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Why Even Properly Planned And Executed Projects Sometimes Go Awry? – Bhagavad Gita Answers

Even properly planned and executed projects sometimes go awry. There are occasions when the end does not come as expected even when the means are apparently taken care of. Nothing could be more frustrating. What could be the explanation for unexpected turns of events? In other words, why should things go wrong?

The Bhagavad Gita offers a plausible explanation for why things go haywire despite care and precaution. According to Gita there are five factors involved in any work, physical or mental, good or bad.

The body: The body is an instrument for action, karma. According to Vedanta, ignorance (avidya) leads to desire (kama), which in turn leads to karma, for the performance of which we assume a human body.

The sense of agency: The feeling ‘I am responsible for this work’ accompanies all our activities. This sense of agency must inevitably bring with it the fruit of action, or karmaphala. Selfless work and that done by jnanis, or men of spiritual wisdom, are not accompanied by this sense of agency. Such work cannot be truly called work. Says Sri Shankara, ‘Work done by a jnani is not really work, for he has realized the Atman, in which there is no action.’ In other words, the jnani is detached from the activities of his body and mind, since his identification is with his inner Self, the Atman.

The different instruments of action: According to the commentators, one or more of the following twelve instruments are involved in all actions, physical or mental: jnanendriyas, or the five organs of knowledge (ears, skin, eyes, tongue and nose); karmendriyas, or the five organs of action (mouth, hands, feet, the organ of evacuation and the organ of generation); manas (the deliberative faculty); and buddhi (the determinative faculty).

The different movements: The commentators explain that these refer to the actions of the five pranas, or vital airs: prana, apana, vyana, udana and samana. By implication, these movements denote any physical or mental action in view of the involvement of prana in any action. Our jnanendriyas and karmendriyas are instruments for physical movements. Our thoughts, emotions and feelings and, more important, the pull of the subtle sense organs and the mind towards objects of enjoyment — all these constitute mental movements.

Divinity, or daiva, is the all-important fifth factor. Sri Shankara says this refers to the deities that preside over various sense organs, like the sun, which presides over the eyes, and Indra, who presides over the hands. According to Sri Ramanuja, daiva refers to the supreme Self, referred to as the Paramatman or the antaryamin (Inner Controller), which is the supreme Cause in completing an action. The Paramatman is the supreme Cause in that It is the unmoving substratum that makes any action possible. A common analogy is the screen on which a movie is projected. The movie is possible because of the screen. Though It is the substratum for any work, the Paramatman is unaffected by its positive or evil nature even as the screen is not affected by the pleasant or gory happenings on it. Says the Gita, ‘Since It is without beginning and without gunas (attributes), this immutable Paramatman does not act, nor does it get affected [by anything] though dwelling in a body.’ Sri Ramakrishna explains this truth with the example of a lamp, which remains unaffected by the noble or fraudulent actions performed with its help.

Incidentally, daiva also means ‘destiny’ in some contexts, but not here. Dependence on destiny is a sure invitation to inertia and fatalism. A true worker makes his own destiny by dint of self-effort. ‘Lakshmi, the goddess of prosperity, goes to the man endowed with self-effort. Only cowards harp on destiny. So ignore destiny and manifest your manliness by the power of your Self. If despite your best efforts success eludes you, what does it matter?’

Source - Prabuddha Bharata December 2004 editorial