karmaNi eva adhikaaraste
maa phaleshu gadaachana

 

karmaNi eva adhikaaraste maa phaleshu gadaachana
maa karma phala hetuH bhuH maa sanghaH astu akarmaNi 

(Gita, Chapter 2:47)


Translation: We should act not because the actions will produce such and such result or avoid the
activity because we think the results produced may not be of our interest. Actions should proceed
from the sense of duty. One has to do his duty no matter what the consequences are.

The structure of all messages in Gita is deep and subtle. In the first part of this verse, Lord Krishna
suggests that our duty be but to act, never to be concerned with the results. In the second part,
Lord Krishna identifies the consequences if we pre evaluate the results of our actions. If we start
our action with prior expectations, then results of our actions can bring either disappointments or
over confidence. Those who do not wish to face disappointments will be afraid to act and those who
are successful will be arrogant! They both lead to a dead-end straight with eventual failures!
Gita asks us to evaluate the consequences of the two feasible mental framework. If we develop the
mental framework to conduct our duties without looking for the fruits of our action, we can accept
success or failure. Actions with such a mental framework are self-propelled without incentives.
Instead, if we specify the results before the action, we divert our attention more to the result and
less to the action. When our expectations are low, we don't pay full attention to our duty. If our
expectations are high, we face disappointments when the results fall short of our expectations.
The subtle message of "Karma Yoga" is deep and there are several other explanations:
First, time is not a parameter in spirituality and consequently action is continuous and it never
ends. Results imply an end of an action and consequently results are ruled out. That is why the
scriptures gave so much importance to the duties which have no beginning or end!
Second, all entities of the universe are interactive and consequently neither the action nor the
results of the action can be separated. Even within an intellectual framework, the results of any
action is "uncertain" due to the presence of many actors. For example, the stock broker will tell the
buyer of stocks that there is no guarantee for getting back the money invested! The future price of
the stock market is decided not by a single buyer or seller but by the collective decision of all the
buyers and sellers in the market.

Third, let me present this quotation from Gandhiji describing the Gita Ideal:
"I am a devotee of the Gita and a firm believer in the inexorable law of karma. Even the least little
tripping or stumbling is not without its cause and I have wondered why one who has tried to follow
the Gita in thought, word and deed should have any ailment. The doctors have assured me that this
trouble of high blood- pressure is entirely the result of mental strain and worry. If that is true, it is
likely that I have been unnecessarily worrying myself, unnecessarily fretting and secretly harboring
passions like anger, lust, etc. The fact that any event or incident should disturb my serious efforts,
means not that the Gita Ideal is defective but that my devotion to its defective. The Gita Ideal is
true for all time, my understanding of it and observance of it is full of flaws."
Harijan, 29 February 1936. ("What is Hinduism?" Mahatma Gandhi, National Book Trust of
India, page, 95).

Finally, the Vedantic notion of becoming Brahman implies that the actions become spontaneous. A
spontaneous action has no cause or effect. A good example for a spontaneous action is the
blooming of flowers. The flower plant blooms whether we appreciate or criticize. Such actions
essentially become inaction and generate total peace and tranquility. Are we capable for such
spontaneous actions? The answer is yes! If a child falls accidentally in a swimming pool then
someone jumps immediately to save the child. At times, people who do not swim will also jump
onto the pool to save the child. This is human instinct (spontaneous human dharma) or temporary
realization of the True Human Nature. Becoming Brahman is the permanent realization of the True
Human Nature. When we start conducting all our actions spontaneously with the yagna spirit, we
just do the action without looking for alternatives! The essence of the message of Karma Yoga is:
"Actions are inevitable and excuses are unforgivable."
 

Swami Dayananda Saraswati's Interpretation
Recently, Swami Dayananda Saraswati visited the Washington Area and gave several lectures on
the theme "Ahimsa and Success" from Giita. He has interpreted one of the most quoted verse from
Gita on Karma Yoga (Chapter 2, Verse 47). Several important points emerged from his lectures
relating to studying Gita:
(1) Greater depth in Sanskrit is the key to understand Gita most effectively.
(2) A great teacher (Guru) such as Swami Dayananda Saraswati is essential to study Gita.
(3) Literal translation of Gita has the potential to distort the essence of the intended message.
(4) The Gita Ideal is true for all the time but our understanding of it has potential flaws.

Gita Verse
karmaNi eva adhikaaraste maa phaleshu gadaachana
maa karma phala hetuH bhuH maa sanghaH astu akarmaNi

We only have the "right" to conduct the action and certainly we have no control over the results of
our action. We should avoid using the "results" as the motivating force of our action. We should
free from our attachment to inaction. The message will become crisp and clear if we understand its
full meaning carefully.

We are part of the nature and we need to understand our ‘rights' and our ‘limitations.' We only
have the skill and power to conduct our action. Our skill can help us to set up the goals and we
should use the full energy to accomplish the goals. But we have no control over the outcome of our
actions because we are not the only participants. Consequently the results are more likely different
from our expectations. The results can be more, equal, less or even opposite to our expectations. To
avoid misery at the end, we should willingly accept the outcome as nature's gift (prasad).
Overconfidence due to success and disappointment of failures will cultivate the habit of
attachments to inaction.