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Giving Up The Fruits Of Work For Peaceful Life

Karma-phala-tyaga (giving up the fruits of action) is a most frequently recurring idea in the Gita. ‘For a man with body consciousness it is not possible to give up work,’ says Sri Krishna. ‘He who gives up the fruits of the work is indeed a tyagi.’ Not even a fool would act unless prompted by a motive, says the well-known adage. So, how to reconcile between this adage and Sri Krishna’s golden maxim that we have the right only to work, not to the fruits thereof? (2.47) There are motives and motives for work. The more selfish the motive, the more attached we become to work. Selfless work, too, has its inevitable result: purification of mind. We have this much choice while doing work: (1) be anxious about the fruits of work, be attached to the work and be swayed by success or failure in work; or (2) concentrate all our mental energies on the work in hand, certain that the work will bear fruit; and cultivate detachment from work.

The aspirant on the path of devotion works with the feeling that he is the servant and God, the master. His work is an offering to God. He concerns himself with the quality of work, being attentive to the means, and leaves the end (fruits) to God. Sri Krishna advises such an aspirant to offer everything to God: ‘Whatever you do, whatever you eat, whatever you offer as oblation in a sacrifice, whatever you give in charity, whatever austerities you perform – do that all as an offering to Me. Thus you will become free from the bondage of actions, bearing good and evil results. With the heart steadfast in the yoga of renunciation and liberated you will come to Me.’

The aspirant on the path of knowledge works with the feeling that it is only his body and mind that are active, it is only gunas that are interacting with gunas; he himself – his real nature – is detached from work. For such aspirants Sri Krishna prescribes performance of work identifying oneself with an awakened buddhi and evenness of mind. Such a worker is established in Yoga and frees himself even in this life from virtue and vice alike and is dextrous in work. Abandoning fruits of his actions, he becomes free forever from the birth-death cycle.

Swami Vivekananda’s lecture ‘Work and Its Secret’ is a goldmine of ideas on the subject.

‘Our great defect in life is that we are so much drawn to the ideal, the goal is so much more enchanting so much more alluring, so much bigger in our mental horizon, that we lose sight of the details altogether.

But whenever failure comes, if we analyse it critically, in ninety-nine per cent of cases we shall find that it was because we did not pay attention to the means. Proper attention to the finishing, strengthening, of the means is what we need. With the means all right, the end must come.’

Source – Excerpts from Prabuddha Bharata Editorial June 2003 Issue.