“The peculiarity of the Gita among the great religious books of the world is that it does not stand apart as a work by itself, the fruit of the spiritual life of a creative personality like Christ, Mohammed or Buddha or of an epoch of pure spiritual searching like the Veda and Upanishads, but is given as an episode in an epic history of nations and their wars and men and their deeds and arises out of a critical moment in the soul of one of its leading personages face to face with the crowning action of his life, a work terrible, violent and sanguinary, at the point when he must either recoil from it altogether or carry it through to its inexorable completion…. The teaching of the Gita must therefore be regarded not merely in the light of a general spiritual philosophy or ethical doctrine, but as bearing upon a practical crisis in the application of ethics and spirituality to human life.” – Sri Aurobindo (Essays on the Gita pp.9)Continue reading
When an individual daringly meets life he cannot expect all the time , happy situations, favourable circumstances and a conducive arrangement of chances in his field of activity. Ordinarily , a weak man suddenly feels dejected and is tempted to leave his field of work when it is only half done. Many lose their chances of achieving the highest and desert the field of action almost at the moment when, perhaps, victory is round the corner. In order to ‘stick to his guns’ man needs a secret energy to nurture and nourish his exhausted and fatigued morale, and this sacred energy welling up in his well integrated personality is ‘fortitude’.Continue reading
There are two aspects to any action. The first is to perform the action efficiently, perfectly. However perfectly an action may be performed there is always room for improvement. Hence the saying, ‘The largest room in the world is the room for improvement!’ The second aspect is the attitude with which the action is performed. Perfection in action is rather difficult but perfection in attitude is possible. If we perform actions with the right attitude, then however small or big the action, it will become great. This is beautifully illustrated by the famous squirrel in the Ramayana, who out of love for Sri Rama tried to help the monkeys build the bridge across the ocean. The squirrel first wet itself in the water, then rolled in the sand and shook off the grains of sand on the bridge. This irritated the monkeys but Sri Rama understood the squirrel’s desire to assist in this great endeavour.
So only right actions (performing one’s obligatory duties) performed with the right attitude can be termed as karma yoga; otherwise it is merely karma, action.
Man is essentially an imitating animal. This is a psychological truth. Students can be disciplined only when teachers are well behaved. The minor officials of a country cannot be kind and honest when the rulers are corrupt tyrants. Children’s behaviour depends entirely upon , and is ever controlled by , the standard of purity and culture set by their parents . The moral rejuvenation of a society in any period of history can take place only because of the example set by the leaders of that nation.
– Swamy Chinmayananda from Holy Gita , Ready Reference
The ignorant and the wise are both engaged in action. But their mental attitudes towards action differ greatly. The ignorant person has an obsession for action. He becomes involved in and attached to what he does. He binds himself emotionally to his field of activity. He acts merely to fulfil his egocentric desires. His motive is only personal profit or benefit. He sweats and toils all his life for procuring more comforts and pleasures for himself and perhaps his family. He entertains no other ideal or goal in life. The purpose of his existence does not extend beyond his personal acquisition and indulgence in this world.
“Let man lift himself by himself, let him not lower himself; his self alone is his friend, his self alone is his enemy.”
Your evolution or devolution does not depend on external forces and environmental conditions. It depends on your personal concerted effort.
You must learn to choose actions to fulfil your obligations and not merely to gain immediate success or failure. Your business is with your duty only, never with the reward or merit accruing from it. Let not the fruit of action entangle you in your actions.
The first step is Karmayoga, the selfless sacrifice of works, and here the Gita’s insistence is on action. The second is Jnanayoga, the self-realisation and knowledge of the true nature of the self and the world; and here the insistence is on knowledge; but the sacrifice of works continues and the path of Works becomes one with but does not disappear into the path of Knowledge.