The Two Ways Of Performing Action-II
In the Bhagvad Gita, Sri Krishna describes nishkaama karma as “Yogah karma sukausalam”—yoga is the action perfected. Further he explains what he means by yoga as thus: O Arjuna, abandon all attachment to success or failure and perform your duty by being steadfast in yoga. Such evenness of mind is called yoga.
“Samatvam yoga uchyate” means “performing action in a detached manner”. Krishna is asking Arjuna to become a “stitahprajna”—One who is not affected by external factors. This yoga is called “nishkaama karma” or “actionless action”. No spiritual progress is possible for a person without him giving up his ahamkara (I-ness) and mamahkaara (mine-ness) and learning to perform nishkaama karma with the sense of dharma (duty) and tyaga (sacrifice).
“Moksha”or final liberation is not possible without attaining “atma sakshatkara”. But this cannot be attained without the karmas. Sage Agastya in “Yoga Vashishta” lucidly explains this thus: as a bird flies with its two wings, so also an enquirer flies to goal of self-realisation through the co-ordination of two wings of jnana and karma.
Whatever may be the path, a spiritual seeker takes but he must develop samabhavatva (treating everything in same manner without likes and dislikes) and perform nishkaama karmas. Only when a person performs the karmas prescribed in shastras (Vihita Karmas) in such a nishkaama way, will he achieve chitta shuddhi—purification of mind and be able to develop the competencies necessary for jnana sadhana.
Shastras classify karmas into four categories—nithya, naimitta, kamya and nishiddha. Nithya karmas refer to daily activities that a person is supposed to follow like sandhya vandana. Naimmitta refers to karmas performed on specific occasions. Kamya refers to karmas done to fulfill specific desires. Nishiddha refers to karmas that are prohibited like killing etc. A person must first practice apara/bhedha bhakti by implementing the karmas prescribed in the shastras in a nishkaama way and by avoiding the karmas prohibited by the shastras. Only such a practice will make him develop the surrendering required to be able to give up his ahamkara and mamah-kaara. This results in chitta-shuddhi. Without performing nishkaama karma, chitta shuddhi is not possible.
A person who has thus purified his mind will develop qualities like viveka (spiritual discrimination), vairagya (dispassion), titaksha (forbearance) etc. Only such a person is eligible for practicing jnana sadhana. He should then approach a sadguru and practice the sravana chatushtaya (the four-fold spiritual practice)—sravana, manana, nidhidhyasa and atma-sakshatkara.
Sravana and manana refers to listening and internalising the teachings imparted by one’s guru. A shishya is expected to do further reading of the shastras on the said subject and get cleared of the doubts that arises in his mind. The guru will guide the disciple slowly towards jnana by clearing one by one all the doubts that arise inside the disciple. After intellectually understanding the guru’s words the shishya must practice nidhidhyasa— meditation and contemplation as instructed by his guru. By sincerely practicing the sadhana’s instructed by the guru, the shishya will attain atma-shakshatkara.
By Nithin Sridhar