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Thus Reality cannot be put into watertight pigeonholes and described as only this and not that. Action and non-action are relative concepts. When the whole world is awake and full of 

activity, for the enlightened man who ceases to be involved in it, it is the calm of the night, to borrow the imagery of the gItA. When the whole world is ignorant of the presence of the Cosmic Power and is therefore asleep, it is the Wise Enlightened Being who is awake; for Him the Absolute Light is radiating with all its brilliance  and it is he who is enjoying the permanent bliss of wisdom and light. 


yA niSa sarva-bhUtAnAm tasyAM jAgarti samyamI /
yasyAM jagrati bhUtAni sA niSa paSyato muneH //

So who is asleep, who is awake? Hindu literature abounds in such contrasts. The rhetoric of the presentation is only to bring home to us the relative nature of every experience. Karma Yoga therefore derives its strength  and sanction from a thorough understanding of what is everlasting and what is transient. 

A karma yogi goes about the world in the full awareness  that the action he performs pertains to the external world to which he is duty bound to respond, whereas his Internal Self is totally unaffected by anything that happens to his physical or mental self. He is happy within himself , having cast off the desires arising in his mind. Neither desire nor fear nor anger can upset him. He is not overwhelmed by grief nor is he excited by pleasure. He receives experiences  as they come - be they plesurable or sorrowful. The one does not enthuse him nor the other depress him,. Just as a tortoise withdraws his head and all its limbs under  its shell, he withdraws his sense organs from their objects of enjoyment. Having seen the Absolute, he has no taste for the trivialities of sense perception. Such a person goes about the world desireless, rid of all egoistic concepts of mine and thine, ever peaceful and happy. He is called a sthita-prajna, one of firm wisdom. It is the description of this ecstatic stage of human experience  that prompts Arjuna to ask again and again whether he should not therefore withdraw from action. The answer comes, as we have seen, in the form of a paradox. He who physically runs away for fear of involvement has not really run away because his egoism has taken hold of him. But he who is still in the world but does his duty with an attitude of total detachment is the one who has really renounced the world. 

To sum up, karma yoga is selfless desireless action -- action, for all purposes, done exactly as would be done by a person who is totally involved and attached. The difference is only in the mental attitude of the doer. Service to society done this way is Service to God. Service to elders, parents and ancestors is a duty in  which one engages oneself not for reward but for the discharge of an obligation or debt. NishkAma-karma (desireless action) performed in this way leads to the purification of the mind. VAsanAs, imprinted in the mind for ages, can be eradicated only by desireless action.Give all you can but never ask for the fruit.

The attitude of doing one's duty for its own sake is the heritage of Hindu culture, handed down from generation to generation. Even those Hindus who are not educated or scholarly, even those who come from very deprived environments, understand this concept. The rationale of all this lies in the fact that even an apparently imperfect or faulty action does not contaminate one when it is done without any desire or selfishness. No action, for that matter, is perfect. Imperfections will always be there in any action. But the imperfect element will not affect the doer if he is totally unselfish. We have already cited the example of a judge sentencing a criminal to death. Another dramatic example is that of a three-month old infant kicking its mother. Does it leave any vAsanA of sin in the doer? On the other hand, if the same child grows into an adult of 20 and now, in ungrateful anger, kicks his mother, there is a difference. The action is the same, but the attitude is different. The one taints the mind and the other does not. This is what our scriptures mean when they say that actions done without selfishness or desire will not bind you. such actions are the summum bonum of karma yoga.  To one who believes in the scriptures, gods and the myths associated with them, dedication of all actions to God would come naturally. For instead of arguing about what is detchment, what is non-action and action and so on, all he does is to simply think of God as the director of all his thoughts and deeds and dedicate them to Him. then the alchemy which we have mentioned earlier takes over and the several imperfections that are bound to have been there in the beginning will all disappear in due time and karma yoga will then become a second nature. And then, and only then, will every action performed by him be a yajna.


                                                       OM SHANTIH SHANTIH SHANTIH


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