Saturday, July 11, 2009

Alike in Success and Defeat

I am reading Eknath Easwaran's excellent translation of the Bhagavad Gita. Very clear and lucid, with an amazing introduction that summarizes the path of karma yoga beautifully.  I am particularly struck by Chapter 2, verse 47/48:
You have the right to work, but never to the fruit of work. You should never engage in action for the sake of reward, nor should you long for inaction. Perform work in this world, Arjuna, as a man established within himself - without selfish attachments, and alike in success and defeat. For yoga is the perfect evenness of mind.
How do we act without concern for the outcome?  The Gita is very clear: serve others.  Gandhi lived by the Bhagavad Gita.  His life is an example of what happens when this teaching is embodied.

What's counterintuitive is that when we become less attached to outcomes and remain peaceful in both success and defeat, we become more motivated and passionate in our efforts to serve.  As mental friction decreases, our capacity for work grows.  Our minds convince us that worrying about what will happen is essential to our success.  But the liberating promise of the Gita is that we can make our best effort, then relax and trust the process.  In fact, our best effort is only possible when we detach from the outcome.

Easier said than done!

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