Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 2 verse 47: You have control over action, not its fruits. Neither live for the fruits of action nor attach yourself to inaction.
‘You have control over action.’ We’re in the driver’s seat. We choose to act selflessly and support evolution, right actions. Or we choose to act selfishly and hamper evolution, wrong actions. Through right actions we act from the level of the higher Self and readily accomplish outcomes that benefit all. Through wrong actions we act from the level of lower self and choose bondage, get all wrapped around the axle of fruitless actions and leave outcomes to other fates.
Right and wrong actions: Selfless right actions support evolution in spiritual and material wellbeing. Practicing karma yoga is right action. When we serve others’ desires we break bondage to action, realize inner contentment of higher Self and evolve to higher levels of awareness. From contentment deep within we’re ‘freed from dualities,’ ‘ever firm in purity,’ ‘independent of possessions,’ and ‘possessed of the Self’ (2.45). We’re primed for action.
The uplifting feeling of liberation experienced when selflessly acting to fulfill others’ desires fuels us forward through thick and thin. Unmindful of outcomes deep within, while simultaneously motivated to achieve them on the surface level of the mind, we pour single-minded attention into accomplishing tasks that need doing. Distractions lose sway. Playing heads-up ball, we’re Instinctively aware of what’s important and unmindful of what’s not. Decisive. Each action is in the moment and builds on the foundation set by the previous. We feel harmony between quiet inner awareness and outer activity. Our path of action to higher levels of wellbeing unfolds in front of us.
On the other hand, selfish wrong actions hamper growth in spiritual and material wellbeing. By engaging in wrong actions we become a negative force. Wrong actions cause harm to others and ourselves; hinder achieving outcomes; produce stress, strain and damaging influences on others and our environment; diminish what has been created for the greater good. Wrong actions result from selfish attitudes of avarice, anger, fear, revenge … and the ever-seductive, elitism. In whatever form it takes, selfishness points our attention outwards in the direction of sensory experiences. Bad attitudes reinforce bondage to action and distance us from life-supporting right actions, evolution, inner contentment, and union of lower self within higher Self.
The good news is that selfless right actions obviate selfish wrong actions. Mutually exclusive right and wrong actions cannot co-occur. Selfless actions in service to others leave no room for negative emotions, bad attitudes and the harmful wrong actions they engender.
Fruits of action: Outcomes exist in the phenomenal world, beyond ego, intellect, mind, senses, and organs of action. We have no direct control over them, ‘not its fruits.’ In putting attention on fruits we siphon attention and energy away from actions required to accomplish them. We fix our attention on the horizontal plane and lose sight of the vertical and the purpose of action: liberation from bondage (2.39).
On a higher level, the sweet fruit of renunciation is the natural outcome to selflessly serving others. Out of renunciation, we break bondage to action and achieve liberation (2.45). Performing right actions our attention automatically shifts to the vertical plane and we experience evolution in spiritual and material wellbeing.
‘Nor attach yourself to inaction.’ Action is the name of the game. It’s called karma yoga, union (yoga) through action (karma). Liberation from bondage to action requires action, oddly enough. No selfless right action to break action’s binding influence, no liberation, no evolution (2.45).
It’s a practice: Through selfless actions to serve others’ desires we break bondage to action. Through repeated acts of selfless service we ‘cast away the binding influence of action,’ which is the very goal of practicing karma yoga declared by Krishna (2.39).
Serving others’ desires we break ‘the binding influence of action’ and transcend personal limitations. Content within on the level of the Self we feel confident and capable. Life’s dualities (ups and downs, progress and reversal, itch and scratch...) and the distracting anticipation of success and failure lose their grip. Actions feel natural, purposeful and right. We enjoy performing them. The harmony between outer actions (lower self) and nonactive inner contentment (higher Self) strengthens union between the two.
Repeated acts of selflessly serving others, strengthens union between self and Self. Optimism rules. Possibilities pop out of the woodwork. Actions feel spot on. Outcomes become more easily and effortlessly achieved. Harmony between inner contentment and outer activity increasingly strengthens union between the two. Acting in the groove of service, we increasingly identify with unbounded inner contentment. In time, union of bounded lower self with unbounded higher Self stabilizes. We ‘cast away the binding influence of action’ and become established in union, that is, established in Yoga. [See ‘Your intellect established through its practice.’ (2.39).]
copyright Keith R Parker 2021