Ahymsin Newsletter: Yoga is Samadhi
  AHYMSIN Newsletter, Issue - November 2013  

Yoga Is Skillfulness in Actions

by Swami Rama

Choosing a Path (Book Cover)An excerpt from Perennial Psychology of the Bhagavad Gita by Swami Rama, published 1985 by the Himalayan International Institute of Yoga Science and Philosophy of the U.S.A. (Swami Rama wrote the commentary, and Pandit Usharbudh Arya provided the translation of the Sanskrit text.).  Chapter 2.

49. Action is by far lower that the yoga of wisdom, O Arjuna. Seek to take refuge in wisdom. Those whose actions are causes of fruits are petty minded.

50. One endowed with wisdom relinquishes here both the good deeds as well as the bad ones. Therefore be directed toward yoga; yoga is skillfulness in actions.

51. The wise man endowed with wisdom indeed give up the fruit that arises from action; liberated from the bondage of birth and its attendant cycles, they reach the state of wellness and holiness.

After describing the negative effects of working for rewards, Sri Krishna explains the importance of performing disciplined action with non-attachment. The term buddhi yoga refers to action performed with a mental attitude of non-attachment to the fruits of one’s action. Buddhi has the ability to discriminate between the real Self and the non-Self, and with such discrimination one can develop non-attachment to the non-Self.

A person with a dissipated mind is unable to comprehend the limitless joy that is experienced by the aspirant who is tranquil, performing his duties selflessly and skillfully. But when the mind is tranquil, pure reason (buddhi) is able to function. A tranquil mind alone has the capacity to maintain inner poise, which inspires and leads one to perform actions skillfully and without attachment to the results. Such actions become a means for fulfilling the purpose of life. Whereas actions performed with selfish desire bind one to the objects of the world, actions done with non-attachment lead to complete freedom.

A disciplined mind and non-attachment are two important requisites for performing skillful action. If these qualities are absent, the mind is continually tossed by preoccupation with gain and loss, success and failure. Such a disturbed and distracted mind is not helpful at all; instead it is repeatedly a source of disappointment and create misery, grief, and sorrow.

Skilled action is the gift of a disciplined mind, and non-attachment is the gift of buddhi yoga, the yoga of pure reason. Skilled and disciplined action and non-attachment are separate here only to enable one to understand the importance of developing both, but actually the two qualities go hand in hand. Disciplined action is definitely superior to inept and harmful action. This is clear when we examine the fruits of each. Although disciplined action brings positive results, one is still not free because these results prompt him to do more actions. It is not possible through disciplined action alone for one to come out of the whirlpool created by his actions and the fruits he receives from those actions.

The deeds performed by one who has a tranquil mind are totally different from those performed by selfish people who desire to enjoy the fruits arising from their deeds. When the thought of dedicating and surrendering the fruits of one’s actions is predominant in one’s mind, he is indeed selfless. A selfless person is concerned with the needs of others; his focus is on giving rather than on receiving. The family institution helps one to understand the philosophy of giving. When a man learns to give to his wife, children, and other family members he is taking the first step in learning to give. He can expand that awareness to his neighbor, nation, the whole of humanity, and to all the creatures of the world. Learning to love others is one side of a coin; the other side is life itself. Without love, life is impossible, and without life, love is impossible. Love and life are two sides of the same whole; they are inseparable – nay, they are one and the same!

In modern life instead of learning to give, everyone in the family expects to receive without giving. Whereas giving is an expression of selflessness, expectation is an expression of selfishness. A selfish husband and father uses his wife and children to satisfy his ego. He does not know the law of giving. When this way of being is typical, the family institution radiates hatred instead of radiating love, and chaos is created in society.

When one has expectations he is never fulfilled, but giving is a fulfillment in itself. The truth that every action has a reaction is acknowledged equally by philosophers and scientists. Expectation rebounds on the human being, and so does love. When one has expectations the result is dissatisfaction, disappointment, distress, sorrow, and pain. But when one gives there is a feeling of satisfaction and contentment through and through. The reaction received from giving is fulfillment. The wise person gives for another reason as well: he knows that the expectation of receiving rewards brings those rewards, and then he will become caught in the whirlpool of attachment and bondage to those rewards. That leads to a kind of suicide, for one becomes smothered by his accumulated possessions.

The Upanishads say, “Enjoy through renunciation, for that is the way of salvation.” But the question arises: How is it possible to live in the world and to discharge his duties without becoming attached to the objects of the world? The Bhagavad Gita explains that this can be accomplished by developing the understanding that all things of the world, animate and inanimate, are not ours. We have the right to use and enjoy them but not the right to possess them. This teaching is like a ray of light that tears the veil of false identity and possessiveness, which always creates misery. One should have an exact, profound, and comprehensive attitude toward life. He should understand the law of action and reaction and the importance of giving up possessions. Otherwise the joy of giving and loving is changed into sorrow and misery. But instead of understanding this fact, modern man becomes overwhelmed by the sense of ownership. And when one possesses something that does not really belong to him, he lives as a thief and not as a free man.

Intellectuals raise the question: If one does not desire the fruits of action, will he be motivated to act? In response to this question, the sages who have trodden the path and graciously left their footprints for us to follow have said again and again, “Have a desire so that you perform the action, but do not have a selfish desire, for selfish desire is the very source of misery, but selfless desire brings joy and makes you free.” When surrendering the fruits of actions becomes the basis of one’s life, he knows nothing but giving. And at that stage further knowledge is not needed, for one has already attained the goal of life. He realizes his oneness with all and lives in that realization. Therefore, give up all the fruits of your actions to others and live in perennial happiness.