and a calm rectitude of zeal, (siddhyasiddhyor-nirvikAraH) not elated by success, and not depressed by failure?
Was he eagerly attached to the work, passionately desirous of fruit, greedy, impure, often violent, cruel and brutal in the means he uses, full of joy in success and of grief in failure?
Was he a doer with a mind mechanical, unthinking, stubborn and obstinate, cunning, insolent, lazy, despondent and procrastinating?
The right doer is humble and resolute. He does not seek something for himself. His contentment always shows up. The moon is not affected by the vibrations of its reflections in a lake. Clouds bump into other clouds and create great thunder and lightning; but the space in which all this happens is always the same. The big waves swallow the small waves; but the ocean remains the same. Where there is sun, there is no darkness; the sun never meets darkness, the right doer never indulges in the opposite of righteousness. Just as the ocean does not distinguish between its waters, whether they originate from this river or that river, so also the right doer does not distinguish between his actions, whether this or that is to his liking. He has the necessary personal warmth, enthusiasm, insight and originality. He is like the ideal nurse in a hospital, who brings her entire personality into the picture and works with dedication irrespective of the ‘success’ or ‘failure’. (sukhadukhe same kRRitvA lAbhAlAbhau jayAjayau – 2-38) (samadukha-sukhaH svasthaH -14-24) He genuinely enjoys helping others and takes his work seriously.
The Shloka Mukta-sangho-anahamvAdI ….. is one of the most important shlokas of the Gita. According to me there are what I call five-star shlokas of the Gita, some of them because they put forth most emphatically one of the five great teachings of the Gita and some others because they contain in themselves a capsule version of the entire Gita. This shloka 18-26 belongs to the latter class of five-star shlokas. Some others of this kind are yat karoShi yad ashnAsi ..(9-27), matkarmakRRinmatparamo … (11-55). So let us go through the shloka word by word.
Mukta-sangaH -- Free from attachment: This is easier said than done. The scriptures with one voice give the recipe how to be free from attachment. The human mind by nature cannot obey the commandment of non-attachment. Therefore they say, attach yourself to God. The Tamil tirukuRaL puts this most succintly and beautifully:
paRRuga paRRaRRAn paRRinai
appaRRaip-parruga parru viDaRku /
Acquire only the attachment to God who has no attachment Himself. In order to get rid of all attachments that attachment has to be acquired.
This is the religious facet of karma yoga. In the modern terminology of psychology this is called 'releasing from worldly ties by retying to Spirit'. But this attitude would require a belief in God and things of the 'beyond'. Youth may perhaps want a prop without the intervention of the idea of God. The mother as a deity of dedication is only one example of how karma yoga can be implemented even at the level of a teen-age student and even for the purpose of what appears to be a most self-centred action in which the good of the society does not enter the picture and wherein only the good of one's own self is the prime mover. The mystery of the yajna attitude is its potential to convert even an act of selfishness into an act of dedication and detachment! So the student, in tune with his attitude of dedication to his mother, should see to it that attachment to his mother replaces his perennial attachment to the results of his work.
For a man in (incidentally, not 'of ') the world, this means he is either attached to his God whom He serves or to his abstract God of Service -- which may be either the society, the cause, or the organization he serves. In all cases there is attachment no doubt but the attachment is never for an end which is self-centred. This is the yajna attitude. In the secular world this means one is stepping clear of bonds and physically moving away from problems so that even difficult problems of management or tricky personal problems get solved from a distance.
Free from egoism. (anahamvAdI) Again the dedication takes care of this. Whether it is the Marketing Executive, the Administrative Manager, the student on the climb, or the man in the world, the dedication to either the cause, or the organization, or the mother, or God, is the proper antidote for curtailing the ego and in due time making it totally subservient to everything else. Once the ego is put in its place, the yajna attitude is on.
dhRti-utsAha-samanvitaH (accompanied by firm resolve and deep fervour): Firm resolve and deep fervour are two fundamental qualities which not only the student but every other type of person we are talking about would need. The very fact they are put in here as the necessary associates of an ideal doer, show that a work done with healthy detachment is not a work which is indifferently done or something which is executed as an unwanted evil necessity. One enjoys doing the work. And one does it efficiently. It is the spirit with which one does the work rather than the mundane carrots that bring the joy.
siddhy-asiddhyor-nirvikAraH --Unelated by success and undepressed by failure: Here it is that the student will know what it is to dedicate his work to his mother. It is common knowledge that when a child does not perform in school it is the father, (generally), more than the mother, who will be uncompromising. The mother usually takes the stand that the child did its best and she hopes for a better performance in the future. The dedication to the mother by the teen-age student of all his work, both its success and its failure, achieves two things. First, it takes off the sting of the performance (positive or negative) from the student . Secondly the mother is prepared to take the disappointment of the failure better. In the general case of the man in the world, the success and failure would not be taken personally as to cause excitement either way, because one knows by his dedication to the Cause or the God, that one has done the best under the circumstances. The ideal example is a good nurse in a hospital who brings her entire personality in the picture and works with dedication irrespective of ‘success’ or ‘failure’.
The alchemy of the yajna attitude of even ordinary acts to a larger cause, be it as concrete as one's mother at home, or as unsubstantial as God in heaven, or as abstract as any impersonal noble cause, has to be experienced to be believed. It confirms the recurring emphasis in the scriptures on the importance of correct attitudes. Therefore it is the attitude with which you approach your karma that is important, rather than the karma itself.
On the other hand, the greedy doer is constantly thinking of this reward or that consequence. In fact such a doer is the fertile ground for all the desires of the world; and, full of these desires, he becomes malignant in what he does. He has such a fierce independence as will repudiate any kind of subordination. He himself engages in what seems to his colleagues as suicidal brinkmanship. He is not ignorant, but he is a passionate go-getter irrespective of the means he adopts.
The ignorant kind, however, makes no improvement on his nature. He has no control over himself, no vitality to meet the challenges of life. He is so stubborn in error and obstinate in stupidity that even his attempted good actions give only the opposite results. In addition he is so mediocre that his mediocrity increases by every action of his -- just as garbage heaps up by more garbage. In this way he sets up a pattern for himself that the good things that others may do for him rebound from him as a virus that hurts and destroys. And he takes a foolish pride in this doing of his.