Disengaged from results, not avoiding action

Is the Yogi in true renunciation                 6.1

 Understand Arjuna, renunciation is the path of a Yogi

Renounce desires first to be a Yogi            6.2

 To begin with Yoga, action is must

To excel in Yoga, giving up action is must                 6.3

 Renounce desires for results of action

This is Yoga in perfection                6.4

I acknowledge this Ravi Verma master piece of Viswamitra Menaka Shakuntala that represents the essence of these verses, perhaps in way that Krishna did not intend.

Viswamitra was a kshatriya king who renounced his throne to become a rishi, when he failed to take away the divine cow Kamadhenu from her owner Sage Vasishta. Indira sent the celestial dancer Menaka to distract Viswamitra from his severe penances. Viswamitra does get distracted and his distracted action results in Shankuntala. In this picture of Raja Ravi Verma, Menaka is holding their daughter Shakuntala to Viswamitra for acceptance. Viswamitra is in vehement denial.

Is Viswamitra following Krishna’s precept of ignoring the results of his action?

Scholars of Gita will pounce on me and denounce me for such a flippant suggestion.

They would be right too.

Krishna says two things here. First that action is superior to inaction. Before and again later, Krishna repeats this. Closing one’s eyes and meditating, seemingly thought free but constantly distracted by video and audio tapes of one’s mind,  is neither meditation nor renunciation. Our scriptures are replete with examples of such false renunciation, including another Kausika who features in Vyadha Gita in another part of Mahabharata.

Many to whom who i have taught meditation tell me that they cannot stay away from thoughts. True. Thoughts cease only when we die. Each breath brings about a new thought, a desire to keep alive. Patanjali defines dhyana, meditation not as absence of thought, as some interpret him wrongly, but focusing on one thought. That one thought can be one’s breath, as in Vipassana.

Meditation is the gateway to awareness  and satva, not to lazy inaction or tamas. One of the most powerful meditations i know of, Yoga Nidra, is about being aware in deep sleep, conscious when unconscious. Krishna emphasizes this again and again as inaction in action.

The difference lies in one’s attitude to the outcome of action. Not the attitude after the action as in the case of Viswamitra renouncing his daughter, but in renouncing any desire connected to the outcome before the action.  It’s this renunciation of desires that marks the Yogi, one who is truly in touch with his inner Self.

We talked about this earlier. Letting go one’s obsession with outcome enhances one’s performance. Constant obsession with outcome only leads to stress and non-performance. This is as true for executives as it is for spiritual seekers.

Sitting or standing back from one’s task, viewing it dispassionately without worrying about the result, focusing on the process rather than the result, produces far better results than constant worrying about how things will turn out. This is the essence of modern management practices that emphasize the process over result.

Next time you’re stressed out, wondering whether you will succeed or not in any endeavor you have embarked upon, sit down, close your eyes and watch you breath for five minutes. You’ll soon see a new perspective emerging that will allow you to focus on the job without worrying about the  outcome.