Knowledge and Action

The Active Life
Suppose a person is not ready for the contemplative life - contemplative life is not easy because you cannot become contemplative by will. It is by disposition that you are contemplative. You cannot command a contemplative mind because it is not a matter of will. It is a matter of a certain maturity, a certain disposition and you don't have a choice. You cannot choose to be a contemplative person; you can desire to be one and that is a healthy desire. Everyone has to discover a contemplative mind which in fact is to release the mind from the hold of likes and dislikes. Every mind is held by likes and dislikes, whether you like it or not. The mind cannot be contemplative when either the likes or the dislikes are not fulfilled. What you want should happen a nd what you do not want to happen should not happen. But the destiny always has a knack of providing what you do not want and of holding back what you want. It is not possible for you to change your likes such that you like all that you get and dislike al l that you do not get. Then you ahve no likes and dislikes; you already are a sadhu and ready to become a sannyasi. But you do have likes and dislikes and what you do not want comes to you and what you want does not. So there is one thing to be don e by you and that is to adopt a means by which the mind is released from the hold of likes and dislikes so that it becomes contemplative.
The question is only with respect to the life-style. Are you going to burn all your boats, becme a sannyasi and pursue the knowledge exclusively or are you going to pursue knowledge along with what you are doing now? Therefore lokesmin dvividha nishta: there are two life-styles in the pursuit of freedom or liberation. The entire Veda expounds these two types of life-styles. The Isavasya Upanishad, in the very first mantra says, "All this, whatever exists in the world, must be covered by the Lord. Protect (the knowledge) through renunciation of the three desires. Do not covet anybody's wealth". Whatever there is, is nothing but the Lord. Remove the superimposition of the apparent quality and appreciate the Lord who is the self of all beings. This is the truth to be discovered by enquiry - which will be effective only if the mind is free from the desires of wealth, comfort, progeny, etc. This mantra is meant for the sannyasi.
The second mantra is meant for a karma yogi. It says, "By performing karma indeed should one desire to live for hundred years. For an individual such as you (who wants to live thus) there is no other way than this whereby karma may not bind you". Desire to live for a hundred years includes other desires also. If one has the three-fold desires of wealth, progeny and the other world, one shoould seek to satisfy them by performing karma. And by karma is meant vihi takarma or the actions enjoined by the scriptures.The Vedas reveal a system of karma based on the person's station in life (asrama) and his disposition (varna). The Vedas stand for the knowledge that has come alongwith the creati;on. From what the words that are revealed in the Vedas , we can see that the knowledge cannot come frm anybody other than the Lord who has created this world. And so we follow the rules for our own good.
Man is endowed with the faculty of choice. When choice is available, direction should also be available. So the Vedas provide the direction in the form of vihitakarma or enjoined actions which are also called duty. Duty is usually what one is expec ted to do; it is born out of a maturity, an appreciation of one's role in the scheme of things. It is a mandate until it is understood. Since man has a faculty of choice, he can disturb the order of nature. Other beings such as plants and animals cannot d o that because they have no volition and so there is always a harmony or a balance in their life. All that a man has to do is not to disturb the harmony that is already there. This is indicated by prohibited actions or nishiddhakarma.The purpose of vihitakarma or duty is to make the man appreciate the Lord, to make him alive to the cosmos. In performing duty, one is conforming to the pattern and harmony of creation. Duties are meant to make the man appreciate the pattern of creation, cultivate a proper attitude towards life. When the mind becomes clear, one is able to see the order. In the beginning, duty is in the form of an attitude but finally, it becomes natural, it culminates into a nishta.
Nishta does not mean a path. It means commitment. You live a way of life that is called nishta. Karmayoga is a nishta, it is a life committed not merely to performing action but a life committed to performing action as yoga. What makes karma a yoga? Yogah karmasu kausalam - in performing action, the attitude of yoga or duty is the skill. Action performed with the attitude of duty becomes yoga. While performing the action, you do what is to be done, whether you like it or not. Action is performed as enjoined and so the individual likes and dislikes do not come into play. Your likes and dislikes might prompt you to perform an action which is not proper. You refrain from performing it because it is not proper. So performing vihitakarma and avoiding nishiddhakarma becomes karmayoga.
There is another definition of karmayoga: samatvam yoga uchyate: sameness of mind (towards success and failure) is called yoga. This is the definition of yoga with respect to the result of action. It calls for an attitude of sameness towards the result. When a result is looked upon as success, attachment arises and when looked upon as failure arses. In fact, there is no such thing as success and failure. Every result is in accordance with the laws of action. Laws are not made by me'; they are made by the Lord and so they can never go wrong. Every result is a right result and there is no such thing as success or failure. The more you appreciate the laws, the more you are in harmony with the things around and you can find your place in the scheme of things.
Action can never fail us; it only produces result. A given expectation may said to have failed but I have not failed. That I have failed or that the action has failed, is a wrong conclusion - only the expectation has been wrong. So nobody has failed. It is only a matter of wrong judgement because man is not omniscient and so he cannot have the knowledge of all the factors that shape the results of the actions. We must remumber that we have the freedom in choosing and performing an actin and whatever result comes, is in accordance with the laws governing the action. This attitude of taking the result as it is, that is, maintaining an equanimity of the mind both in success and failure is yoga.Action can produce likes and dislikes only if the result is looked upon as a success or failure. When the result is looked upon as a function of the invariable laws of action, or what is even better, if it is looked upon as the prasada or the grace of the Lord, no new likes and dislikes are created. The existing likes and dislikes will no doubt create desilres and produce actions, but new likes and dislikes are avoided. With this attitude towards the result, the action which is born of likes and dislikes becmes the means of eliminating the very likes and dislikes. The mind becomes free from the agitations of elation and depression. Such a mind is tranquil. It is a contemplative mind.