In this episode, The Bearded Mystic Podcast discusses the 2nd chapter of the Bhagavad Gita, specifically verses 47 - 48. Shri Krishna discusses how we have free will and control our actions. We must also remember to not be attached to the fruits of our actions or even the ultimate outcome, otherwise this attachment will cause anxiety and disturbance within the mind. We are to utilize our yogic awareness through the knowledge of Brahman.
Translation used: The Bhagavad Gita Comes Alive: A Radical Translation by Jeffrey Armstrong Available here on Amazon
If you would like to dwell deeper in the Bhagavad Gita, I recommend Swami Gambhirananda's translation with Adi Shankara ji's commentary: Available here on Amazon
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Hello and welcome to The Bearded Mystic Podcast and I'm your host, Rahul N Singh. Thank you for joining today and for taking out the time to watch or listen to this episode. If you would like to support The Bearded Mystic Podcast you can do so by signing up to our Patreon page, the information is provided in the video description and show notes below. In the last episode we looked at verses 44 to 46.Verse 47:
Because you have free will, you can control your actions, but you are never in control of the fruit or ultimate outcome of what you do. Therefore, never let attachment to the fruits be the ultimate reason for your actions. Conversely, do not simply retreat into a state of detached inaction. This verse is often talked about and is very popular. However, it does require a deep understanding and a lot of people talk about not thinking of the results of one's actions, and it's very popular in the Indian mindset, but I often find that it's not really practiced. Before we start, I want to go over a few things because for someone to truly understand and practice this verse, we need to be able to do a few things or be able to comprehend a few things. So first of all, that person needs to strengthen their viveka, discernment by knowing what is sat, that which is real and asat that, which is unreal. This is the first criteria that's definitely needed. Remember that Sat is simply Brahman, the Atman or in Sankhya, it is referred to as a Purusha. This is a witness consciousness within us. This is real because it is changeless, birthless and eternal, formless and complete in itself. It is purnam. Asat, that which is always changing, modifying and transient. This in Sankhya is known as Prakriti or nature. Some can also refer this to be Maya. It appears to be real, but it is unreal. However, everything is as real as you are part of prakriti itself. Remember Asat is directly translated as the unreal. Then we need to understand that viveka is about knowing both of these things, meaning sat and asat and living in harmony with both. This then builds the foundation in order to practice this verse without any conflict or issues. This is very important because a lot of people like to condemn Maya or they like to condemn nature, or they say we need to avoid nature or avoid Maya. I say don't avoid it. In fact it's better to embrace it because it is also a part of you. It may be reflected consciousness, but it is still real. When you have pain, you feel the pain. When you feel happy, you feel happy. When your senses taste a brilliant dish, you feel that it's tasty. That is real for you. To say it's unreal would not be doing justification to maya or justification to the experience that we have. This relative reality, this transactional reality, it is always going to be here, but in the background needs to be our awareness and that awareness is Brahman. That awareness is your atman, it is the self. Shri Krishna says you have free will, therefore you can control your actions. So what does this mean? The question that I had when I was looking at this is what about the belief about there is God's Will. A lot of people talk about God's Will or God's plan. Or God is writing our story. Or God is behind everything and that we must accept whatever is in the will of God. I was thinking why did Shri Krishna talk about having free will? Firstly, we need to understand that this witness consciousness, this Nirguna Brahman, Attribute-less Awareness is not a doer of any action. Therefore, there is no such thing as God's will. If God did have a will and it could be manipulated, then that means God has favoritism. If that is the case, then God is simply less than those sages that have samdrishti, which is the vision of sameness. This is something to really think about because a lot of us think that there is God's will and we have to accept it. But here I'm kind of feeling that Shri Krishna doesn't want us to do that because we have to be responsible for the actions that we do. If God did have a will and he only changed it for his favorite devotees' or for those that are religious then that would mean that he's partial and therefore, if God is partial then is he just? If he is not just then is he worthy of any worship? That's why I really like non-duality or Advaita Vedanta because it talks about Nirguna Brahman. If something is truly attribute-less, it cannot have any favoritism. It cannot be manipulated. That's why I really like the concept of Nirguna Brahman. We all have free will when it comes to our basic actions and reactions. We are also free to choose what we want to do. At the end of the day, nobody can stop you from doing what you want to do. Even if you imply that somebody else has stopped you, you made that choice. It's not that you didn't choose that to happen. You did. We may not have caused a situation to occur and can sometimes land in them but we can choose how to respond. It may occur at some point that a situation has happened. You had no control of it. Therefore, how did it happen to you? There must be someone writing this. There must be something behind it. There must be some sort of law of karma operating. But here you get to choose how to respond to a situation. Now that you've been given the knowledge of what is sat and asat, you can make the decision to do what is right. This is what Shri Krishna is really guiding us and really wanting us to go towards. Those grounded in Brahman will be able to control their actions and respond. Therefore taking a path which creates peace or joy, or if it is a very dire situation, the action that leads to less suffering. Those in the clutches of the ego or a false identification will be reacting and may cause that action, which leads to more suffering. I'm talking about paap and punya. Punya meaning that action which leads to less suffering or towards merit. While paap is that action or activity which leads to more suffering. Now, when we are in the ego, when we falsely identify with the unreal, we tend to react to situations therefore causing more disturbance. But if we are grounded in Brahman, if we are in the awareness of Brahman, then we're able to control how we react to a situation. We actually choose to respond. We assess everything. We take our time and that's why it's very important to be grounded in Brahman. Grounded in Sat and grounded in what is Real. As I mentioned, some may see this as the law of Karma or what goes around, comes back around. These are nice ideas, but it is not a law like gravity. And we need to really understand that. It is simply our choice of actions and the consequences or merits of those actions. Don't make it more complicated. If we start having degrees of what an action does or the implications of an action, it will only cause disturbance in our mind. We'd be constantly agitated and anxious about what we're going to do. Therefore, it's best to keep it simple. Do those actions which cause less suffering because you are doing those actions because you are grounded in Brahman, in the Ultimate Reality, in Pure Consciousness. Shri Krishna says, but you are never in control of the fruit or ultimate outcome of what you do. Therefore never let attachment to the fruits be the ultimate reason for your actions. This is very, very deep. Again, this is the part of the verse that is very popular. Again, I want to emphasize that it requires proper understanding. It requires us to introspect upon what is being said. Whatever you do, you cannot assume that your action will have a particular outcome. So what might be right today, could be wrong tomorrow. And what is wrong today, may be understood as being the right thing tomorrow. This is why we do not think about the outcome and that we just let life flow as it should be, let the results appear as they should be, and then deal with those things. Now, the fruits doesn't mean that it's maybe a positive result. It could be something that we may not like, it may be negative, but the thing is we do not do anything for a negative reaction nor for a positive reaction. We rather just let things be, as they are. Remember, keeping that evenness of mind, that samdrishti, seeing everything as sameness, not being swayed to the positive, nor swayed to the negative. Everyone assesses a situation according to their nurture and nature. Therefore, if you are judged, let it go. Remind yourself that you are Brahman, and therefore the fruit has no impact upon you. Remember whether it's good or bad. If you gather good results for what you have done, do not get attached to it. Do not start thinking, oh, I've done something good. Therefore I deserve to be praised or I deserve to be acknowledged. Just let it be. Don't be attached to it. If you've had good results, well done but move on. There is a great example that I once heard in satsang. I'm paraphrasing here. That our good actions are like a golden spoon while bad actions are like a silver spoon. If we are attached to either or both of them, then we are still stuck in duality. Therefore, let go of the action itself, then naturally you will not be attached to the results or fruit of the action. Even when we say we do good deeds and that good deeds need to be done, being attached to that idea or attached to the results of that is like holding onto a golden spoon. At the end of the day, you're still attached to something. The saints and sages of the past, have all talked about just letting go of your actions. Don't be attached to them, do not be attracted to the results of them. Do not think about the outcome of them. Let the actions take care of themselves. Let the results take care of themselves. Remember that interpretation modifies and changes with time, therefore, all action is asat, unreal and so is a fruit and the ultimate outcome. There's only one fruit and ultimate outcome that will not change and which is set. And that is when you attain moksha. That action of jivan-mukti, of liberated whilst living, transcending the ego is the only act, which is Sat, which is the truth, which is real. That is because your natural state is Brahman. It is ananda, it is bliss. Don't commit to any actions because you want a particular outcome or fruit of that action. Just act with the basic understanding that one must perform action or make choices that causes less suffering in both short-term and, or long-term. Sometimes short term pain can cause growth in the long-term and sometimes short-term gain may cause losses in the long-term. We need to be aware enough, alert enough to understand the short-term impacts and the long-term impacts of whatever we do. Only act then. Take your time, don't rush. When you take your time, you're able to fully see a situation, whatever you are thinking to do, assess it alongside with the knowledge of Brahman that you've got. That will be the best way to know what causes less suffering. Conversely, do not simply retreat into a state of detached inaction. This does not mean that one simply ends up doing nothing because one, shouldn't be attached to the fruits. That would be a very incorrect understanding. What Shri Krishna is saying is that if we're saying not to be attached to the fruits, that does not mean that you then ignore action altogether. There's no way you can ignore action. As we live in this maya, this transactional relative reality, we must have detached action, not detached inaction. Detached action means that we act, but with detachment of the body and mind. The only way to do that is if we act in the awareness of Brahman, of the ultimate reality, that is the one day. If we think we can do detached inaction, it's impossible and I'll go into why that is. Dharma means that we commit to the path. Dharma means that we commit to that path that creates joy and harmony. If we are going to run to a mountain and not deal with the atrocities of the world, even for the pursuit of enlightenment, we are in danger. A lot of people leave this world, leave their families, leave their careers to go to a mountain, to try and attain peace. But how is that going to happen? But how is that going to create enlightenment. At the end of the day, you just run away from your mind. Your mind is still with you. You think you've ran away from it, but your mind is always within you. To really overcome the mind is to live in the world and face the challenges and be in awareness of Brahman. Always bring things back to this background awareness. That Brahman is. That is the most important thing to do. We all have a responsibility as global citizens to take care of those that are oppressed. And at the same time, we need to look after this planet. This is why detached action is very much needed. A person of yoga, of viveka, the knower of Brahman, they always support those that are being marginalized in society. They don't belong to any caste, religion, color, or nationality or any other sort of label. They simply act in order to benefit humanity. Krishna is also warning Arjuna that he should not let his mind be cunning to think that he can have detached inaction and that this is a possibility because he should not perform actions for the fruits that can be attained. He knows that Arjuna may start thinking that if the fruits of my actions do not belong to me, then I don't need to do anything. I can run away. Yet, little does he know that the mind will ignore the very first thing that Shri Krishna said, which was that we all have free will and we all make choices. Even the act of Sannyasa, of renunciation, of running away to the jungles or to the mountains or to the Himalayas is an action in itself. Normally with some motive or intention of a particular result, we cannot escape that. No matter what we do, even if the motive is enlightenment, it is still a result that we are hankering. This is why it's very important that we understand what Shri Krishna is saying, that we all make choices, we have free will to make the choice. The larger context may be that eventually when we look at life from an observer point of view, we may feel that we do not have any free will, that there are things that we do because of the choices other people make. Certain situations occur because of what we've done in the past. But remember we still have the choice to change things right now, to change things in the present. Now I'm going to go into what a few well renowned individuals have said about this verse. Adi Shankara ji explains whenever you have a hankering for the fruits of action, you will become the agent of acquiring the results of action. So if you want a particular result, you will become the doer. What Krishna wants Arjuna to do is to commit to action, but without thinking of the results, whether it is destruction or for peace. We do not hanker for the fruits of the action. For example, if Arjuna thinks that by running away, the fruit of that action will be that there will be peace, he's misguided. That doesn't mean there will be peace. That's why Krishna wants Arjuna to commit to action because even under the guise of inaction, there is action. Then Swami Nikhilananda in his notes, mentions a few things. The word karma has different meanings. It primarily means action. It also means the tendencies, impulses, habits, characteristics and so on formed by action and thus it denotes the subtle impression of action, which determine the future embodiment environment. In short, the whole future life, whether on earth or in any other plane of existence. No matter what it's not just action, but our tendencies, our impulses, our habits, they all have an impact. Then a third meaning of karma, often using reference to one's position in life is duty. The course of conduct, one ought to follow in pursuance of the tendencies acquired as a result of past actions with a view to working them out and regaining the pristine purity of the Self. This is mainly talking about one's position in life, but also because of the tendencies of past actions, we need to work them out in order to attain liberation. That's the ultimate path for us. To discover the self, we have to remove those tendencies that take us away from the self. Then Swami Ram Sukh Das ji says actions have a beginning and an end. These are not eternal. So how can their fruits be eternal? But the self is eternal. How can the Eternal get any benefit from the perishable. By understanding this fact one becomes detached from the world and attains self-realization. Fruits themselves of any action is not eternal. It has a timespan. A relatively short time span in this day and age. What is bad today is forgotten tomorrow because there's a new headline. So Swami Ram Sukh Das ji is very right here. The real way to get detached from the world is by understanding that how can the Eternal get any benefit from the perishable? How can Brahman get any benefit from maya? From this transactional reality? Nothing at all. Therefore the results are happening in the transactional reality, They're not happening to Brahman. The reality within you is unaffected. When we understand this, then we get self-realization. Then we have completely understood what Brahman is. Then we have completely become Brahman. He continues to say, you should not have the least attachment for the body, senses, mind and intellect, because attachment for these will make you responsible for the fruit of action. Very clearly said. The best way is to have little attachment? Whenever we do something, just have no attachment at all to it. Just act in the action itself. It sounds very vague and very roundabout, but it makes sense when you do it, it really does make sense. Then he says, by leaning towards inaction, you will become lazy and idle and like the desire for fruit, it will also mislead you to bondage. The reason is that laziness and prolonged sleep also gives pleasure. Sometimes we do get lazy and we enjoy being lazy. It's nice. But it also binds us. Yeah. That also has a consequence. Remember in the last episode, we talked about how shukra snow wants us to transcend power and pleasure. Therefore if laziness or inaction gives us pleasure, then it's worth being dropped. Action and inaction should both be transcended. Swami Chinmayananda ji says philosophy is not a subject that can be rightly understood by hasty students. The stanza that is now under review, when not properly understood will seem to indicate an impossible method. At the best it will look as if it was a religious sanction for the poor to continue being poor and the sacred permission for the rich to continue tyrannizing over the poor. To act in life without any expectations of results would seem to be almost impossible to the one who's only trying to understand the stanza mentally. But when the same individual, after he studies or she studies and walks out into the open fields of life and tries to practice it there, that person shall discover that this alone is the very secret of all the real achievements. How to understand this is that we have to practice this form of detached action, that we do action, but we remain detached from it. We remain away from the results. We should forget the action in the very next moment. That's how alert we need to become. This is what Swami Chinmayananda ji really wants us to do. He continues that almost all of us refuse to undertake great activities while being afraid of failures. Even those who dare to undertake noble endeavors invariably become nervous because they finish them again, due to their inward self indulgment. In short, the advice is to make us release ourselves from all of our mental preoccupations and thus through proper action live in the joy and ecstasy of inspired self forgetfulness. The action itself is our reward. That person that gets himself drunk with the joy and satisfaction of noble action done. The action is the means; the Higher Self experience alone is to goal divine. What Swamiji is talking about is that we need to be in that self forgetfulness state, when we commit to actions, when we do a particular action, the action itself is a reward. The fact that we can act to correct the past or to create a more beautiful future, that itself is a reward. That's the only thing we need to consider if we must. By doing that, we get ourselves, absorbed in joy and ecstasy because we've done noble things. Remember that the action is the only means. But the Higher Self experience, this Brahman, this feeling of 'Aham Brahmasmi'. That is to goal divine. That is the whole purpose. That is jivan-mukti. . That is the highest purpose. Now we're going to lead to verse 48. Instead, perform all your actions in a state of yogic awareness, without attachment to the result, undisturbed by pursuing siddhis perfections or avoiding asiddhi imperfection in whatever you do. It is said that such balanced consciousness is called karma yoga. This is introduction of karma yoga and we're going to understand that Karma Yoga is that life that is lived in balance due to the knowledge of the self. Shri Krishna said, instead, perform all your actions in a state of yogic awareness. Yogic awareness must be understood as that awareness that is of union with the Self, with Brahman. Every action must be done in the awareness of this Nirguna, this Attribute-less One, because this Attribute-less One is non dual. That is the best way to do actions in yogic awareness. We must perform all actions going forward, with this mindset, as we know what is sat and asat, real and unreal. Shri Krishna adds onto this when he said undisturbed by pursuing 'siddhis', perfections, or success, or avoiding ' asiddhi', imperfection, or failure in whatever you do. If he gains siddhis, perfections or powers or success, it doesn't matter. Only the body attains this, the mind attains, the senses attain this, our conditioning attains this, our preferences attain this. One day, the body will go and the mind will be transcended when we attain jivan-mukti, when we attain liberation, when we attain self-realization, therefore the siddhis must not distract us from the path of truth. This is what we need to understand. We do not need to commit to action to attain the favor of some God or Being. Our action is simply insignificant to this Nirguna, that which is Attribute-less Awareness. Neither do we want to avoid imperfection or failure because something may not go our way by thinking of the results. This will only cause anxiety. We do not want to avoid imperfection or failure. A wise friend of mine once said that a wise person sees failure as progress. Therefore someone in this state of yogic awareness will not be influenced by the success of an action and nor will they be disturbed by the failure of an action. Shri Krishna is telling Arjuna really that don't worry about whether you attain success in this battle or you lose and you're called a failure because you didn't win this battle. Go beyond both. Therefore, we commit to actions, even if it brings imperfect results. We must remind ourselves constantly that we are not in control of the fruits of our actions. Therefore, whether they are perfect or imperfect, it does not matter. The self within, the inner dweller, antaryami, the witness consciousness remains unperturbed, unaffected. Like I said, the previous episodes that we've been looking at where we have dealt with sat and asat, real and unreal is pivotal in understanding these two verses. It is a requirement. Without properly understanding sat and asat, Brahman and Maya, we will not be able to achieve this state of yogic awareness, when we can commit to an action fully yet remain detached from that action itself. Shri Krishna continues to say it is said that such balanced consciousness is called Karma Yoga. Whoever attains such a balanced state, that person is a Karma Yogi. Remember that person that is neither affected by the perfections of an action or the imperfections of an action, the success of an action or the failure of an action. They are not bounded by the fruit. They have a balanced mind. This balanced consciousness must be reflected in the mind. If there is imbalance, then that means we have become attached to the body and the mind. This balanced consciousness is reflected in the mind only when the Jiva understands that it is the Atman. It is Brahman. This is the way to truly understand this wisdom. Now we're going to go into the great beings that have given commentaries on the Bhagavad Gita. Adi Shankara ji says if action is not to be undertaken by one who is under the impulsion of the fruits of action, how then can they be undertaken? This is being stated by becoming established in Yoga undertake actions for the sake of the Self or Atman alone. Even there casting off attachment in the form 'God will be pleased with me.' Undertake actions remaining equipoise in success and failure. Even in the success characterized by the attainment of knowledge, that arises from the purification of the mind, when one performs actions without hankering for the results. Adi Shankara ji is really saying that we even need to cast off the attachment to the idea that God will be pleased with me. Or the devis and devtas will be pleased to me. We need to get rid of this idea. Even though it seems pious, we need to let go of that when we look at the fruits of the action. If we have this idea then we do not have that balanced consciousness. A lot of people do good deeds. Why? Because they want some merit. They want to please someone, even if it's too please the Guru. It creates imbalance. You may not see the imbalance now, but you may see it in the future. Swami Ram Sukh Das ji says a person of Yoga should be so even minded while performing actions that he should not bother about their accomplishment or non accomplishment. Forgetting the fruit or not. Forgetting salvation or not. He shall remain devoted to his duty. If an aspirin has not realized detachment and equanimity, he should aim at evenness of mind. It's very good advice by Swamiji. Just aim at evenness of mind. Whether we can attain detachment or equanimity who knows? Or balance? We don't know, but we can certainly aim at evenness of mind. The sameness of mind should remain intact from the beginning of an action to its end. It should not be a temporary phase. Otherwise the propensities of attraction and repulsion will go on coming up. We should never allow such propensities to develop. What Swamiji here is saying is that we may have the tendency of attraction or repulsion. We need to let go of that. In order to do that, we need to have that evenness of mind, that sameness of mind from the beginning of an action to the end of an action. Otherwise tendencies will continue to be developed, but this is not the way towards liberation. Therefore we should never let any tendency develop. Swami Chinmayananda ji says to any careful student, who understands all the implications of the terms, it must be clear that a complete effacement of the ego and its vanities is to be achieved to succeed on this path. This is gained by practicing the equipoise that was mentioned in the previous stanzas. What Swamiji is talking about here is that unless we practice that balance, that evenness of mind that we've been talking about in the previous verses of the Bhagavad Gita. There's no way that we're going to be able to practice this. We need to start practicing today. Right now. We've heard the message. We can always revisit the previous podcast episodes. There's no excuse for any of us to not practice this. He continues to say to all the sincere students who have so far followed Shri Krishna's words, it should be clear that the term attachment here means all factors against which Krishna has already warned us in the earlier verses and has insisted that we must renounce them all. For example, wrong imaginations, false expectations, daydreams about the fruits of actions, anxieties for the results and fears for future calamities that have not yet appeared to threaten our lives. Remember how Arjuna was in that complete manic state, where he felt that so much destruction will happen and he will go to hell for what he's done. Shri Krishna told him that he should not be thinking about those things and that if he thinks about running away, that will not mean that he will go to heaven. Swamiji is really emphasizing that point. The last point that he makes, which I find is amazing is thus in complete self-forgetfulness to get intoxicated with the activities undertaken in the present is to live vitally, fully and entirely with all the best that is in us to dissolve ourselves, thus our past, our future, our hopes, our fears into the fiery contents of the present is to work in inspiration. If you want to really do inspired actions, we have to be fully present. That is the way we can transcend our mind, the past, the future, the hopes and fears that we have, the success and failures and the anxieties that that brings around we can transcend that. He continues to say inspired work ever promises the greatest returns. An artist while at work forgetting himself in the very ecstasy of his work is an example. One need not for that matter be even a great artist. The one who is working interestedly with all his mind and intellect on any piece of work will not be aware immediately of any chance intruder. It will take time for the artist to come down from the realms of his joyous mood, to the crystallization of the ego in him, to recognize the intruder to understand his inquiry and give him an intelligent answer. In all inspired activities the worker forgets himself in the work that he is doing. When we just live life with joy. The intruder here is not somebody coming into your home. The intruder is the ego. The intruder is our tendencies. The intruder is our fears, our hopes, our desire for better results. Those are the intruders. But when we just commit to something like an artist, when they're creating their art, when they are fully involved, they do not think about whether the painting or the artwork will sell. They're doing it for the beauty of the art itself and therefore we need to live life for the beauty of life itself. And that is the best way to end this episode. Thank you very much for listening. A new episode is uploaded every Sunday. You can follow my social media accounts. The account details are in the video description and show notes below. Please rate and review the podcast. Thank you very much for listening. And if you would like to repeat after me you can. Aum Shanti Shanti, Shanti Aum peace, peace, peace.