“You have a right to perform your prescribed duty, but you are not entitled to the fruits of action. Never consider yourself to be the cause of the results of your activities, and never be attached to not doing your duty.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.47)
कर्मण्य् एवाधिकारस् ते
मा फलेषु कदाचन
मा कर्म-फल-हेतुर् भूर्
मा ते सङ्गो ऽस्त्व् अकर्मणि
karmaṇy evādhikāras te
mā phaleṣu kadācana
mā karma-phala-hetur bhūr
mā te saṅgo ‘stv akarmaṇi
“One of the more commonly invoked shlokas from Bhagavad-gita has to do with dispassion. The basis is karma, which can refer to work. Everyone has to work, to some level. Everyone has an interest. Everyone is looking to further that interest.
“The teaching from Bhagavad-gita is about continuing on in that work, but not being attached to the results. That is the dispassion. Don’t necessarily give up everything. Don’t abruptly change occupations. Don’t suddenly think that everything people are doing is meaningless, due to the nature of time.
“Recently, popular culture has introduced this concept of ‘quiet quitting.’ The idea is people do the bare minimum at their jobs. They have no interest in advancing further. They are not concerned with promotions. If the company does well or not makes little difference to them.
“It is a reflection on the corporate world. The employees tend to get lost within the larger corporate structure. It is difficult to get ahead unless you know someone. If you happen to make a meaningful impact, you often get rewarded with additional responsibilities. Since you are a member of a team, there is a certain pay band to which you are limited.
“That is where the quiet part of the quitting comes in. Instead of leaving the company, you just do the bare minimum. You haven’t really given up the work, but the interest is practically gone. You are basically going through the motions.
“Is this comparable to what Krishna recommended to Arjuna? Did that leading bow-warrior of the Pandava family quietly quit his job? Did he remain employed, but in appearance only? Was he already checked out from the fight? Is that the example for others to follow?”
Arjuna renounced interest in the temporary, both relating to himself and others. His dilemma at the beginning of Bhagavad-gita related mostly to the opposing side. He was worried what would happen to them. He was concerned that future generations in the family would suffer, due to the absence of a male leader, who sets the standard for culture.
नरके नियतं वासो
narake niyataṁ vāso
“O Krishna, maintainer of the people, I have heard by disciplic succession that those who destroy family traditions dwell always in hell.” (Arjuna, Bhagavad-gita, 1.43)
Arjuna contemplated quitting altogether. He dropped his weapons. He was nervous. He did not know what to do. He was not interested in the resulting fruits of victory. His particular karma would likely lead to control over a kingdom. Arjuna did not want to gain something at someone else’s expense.
The recommendation to Arjuna was to fight on, but in a different spirit. Krishna certainly did not want Arjuna to quit or to give less than a one hundred percent effort. The consciousness had to change. The interest had to be shifted elsewhere.
To give clarity in that particular situation, Krishna showed that everyone was destined to be crushed under the wheels of time. The other side was already defeated. This was destiny whether Arjuna chose to fight or not.
By continuing on, Arjuna would get the credit. The living entity is never the doer, as material nature must always sanction any result to activity. Arjuna would be but an instrument in the will of destiny, which was set by Krishna.
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)
With a consciousness focused on Krishna, the outcome did not matter so much. Fighting fiercely, with determination, releasing arrows in targeted strikes, Arjuna would keep Krishna in mind as the ultimate beneficiary. He would follow dharma in favor of the person who is the object of dharma.
The lesson translates well to any person and their particular predicament. We can quit this job and that. We can move interest from this area to that. We can rejoice at our good fortune and lament at our loss. We can feel hopeless one day and entirely rejuvenated the next.
Ultimately, outcomes are not in control. The Supreme Personality of Godhead created this and every other universe. He will destroy the same in due course. The time in between, where we find ourselves at present, can be used for serving Him, for understanding our true constitutional position, for changing our work from karma to bhakti.
क्षिप्रं भवति धर्मात्मा
न मे भक्तः प्रणश्यति
kṣipraṁ bhavati dharmātmā
na me bhaktaḥ praṇaśyati
“He quickly becomes righteous and attains lasting peace. O son of Kunti, declare it boldly that My devotee never perishes.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.31)
In that purified mindset, the results to our actions are not as important, since the spirit in devotion will continue. It can never be destroyed, in the way that the Pandava family, who are dear to Krishna, are always devoted to Him.
Interest in temporary to quit,
While on that chariot to sit.
With confidence to stand,
Over battlefield command.
But focusing on Krishna who,
Determining outcomes through.
With full vigor and energy giving,
That devotion eternally living.