A request and a disclaimer: Before you begin to read this blog, request you to first read the blogs titled ‘A curtain raiser to the blog series on karma yoga and The seed for karma yoga’ as this sets the context for this blog and the rest of the blogs in this series. For this blog series on karma yoga, I draw my learnings from the Bhagavad Gita Home Study book by Pujya Swami Dayananda Saraswati. The language and explanations used by Pujya swAmiji is so profound, that I wish I do justice by aligning my understanding to his explanation, as I parallelly try to relate it to day to day living. Any error in the way I have blogged upon these values, is due to an error in my understanding alone.
This explanation on the seed for karma yoga kept ringing in my mind -‘Taking pleasure or pain with equanimity, as though they are one and the same’. The pleasure may come from a gain, victory or success and the pain may come from a loss, defeat or failure. As this kept ringing in my mind, I couldn’t help but allow the thought of an actual ‘seed’ to also come in to my mind.
There are those rare times when we look at a seed before we plant it and wonder if it will grow to how we desire it to. When we look at the seed of a specific plant, we visualise the plant as though it has grown and yielded what we desire it to yield. It seems simple enough but there is so much more to it than what we see and so many factors that influence whether it grows and how it grows.
The seed for karma yoga seems simple enough but there is so much more to it. Every thing that needs to be understood is in it but seems yet not. There is a depth that can be felt but not seen. It is like that plant / tree that is in the seed but not seen. What will manifest later is unmanifest now!!
As I think of what is the seed for karma yoga, the image of me standing on the pivot of a flat rectangular board flashed in my mind. I am unable to balance myself consistently as I am wobbling and so is the flat board. There are times when I stand in balance but the next second I tilt toward one side; which side does it tilt to, changes every few minutes, depending on what I think I am going thru’ – pleasure or pain. As I wobble every few minutes, the one question that is on my mind is, “What am I standing in this board and on the pivot for?” Pat came the answer as well, “To gain self knowledge, and for this I need the space in my mind; to get the space in my mind, I need to be in a position where I am neither too elated nor too despondent. This is possible only if my lifestyle is that of a karma yogi, taking pleasure or pain with equanimity, as though they are one and the same. Which means it is fine to be elated or despondent but it should be at a level where it is easy to bounce back.” Whoa!!
To be a karma yogi one needs to adopt the lifestyle of karma yoga to gain freedom or liberation from bondage or afflictions. The word karma has two meanings – i) action ii) result of an action. In the context of karma yoga, the meaning of the word ‘karma’ is action. Action for what? Doing actions for the purpose of purification of the mind (antaH karana shuddhiH). Does it mean that otherwise the mind is impure? No, what it means is that the mind is replete with either pleasure or pain every moment and it is always ‘filled’ with a myriad of thoughts and feelings; and to gain self knowledge one needs a certain mind that is ready with space to accommodate that self knowledge. To gain that mind, karmas or actions need to be performed with a certain attitude. The attitude wherein an individual gains composure and mastery over the opposites is called karma yoga.
Attitude is not externally driven but is internally driven and hence is within one’s control. Building this attitude requires time and practice. This is perhaps why karma yoga is a lifestyle and not a destination. When it is a lifestyle, then it means that it is a style that we adopt for the rest of our life. There are moments when we may have a setback and not be able to take the opposites of pleasure and pain with equanimity, as though they are one and the same. However, since karma yoga is an attitude it is with us and ONLY with us, as an individual. We continue to do our karma with this attitude. To the extent that we have we, we have it. To the extent that we don’t have it, we bring in a change in the attitude and that brings about the necessary change which makes it karma yoga.
Well, since building this attitude requires time and practice, looks like I need to accept the fact that the rectangular board will wobble and with it, so will I.. While the journey to be a karma yogi is with the goal of gaining self knowledge, right now what seems more attractive is the seed for karma yoga. How do I take pleasure or pain with equanimity, as though they are one and the same? The search begins..