Gita series – part 20. Chapter II - Verses– 40 and 41 Krishna now begins his teachings on ‘Karma yoga’ which can be translated as ‘yoga of action’. The karma yoga has direct relevance to one’s karma. The idea of “Krishna consciousness” begins here. Krishna begins by highlighting the importance of karma yoga. “In karma yoga there is neither end to the beginning nor any opposites. If this righteous path is pursued at least marginally, it protects from the stupendous fear and birth and death (verse 40). Oh! Kurunantadna! (Arjuna is addressed by this name as he was descendent of Kuru dynasty) In this karma yoga there is only a single pointed determination. But the reasoning of those who have irresolute mind is endless and ramified” (verse 41). Karma yoga can be explained as actions that are performed without expecting anything in return. Performing one’s duty for the sake of duty alone and not for any gratifications is karma yoga. Krishna says pursuing the true karma yoga is difficult. There is no beginning or end to this yoga. The karma yoga is eternal, because this forms the basics of spiritual pursuits.
The results of karma yoga are not realized because of its tough terrain. If it is not pursued to its logical conclusion and deferred halfway through, even then its fruits to the extent it was pursued gets embedded in the soul. When the soul enters another form in the next birth, this gets manifested from where it was left in the previous birth. This concept has been repeatedly emphasized ancient texts. When the path of spirituality is pursued and 5% success is achieved, this 5% is carried to the next birth and one need not start all over again, but can begin from this 5%. Yogis and sages want to complete the entire 100% in this birth itself. When you perform certain action without expecting any favours the intent is called Krishna consciousness. This means that whatever actions we do, they are for the sake of Krishna or at the command of Krishna. What will happen if someone performs certain actions for his own benefits? The results could be disastrous. If a ritual is not performed properly, it leads to negative results. Whereas, any ritual performed without selfish motive does not yield adverse results but also have the flexibility of commencing again from the place where the soul left its pursuit in the previous birth. Such souls are made to born with comforts. But if one could pursue the path of karma yoga till the end, it makes the soul merge with the Brahman and attains final liberation. No more births and deaths.
When Krishna says stupendous fear, He means the fear at the time of death. However Krishna offers solutions for the fear of death in subsequent chapters. In a way it can be said that this verse underlines the importance of meditation or inner ritual than the glorified and tedious external rituals. Determined mind is the basic requirement of karma yoga. This is the difference between yogis and normal beings. Yogis cultivate the habit of single pointed focusing on the Brahman. Whatever they do, let it be sleeping, eating, bathing etc they do it for and on behalf of the Brahman. If they eat, they consider it as intake of food by the Brahman. If they feel the hunger, they feel that the Brahman is hungry. They do not distinguish between the Brahman and themselves. If such a thought arises, the food comes in search of the yogi and the yogi need not go after food. Such a thought can arise only if the mind is well tuned. The mind has to move to the highest stage called intellect. Intellect is the knowledge required to know the Brahman. Such knowledge is called Krishna consciousness, the awareness of Krishna in all the acts at all the times. When a thought arises that makes you to perform an action, afflictions or virtues arising out of such actions do not belong to you. They all go to Krishna, because the doer is only the power of attorney holder of Krishna.
If one does not have a determined mind to pursue the path of karma yoga, the mind gets infected as it is not focused on a single object. It starts wandering. A wandering mind does not refine itself as intellect. Mind continues to remain in a mundane state ready for sufferings and miseries birth after birth. The main difference between external ritual and meditation is that rituals are associated with various ingredients. For example let us take a fire ritual. You need wood logs, ghee, etc and during the course of the ritual the concentration will be elsewhere, possibly on the fire itself or one may not be able to tolerate the smoke coming out of the fire causing the suspension of the ritual for some time. Once the ritual is commenced, it cannot be held back even for a few minutes. But in the case of meditation what one needs is nothing but focus. For karma yoga the concentration and thought are important factors. In later stages, thoughts should also fade out. (to be continued)