Monday, November 18, 2013

“Yogah Karmasu Kaushalam”

Lord Krishna talks to Arjuna in Bhagavad Gita Chapter 2 Verse 50 about “Yogah Karmasu Kaushalam” – Yoga is excellence at work. 

  • This verse advice's us to perform our allocated duty in an excellent manner. 
  • Kaushalam signifies doing work with devotion and without attachment i.e. without becoming a workaholic. 
  • Such detached attitude enhances its values and improves the concentration and skill of the worker. 
  • If we work with elegance, fortitude, and skill our Body-Mind-Soul will co-operate with our hands. 
  • By becoming a tool in the hands of Supreme one has to perform the work. 
  • Any work becomes valuable if carried out with full concentration, dedication, and abilities and also helps us to become valuable to others as well as to society. 
  • We should never yearn over the fruits of action. 
  • The extrinsic incentives e.g., money, other bonus, etc. play a very minor role as motivators. 
  • The reward of a thing well done is to have done it says Ralph Waldo Emerson. 
We have failed to convert knowledge into wisdom. To convert knowledge into wisdom, so essential for obtaining a dynamic personality, it is essential to rise to the level of Buddhi. At this level, it is possible to combine executive efficiency with social efficiency and transform brute efficiency into humanized efficiency. It means that yoga should be the technique of doing work.

What is Yoga?

Yoga literally means Yukta (united) with self. To understand the implication of the motto, we have to see the full verse along with the two preceding verses:

Yogastha kuru karmani sangang tyaktva Dhananjaya l
Sidhyasidhyoh samo bhutva samatvang yoga uchyate ll 

Be steady in yoga, Arjun, do whatever you must do; give up attachment, be indifferent to failure and success. This stability (samatva-buddhi) is yoga. (P. Lal's translation)

Durena hyabarang karma buddhiyogat Dhananjaya l
Buddhau saranamanviccha kripana phalahetaba ll

Selfish work is inferior to the work of a balanced uncoveting mind; shelter yourself in this mental stability (samatva-buddhi), Arjuna. Harassed are the seekers of the fruits of action. (P. Lal)

Buddhiyukto jahatiha ubhe sukritadushkrite l
Tasmadyogaya yujyaswa yogah karmasu kaushalam ll 

With this mental poise, you will free your self from good deeds and ill deeds. Devote yourself to this yoga; it is the secret of success in work.

This mental poise is buddhi. This buddhi or 'intelligent will' as Sri Aurobindo calls it, is not affected by good work or bad work or with their result. Buddhi is indifferent to results. Here, there is no desire of fruits or desire for power. Buddhi is samabuddhi - looking at everyone and everything with the same eye. That is Yoga and that is the technique that is to be adopted for doing work. Buddhi guides one to be united with the higher self. And therefore this buddhi is yoga and yoga is the skill of performing, remaining united with yoga. Meaning of yoga is made clear by Krishna in verse 48. The samatva-buddhi or stability is yoga.

Swami Ranganathananda describes yoga as 'the path to achieve a fullness of personality development. That, when transferred to work, helps one to achieve all-round excellence in performance.' Elsewhere he says, 'Yoga is the philosophy of life and action capable of ensuring individual and collective welfare. It makes one work without discrimination and with equality achieving samatva (Justice). Yoga gives one the power of concentration, single-minded devotion, full control of mind and body and increases insight and understanding.'

Dr. S. Radhakrishnan says, ' He is rid of selfishness and therefore is incapable of evil' yoga is evenness of mind in success or failure, possessed by one who is engaged in the performance of his proper duties, while his mind rests in God.' 

Work is also explained in verse 49. Any work is not work. Selfish work is inferior to the work of a balanced and uncoveting mind (buddhiyoga or buddhiyukta mind). Therefore, one must take shelter in this mental stability. Work therefore is not as important as the buddhi of the worker. If the worker is endowed with buddhi then whatever he does is bound to be relevant. Buddhi is intellect, which is capable of making a choice between, relevant and irrelevant and chooses self-realization as the only guiding factor determining action. It makes a person wise enabling him to shed both sukrita (good deeds) and duskrita (ill deeds), leaving only one alternative with man, i.e., self-realization. Therefore the buddhiyukta, hopefully, our civil servant, will have the capacity to shed choices, adopt yoga which will make him incapable of taking evil action and enable him to strive for self-realization by doing his duties successfully through yoga.

What finally is aimed at is the concept of Rajarshi, enshrined in Chapter 4 of Gita. A public servant should be like Gita's Rajarshi. A Rajarshi is a combination of the qualities of a Raja, a King and a Rishi, a sage. Raja is one who shines in responsibility, Ranjate Virajate. He also pleases, ranjate. Mahabharata (Shantiparva) describes the king thus: Ranjitascha prajah sarvastena rajeti shabdayate (one who pleases his subjects is called a Raja). His qualities are power and efficiency. On the other hand, the principal quality of a sage is his wisdom. A Rajarshi therefore has the power and efficiency of a king and the wisdom of a Rishi. His efficiency and energy enables him to perform and his wisdom, his darshan, guides him in that performance of duties. The civil servant must be able to become a Rajarshi ' a combination of power, efficiency, professionalism and wisdom to achieve welfare of people. If the administrator has a small darshan, he becomes static, a burden. With a large darshan, he is Rajarshi, a dynamic force with wisdom and the sense and capability of taking responsibility of the masses. Obviously extraordinary effort is required to achieve this extraordinary energy and this synthesis of power with responsibility, strength of character, clear thinking, dedication and practical efficiency.

And the secret of secrets, the essence, is in the last verse of Gita:

Yatra yogeshwara Krishno yatra Partho dhanurdharah l
Jatra srirvijayo bhutirdhruba nitirmatirmama ll

'Where Krishna, lord of yoga, is,
Where Arjun, wielder of the bow, is,
Are victory, success, prosperity and law,
I am convinced of this.' (the P. Lal transcreation)

This will also ensure the achievement of lokasangraha of which Gita says in chapter III

Sakta karmayavidyanso yatha kurvanti Bharata l
Kuryatvidvangstathasaktaschikirshulokasangraham ll 

The wise man must act even as the work-obsessed fool does
But shedding selfishness and pursuing knowledge ll (P. Lal)

Lokaraksha implies that people without wisdom work for self. Wise people work for others. Lokasamgraha is holding together of people in the way of dharma. How does one do that? Just before this verse Krishna speaks about setting an example ' 'I do not need to work but still I do just to set an example for other people to follow, because people will always imitate a superior, following the example set by his action.' (21-23/3). Therefore, the civil servant must set an example for people that increases his credibility and while doing work uses state-power for the fulfillment of the desires of the people thereby pleasing them. All this will work towards the achievement of the ideal of lokasamgraha, which is in any case one of the responsibilities of the civil servant.

Buddha, while lying on his deathbed, was asked by Ananda, his disciple,

'Lord, after your departure who should we go to clear our doubts?'
Buddha said, 'Atmano Deepo Bhava' (Be like a lamp; be a light unto thyself).

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