May 18 2014
The Gita’s messages are just as applicable in the boardroom as in the battlefield, says SWAMI CHIDANAND SARASWATI
In the Bhagwad Gita, Krishna tells Arjuna to perform his duties without any attachment to the fruits of his labour. How can one put this advice into practice if one has to perform worldly tasks and not expect any returns? But this piece of advice is so divine and universal that it can apply to every situation in life — worldly and transcendent. The Gita’s messages are just as applicable to life in the boardroom as to life on the battlefield. In fact, the Gita serves as the essential scripture of modern life for its teachings are timeless and universally relevant.
Whatever you do, will come back to you. Every karma returns, every seed will grow into a plant or tree, every boomerang will come back to the sender. For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. This reaction will be there independently of our expectations or attachments. The sun rises every morning, whether we expect it or not. Similarly, our actions will bear fruit whether we expect it or not. The bottom line is that we should not become attached to them.
Everyone has a target to achieve and all our activities are aimed at achieving a dream. What is the use of ‘performing’ without any hopes of return?
It is human nature to have dreams and goals. There is nothing wrong with wanting a particular result or working toward a goal. In fact, it is this which motivates us to act. Krishna does not mean that we should not work toward a goal or wish for a particular result. Arjuna fought the war in order to win. He fired each arrow hoping and expecting that it would pierce the target. His actions were thoughtful, careful, focused and goal-oriented. Yet, he was not attached to the end result.
Reaping The Rewards
Does one have to reap the ‘returns of his deeds’ even when he performs them without hoping for benefits or returns of his activities? On the worldly plane, the answer is ‘yes’, and on the transcendental plane, the answer is ‘no’. Let me explain. Even if one truly becomes non-attached to the fruits of one’s labour, and if one truly acts only and purely out of duty and dharma, one is still living here on Earth and will receive the results of one’s actions.
However, on a karmic and spiritual level, when we speak about the soul having to take birth and rebirth in human form until all karmas are washed away, then ‘no’. By performing actions selflessly with no attachment to the fruits we are freed of the bondage of karma. We do not have to return in a next life to reap the fruits of karma we perform, which is dutiful, dharmic and performed without attachment.
Is it wrong to remain hopeful of benefits when one knows that the results of every activity have to be borne in any case? Indifference is not the answer. It is important to realise that Krishna is not telling us to become indifferent or apathetic. This is a really crucial difference. He is not advising us that we should not care about the results. He is simply saying that we should not become affected, internally and deeply, by the results.
The key is not in choosing a particular area. The key is not in what we do, but rather in how we do it. Of course, it is much easier to work in a spirit of duty, dharma and selflessness when we are performing deeds that benefit others, when we are serving others rather than ourselves. Thus, performing seva is one of the best ways to cultivate the spirit of selflessness and nonattachment.