We cannot withdraw from the work of the world without, like Arjuna, being guilty of cowardice. Besides, however eager we may be to retire from a life of action, we cannot, in reality, pass outside the region of activity. If we cease to work with our bodies, our minds still remain active, and our only hope of freedom is in learning the secret of work.
कर्मण्येवाधिकारस्ते मा फलेषु कदाचन मा कर्मफलहेतुर्भूर्मा ते सङ्गोऽस्त्वकर्मणि — To work thou hast the right, but never to the fruits. Be not actuated by thirst for the results of action, nor be thou pleased in inaction. — Bhagavad Gita, Ch.2, 47.
“None verily, even for an instant, ever remain doing no action; for every one is driven helpless to action by the energies born of nature.” Therefore, unable to resist the inner force, we are bound to do that which we are doing. Each of our actions, furthermore, must inevitably produce some result. Every action is followed by a corresponding reaction, which returns to the point from which it started; hence the reaction of each action must come back to the soul itself and influence the doer. Further study also shows that the character of action and reaction must be the same.
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It is when, on account of our imperfect knowledge, we identify our true Self or Atman with the limitations of mind and body, we become selfish and are ready to do the things which brings us suffering and misery.
किं कर्म किमकर्मेति कवयोऽप्यत्र मोहिताः तत्ते कर्म प्रवक्ष्यामि यज्ज्ञात्वा मोक्ष्यसेऽशुभात् — Even wise men are deluded on this point, what is action and what is inaction. I shall tell thee the philosophy of work, by knowing which thou shalt attain to absolute freedom from all imperfections. — Bhagavad Gita, Ch.4, 16.
Karma Yoga means literally “skill or dexterity in work”, and deals with all activity whether of body or mind. Recognizing that activity is an inevitable condition of life, that no human being can live without performing some kind of work , either mental or physical, it seeks through its teaching to show how this constant output of energy may be utilized to acquire the greatest spiritual enlightenment and to attain to perfection and absolute freedom.
There are five conditions necessary for the accomplishment of all mental or physical labor:
- We must have a physical body, it is the storehouse of energy.
- There must be present the sense of the ego as the doer or actor.
- We must have the instrument with which to work.
- We must have the desire or motive to work.
- There must be some sort of environment.
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