This article discusses the true meaning of Nishkam Karma Yoga and the role of Meditation and belief in GOD in this journey
Nishkam Karma Yoga – कर्म करो फल की चिंता मत करो
This is probably the most commonly talked of and mis-understood message of Bhagavad Gita. Ask anyone who has never even touched Bhagawad Gita and chances are that that person will mention this, probably with some skepticism. It usually gets interpreted as
“we should do our work without desire for results”. (a common but incorrect interpretation)
Clearly Maharshi Ved Vyasa, when writing Bhagawad Gita could not have had this meaning in mind. Desire is the fundamental driver of all human action. Nothing gets initiated without an element of desire. If a task is done without motivation and desire to succeed, it is unlikely to be of highest quality. Look at any achievement, by anyone, in any field, the chances are that it was a result of burning desire backed by relentless effort.
So what does Nishkam Karma Yoga of Bhagavad Gita really mean?
It means two things.
- Do not think of results while performing the task.
At the time of working on any individual task, our full focus should be on doing the best in that task. We should be totally in the moment and absorbed in that task. For example a student preparing for exam should fully concentrate on the preparation. Further when the student is learning a chapter, the focus should only be on that chapter and not on the entire syllabus. The reason for this is simple. Any distraction, whether it is related to end result or otherwise, is likely to adversely affect the quality of preparation. Imagine a student who during the exam is anxious over repercussions of passing or failing – do you think with that mind set, the student will be able to perform his/her best?
This concept applies equally to the task of planning. The planning for any activity should be primarily driven by the end result in sight (passing an exam with high honors, getting a good job, excelling in a sport or hobby). At that time too much focus on individual steps or ‘action’ can be a distraction. As an example, too much focus on the pain of potential hard work and sacrifice of fun things may prevent the student from setting high goals to begin with.
- Be prepared if desired results not achieved.
We must understand that even after best planning and hard work, success is not always guaranteed. There are just too many variables and unknowns in the world we live in. Even if we ignore uncertainties, in many situations like in a competition, there can only be one winner, so in a way, all except one are bound to fail (not achieve the desired result).
So on one hand, the knowledge that result is not guaranteed (point 2 above), should not deter us from setting ‘result oriented’ high goals, but instead provide us with strength to deal with adverse results.
On the other hand, at the time of execution, we must have the attitude of not being concerned about results (point 1 above) and instead focus exclusively on the task at hand.
It is interesting to note that when interpreted this way, ‘not desiring results’ actually gives us the best shot at achieving those results.
The role of Meditation
(Does meditation help in being more effective at practicing Nishkam Karma Yoga?)
Meditation provides profound benefits in all areas of life. This article however, focuses solely on how meditation would help in practicing Nishkam Karma Yoga.
The favorable role meditation practice would play in achieving both of the above goals of Nishkam Karma Yoga is so obvious, that probably it does not need any elaboration. However, in nutshell –
In relation to exclusively focusing on the task at hand – meditation by its very nature gives mind the training and practice of staying away from distractions and focusing on nothing or only on desired thoughts (GOD, bliss, a mantra and so on). Clearly this training will come handy in focusing on any desired task also.
In relation to dealing with unfavorable results, the usefulness of meditation is equally obvious. Just by virtue of having better control on thoughts, the person will find it easier to stay positive under any circumstances. Further during meditation, the mind is relaxed and often one gets creative ideas and solutions for problems which otherwise look unsolvable. In this state of mind, the person is better able to see things in perspective and often the problems do not look as big as they once appeared.
The role of belief in GOD
(Does belief in GOD, Soul and Reincarnation, the core concepts of Bhagavad Gita, help in being more effective at practicing Nishkam Karma Yoga?)
If one truly believes in GOD, Soul and Reincarnation, that person is fortunate. This belief system naturally steers one towards the path of worship, renunciation and meditation. In fact by having an object of focus (GOD) and a goal (achieving Nirvana), it is conceivable that it will be easier for one to advance to higher levels of spiritual practice, including meditation and thus make him more proficient in the practice of Nishkam Karma Yoga. Notice, we are not even considering other profound changes that this belief system can bring in the life of a person.
If one does NOT believe in GOD or reincarnation or let’s say, is not fully convinced about truthfulness of these beliefs, which probably includes lot of us and most people of younger generation, one can still derive the benefits from this belief system!
This can be done by using these as elements of creative visualization. Today we use creative visualization in many different ways. Many guided meditation sessions start with affirmations like ‘imagine you are at a beach …’ or ‘imagine your body becoming weightless…’.Visualization of favorable results is key part of training of all professional athletes and sportsmen. In the same way, one can visualize that the GOD indeed exists and Reincarnation does happen. Once one adopts it, one can reap the same benefits, towards spiritual journey, meditation and practice of Nishkam Karma Yoga that a true believer would achieve.
Perhaps, there is a hint of something like this (GOD and Soul not being absolute truths but being more like a belief system) in Bhagavad Gita itself. Look closer at verse 26 of chapter 2.
Atha chainam nityajaatam nityam vaa manyase mritam;
Tathaapi twam mahaabaaho naivam shochitum arhasi.
Here lord Krishna presents a counter argument (Even if you do not believe that Soul takes birth after birth and never dies, you should not grieve …).
Why would counter argument be presented in Bhagavad Gita if the existence of GOD and Reincarnation was believed to be true beyond doubt?
This article ties in all the core concepts of Bhagavad Gita from the perspective of Nishkam Karma Yoga. It explains the true meaning of Nishkam Karma Yoga, which is not only very practical but much more. It provides a two-fold recipe for going after any task that we undertake. It gives us the tools to be most effective in conducting that task while simultaneously providing tools and strength to handle unfavorable results. This perspective thus makes it equally relevant to people of all ages, including children.