"It is not what you do that matters, but how you do it – with what attitude and aim. The spiritual effect that a seemingly spiritual activity brings, can also be had by the domestic pursuit, provided you preserve a spiritual attitude and dedication."

The Guiding force of Narayanashrama Tapovanam & Center for Inner Resources Development

Swami Bhoomananda Tirtha


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Harih Om Tat Sat. Jai Guru. Jai Guru.

I am speaking on a subject where in Bhagavad Gita, an important śloka is misunderstood. I was explaining; I will again explain. Will you be interested in listening? The śloka is:

कर्मण्येवाधिकारस्ते मा फलेषु कदाचन ।
karmaṇy-evādhikāras-te mā phaleṣu kadācana |
(Bhagavad Gita 2.47)

Your right is only to work but not to the results. This is the point I am discussing. Actually, this is a very thorough misunderstanding of the Gita verse. So I am explaining it; shall I continue to?

Throughout the world, throughout India, people quote this verse – ‘Karmaṇy-evādhikāras-te mā phaleṣu kadācana’. It is translated in English like this – ‘Your right Arjuna, is only to work and not to the results.’

Now I am asking - can the work and the result be separated? Is not the result part of the work? When a work is completed, it will immediately produce the result. Whoever does the work, for him the result also is owing. How can you say that you have a right only to work and not to the result it produces? Every work is aimed at a certain result. Whenever you think of doing anything, you are thinking why it is done and what is the result to be accomplished. Only then, you think of a work, design and complete it. When the work is completed, that completion of work itself is the result.

Another point is, is there anything called a result where you can stop? Or the result becomes a grand commencement of a new work? A student passes an examination. Passing an exam is a result. Why has he passed the examination? That is the result he has accomplished and will he do anything else (or) nothing else? He will keep the certificate in his chest and then say, “I have passed, I have passed”. He has passed; he has gained a certain merit. Using that merit, he will seek an employment. And in the employment, he will go further and further. So where is that point where you say this is the result and there is no further work?

A child is born. The birth of a child is a result. So can you stop everything or the birth of a child becomes a grand beginning of a new work? The moment the child is born, it is given a bath, put on a dress, feeding is done and very sensitively you have to spend all the twenty-four hours watching the child, looking after the child. So where do you separate a result and karma? That is not the meaning of that śloka at all; it is not the meaning.

It appears that in Guruvayur, they discussed this śloka for two days many years back and they said, “This is the most impractical proposition. We cannot accept it.”

In Bhagavad Gita in the eighteenth chapter He says:

अनिष्टमिष्टं मिश्रं च त्रिविधं कर्मणः फलम् ।
भवत्यत्यागिनां प्रेत्य न तु सन्न्यासिनां क्वचित् ॥
aniṣṭam-iṣṭam miśram ca tri-vidham karmaṇa: phalam |
bhavaty-atyāginām pretya na tu sannyāsinām kvacit ||
(Bhagavad Gita 18.12)

There are three kinds of result for all kinds of work. Either it is what you desired or it is not desired or it is partially desired and partially undesired. Either it is an ishta-phala or an anishta-phala or a combination of the two. This ishta, anishta and combination - are they objective or subjective? Ishta is a feeling in the mind, anishta is a feeling in the mind. So the miśra is also a feeling in the mind. So this is not regarding the external results or outcomes of work. It is on the other hand, our attitude and response and reaction to whatever we are doing and whatever we are getting.

So Bhagavad Gita does not speak about the objective result of activities. The objective results are inseparable from activity and whoever does the work, to him alone that result belongs, not to anybody else. And here He says - bhavaty-atyāginām pretya na tu sannyāsinām kvacit. These desirable, undesirable and combinational results are only there, atyāginām pretya. The word pretya means after you leave the body. Then only these ishta, anishta and combinational phala comes. For the sannyāsins, these three are not there. For the sannyasin means who is given to renunciation and who can keep away from ishta, anishta, miśra feelings; for him there is no such result. The result is only for one who is not able to adopt the sense of renunciation. You relate it to whatever we are saying. Even these ishta, anishta and miśra phalas are not applicable to the people who adopt the principle of renunciation. So which results are Krishna referring to? Then in the fifth chapter He says:

न कर्तृत्वं न कर्माणि लोकस्य सृजति प्रभुः ।
न कर्मफलसंयोगं स्वभावस्तु प्रवर्तते ।।
na kartṛtvaṁ na karmāṇi lokasya sṛjati prabhuḥ |
na karma-phala-saṁyogaṁ svabhāvas-tu pravartate ||
(Bhagavad Gita 5.14)

He says, the Lord of the world has not ordained any karma to be done by anybody. He has not ordained any sense of ownership about anything nor does He join the result with the kartā. A man is performing an action. The performer is not joined with its result. Karma producing its result, again karma producing its result - this is a law and process of nature. Nature makes sure that all people are active. And activity is aimed at a certain outcome. Without the outcome, there is no activity. There is no activity without the outcome. There is no outcome without the activity. So the activity and the outcome is like railway stations for a train. It starts from Cochin, goes to Delhi. So many railway stations it stops and it bypasses. You cannot say any particular railway station is the terminus of the journey. Like that it goes on. Are you following?

na kartṛtvaṁ na karmāṇi lokasya sṛjati prabhuḥ |
na karma-phala-saṁyogaṁ svabhāvas-tu pravartate ||

Actually, nature or God does not relate you and link you with a certain result. A child is born to you. Nature does not say, God does not say this child is yours and whatever this child does, you are responsible for it. But we feel we are responsible. Our responsibility arises from a sense of ignorance and delusion. If you look at it, the earth is revolving, day and night are produced, we wake up and become active, the trees are living, bees are living, water animals are living, human beings are also living. What is the difference? As all of them are working, you also work. But you start imputing motives to work, attributing, ascribing; this is our job. In reality, there is nothing like that. In reality:

प्रकृत्यैव च कर्माणि क्रियमाणानि सर्वशः ।
prakṛtyaiva ca karmāṇi kriyamāṇāni sarvaśa: |
(Bhagavad Gita 13.30)

All the activities are motivated by, performed by nature by the three influences called sattva, rajas and tamas. They don’t belong to you. Nature does not belong to you. We are products of these. They are not our products. As long as these products are there, they will work and you cannot escape. For one minute, you cannot keep quiet at all. As long as you are there, you get hungry, you eat, food is taken, energy is built, the energy has to be spent. In what field do you spend - that is different.

Then what is the meaning of this verse if you ask me which I have already explained, in the second chapter Krishna has always been speaking about self-knowledge. He has explained very clearly what is it that you are supposed to do. Whenever you are working, that work produces a certain clinging for us, a delusional clinging. That delusional clinging is called saṅga. That saṅga makes us feel – ‘I want X result, I don’t want Y’ etc. If you do a work well, will it not produce the result? Any work - will it produce a result or not? Otherwise why should you work? If the production of the result is imperative in the work, why do you ever think about it? You finish your work, automatically result will be had. Our clinging is not necessary.

Our clinging makes us feel if the expected result does not come, you are upset. Why should the unexpected come? But rarely some interference is there. For example, you are raising a crop. It is well nursed. It is about to yield. Suddenly there is a heavy downpour, everywhere is water; it is drowned. This can happen.

A patient is being treated by the doctor. The doctor diagnoses in a certain manner and he gives a treatment. Often it so happens his diagnosis is wrong and wrong medicine is given. There are two medicines about which this girl may know - ‘Procaine’ and ‘Cocaine’. Which is poisonous - Procaine? The doctor asked to give cocaine and the nurse thought it was procaine and she administered it and the patient died. It was only a verbal, either a spoken mistake or a hearing mistake.

Similarly, Barium Sulphate and Barium Sulphide; there are two. Sulphate is the Barium meal and Sulphide is poisonous. Instead of giving Barium Sulphate for the meal, one person administered Barium Sulphide and the patient died. Such results can come but it is not common. They are supposed to write and pronounce it properly. Whenever doubtful spellings are there, a doctor is supposed to write legibly, if necessary by capital letters and give. Otherwise such mistakes can come.

For diabetes, there is a medicine daonil and diovol. Instead of giving daonil, another medicine was administered and the patient died. This can happen in treatment. And loss of effort can happen in agriculture. Such rare instances are there. Otherwise every work is expected to produce the result. Then what does Krishna mean by this statement?

In the second chapter, Krishna exhorted a lot about self and knowing the self. When you know your Self, you are full, you are complete, you are abundant. That is called jñāna niṣṭa where your mind and intelligence are employed and you lead a contemplative life.

We are not working in any worldly manner to produce anything in the way of an income but we are very active. For 62 years I have been leading this life. 25, 30, 40 years etc. others are leading. We are very active but what are we active about? We are only doing mento-intellectual work and that work is not supposed to produce an outcome like you have. Why we chose this life - because we were not interested in the other. So this is a life of contemplation, this is a life of introspection. When a person is ripe for that, he will not take up other activities.

Arjuna thought – ‘I will immediately plunge into a contemplative and introspectional life leaving my life as a warrior.’ To be a warrior means to fight, kill, punish. So, this is called karma, activity. The other is called contemplative life. He says – ‘You are not fit for the contemplative life. You are not fit or competent or qualified for the contemplative life.’ The word adhikāra means competence, maturity. ‘You don’t deserve to do it. At present you can only remain an active person and interactive person. So your right, competence is only to be active.’ And while you are active what should you do? Take away your clinging from the results of what you do. Simply remain active and the activity will produce its result. You should not be clinging as to what happens.

I have been lecturing to people. If you ask me, “How many lectures have you given Swamiji and how many people have understood, what is the net benefit?”, I will have only have a poor record to tell you. I have been lecturing for years. How many people have understood me I cannot say, maybe 10, 15, 20 but I have been speaking to hundreds and thousands of people. So I am not worried about the outcome and I continue to do my work. We have a magazine, we write. How many people read it, how many people understand, I cannot say. We are not so much worried about the result and the outcome our activity produces. But we are continuing to be active. Because it is a niṣṭa which we like and we are not worried about the outcome. Our life is one of contemplation, life of introspection. It is not meant to produce any objective result. We are doing it as a loka-saṅgraha. So this trouble is not there.

Now this kind of a life Arjuna cannot take up. He was of a middle age, and thirteen years he was contemplating upon the fight. He did tapasya and obtained Pāśupatāstra and Gāṇḍīva. All these were reinforcements for his activity. Having done all these things, suddenly you now come and say, “I cannot fight, I will not fight, I will withdraw.” This is more an oral statement than a practical proposition. “So your right, your competence, your maturity, you deserve to be only active. Don’t think of a contemplative life now.” This is the meaning. Does it make sense to you? You link it up to the other verses and then find out. He denies:

नादत्ते कस्यचित्पापं न चैव सुकृतं विभुः ।
अज्ञानेनावृतं ज्ञानं तेन मुह्यन्ति जन्तवः ।।
nādatte kasyacit-pāpaṁ na caiva sukṛtaṁ vibhuḥ |
ajñānenāvṛtaṁ jñānaṁ tena muhyanti jantavaḥ ||
(Bhagavad Gita 5.15)
योगसन्न्यस्तकर्माणं ज्ञानसञ्छिन्नसंशयम् ।
आत्मवन्तं न कर्माणि निबध्न‍‍न्ति धनञ्जय ॥
yoga-sannyasta-karmāṇaṁ jñāna-sañchinna-saṁśayam |
ātmavantaṁ na karmāṇi nibadhnanti dhanañjaya ||
(Bhagavad Gita 4.41)

Our Nandita was asking me, “Swamiji, you have said like this”. So I started explaining two or three days back at night. I said I will discuss this subject again and again until you understand. That is the only way.

I cannot understand work and result. Are they not a compact product? If you keep water in a vessel and switch on your gas stove, will it not get boiled? You put rice; will it not be cooked? Why are we boiling and putting rice - only to cook the rice. When it is cooked, what will you do? You will remove the water and keep the rice. Then what will you do? Serve it for people. Is there anything called results separated from act? It is a stream, continuous stream like the flow of river. And we are separating it as this, that etc.

I was telling them that in a truck factory a truck is produced. In Tata Motors, when I used to go there, 200 trucks were produced every day. There is a beautiful assembly conveyor belt. At every workshop, one after the other, the parts, it does not stop at all and goes on moving. At the end you have a truck. Immediately a driver comes and takes it to the test track. As he is driving, he will make notes of whatever he observes. Then it goes to the depot. In the depot, how many trucks can they keep? May be 500 or 600. So every day they were producing 200. From the depot, it will go from there to the distributor. From the distributor, somebody will buy it. It will go the body building centre. When the body is built, it will be moving on the road removing and conveying freight and the freight is used. So where is it that what you call result as a point of end? It goes on like this.

I think work and result are absolutely inseparable. You do the work and at one time it will become the result. The same result marks the beginning of another work. For you, it is a result; for the others it is the beginning. For the Assembly people, they have finished and for the others it is the beginning. He has to drive it to the depot, from depot it goes to the distributor, from there it goes to assembly, from there it goes to the road. People never think; they refuse to think. Your right is only to work but not to the results. Okay you work and give me your pay packet every month; don’t take it. Give me your certificate or tear it off. You have a right only to study but not to write the examination. If you write and pass, don’t claim the certificate.

Krishna is not referring to the objective results at all. On the other hand, he says you have to be ceaselessly active. And activity means producing of result. He says:

एवं प्रवर्तितं चक्रं नानुवर्तयतीह य: ।
अघायुरिन्द्रियारामो मोघं पार्थ स जीवति ।।
evaṁ pravartitaṁ cakraṁ nānuvartayatīha yaḥ |
aghāyur-indriyārāmo moghaṁ pārtha sa jīvati ||
(Bhagavad Gita 3.16)

The entire world is moving as a wheel of action and you are one part in the whole wheel. If you don’t adhere to the wheel of activity, your life is wasteful, you become sinful. That is what He says. That being the case, where is the question of Arjuna retiring from activity and totally becoming a recluse?

Bhartrhari was sitting on the throne. One day he renounced it finding disloyalty on the part of his queen. Then he went to the forest. Was he keeping quiet there? He was doing intense austerity, contemplation etc. as a result of which he wrote three centuries of verses. Literally production is no production at all? Śataka trayam – that is the greatest contribution of Bhartrhari. His rule nobody knows, nobody remembers. He is only remembered after the Neeti Śatakam, Śringāra Śatakam and Vairāgya Śatakam. Even now people read. That was the production he made after taking to an austere life. You mean to say he was unproductive as an acetic?

When I came here, it was a hill. We had rabbits, foxes, snakes etc. in the same place where you are sitting now. There was so much of erosion here, water coming from the hill and flowing at great speed. One calf flew in the flow and died. So much of water flow was there when I came. When I planted these coconut tree seedlings, they said, “Swamiji, all these will flow off.” I said, “What are you saying? Why should it flow off? I have made a heap and planted it. Why should it flow?” So I used to go at night with a hurricane lamp and sometimes divert water. None of the plants which I had made was washed off.

How many airports we have made, how many ports we have made, how many bus stands we have made, how many factories we have put up, how many dams we have constructed! Are these not the result of work? And who is there to deprecate or to denounce work, be not attached to it? Unless we have an eye on the result, how can we design a work and complete it?

You take some money and give it to whomever you want, say 5000 rupees you take and give it to somebody, ask him to go the market, buy articles and come. When he comes, will you not check whether he has brought the articles you wanted, how much is the price, where is the balance. If we are not able to check it, how can banks run? In the bus, you pay money, he has got a bag, he puts it in. At the end of the journey, he tallies with the tickets, there are people to take the money. At what point of time we can be indifferent to the result? We have to be attentive to the result, not indifferent.

We had somebody in our Upavanam. That man left the place, we wanted him to go. We had to get police and all that. Now he tied his dog there and went away. So in the evening we were thinking he will come. So I was asking them, “If you have tied the dog, what about food for him? We should feed if he has not come.” I said I will go. “You call an auto-rickshaw and I will go there.” So they said, “You need not come” and the others went. We gave them biscuits, “Take water. It may want to drink water. And then we must tie it inside not outside because other dogs will come and bite.” We thought he will come and take it away. That is what he said.

Today also morning I asked Pramod, “You should give him some food. We don’t know when he will come or not.” So we gave some biscuits, water etc. allowed him to go, evacuate. Now he came and he has taken. You mean to say we should not have attended to the dog?

I think it is a very very wrong philosophy to say that you have only a right to work but not to the results because the results make you work. If my effort does not produce the outcome, something is wrong in my effort, I will have to redesign it. You remember that man who invented the sewing machine? Not Singer I think. You know, he invented it but he made the hole at the top side just like the ordinary and it didn’t work. Finally it occurred to him, the arrow maker is pointing at the tip. So he said, “I must make the hole and make the tip there” and he did it. It started working. You mean to say if he did not focus on the point, will he be able to complete the work? I think it is such a goose philosophy that people are simply foolish to say like this. I feel very bad. Okay let us stop.

Harih Om Tat Sat. Jai Guru. Jai Guru.

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