In the quest for moksha or liberation, one can take many paths. The path of knowledge, the path of devotion, the path of meditation etc. are some of the ways to the same goal. The easiest and most identifiable path in this day and age though, is supposed to be the path of action, also known as karma yoga.
There are 2 very specific principles of karma yoga, and these often cause much confusion in their applicability.
1. We must give up the fruits of our actions.
2. We must give up the doer-ship of our actions.
What does this even mean? We will explore the first principle now, and the next one in tomorrow’s follow up post.
Let us say we have a bright chance of getting promoted at work. This entails putting in our best work for the next 6 months. How much of our time over the next 6 months goes in actually working, versus in worrying about the result? It is likely that many of us dissipate a lot of our energies stressing about that which is not in our control. We cannot control the promotion cycle or evaluation cycle or the management team that has to vote on the promotions or the macro environment or the overall profit / loss of the company or the number of other candidates that deserve promotions or even whether your recommending officer (i.e. your boss) would still be with the firm! There is only thing we can control however, and this is the quality of our own work.
The first principle of karma yoga drives home precisely this point. Irrespective of what you are doing (studying, giving an exam, working, driving, eating, anything!), focus on doing your best, and forget about the end result. This forgetting about the end result, is called giving up the fruits of our actions. The less the worry, the more the enjoyment of the work at hand, and thereby better the quality of output.
Last but not the least, giving up the result does not mean we say ‘No’ to a promotion if we get it, as that would only be foolish! But we do not need to be mentally ‘bound’ to the promotion either, especially while doing the work. If the promotion does not come through, we can either try for one next time, or look for another role. Part 2 tomorrow!