Action, In action and Non-Action

You know from my previous post that conflict is inevitable. At every moment there is conflict. We have to fight. There is absolutely no way out. But then the question comes – are we not this way, by our constant struggle and conflict not committing sin?

To a normal person, if he thinks deeply, we are committing sin with every action of ours. To a normal person, ever action of ours is covered with sin. Let us look at it in a modern context. When we appear in an interview, we strive to get the job. If we end up getting the job, we take the opportunity away from all the people who appeared for the interview. The moment we start trying to get the job, we are doing bad to all other participants. From an existential point of view, it is positive for the person who gets the job and negative for the person who does not get the job. So every action or event has together with itself both negative and positive. From an existential point of view, it is a balance containing both negative and positive. This existential point is the THIRD POINT. The entire effort of Krishna when he delivered the Bhagawad Gita was to take Arjuna to this third point, from where, it is neither good nor bad or both good and bad.

So if a person who thinks that it is he who is doing the work, if he thinks that it is he who is responsible for the getting the job, then the very moment he starts preparing for the interview, he is committing a sin, because he is doing wrong to all other people who have appeared for the interview. But if he thinks that it is God or Existence or Krishna (As per the Bhagawad Gita) is doing the job, and he is just an instrument in his hands, then he commits no sin. Then the responsibility is removed from his shoulders and put on Krishna’s. He will deliver the results, not us.

Whatever we do, in all our actions, there is some bad hidden. In all our action we are in one way or the other, doing harm to someone else. When we eat we take away food from someone who needed it more than we do. We squander money, when someone else needs money more than we do. In every action some bad is thus hidden.

The Bhagawad Gita Says (Chapter 18 Text 48) :

Saha-jam karma kaunteya sa-dosham api na tyajet; Sarvarambha hi dosena dhumenagnir ivavrtah (in Sanskrit)

Meaning: Every action or endeavour is covered by some fault, just as fire is covered with smoke. Therefore one should not give up work or action, O son of Kunti, even if such work is full of fault.

So then what should one do? The Bhagawad Gita says that one should not give up work. To a normal man, one should not be acting at all because at every step one is committing sin.

Now comes the most important part of the Bhagawad Gita.

Krishna to Arjuna, in the battlefield had explained the meaning of Karma, Akarma and Vikarma or  Action, Inaction and Non-Action. Let us see what they are.

Action or Karma is when you act as an ego, for sense gratification. Action is when you act for happiness, pleasure, enjoyment and relaxation. Action is when you want to do away with you ever existing internal uneasiness or misery. Action is when you act in order to strengthen your ego. Action is when you think yourself as the doer. Action is an egocentric act. When one thinks of himself as the doer, it is action. Action is doing – being a doer.

When will you generally act? When will an ordinary person act? From where does the impetus come? All our actions are done to do away with the inner unhappiness, it is done to make us happy, it is done for enjoyment, it is done for pleasure and relaxation, it is done in search of happiness. It is done because “YOU” are not happy and you want to be happy. Your unhappiness is a personal thing and the action that come out of this state has to be egocentric, because this action that you will do for happiness and pleasure will be purely personal, for your own benefit. This action is concerned with you and this way you are the DOER. Any action, which involves a doer is ACTION.

An ordinary person lives in action – because he is egocentric and he is thus in tremendous misery because ACTION will not bear any fruit. Because happiness and relaxation in Impossible (As per my previous posts).

Inaction or Akarma is when the doer is absent. When you act keeping your inner uneasiness aside and work incessantly. Inaction is when you do not act for happiness, pleasure or relaxation. Inaction is when you do not bother about unhappiness, when you do not bother about the ever existing uneasiness, when you do not bother about your own misery. Inaction is when you are not bothered about the results of your action. Inaction is when you are not looking for pleasure and happiness, when you are not trying to do away with all your problems and misery. Inaction is when in all your actions and endeavours “YOU” AND EVERYTHING CONCERNED WITH YOU are not there. Inaction is an highly impersonal action. Egoless action in inaction.

Vikarma or Non-action is when there is neither the doer nor the doing – but things still happen on its own, without any effort. For example, we breathe, which we are not required to do by our own effort. There is neither a doer nor a doing so far as acts like breathing are concerned. Similarly the blood circulates through the body, the food is digested, and the heart beats. How can you categorize such acts? They come in the category of non-action, which means action happening without a doer and without a sense of volitional doing. An ordinary person lives in action, a sannyasin lives in inaction, and God lives in non-action. As far as God’s action is concerned there is neither a doer nor any doing of the kind we know. There things just happen; it is just happening.

There are a few things in man’s life too that just happen. And these are non-actions. In fact, these actions are divine operations. Do you think it is you who breathe? Then you are mistaken. If you were the master of this action known as breathing, then you would never die really. Then you can continue to breathe even when death knocks at your door. But can you say you are not going to stop breathing? Or try it otherwise – stop breathing for a little while and you will know you cannot stop it either. Your breath will refuse to obey you, it will soon resume its breathing. In breathing you are neither the doer nor the doing itself. Many things of life are like breathing; they just happen. If someone understands rightly what non-action is, and comes to know its mystery, he will soon enter into a state of inaction which is acting without a centre, an ego. Then he knows that every significant thing in life happens on its own; it is utterly stupid to try to be a doer. And he is a wise man.

The essence of the Bhagawad Gita is Inaction i.e. doing without a doer. Lord Krishna says  to Arjuna “if you act being a doer, then you will surely be afraid, then you will be committing sin, but if you act without being a doer, surrendering all your actions unto me, then there shall be no sin. Because then you are not doing it. But I am doing all the actions through you and you are merely an instrument in my hands”. Krishna tells Arjuna to know that He is the only controlling power of this universe and all actions that you are doing is being done on my command. Krishna says that all the responsibility is HIS and Arjuna should stop being a doer and put the responsibility on the shoulders of Krishan, who is the only commander of everything that is happening in this universe.

Krishna says to Arjuna, ”You need not be afraid of killing, because all those you are going to kill have already been killed by me. They are already dead, you have only to give them the news of it through your arrows. You are only an instrument in the hands of existence, nothing more. So don’t think that you ate going to kill them. If you think you are the doer then you are bound to be afraid. With the doer comes fear, anxiety and anguish. Every suffering, every sorrow, arises from the ego, the doer, which is a false entity. You are utterly mistaken if you think you are the doer; you are merely an instrument in the hands of the divine. Let it do what it wants to be done through you, and let go of yourself.”

So taking the example of the interview again, and applying the above words of Krishna, it is no sin to compete for a job, to defeat your competitors, to fight for survival. Not only this, for any work any act of yours the results will not be delivered by you, you will  not be responsible for the results, but He will be. It is his responsibility. Because whatever happens will be done by HIM. Whatever you do, the results would be decided by Krishna. It is your responsibility as far as the work or the act is concerned, the results will not be delivered by you ,but by Krishna.

Whatever you do, absolutely whatever, and if you know that it is not you who is doing the work, but is HIM, if you have understood Non-action well, if all your actions are inactions, if you understand that the responsibility is not on your shoulders but HIS then there is absolutely no sin. Then whatever happens, you do not have to be bothered or responsible for the results. Then you will understand that all that happens in this world are His Play. You are merely an instrument in his hands and have nothing to do.

At the end the Lord tells Arjuna (Bhagawad Gita, Chapter 18, Text 66):

Sarva-dharma parityajya mam ekam saranam vraja

aham tvam sarva papebhyo  moksayisyami ma suca

Meaning: Abandon all religion – abandon all good, evil, right, wrong, success and failure  (Religions means all right, wrong, good and bad, all doctrines and commandments) – and surrender unto me and I shall deliver you from all sinful reactions. Do not fear.

Bhagawad Gita just asks you to surrender unto Lord Krishna and do whatever you want to. There are no good actions and bad actions because with every action there is both good and bad. So Lord Krishna in the end tells you to just surrender unto him and move ahead leaving Him to deliver the results.

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