Friday, December 23, 2011
From the Bhagwad Gita, this shloka has been heard countless times. I guess not just me, but a lot of Indians irrespective of religious denomination would have heard this verse. And with B R Chopra’s television serial, Mahabharat, this must have been heard in practically every home with television, every Sunday for a few years.
It has been explained in general as “do your duty and don’t worry about the result.” This has been the essence of this verse. But if not understood in the correct spirit, the same pious verse with such an important direction for how to lead daily life may stop giving the beneficial results that should come from its practice.
As usual, not that I have any depth in my own understanding but, here, I present my own perspective.
Context of the Shloka
This shloka is based on the very essential understanding of Dharm. Here the Dharm is not the petty way in which the present society looks at Dharm, it is not the Hindu Dharm, Muslim Dharm, Bauddha Dharm, Jain Dharm, Christian Dharm or Sikh Dharm, that we are talking about.
Dharm in its purest understanding is the Law, the law of nature. At the very fundamental level, the law of the nature is that every cause has its effect and there is no effect without a cause.
Of course at a more complex level one may have to understand that even a cause is the effect of an earlier cause. And if this cause & effect relationship is viewed to understand life, one may arrive at a perfect Bhav-Chakra. One may also have to conclude that in this circular cause and effect relation, it is difficult to pin-point the point of origin, and therefore futile.
However, for our purpose let us get back to the simple fundamental law of nature – every cause has an effect and no effect is without a cause. This is the Dharm that applied to all animate & inanimate things in the past, it applies in the present and will apply even in future.
Dharm applies to those who understand it and accept it as well as to those who do not understand it or deny it. Therefore, a person’s personal opinion, belief system has no power over Dharm. Come what may, Dharma will do its work.
Dharm-Adharm: Clear understanding
It’s important to understand one thing clearly, since everything runs on the principle of cause & effect and that is known as Dharm, there can never be Adharm. In the ancient times the usage of Adharm is not seen, especially where the author of the document has grasped the fundamental meaning of the word Dharm.
However, when seen from the perspective of personal goal of life or socially accepted goal of individual life, any activity that causes an effect that takes an individual or the society in a direction opposite of the desired goal of life, we discourage such acts and in the present times we call it Adharm.
In the ancient era, when the concept of Dharm was more clearly understood, the acts who’s effect took a person or a society closer to the desired goal of Mukti/Moksha were called Kushal Dharm and acts who’s effect took a person or a society further away from the desired goal of Mukti/Moksha were called Akushal Dharm.
Relation of Kushal Dharm with Morality/Sheel-Sadachar
With little clarity, the larger society even in the present time links moral conduct with goodness and finds it religiously acceptable and immoral conduct as unacceptable.
In ancient times too, even though the concept of religion didn’t exist, immoral conduct was considered unacceptable for a man trying to attain Moksha.
The reason for emphasis on moral conduct in this way of life is that ancient sages found it very early that purity of mind has the most decisive impact on the peace & happiness of an individual and therefore of a society.
Impure mind, mind that is always indulged in desires for material or immaterial things, either in the manner of wanting them or in the manner of not wanting certain situations to arise, is always the reason for restlessness and other ills for an individual and therefore for a society.
Of course, this discovery was also made on the basis of cause & effect principle, in other words, Dharm explained the reasons for restlessness and reverse of cause & effect i.e. if this is not caused that will not be effected, gave the way out of this misery.
So, since practice of Morality which, is also known in India as Sheel-Sadachar, helps one attain purity of mind which is a necessary cause for attainment of Nirvana, Moral Conduct has a very strong relation with Kushal Dharm.
Karmas – three different levels
Today ofcourse people take Karma to be only what the body does, but in ancient times when the concept of Dharm was clearly understood, the mind-matter phenomenon was deeply understood and the objective of Human life was equated with Mukti, karma was evaluated at three levels – Kayik, Vachik and Manasik (Bodily, Verbal and Mental).
Kayik Karma Sanskaar are the simple actions of the body itself. These are commonly referred to as Karma. These are mechanical actions in nature.
Vachik Karma Sanskaar are the Verbal actions, the spoken words. Every word spoken first emerges as a thought in the mind. So the actual reference of Vachik Karma Sanskaar is to the thoughts emerging in our mind. In practice, when thought process gets linked to the mechanical action of the body including speech, Vachik Karma Sanskaar is formed, this is also known as Vikarma.
Manasik Karma Sanskaar are the mental phenomena of sensing and evaluating. Every sensation is evaluated by our mind as good or bad, wanted or unwanted, desirable or undesirable, craving or aversion. Essentially the entire evaluative process can be clubbed as craving & aversion. In other words, it is Raag & Dvesha. The thought process follows. It all happens at such speed that it appears to be simultaneous and therefore disallows any differentiation. This Raag & Dvesa is often referred to as Trishna. This Trishna gives rise to attachments/clinging, also known as Upaadaan. A deep observation explains that Trishna is caused by Ignorance. In the absence of clear understanding of the true nature of the sensations arising in our body due to contact with the sense objects, our mind evaluates them in an unwise manner, reacts to them. With the acquisition of Wisdom, mind evaluates every sensation in a wise manner, on the basis of its true nature of impermanence, as understood in “Parivartan hi sansaar ka niyam hai” (Change is the law of this Universe). So, what is going to change anyway, why have a craving or aversion for it, why develop clinging for it. Such a craving or aversion or clinging will only make us miserable. As a person gets established in such a wisdom, also known as Sthitaprajna, every mechanical action is accompanied by deep thinking, ultimate wisdom, almost as if its our second nature to be so. Such a Karma is also known as Akarma.
It is Akarma because this is non-seed bearing Karma. No seed, no phala, no creation, no bhav-chakra, no karmic cycle, no birth, no death.
This is how Karma has to be understood, at three levels of its origination.
Understanding the Verse in light of Karma and Phala
Karma is the cause, Phala is the effect. Karma is the kaaran, Phala is the parinaam. Since every effect is due to a cause, it is the cause that we must focus on, effect will happen automatically. Having understood the supremacy and certainty of the law of cause & effect, the Dharm itself, a man leaves all worries and indulges in only the right action which gives right results. Since it is the Karma that is the cause of multiple results, Karma has to be understood in its entirety. We have to train ourselves to reach the level of Akarma.
Our faith has to be in Dharm, the law of nature of cause & effect. This is the only faith one requires. And this faith will come & become stronger with our self-experience. This is the only way we never bother about the results, the parinaam, the Phala.
Now we know that it is our Karma that holds the key to the Phala. Have faith in Dharm alone.