GEMS FROM THE OCEAN OF HINDU THOUGHT, VISION AND PRACTICE

Beach 8: One's Nature vis-à-vis one's Duty

WAVE 4: NOTES FOR THE GITA

DROP 5: YOGA IS SKILL IN ACTION

 

YogaH karmasu kaushalaM’ is the statement of the Gita (II – 50). It means Yoga is ‘skill in action’.  The verses #s 47-51 of the second chapter of the Bhagavad Gita constitute indeed a capsuled version of the entire Karma Yoga of the Gita. These five verses may be translated asfollows:

‘Your right is only to do (your prescribed) work; never for the results or rewards thereof. Nor should you have them as your motive. Neither should you be interested in not doing the work. (#47: “karmaNyevAdhikAraste ….”)

‘Do your actions, being yourself established in yoga, rid of all attachment and being equanimous to success or failure. Equanimity is said to be yoga. (#48: “yogasthaH kuru karmANi …”)

‘Such performance of work is what is known as buddhi-yoga. (Result-motivated and desireful) action is far inferior to this. Take refuge in the equanimous mode (of doing work). Those who are motivated by results are, alas, a miserable lot! (#49: “dUreNa hyavaraM karma …”).

‘One who is harmonised in buddhi-yoga (through equanimity) transcends both good actions and evil actions.  Therefore strive for (such a) yoga. Yoga is skill in action. (#50: “buddhi-yukto jahAtIha …”)

‘Such wise persons who are harmonised in buddhi-yoga having renounced all results and rewards are released from the bondage of birth (and death) and they reach the sorrowless final state’. (#51: “karmajaM buddhi-yuktA hi …”).

For each of these verses, necessary explanations come in the later shlokas of this and the later chapters. So, read in isolation, from these verses alone we may  not be able to get the full intent of the Gita. Among the 31 comments on these shlokas listed in Karma Yoga  for this purpose,   the first 25 explain why one has to abide by #47.

#48 says how  one can implement #47. ‘Being yourself established in Yoga’ (Sanskrit: ‘yogasthaH’).  This is the keyword. This keyword is explained in the rest of the shloka #48 (Equanimity is Yoga)  and also later in the second half of VI – 8 – which says:  Being Equanimous  among a clod of mud, stone, and gold   is said to be the characteristic of one harmonised  in Yoga (‘yuktaH’).

This is  the buddhi-yoga of shlokas 49 and 50 and 51. The skill in action mentioned in #50 comes from the fact that this characterisation of karma-yoga takes the sting out of all action done this way. Action always sets up a vAsanA, which is bound to start a chain of vAsanA-thought-(further)-action  and therefore becomes the cause of a never-seem-to-be-ending transmigration cycle of births and deaths.  But action done in the buddhi yoga way where one is equanimous to success and failure, along  with the attitude of non-doership (which, incidentally Krishna will emphasize from Chapter 4 onwards – not now in the 2nd chapter),  will not bind one to any vAsanAs and so the vAsanA-thought-action chain is cut asunder!  This is the skill in action!

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