"Unseen and indefinite are the good and bad reactions of fruitive work. And without taking action, the desired fruits of such work cannot manifest.” (Lakshmana speaking to Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 66.17)
When we want something really badly, we have the inherent hope that someday we will get it. This hope especially applies to the area of romantic love. If we see a friend getting married or a fellow loved one meeting the person of their dreams, we naturally start to examine our own life’s situation. “When will I meet the person who fills my heart with pure joy?” Our friends and family members often will respond by telling us not to worry and that someday, eventually everything will work out. “You’ll meet someone, don’t worry.” This same positive attitude is conveyed to people suffering from depression and ill-luck. All of us at some point in our lives have been told not to worry, for events would fall into place for us eventually.
While this positive attitude is nice, it is better if we take the matter into our own hands. If we take action ourselves, we are more likely to get what we want. Other people aren’t mind-readers after all, so they don’t know what we want or what we like. We have to tell people, and in the same manner, if we really want something, we have to convince ourselves that it is necessary to take action in order to be successful. From studying life around us, we can see that everything happens because of action. Houses are built, books are written, food is prepared, people are transported, etc., all through the action of man. In Sanskrit, this is known as human effort, or paurusham. This word is derived from purusha, which means spirit or life. We know that stone and dirt are considered dull matter, while trees, plants, and flowers are considered forms of life. The difference between these entities is the existence of spirit, or purusha.
In a similar manner, we human beings are all purusha, for we all have a spirit soul residing within us. This soul is the driving force of our actions; in the absence of the soul, the body is useless. If there is no soul within a body, it is known as a corpse, or a body which is in a dead state. Purusha is what makes things happen. It controls our speech, our bodily motions, and even our mental outlook. Even activities that we consider involuntary, such as breathing, the beating of the heart, and blinking, are all driven by the spirit soul.
Just as the spirit soul drives the car known as the body, there is a giant soul which causes nature to function. Rain, excessive heat, snow storms, etc., don’t just happen on their own. As previously mentioned, matter is dull by itself, so it can’t do anything without the intervention of paurusham. Nature too needs a driving force, which it kindly gets from the greatest purusha. This person, or spirit, is God.
“This material nature is working under My direction, O son of Kunti, and it is producing all moving and unmoving beings. By its rule this manifestation is created and annihilated again and again.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.10)
So we see that God makes everything happen in nature and that living entities are the cause of life’s other events. Thus one might be led to believe that personal action is not required. “It seems like everyone else is taking care of everything. It is probably better for me to just sit back and do nothing; just wait for things to fall into place.” This attitude makes sense in many situations, for there is action in inaction. For example, many times it is better to walk away from an argument than to actually engage in fisticuffs. Sometimes not doing something is better than doing something since action can get us entangled into many unwanted activities.
An example of this principle can be seen with the cellular telephone. In days past, there were no mobile phones, so if we had to call anybody, we had to use the phone in our own home or a public phone. The downside to this was that it was difficult to get a hold of people during emergencies. The cell phone seemed like a great invention; you could now carry around a telephone with you wherever you went. These phones can now support text messaging, internet browsing, game play, picture taking, and even the listening of music. This all seems well and good, but let’s examine some of the downsides to buying a cell phone. At the time of purchase, one incurs a new monthly expenditure in order to maintain service on the phone. One also needs a charger on hand, a computer to transfer data onto the phone, a hands-free device to use the phone while driving, and many other gadgets and accessories. We now also run into other people who love to talk on their phone while in public. Many people find this behavior rude and annoying. The phone can also now ring at any time of any day. This means that something that was intended to help us with emergencies now can become a great burden.
So there are certainly situations in life where inaction is beneficial. However, to get what we want, some action needs to take place, even if it’s not from us. For things to “fall into place” per se, human action is required to drop those pieces into their appropriate locations. We can examine the arena of romantic love to see this principle in practice. When two people meet up and fall in love, they like to believe that fate brought them together, and that it was all destined to happen. By some great chance, they were able to meet each other at just the right time in their lives, and were it not for this fortunate occasion, they may never have found true love. But if we examine the situation, we’ll see that it took more than just dumb luck for the pieces to fall into place. Action had to take place, even if both parties weren’t aware of it. For any two people to meet, they must take the necessary steps to be at the proper place, at the proper time. Even if one person sits back and does nothing, there is still the requirement that others perform some type of action; otherwise nothing would happen. Also in romantic relationships, there must be a first move made. Either the boy chases the girl or the girl chases the boy, and eventually one of them will make the first romantic gesture. This is another example of human effort.
One of the downsides to going after what you want is that you could fail. Failure doesn’t feel good at all, and repeated failed attempts can make even the strongest person weary to put forth any more effort. The Vedas, the original set of law codes passed down by the Supreme Divine Lord Shri Krishna, tell us not to worry about temporary setbacks, for all good and bad things come on their own. Rather, it is important to forge ahead with our prescribed duties, performing those actions which are necessary to keep us on the righteous path. This sentiment was reiterated by the great kshatriya warrior and younger brother of Lord Rama, Lakshmana.
During the Treta Yuga, Lord Krishna appeared on earth in the guise of a human being named Rama for the purposes of enacting pastimes and killing demons. On one occasion, Sita Devi, Rama’s beautiful and chaste wife, was kidnapped while residing in the forest with her husband and Lakshmana. The demon Ravana took her away while Rama and Lakshmana were not there to protect her. Upon returning to His cottage, Rama found that Sita was not there and He immediately began to lament. After searching for a while, Rama seemed to give up and was ready to destroy the whole world out of anger. Lakshmana, being the ever well-wisher of his elder brother, stepped in at this point and offered some sound words of advice.
In the above referenced quote, Lakshmana is referencing several key Vedic tenets. As a pure devotee of God, Lakshmana was very smart, so he had perfect knowledge of cause and effect and the nature of the rewards of action. He states that the fruits of action are unseen and short-lived. This touches on the issue of personal inaction. If we sit idly by and wait for things to happen to us, it means that we are awaiting the results of our past deeds. Karma refers to any action which has a fruitive result attached to it. We perform so many activities in the course of our lifetime that we have no idea just how many things come as a result. Not only do we not know the nature of these fruits, but we don’t know when they will come or how long they will last.
By studying this one portion alone, one may be misled into thinking that Lakshmana is advising Rama to do nothing. “You have performed so many great deeds in the past and You don’t know when the rewards for such action will come. Therefore it is better to just sit quietly and wait to see if Sita comes back.” Actually this is not what Lakshmana is advising. In the second part of his statement, Lakshmana makes mention of the fact that even though the results of our actions aren’t visible, it doesn’t mean that they come on their own. In order for there to be results, there must be some work performed as the cause. Essentially Lakshmana is saying that in order to get what we want, i.e. desired fruitive results, someone needs to take action. Since someone needs to perform work, it might as well be us, provided that we have the power to do so.
Lord Rama very much appreciated this advice from His younger brother. Lord Rama, being God Himself and a great kshatriya warrior, was more than capable of taking action. Thus He chose the path recommended by Lakshmana. Rama would eventually compose Himself and resume His search for Sita. After enlisting the help of the Vanara army, headed by the great Hanuman, Rama would march to Ravana’s island kingdom of Lanka, defeat him in battle, and rescue Sita. His choice to act benefitted Him in the end; He was able to get what He wanted, i.e. the safe return of His wife.
When we take action, there is no guarantee that our efforts will come out successful. There is certainly the chance that the rewards of our action won’t come until later on in life, or even maybe in the next life. This is the nature of karma, for material rewards are flickering, and the enjoyment derived from them is temporary. This is why Lakshmana’s words of advice actually apply more to spiritual life than material life. He didn’t just instruct Rama to take up ordinary activity, but rather to remain dedicated to the path of dharma. Dharma can be defined as one’s occupational duty; that quality that defines a person’s existence. Rama was the son of a great king, thus His duty was to provide protection to the rest of society. Also as a husband, He was required to protect His wife at all times. Thus Lakshmana simply recommended that Rama remain on the path of dharma and not worry about loss or gain.
In a similar manner, we all have a dharma, an essential characteristic that is maintained through prescribed actions. This occupational duty is not the gratification of our senses, nor is it the accumulation of great wealth. Dharma is something that eternally exists, thus its target cannot be something as temporary and mutable as matter. Since we are purusha, it is spirit which defines our existence. But this spirit isn’t meant to remain by itself, forced to suffer through life after life alone. Our dharma, or eternally existing quality, is that we are meant to be plus one. When people send out wedding invitations, there is a box to check if you are bringing a guest. “Plus one” is marked on the invitation card, letting the host know that you will be bringing another person with you to the wedding. In a similar manner, we are all originally plus one, but we have forgotten this fact.
Who is that “one” that is with us? God. He is our eternal companion. Even in our current state, God is with us, residing side by side in our heart as the Paramatma, or Supersoul. Our eternal occupation, that thing which defines us, is our relationship to this “plus one”. The evolution of the soul, transmigration from one body to another, is the process by which we can someday come into contact with God. The human form of life is considered the best opportunity to make someday come soon because the human brain has the intelligence capacity to realize who God is and what its relationship with Him should be.
In order to reconnect with our long-lost friend, we must take action. We may or may not have performed pious deeds in the past, but that in and of itself won’t take us to the promise land. We must take spiritual action, dedicating ourselves to performing activities which will elevate our consciousness to the spiritual platform. That discipline is known as bhakti-yoga, or devotional service. Simply by chanting God’s transcendental names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, we can say hello to the reservoir of pleasure, Lord Krishna. Taking this route is much better than sitting idly by and hoping for things to work out in the end. Just a little sincere effort from our part will be enough to set the wheels in motion. Chanting Hare Krishna means openly declaring to the Lord that we want Him in our lives and that we will settle for nothing less. As our eternal companion, He will surely hear us and give us the transcendental happiness we so desperately crave.
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