In the last article it was explained how to perform actions without attachment, which is the actual karm yog. You learned that the only way to do this is to attach your mind to God, instead of to the world. To do that, you need to change your belief that there is happiness in the world, and instead believe there is happiness in God.
A common doubt regarding Karm Yog
A common query that confronts a lot of people is – If we believe that there is no happiness in the world, will we not become apathetic, unmotivated, or depressed? If we are not attached to our family, will we not become uncaring or insensitive and be inattentive to our family duties? If we are not attached to our work, will we not become lazy and unproductive? In other words, without attachment how will we do our duty properly? How will we care for our children? How will we be able to work?
Clearing this doubt is crucial for a person who wishes to practice karm yog. After all, Shree Krishna is telling us repeatedly in every chapter that we must perform our duty without attachment. And we keep reading the Gita, and yet find ourselves unable to practice the central concept of the Gita because in our heart of hearts we disagree with Shree Krishna: we think attachment is a good thing, and that it helps us to perform our duty. Yet, He is telling us the exact opposite: attachment has a negative effect on our life and our ability to perform our duty; the more we reduce our attachments, the happier we will be, and the better we will perform our duties.
Performing duties out of attachment
Let us first address the question of motivation. Is it attachment that compels us to action in this world? Is it attachment that makes us take care of our family? Is it attachment that motivates us to perform our duty? For most people, the answer is yes. However, let us recall that attachment is based on our desire for happiness (explained in the previous article); thus attachment is inherently selfish.
We desire happiness from a person or thing, and that is why we become attached to them. It is natural to want to protect the things that make us happy, so we want to protect those people and things we are attached to. If we are not attached to someone or something, then we lack the motivation to act on their behalf: in other words, we do not care. This is why we will mourn for years if our child dies, but we will only shed tears out of formality when our neighbor’s child dies.
There are thousands of tragedies every day in this world, there are children starving all over the globe, and yet we do not mourn them, and we are not compelled to save them. My point is that most of us perform our duties because of our attachments, and not out of a sense of duty or goodness. Then can it really be said that we are doing our duty? Or are we just pursuing our self-interest, which happens to align with our duty?
If this is the case, then ask yourself what will happen if our self-interest shifts, causing our attachment to a person or thing to reduce: then we will care less for them, and be less motivated to perform our duty towards them.
Now I’m sure you can see the problems inherent in merely performing duty out of attachment. Our motivation to perform the duty will fluctuate along with our feelings of attachment. This does not give us a stable and even-minded base from which to perform our duties.
How to perform our duties
If however, we attach our minds to God, there is a very positive change that takes place within our mind: all the daivi gunas begin to evolve. These are the godly or positive qualities of the mind (described in chapter 16) like: being energetic, active, hard-working, having focus, determination, patience, fearlessness, generosity, control over one’s senses, a willingness to sacrifice, honesty, modesty, humbleness, respect, forgiveness, kindness, compassion, mercifulness, straightforwardness, cleanliness, etc.
Persons whose mind is filled with such qualities will have a natural sense of duty, which is not dependent on their attachment to any person or thing. A broader sense of duty has been awakened within them and they are now motivated by the desire to do what is right. Such a person will have the nature of wanting to do whatever they undertake to the best of their ability, so they will tend to excel in their work as well. They will have a natural compassion for all living beings, so they will naturally do what is best for their family and those who are dependent on them.
To raise this idea to an even higher level, one could start to see God in all living beings, including one’s own family. If you see God in your children, will you not want to do what is best for them? Yes you will, but you will be performing your duty in order to please God, instead of out of mere worldly attachment.
This practice of performing our duty while seeing God within us and in all things is not easy – it is a skill which must be practiced, but once developed, gives a positive and healthy perspective to one’s life. This is what Shree Krishna means when He says, ‘yogah karmasu kaushalam’, which means “skillfulness in action is karm yog.”
So you see that it is not only possible, but in fact desirable to perform our actions without attachment in the world, because the more our mind is attached to God, the more adept we become at performing our duties. More benefits of this practice will be discussed in the next article.
Disciple of Shree Kripaluji Maharaj:
Swami Nikhilanand Ji is a Canadian born Hindu spiritual leader based in Austin, Texas. He is a sanyasi disciple and pracharak of Jagadguru Shree Kripaluji Maharaj.
Attracted to the teachings of Hinduism from a young age, Swamiji eventually let his deep spiritual longing lead him to India, where he was most fortunate to come under the guidance of Shree Kripaluji Maharaj. Thereafter, living in the ashrams of JKP, he extensively studied Hindi, the philosophy of the prime Sanskrit scriptures (Vedas, Darshan Shastras, Gita, Bhagwatam), and practiced meditation in the tradition of raganuga bhakti. In 2003, he was given sanyas.
Now, with the blessings of his Guruji, he offers satsang programs throughout America, engaging audiences with his clear explanations of Hindu philosophy coupled with inspired chanting of Sanskrit mantras and shlokas and charming nam sankirtan. His informative and compelling speeches provide practical insight into how to adopt the teachings of Sanatan Dharm into our daily lives, and inspire us to awaken our inner spiritual potential.
To stay in touch with Swami Nikhilanand Ji, like his Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/SwamiNikhilanand or follow him on twitter at https://twitter.com/Swami_Nikhil.