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Karmanye Vadhikaraste
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
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Fulfillment of expectations does not give you fulfillment. Expectations might get fulfilled; you do not get fulfilled. Expectation is kamana , desire, and when you see that even the complete fulfillment of expectation gives you neither fulfillment nor completeness, then you say that expectation is junk, I do not want to chase it any further.

The basic trouble is that the point from where the expectations are arising—that which you call as the mind or the self or the ego—is in itself a defective machine to trust so much. We are expecting fulfillment or perfection from the output of a machine that is in itself highly imperfect and incomplete.

Bhagavad Gita

कर्मण्येवाधिकारस्ते मा फलेषु कदाचन । मा कर्मफलहेतुर्भूर्मा ते सङ्गोऽस्त्वकर्मणि ॥

Your right is for action alone, never for the results. Do not become the agent of the results of action. May you not have any inclination for inaction.

—Shrimad Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 2, Verse 47

Is it possible to work without expecting results?

Questioner (Q) : I was reflecting on my life in the context of this verse, which says that work should be done without attachment to the fruit. However, I go to the office and work for money; I learn music for pleasure; I read the scriptures for freedom; I exercise for health; I practise yogāsanas, prāṇayama, dhyāna for peace and health; I interact with people and family for pleasure, peace, and security. There’s nothing that I do which is not for some gain, and if I am convinced that I will not get what I am expecting out of my action, most probably I will not do it. How can this be changed in the light of Shri Krishna’s wisdom?

Acharya Prashant (AP) : All this will not suddenly change in the light of Shri Krishna’s wisdom. For the change to happen, first of all, you must have an Arjuna-like self-doubt, and faith in somebody beyond yourself like Krishna.

Does money give you what you want?

You say you go to the office and work for money. Does money give you what you want? Unless you come up with at least a doubt regarding the utility of money to your utmost self, no wisdom is going to be of any help to you. If you are someone who says, ‘I go to the office and work, I get money in return, and that completes the loop, I am okay. I worked, I got remunerated—happy!’ then no wisdom will work for you because you are requiring, needing no wisdom. You are entering into a deal and the deal appears profitable to you. Where is the question of moving on to something else?

Do you really get peace?

Similarly, you say you interact with people and family for pleasure, peace, and security. Do you really get peace? Do you really get peace? Does the pleasure suffice? Are you really secure with respect to the people you are mentioning here?

You say you read scriptures for freedom. The freedom that you imagine that you will get from scriptures, is it really freedom? Or is it a part of your little self? The freedom that your little self imagines, envisages, will it suffice to free the little self of itself?

Why do you need the Gita?

But here you talk as if the cause-and-effect cycle is serving you beautifully. You say, ‘I do something, I get the results, and it is also nice.’ If it is also nice, then why do you need the Gita? The Gita is not for those who are smug and settled in the niceness of their patterns. The law of karma, the teaching of niśkāma-karma, begins at the point of dissatisfaction.

Gita is only for the dissatisfied ones

For that matter, all spirituality is only for the dissatisfied ones. The ones who are cool and cozy and contended, I always tell them to carry on. Cool, cozy, contended? Continue, continue! It is an animal-like state in which you do not have any inner turbulence, any deep discontentment, and, therefore, you have no vision, no desire for a greater self.

That’s a characteristic of an animal, is it not? Do animals ever experience any kind of existential angst? Do they? Ever heard a buffalo contemplating the meaning of life? Would be quite a pretty picture, by the way. ‘B’ for buffalo, and the buffalo is saying, ‘To “B” or not to “B”? Am I really a buffalo? Because to “B” is to be a buffalo . . .’ Or some monkey questioning whether the tree really exists. That doesn’t happen; they are all all right.

There is no need to forcefully disturb someone who is feeling all right. It is too messy an affair, and often worthless. Is it worth it to intrude into somebody’s peace—howsoever superficial or artificial it is—and shake him up when he doesn’t want to be shaken up? The effort may not be worth it; there might be better candidates to teach, to bring up, to support.

Do you work for money?

Psychological happening at your workplace

Either the questioner has mentioned half the story, in which case he is either not fully honest or does not trust me fully, or if this is the complete story as per the questioner, then the story is nice. Let the story continue!

‘I go to the office and work for money.’ Happy-shappy! What kind of juvenile story is this? Is this what happens in your office? You go to the office, you work, and get money. Is that the complete story, the total picture? Anybody who has ever entered the workplace even for one day knows that this is not even a fraction of the total psychological happening. There is much more that happens at the workplace. Why don’t you tell us about that?

Is it only money that you get from the office?

Yes, it is true that you went to the office expecting money. But what did you get? Yes, it is true that you expected money, expecting that money will give you That. Did money give you That? Maybe your expectation that work will give you money was fulfilled. But why are you hiding from me that there was another expectation? The expectation was that money will give you That. Did that expectation materialize? Did that happen?

Further, you are presenting it as if it is some kind of a one-to-one linear mapping between work and money. When you say you go to the office and work and you get money, is it only money that you get from the office? First thing. Secondly, do you get money necessarily for work? Answer both the questions.

What are you obtaining from your workplace?

First, when you go to the office and work, there is much more than money that you get. Maybe you are not conscious of all that you are obtaining when you are at your workplace, but there is much, much more: all kinds of nonsense, blemishes, rubbish, stress, comparisons, and anxiety.

Equally, when you get paid, is it only because you worked? There are so many who get paid not because they work but because they know a few other skills. Is it really a one-to-one kind of mapping? It is not. It is a complex situation that you are presenting in a deceptively simplistic way.

Fulfillment of expectations does not give you fulfillment

Shri Krishna is for those who come to see that their expectations are, firstly, not being fulfilled, and more scarily, even when their expectations are being fulfilled, it is not giving them fulfillment. It is a great discovery to come to: Fulfillment of expectations does not give you fulfillment. Expectations might get fulfilled; you do not get fulfilled.

Expectation is kamana , desire, and when you see that even the complete fulfillment of expectation gives you neither fulfillment nor completeness, then you say that kamana or expectation is junk, I do not want to chase it any further. Only then.

Therefore, this verse is only for those who have, first of all, seen the futility of their self-centric endeavours, those who have seen that we hardly ever get to fulfil our expectations, and more importantly, even when the expectations get fulfilled, we do not get fulfilled. Then Shri Krishna comes into the picture. How does he come into the picture?

From where are your expectations arising?

The basic trouble is that the point from where the expectations are arising—that which you call as the mind or the self or the ego—is in itself a defective machine to trust so much. We are expecting fulfillment or perfection from the output of a machine that is in itself highly imperfect and incomplete. In fact, the very name of that machine is incompletion.

Now, from the product or the output of such a machine, we expect completion. It is not going to happen. We set a goal, we achieve that goal, then we want fulfillment from the achievement. First of all, where did the goal come from? Who told you that a particular goal is suitable for you? Who told you who you are?

The one setting the goal does not know how to set the goal

Who is the one deciding on the self-identity and setting the goal? This deciding authority is in itself quite foolish, and that is a discovery one has to make for himself. In that discovery, really no teacher, no agency can assist you; you have to come to life’s disappointments on your own. And better for you that you come to them as soon as possible, as early in your life as possible. Once you come to them, then it is possible for you to have a shift of the centre itself. Then you say that the one who is setting the goal is setting the goal for itself, but the one setting the goal does not know how to set the goal; therefore, whatsoever goal it will set will not be of any use for itself; therefore, there is at least one thing I can do now: I will not set the goal for the sake of the goal-setter.

Otherwise, normally, whatsoever goal we set, we set it for our own sake, hoping that the attainment of the goal will do us some good. That is the only purpose behind all goals, right? ‘If I reach that goal, then I will have some profit, some betterment, some welfare coming my way.’

The one who enters the first steps of wisdom says, ‘The way to get rid of this defective thing inside me is to not honour the goals that it sets for itself. The way to get rid of this thing inside me, this thing that troubles me so much, vexes me endlessly, is to not trust the desires that it generates for me. How do I do that? By not desiring too much for myself.’

Where are you spending your money?

So, ‘I go to the office and work for money.’ For sure, if you will work in the office, you will get a pay cheque. Now, what is the pay cheque being used for? The story doesn’t end at the receipt of the pay cheque, or does it? You deposited it, now it is going to be spent and consumed.

Let the money be spent on something beyond you

The one who realizes Niśkāma-karma Yoga says, ‘I will not spend the money on my own desires. Fine, the cheque has come my way, but let the money be spent on something beyond me to the extent possible, as much as possible—in fact, a little more than as much as possible.’

The little self wanted the money just for its own gratification, and it thought that gratification equals fulfillment: ‘Money will come. I will buy a new sofa-set this month! And what will the sofa-set give me?’ Oh well, the ego does not put it in so many words, but that’s what it implicitly expects or assumes. ‘The sofa-set will deliver me emancipation; the sofa-set will mean some kind of nirvāṇa; the sofa-set will give me so much happiness. The sofa-set, the furniture is worth slogging the month for. Ultimately, what did I do? I got the pay cheque. Then there are fixed monthly expenses depending on the cost structure I have built for myself, and then there is a particular amount that I put into saving, and after that, all the remainder went into the sofa-set.’

Can money deliver something beyond money?

What was the expectation? ‘I am putting all my available cash this month into the sofa-set!’ Surely, it is foolish when I put it so bluntly. Sounds so very unacceptable, doesn’t it? You say, ‘No, no, no! We are not such idiots that we will expect liberation from the purchase of a sofa-set!’ Consciously, maybe you do not have that expectation. But subconsciously, the sofa-set does mean a lot to you, does it not?

Fine, stretch the sofa-set example a little: let the sofa-set turn into an entire house. For decades you carry the plough just to get a house, don’t you? I mean, what else is sādhanā? Every day you went to the office, you worked so that you could get some money, and all the remainder after your usual monthly expenses went into the purchase of the house. Surely, you must be having great expectations from the house, right?

That is how the little self operates. It does not just want money; it thinks that the money it earns can deliver something beyond money to it. Something that is just beyond the scope of all work, all action, all material, the little self expects to be delivered through money.

Rightful expenditure of your money

Money has to be spent for a higher cause

To listen to Krishna is to know that money, when spent in the service of the ego, just inflates the ego and deepens its pre-existing illness. So, money has to be spent in a way that dissolves the ego. That is the rightful use of money.

So, you work, you get money. Some money is obviously needed for your basic physical sustenance, for your basic securities. And then, the surplus has to be spent for a higher cause, not for your own little gratification, not for the kind of titillation that most people are found indulging in.

Spend money towards an intangible objective

Now, the catch there is that when you spend money on something tangible—and ego knows only tangibles because ego itself is a material thing. Ego knows only tangibles, and to work for your liberation is to spend money in an intangible way, towards an intangible objective. The ego resists; it says it is foolishness: ‘Where is the money going? It is my hard-earned money! What am I really getting by spending it?’

The ego does not realize that even as it is resisting the intangible, it is the intangible that it deeply craves for, that it is actually in love with. Is there any tangible thing that can really satisfy the ego? Is that your experience?

So, the ego, knowing very well that no tangible thing really suffices, still resists when money goes in the direction of the intangible. That resistance has to be either overcome or overlooked.

Can you learn music for a higher purpose?

Similarly, there are other things that come your way by the dent of your basic existence, your day-to-day activities. For example, you say you learn music for pleasure. Can you learn music for a higher purpose? Just as the money you obtain must not go towards the worship of the ego, similarly the knowledge and skills that you attain in music must not be directed towards the gratification of the ego. And it is quite possible, rather easy to do that, is it not?

Look at most people who, for example, learn to play the guitar. What is their objective? And it is mostly the youngsters who go after it. What do they do the moment they have attained even a basic proficiency? Play the—no, a band comes much later. And a band requires some level of skill. You just carry the guitar, get yourself photographed, learn a few basic tunes, impress girls or impress boys, whatever. It all looks so romantic, doesn’t it? A guitar by a bonfire, a bonfire by a river on a chilly night, and some idiot with, you know, purani jeans aur guitar (popular Bollywood song, translates to ‘old trousers and a guitar’). That is the use we put music to, don’t we? And the same music can be an instrument of something far bigger, far more significant.

What are you using your music for?

See how saints used music. So many of them sang, didn’t they? Were they using music to fatten their own ego? Were they? Now, that is one way of using music, and the other way is: ‘See, now I am the centre of the party: everybody is looking at me!’

In fact, the guitar teachers do not even care about the classical knowledge of the chords, etc., because that is not what most people anyway want. Most people come and say, ‘You tell us how to play this particular song, a particular song that is hot these days.’ So, there is a list of ten or twenty songs, and whatever the musical code from them is there, that is provided, and the fellow learns to do the strings. Done.

What are you using your music for? That’s the question. Are you dedicating it to the service of your little, petty, thirsty ego, or can you be a little more conscious, bigger, wider?

Pleasure, Peace and Security

Then, ‘I interact with people and family for pleasure, peace, and security.’ You forgot to add that you get neither of the three.

Can family give you peace and security?

Everybody interacts. Anybody here who has never interacted with family members or neighbours or within a friend circle? How many of you got these things? You probably did get pleasure, but a lower kind of pleasure. Did you get some higher bliss—classically called ānanda—by chitchatting, gossiping? What kind of security do you get?

To the extent I know, any little bit of security that is there in your mind disappears the moment you start gossiping with relatives, etc. The moment you are told that Vermaji’s Rahul is returning from Canada and very soon he would be married to some girl coming from a fat moneybag father, you start wondering about your own girl and boy. Where is peace, where is security?

The same interactions can have a different purpose, a different ambience altogether. See if it is possible. It is a tricky affair. To talk sense with family members is the most difficult thing to do. You might be a university professor, you might have a PhD in logic, but try talking logic to your husband or wife. Very difficult. And even if you can talk logic with your husband, how will you ever talk logic with your husband’s mother? Next to impossible but do give it a try.

Let the purpose of your life be a great purpose

The central thing is: Whatever we do, we do for a purpose. Let the purpose be a great purpose. If it can’t be a great purpose, let it at least be greater than what it currently is. Even if you have to interact with someone for just two minutes, can the interaction be higher than what it usually is? See whether it is possible.

In order to gain more clarity about the above topic, you can refer to Acharya Prashant's books Bhagavad Gita - Volume1 and Karma: Why Everything You Know About It Is Wrong .

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