“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
1. Hitting targets
Arjuna is a kshatriya warrior. Since he is known as the best marksman, one of his names is Savyasachin. He proved his ability at the svayamvara of Princess Draupadi, where he pierced the eye of a fish with an arrow. This was without having a direct vision of the fish.
2. Watching for enemies
It is a heightened sense of awareness. You have to remain alert. People are trying to kill you, after all. If you doze off, if your mind wanders to some other place, if you fail to pay attention, it could be over. You will lose your life.
Arjuna has to look at others. He must identify the enemy. He must know where his troops are, what they are doing, and how they are faring. He must similarly assess the strength of the enemy, to see where firepower should be directed.
4. Knowing when to retreat
As proud as a person is of their ability, sometimes it is better to walk away. Live to fight another day. This moment might not be the hill to die on. Arjuna has to make these calculations in an instant. There is no time to spare.
5. Knowing when to attack
The same applies for moving forward. The enemy might only be vulnerable for a few moments. That is the time to pounce. Otherwise, the same opportunity will not come again.
The entire dilemma of the Bhagavad-gita situation, as passed along on the battlefield of Kurukshetra from the teacher Shri Krishna to the disciple Arjuna, is whether or not to act. Whether to proceed as planned or scratch the entire proposal. Whether to fight valiantly or to drop the weapons.
As there is duality in this world, any action or lack thereof is a source point for criticism. If I choose to act in a certain way, it means that I have failed to act in another way. That failure becomes a vulnerability. Whether someone is thinking rationally or not, whether they have my best interests at heart or are looking to bring me down, whether they are grounded in morality or jump from one interest to another based on selfishness, they feel they are justified in their criticism.
कर्मण्य् अकर्म यः पश्येद्
अकर्मणि च कर्म यः
स बुद्धिमान् मनुष्येषु
स युक्तः कृत्स्न-कर्म-कृत्
karmaṇy akarma yaḥ paśyed
akarmaṇi ca karma yaḥ
sa buddhimān manuṣyeṣu
sa yuktaḥ kṛtsna-karma-kṛt
“One who sees inaction in action, and action in inaction, is intelligent among men, and he is in the transcendental position, although engaged in all sorts of activities.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.18)
Shri Krishna explains to Arjuna that there can be action in inaction and vice versa. My failure to act might be the best decision I ever made. My intervention might actually be the only way to steer clear of trouble. If I look busy, though I am disinterested, it keeps others off my back.
There are intricacies and nuances to the dilemma, and so there is a requirement for an expert teacher. They should review the different topics. They should try to resolve the inconsistencies or contradictions. They should be willing to accept feedback, to answer questions, to stay with the disciple until they have understood everything properly.
Krishna did this and more, proving the claim that He is the adi-guru. He is the original person, and He is the original teacher. Before there was anything, there was the Supreme Lord. Even before Lord Brahma could go about creating, there had to be someone to inspire him, to inform him what to do.
अहम् एवासम् एवाग्रे
नान्यद् यत् सद्-असत् परम्
पश्चाद् अहं यद् एतच् च
यो ऽवशिष्येत सो ऽस्म्य् अहम्
aham evāsam evāgre
nānyad yat sad-asat param
paścād ahaṁ yad etac ca
yo ‘vaśiṣyeta so ‘smy aham
“Brahma, it is I, the Personality of Godhead, who was existing before the creation, when there was nothing but Myself. Nor was there the material nature, the cause of this creation. That which you see now is also I, the Personality of Godhead, and after annihilation what remains will also be I, the Personality of Godhead.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 2.9.33)
One of the core teachings Krishna presents relates to detachment. Do not necessarily abandon work entirely. Simply remove the attachment to the outcome, and more specifically the fruits of the work. This is not that difficult a concept to understand, if we take some examples with which we are familiar.
His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada describes the situation of the teller at the bank. They accept deposits. They literally take money in their hands. It is part of their occupational duty. At the same time, they are not attached to that money. They know that it belongs to someone else.
In the same way, we can go about our fruitive activities. We can also devote complete and full attention to the work. We see that Arjuna had so many aspects to pay attention to. He was not negligent on the battlefield. He did not use Vedanta philosophy as an excuse to perform poorly. He did not rely on the assurance from Krishna that everything would turn out okay.
Everything to turn out okay,
Backed by Krishna to say.
Then in work steady and stable,
Arjuna ready, willing, and able.
But not Vedanta as excuse using,
To be negligent or set on losing.
Work with vim and vigor applied,
Efforts for Supreme interest tied.
Categories: the five