“The bewildered spirit soul, under the influence of the three modes of material nature, thinks himself to be the doer of activities, which are in actuality carried out by nature.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 3.27)
गुणैः कर्माणि सर्वशः
कर्ताहम् इति मन्यते
guṇaiḥ karmāṇi sarvaśaḥ
kartāham iti manyate
Friend1: Outcomes are not entirely under my control. Go from something as complex as stock trading.
Friend2: Picking the winners and losers. Guessing how the price will change over time.
Friend1: Which can involve thousands of trades. You’re trying to predict how a collection of people will react to a host of stimuli.
Friend2: Market news. Price fluctuations. Volume increases. Earnings reports.
Friend1: Industry changes. Imagine investing in a newspaper thirty or forty years ago. Or in anything that involved paper. Today the business world is trying to get rid of paper entirely. What seemed like a good investment at the time would now lose you money.
Friend2: Then you have the people on the other end, the ones who short stocks.
Friend1: They bet on the price going down; another way of gambling. Anyway, the principle I am about to reference applies to the small scale, as well. Deciding to speak a word. Imagine being on stage. A performance at a playhouse. It is so easy to utter words, but tonight it is difficult.
Friend1: Which means that even something simple is not guaranteed to manifest; no matter the expectations based on past success.
Friend2: Yes, and so what is this principle you are referencing?
Friend1: That we are not the doer. The truth is from the Bhagavad-gita. Shri Krishna gives the credit to the material nature, prakriti. The three modes of nature [goodness, passion and ignorance] must first comply. Only then does sankalpa reach a state of satya.
Friend2: Absolutely. Such an important truth to know. Takes a lot of the pressure off. Should also shift the focus towards spiritual life. I cannot be everything. I cannot win every battle. There is never a “sure thing.”
Friend1: I get that and I agree. It is important to learn. At the same time, I was thinking of the other side today.
Friend2: What is that?
Friend1: Aren’t we taking credit away from people who do succeed? I mean I get that nature must first comply, but people do put in the effort. If I get saved from a burning building by a firefighter, should I not thank them?
Friend2: Of course you should.
Friend1: You see what I mean, though. Even Arjuna. He was told to act as an instrument. Do the work for Krishna and be an instrument in the outcome arranged by destiny:
तस्मात् त्वम् उत्तिष्ठ यशो लभस्व
जित्वा शत्रून् भुङ्क्ष्व राज्यं समृद्धम्
मयैवैते निहताः पूर्वम् एव
निमित्त-मात्रं भव सव्य-साचिन्
tasmāt tvam uttiṣṭha yaśo labhasva
jitvā śatrūn bhuṅkṣva rājyaṁ samṛddham
mayaivaite nihatāḥ pūrvam eva
nimitta-mātraṁ bhava savya-sācin
“Therefore get up and prepare to fight. After conquering your enemies you will enjoy a flourishing kingdom. They are already put to death by My arrangement, and you, O Savyasachin, can be but an instrument in the fight.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 11.33)
Friend2: Arjuna would get the credit, though. He is revered today as one of the greatest bow-warriors to ever grace this earth.
Friend1: Right, but the outcomes were not under his control. Material nature complied. Shri Krishna was in the background arranging everything.
Friend2: Yes, and so what is the issue?
Friend1: You see this with devotees, too. They do some amazing work, like start a temple or distribute literature at a massive scale. An envious person can come along and put down that effort.
“Oh, that was just Krishna acting through them. They are nothing special.”
Friend2: Even if that is the case, then at least that person received Krishna’s favor. They were qualified enough to be chosen by the Supreme Personality of Godhead for important work.
Friend1: I don’t know. To me there is a vulnerability here to discouraging the output of effort.
Friend2: It doesn’t have to be at all. Man proposes, God disposes. Make the effort, at least. Try chanting the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. Work at following the four regulative principles. Be a good person to your fellow man and try to rescue him from the despair caused by ignorance and illusion.
Friend1: I am not guaranteed of success, though.
Friend2: In devotional life, you indeed are. Not that you will necessarily become a world-travelling preacher with thousands of followers. But you will please Krishna. He will appreciate your efforts. He will ensure that your devotion does not perish. That is the promise spoken through the disciple Arjuna.
Instruction to Arjuna told,
That to declare it bold.
Devotional life never to succumb,
By time’s efforts to be undone.
Since Krishna to reinforce,
Chartering proper course.
So that not the doer to be,
But auspicious outcome to see.