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Bhagvad Gita versus 'The Secret' || Acharya Prashant, IIT Kanpur session (2020)
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
6 min
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Questioner (Q): The Bhagavad Gita says, "Don't focus on the outcome of your work," but the book entitled 'The Secret' says, "Visualize a positive outcome of your work." Which of these is true?

Acharya Prashant (AP): You are comparing fine apples with rotten oranges.

When these pop bestsellers and neo-spiritual classics tell you, "Visualize what you will get," then they are just stoking the fire of your greed and imagination. They are not asking you: "What is it that prompts you to go for that particular thing?" What they are saying is, "There is something you desire, alright. Now, start gratifying yourself in advance." That's one way to whet your appetite. After all, the normal human being chases nothing but his desires, right?

I'm going for something because I feel that the thing is going to provide me with physical pleasure and/or mental happiness, right? I will not ask whether the thing is actually worthy of desire; I will not ask whether I really need to go after that thing; I will not ask who am I and what is it that I really need, and do I even need that thing. These are taboo questions. In the modern world, desire reigns supreme. You are neither supposed to ask yourself, and certainly not others, that why they desire what they do. So, you can desire anything in the name of free will. And that's sacrosanct, right?

You say, "Well, this is what I want. My truth is my truth; to each his own. Who are you to interfere in my personal preferences?" So, desire is taken as an absolute. And when desire is taken as an absolute, then statements like these come in —"Visualize the outcome of your desire." That's just an appetizer before the main dish, right? All this will just egg you on towards the disastrous outcomes of blind desire.

What Shri Krishna is saying is an absolutely different dimension of realization. He is saying, "Do not go by what you desire. Do what is right. And when you are doing what is right, then the doing itself should be your only concern."

When you chase that which you desire, then obviously you can visualize the result as well, because you are doing something that is within the purview of your imagination; you're doing something that is connected to your past. Will you chase something if you have absolutely zero experience of that thing in your past? Tell me.

If you are chasing something, you have surely either experienced it in the past, or heard about it, or read about it, or dreamt of it—all of which are just versions of experience. But the right action does not really have much relation with the past. So you do not know what the outcome would be. Therefore, how would you visualize it? To visualize something in the future, you must have had some experience of it in the past. It must already be known, only then you can visualize it. Otherwise, visualization cannot take place.

Shri Krishna is saying, "The right action would be absolutely fresh and new. So, it is simply impractical to visualize the outcome." Further, the right action is so demanding, so all-consuming that you cannot devote your energy towards thoughts of the fruits of action. Let the fruits come, don't bother about the fruits; do the right thing. And that involves so much of courage and so much of conviction. You are being told the Right deserves your complete involvement, total immersion, total surrender. And if the action is right, if the motivation is right, if the actor is right, rest assured, the result will be right. So, why are you bothering about the result? The result is anyway going to be right.

"What if I don't like the result that comes?" You may not like the result that comes, but it is still going to be right. If you do not like the result that comes from the right action, then your like is not right; the result is still right. Challenge your likes and dislikes, not the rightness of the result. So, the entire emphasis in Shri Krishna's teaching is on checking your desire, investigating it, not leaping into action, not just jumping the cliff. You're being told, "Fine. Wait, wait. What really is worth doing? Figure that out. And once that is sorted, then give everything that you have to the right action. Once you have given everything that you have to the right action, you don't have anything left to worry, or worry for.”

Fight the right battle and forget the outcome.

This is the way I put it. I say, "If the battle is right, then even defeat is victory. If the battle is right—and you have to pick the right battle. It's very difficult to pick the right battle, because all the wrong and trivial battles are so alluring. Pick the right battle, and then even defeat is victory. Whereas, if you have, in the beginning, picked the wrong battle, then how is defeat distinct from victory? Having picked the wrong battle, how does it matter whether you win or lose?

So, it is not about winning or losing; it is about fighting the right battle. First thing—the right battle. And the right battle is bound to be impersonal. Anything that the person does for his limited interests cannot be good for him, because the person is limited. And if you are doing something for your limited self, it is only going to reinforce your limitations. And are you alright with your limitations? It is your limitations that agonize you so much, don't they?

So, first of all, you are already so fed up with your limitations, and then you act in a way that just reinforces your limitations, is that wise? Therefore, the right action has to be for a bigger cause. It cannot be for your little, personal interests or gains. That great cause for the sake of which must you act, is also euphemistically called as 'Krishna'.

You could either say, "I work for Krishna, I dedicate my actions to Krishna," or you could say, "I work for an immense cause." These two are the same thing.

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