“How can I ensure that the purpose of my task does not get destroyed? How shall I avoid mental disparity, and how do I ensure that my crossing of the ocean does not go for naught?” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 2.41)
न विनश्येत्कथं कार्यं वैक्लब्यं न कथं भवेत् |
लङ्घनं च समुद्रस्य कथं नु न वृथा भवेत् ||
na vinaśyetkathaṃ kāryaṃ vaiklabyaṃ na kathaṃ bhavet |
laṅghanaṃ ca samudrasya kathaṃ nu na vṛthā bhavet ||
1. How to beat the clock
There is a time limit. The Vanaras working under the leader named Sugriva must find Sita Devi within the parameters set forth. Sita has gone missing. She is the beloved wife of Shri Rama, who is now aligned with Sugriva in a mutually beneficial partnership.
2. How to cross the ocean
Hanuman and company get a hint. Sita is at the island of Lanka, held there against her will. How will the Vanaras get across the ocean? They put everything on Hanuman. He has to make a giant leap of both strength and faith.
3. How to search through Lanka
Hanuman reaches Lanka, but what will happen next? How will he find Sita Devi? It is not like the people will welcome a foreigner to their land. Hanuman reviews what has just happened. He wants to make sure that crossing the ocean does not go to waste. He is attached to the various milestones within the journey.
4. How to meet Sita Devi
Hanuman pays careful attention to the introduction. He can’t mess this up. He has done so many amazing things to reach this point. He has finally found Sita, but she has no idea who he is. He must present his motivations in the proper way, so that she will trust him.
5. How to defeat enemies
Hanuman has found Sita Devi. He has made friends with her. He must now return to Sugriva and Rama and report back. There is a debriefing to be done, but first Hanuman must leave Lanka intact. That is not so easy when there are man-eating ogres prepared to attack you.
It is one of the more well-known shlokas from Bhagavad-gita. It has universal appeal, as through maturity every person has to follow some kind of work. If, by chance, they stumble upon wealth, if there is a steady supply of food, clothing, and shelter, there is still some kind of activity that takes place.
That activity has impetus. It is like the spark that ignites the fire. It is the reason for getting up. It is the purpose to starting. It could also be the cause of perseverance, for continuing forward, beyond the struggle, for reaching the desired destination.
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
“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)
The teaching from Bhagavad-gita has detachment at the foundation. The recommendation is to work in occupational duty, dharma, but not be concerned with the results. If I am aloof from the outcome, then I will avoid the tendency to exploit whatever it is I have gained, such as money.
If I am detached from the result, then the mind will not linger over failure.
“The near-escape. The defeat by the slimmest of margins. The tragic end, when everything else was right on track, going according to plan. Why did this happen to me?”
A person might accept these teachings on face value, as they make sense, when applying rational thought. The one issue is the work that still carries forward. If there is no concern over the outcome, what is the motivation to do anything? Is Bhagavad-gita an excuse to be lazy? Is Shri Krishna giving Arjuna license to allow the mind to wander while in the midst of the fighting on the battlefield?
We see from the example of Shri Hanuman that even when accepting the principle of attachment, there is full alertness as to the different components to the occupational duty. Hanuman cares every step of the way. He wants to succeed. He wants to please the Supreme Lord, Shri Rama.
Does that concern not invalidate the proposal? Is Hanuman not in violation of the core principle of Vedanta philosophy? How can someone be attached and detached at the same time?
The principle is really not that difficult to understand. The connection to the beneficiary is what leads to the distinction. For instance, I have recently purchased an indoor playground. This is for the enjoyment of my young child. She will play on the slide; I just know it.
I normally do not involve myself with furniture assembly. I am not so skilled in the area. Nevertheless, I carry through on the task with great attention. The end-result is not for me. I will not enjoy the slide. In fact, adults are prohibited; they can end up breaking the slide if they get on it.
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)
Hanuman has attention because he wants to please the Supreme Lord. Arjuna carries the same level of attention. He understands that the outcome is out of his hands. He is but an instrument in the delivery of the Divine will, but accepting that role of the instrument is everything.
While attachment rejecting,
That role accepting.
Dharma carrying through,
Reaching Lanka to.
For Sita Devi to find,
With attentive and thoughtful mind.
Opportunity for service seized,
No wonder Shri Rama pleased.
Categories: the five