Balance is yoga

Sankhya yoga/Topic of knowledge(Chapter 2…continued)

Lord Krishna gives two definitions of karma-yoga in the second chapter, let’s look at both of them in this post. Readers should note that although the third chapter of the Gita is titled `Karma-yoga’, most of the topic gets covered in the second chapter itself while the third chapter sums it up.

Yogasthah kuru karmani sangam tyaktva dhananjaya

Siddhyasiddhyoh samo bhutva samatvam yoga ucyate (verse 48)

Remaining steadfast in yoga, Arjuna, perform actions abandoning attachment and remaining the same to success and failure. This evenness of mind is called yoga.

No one is uni-dimensional and, therefore, it is important to learn to bring a balance, to harmonize the various facets of our lives. Samatvam or balance is yoga; it means finding a balance in one’s life by understanding one’s priorities and balancing them out. If we look at the previous section, it has been stated there that most of our priorities come under artha and kama. So one has to learn to balance work, family, desires, hobbies, emotional needs and intellectual pursuits. This balance takes my life more towards yoga.

Even more important is how one responds to the result of action. We had said earlier that prasad buddhi is a component of karma-yoga. When I learn to accept the result of my action, whether it is success, failure or a partial success, as prasada from the Lord, I balance my emotional state. Meaning I am not in the seventh heaven of delight when I succeed or down in the dumps of depression when I fail, I don’t become an emotional yo-yo. My emotional life is balanced because I learn to accept what is, to let go what I cannot have, and work proactively towards what I want.  All this brings about a great stability in my emotional life and this stability is being referred to as samatvam or balance in yoga. We are not saying that you become like Vulcan from Star Trek and become emotion-less, but we are talking about having a certain balance so we don’t go haywire.

This is one definition of yoga, it is based on prasada buddhi and ishwara-arpana, it requires us to recognize that all actions are offered to the Lord. At the level of the action, the action is an offering, an act of worship to the Lord because I recognize that all that I can do is because of the infrastructure provided by the Lord. In fact, Ishwara is the order that makes all actions possible. Ishwara has been explained in an earlier post and new readers seeking clarity on this are advised to visit it.

The other definition is yogah karmasu kaushala, meaning “competency in action’’ is karma…

Buddhiyukto jahatiha ubhe sukrtaduskrte

Tasmad yogaya yujyasva yogah karmasu kausalam (verse 50)

One who is endowed with the sameness of mind, gies up both punya and papa here, in this world. Therefore, commit yourself to karma-yoga. Karma-yoga is discretion in action.

How can “competency in action’’ be yoga? That means a competent pick-pocket should be a great karma yogi! Here, Krishna refers to competency at one level as my personal competency; the more I recognize Ishwara, the more harmonious will my actions be, and, at the other level, to recognize dharma. How do I choose a means for an action? Here is where competency comes in, because one cannot be a spiritual person without following universal ethics. One cannot be psychologically whole if one is not following universal ethics. I am not talking of cultural values–the way we dress, what we eat…all this is interchangeable. I am talking about that which is universal and cuts across all religions. For example, nobody wants to be lied to and so, obviously, the opposite i.e honesty becomes universal. It doesn’t matter whether I am living in an underdeveloped, developing, tribal or primitive or any other society. Nobody likes to be lied to and, therefore, the opposite value becomes universal. So are values like justice, mercy, compassion, love–all these are universals and the universal is instinctively recognized by a human being.

A two-year-old child will be embarrassingly, brutally honest. He doesn’t look upon social niceties, he tells the truth without any compromise, just as he sees it. That’s why sometimes parents feel embarrassed because kids say things that are not meant to be said in keeping with social niceties. Sometimes we end up teaching them how not to speak the truth! And children learn how to lie or bluff when they are punished for telling the truth. They are told honesty works and are shown how it doesn’t work by being punished for it.  All successful businessmen will also tell you that good ethics is good business.

Our topic right now is not ethics; we will deal with ethics in much detail in Chapter 13 where Krishna discusses the whole value structure. For now, it is good enough to understand that there is such a thing as universal ethics and it is instinctively understood. A baby monkey understands gravity–he might not understand the scientific paradigms of gravity but he understands instinctively that if he doesn’t hold on to his mother he will fall. Similarly, human beings too instinctively understand what universal ethics are; this is called dharma. This dharma manifests in the human mind because it is instinctively recognized and no education is required to understand this. All that education and culture does is refine this understanding and make this understanding more sophisticated until the experiences of life show me that it’s clear that good ethics is good business. When I understand this and I choose the means in harmony with dharma, this is a dimension of my competency. It is this competency which Krishna is referring to when he says yogah karmasu kaushalam. Of course, it also includes my idea of responsibility, proactivity etc. All these together form the other dimension of karma-yoga.

So it is about proactivity, ethics and also your efficiency…… doing the best you can?

Yes, just because I have prasad budddhi, it doesn’t mean I don’t put in my effort. This is how all successful people have lived whether it was Arjuna in Mahabharata or Sachin Tendulkar on the cricket field. The search for excellence is also a part of yoga karmasu kaushalam. There is no perfection. To be a perfectionist means to unnecessarily stress yourself with work. It’s the journey that matters more than the goal, and the journey is in pursuit of excellence. Today I am better than I was yesterday and tomorrow I will be better than what I am today.

The problem with perfectionists is that they are setting themselves up for criticism and stress in life whereas one who pursues excellence will always be on the journey in the pursuit of excellence. I am amazed at how we Indians have lost sight of this in whatever we do. Look at our goods, our finished products–we always compromise at the end when it comes to our products. Why is it so? Because we are completely out of touch with our heritage. Our understanding of karma-yoga has become a passive acceptance of fate, which is tragic. Instead of being dynamic, we have become passive. I wish we could learn what karma-yoga is about so we can have a sense of balance in life and also a sense of excellence. Indians are performing well all over the world in so many fields and if we had this understanding we would be unbeatable.


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