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activity, for the enlightened man who ceases to be involved in it, it is the calm of the night, to borrow the imagery of the gItA. When the whole world is ignorant of the presence of the Cosmic Power and is therefore asleep, it is the Wise Enlightened Being who is awake; for Him the Absolute Light is radiating with all its brilliance and it is he who is enjoying the permanent bliss of wisdom and light.
yA niSa sarva-bhUtAnAm tasyAM jAgarti samyamI /
yasyAM jagrati bhUtAni sA niSa paSyato muneH //
So who is asleep, who is awake? Hindu literature abounds in such contrasts. The rhetoric of the presentation is only to bring home to us the relative nature of every experience. Karma Yoga therefore derives its strength and sanction from a thorough understanding of what is everlasting and what is transient.
A karma yogi goes about the world in the full awareness that the action he performs pertains to the external world to which he is duty bound to respond, whereas his Internal Self is totally unaffected by anything that happens to his physical or mental self. He is happy within himself , having cast off the desires arising in his mind. Neither desire nor fear nor anger can upset him. He is not overwhelmed by grief nor is he excited by pleasure. He receives experiences as they come - be they plesurable or sorrowful. The one does not enthuse him nor the other depress him,. Just as a tortoise withdraws his head and all its limbs under its shell, he withdraws his sense organs from their objects of enjoyment. Having seen the Absolute, he has no taste for the trivialities of sense perception. Such a person goes about the world desireless, rid of all egoistic concepts of mine and thine, ever peaceful and happy. He is called a sthita-prajna, one of firm wisdom. It is the description of this ecstatic stage of human experience that prompts Arjuna to ask again and again whether he should not therefore withdraw from action. The answer comes, as we have seen, in the form of a paradox. He who physically runs away for fear of involvement has not really run away because his egoism has taken hold of him. But he who is still in the world but does his duty with an attitude of total detachment is the one who has really renounced the world.
To sum up, karma yoga is selfless desireless action -- action, for all purposes, done exactly as would be done by a person who is totally involved and attached. The difference is only in the mental attitude of the doer. Service to society done this way is Service to God. Service to elders, parents and ancestors is a duty in which one engages oneself not for reward but for the discharge of an obligation or debt. NishkAma-karma (desireless action) performed in this way leads to the purification of the
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