11. Renunciation Of
The Fruit Leads To Infinite Gains
Brothers, in the Second Chapter we
viewed the whole of the science of life. The Third Chapter
provides further elaboration of that science. We had a look at
the principles; now we shall look into the details. In the last
Chapter, we dealt with karmayoga. Renunciation of the
fruit of actions is the thing of distinctive importance in
karmayoga. The question then is, does any gain accrue to a
karmayogi or not? The Third Chapter tells us that
renunciation of the fruit results in infinite gains for a
Here I am reminded of the story of
whole lot of gods and demons had gathered at her swayamvara
with the hope of marrying her. Lakshmi had not announced any test
that they had to pass. Coming to the pandal where they were seated,
she declared that she would marry one who was not coveting her. But
all of those assembled there were desirous of marrying her; so all
of them were naturally ruled out. Lakshmi then set forth in search
of one having no desire for her. She finally found Lord Vishnu lying
serenely on Shesha, the cobra. She put the garland around His neck2and
has been sitting at His feet ever since. As the poet puts it,
‘न मागे तयाची
रमा होय दासी ।’3
— ‘Lakshmi serves one who does not covet her.’This is the beauty of it.
- The ordinary man closely guards the fruit of his actions so that none else could have it. But
thereby he loses infinite gains that could otherwise have been
his. The man attached to worldly affairs toils a lot, but gets
little in return. On the other hand, a karmayogi receives
infinite gains with little effort. The difference in their
mental attitudes makes all the difference. Tolstoy says,
"People talk a lot about Jesus' sacrifice,
but the ordinary people toil much more than Jesus, carry much
more burden, suffer much more. Were they to put in half the
labour for the Lord, they would become greater than Jesus!’’
- Worldly people put in arduous
labour; but in the pursuit of petty gains. We reap what we sow;
as is the desire, so is the fruit. The world will not pay more
for our goods than the price that we ourselves mark on them.
Sudama went to Lord Krishna with the offering of a handful of
parched rice. It might not have been worth a farthing, but to
Sudama, it was priceless. It had the stamp of his love and
devotion on them4 which,
as it were, had charged them with magical potency. A small,
insignificant thing gains in value and potency when it is so
charged. What, after all, is a currency note? It is just a
little piece of paper. If burnt, it would not warm up even a
drop of water. But it has the stamp of the government on it, and
that gives it value.
This is the whole beauty of karmayoga. Action is like the currency note. Stamped with
bhavana—sentiments and genuine feelings—it acquires value. In a
sense, I am revealing here the secret of idol-worship. The idea of
idol-worship is extremely charming. To begin with, an idol is just a
piece of stone. I put life into it, I pour my devotion into it.
These feelings cannot be broken. A stone can be broken into pieces,
but not the sentiments. The moment I withdraw my devotion from the
idol, it once again gets reduced to a mere stone which can easily be
broken into pieces.
- Action is like a stone, or a piece
of paper. My motherscribbled just three or four lines on a
piece of paper and sent it to me; another gentleman sent me a
bundle of fifty pages. Now, which one has more value? The
feelings expressed in the few lines from my mother are
priceless, they are sacred. The other stuff cannot stand
comparison with it. Action must be imbued with the warmth of
feelings. We assess a labourer's
work and pay him wages accordingly; but dakshina5 is
not given like that. Water is sprinkled on it before it is
given. The amount of dakshina is not important; it is the
sentiment of reverence behind it that is important. The touch of
water is symbolic of the feelings in the heart of the host.
There is a remarkable saying in Manusmriti. In those days,
students used to stay with the guru (master) for twelve
years. The master would teach them and make them human beings in
the true sense. Now, what should a student offer to the master?
In those days, fees were not collected in advance. The student,
after completion of his studies, was supposed to offer what he
felt like giving and thought proper. Manu says,
“Give the master a flower, a fan, a pair of sandals, or a pitcher of water.”
Is this a joke? No; the point is that, whatever is offered
should be offered as a sign of reverence. A flower in itself has
little value, but charged with devotion, its value becomes
immeasurable. The poet has sung the praise of Rukmini. She put
in the scale asingle leaf of Tulsi which equaled the weight
of Lord Krishna while heaps of gold ornaments put by Satyabhama
proved to be insufficient to weigh Him, because the Tulsi leaf
put by Rukmini was full of devotion. It was no longer an
ordinary leaf; it was a charged one.6 This
is true of the actions of a karmayogi too.
- Suppose two persons have gone to
bathe in the river Ganga. One of them says,
“What, after all, is
this Ganga that people talk so much about? Combine two parts
hydrogen and one part oxygen, and you will have Ganga.”
The other one says, “This
great river emerged from the holy lotus-feet of Lord Vishnu, she
dwelt in the matted hair of Lord Shiva.
Thousands of seers—both ascetic and kingly—have done penance
near her. Countless holy acts have been performed by her side.
Such is this sacred Mother Ganga.”
He takes a bath with these feelings in mind. The other fellow,
for whom Ganga’s water is just a compound of hydrogen and
oxygen, also bathes in the river. Both get the benefit of
physical cleansing; but it is a petty benefit. Even a bullock
can get this benefit. Dirt of the body will go. But how to wash
the mind of its taint? One got the petty benefit of physical
cleanliness; the other, in addition, gained the invaluable fruit
of inward purity.
A man doing surya-namaskars7after
bathing will certainly get the benefit of physical exercise; but if
he is not doing them for the sake of health only, but as a form of
worship, he will also have a sharp and radiant intellect in addition
to a healthy body. He will get from the Sun-God vigour and creative
- The act may be the same outwardly;
but the difference in the inward feelings makes a world of
difference. Action by a spiritually motivated selfless person
elevates him morally and spiritually whereas the same action by
a worldly person serves to bind him. A karmayogi farmer
will look upon farming as his swadharma. It will, of
course, fill his stomach; but he is not farming for that
purpose. He will eat only to enable him to perform the
swadharma of farming. Swadharma is the end for him,
and food a means therefor. But to another farmer, food will be
the end and farming a means therefor. These two attitudes are
the reverse of each other.
This has been figuratively described
in the Second Chapter. It is stated therein that a karmayogi
is asleep when others are awake whereas he is awake when others are
asleep. What does this mean? We are ever mindful about filling our
stomachs, while a karmayogi is keen about spending every
moment in work and does not waste a single moment. While ordinary
worldly persons live in order to eat, he eats only because something
has to be fed to the body to survive to perform selfless service.
While ordinary worldly persons enjoy eating, for a yogi it is
a burdensome task. He would not therefore eat with relish; he would
have control over his palate. The attitudes are thus diametrically
opposite to each other. What gives pleasure to one is burdensome to
the other. This has been metaphorically described as
‘the night for the one is a
day for the other, and the day for one is the night for the other.'
The actions look alike, but what is important is that a karmoyogi
enjoys work leaving aside any attachment to the fruit of his
actions. He will eat and sleep like others, but his attitude towards
everything will be different. To impress this point, the ideal of
the sthitaprajna has been put forth at the outset itself in
the Gita, although sixteen Chapters are still ahead.
The similarity and difference between
the actions of a worldly man and those of a karmayogi are
immediately clear. For example, if a karmayogi is engaged in
the care of the cows, he will do the work with the idea of serving
the society by providing it with plenty of milk; and at the same
time he will look to it as an opportunity to have a relationship of
love with all the lower orders of beings through the service of the
cows. He will certainly get his wages, but that is not his
motivation. Real joy lies in the divine feelings informing the
- Every act of a karmayogi
unites him with the whole universe. We are supposed to take
meals only after watering the Tulsi plant in the courtyard. This
is for creating a bond of love with the whole world of plants.
How can I eat, keeping the Tulsi plant starved? Beginning with
the identification with the cow and the Tulsi plant we are to
progress till we are one with the whole creation. In the
Mahabharata war, fighting used to stop at sunset and everybody
would then go for performing religious rites etc. But Lord
Krishna would rejoice in actions like unyoking the horses from
the chariot, giving them water, gently massaging their bodies
and nursing their wounds. What a joy the Lord found in such
service! The poet is never tired of describing all this. Bring
before your mind’s eye the picture of the divine charioteer
carrying the feed of the horses in the folds of His lower
garment and feeding the horses with His own hands and realise
how joyful karmayoga is. In karmayoga, all actions
attain the highest spiritual character. Take khadi8 work.
A khadi worker hawking khadi from door to door
carrying its load on his head never feels tired, for he knows
that millions of his brothers and sisters are famished and is
inspired by the idea of providing a few morsels to them. His
work of selling a few yards of khadi is linked to
daridranarayan—God in the form of the poor.
12. Various Gains From Karmayoga
There is extraordinary power in
the selfless and desireless karmayoga. It richly blesses
both the individual and the society. A karmayogi, who
follows his swadharma, does get his daily bread. Besides,
his industriousness makes his body healthy and pure. His work
also contributes to the well-being and prosperity of the society
in which he lives. A karmayogi farmer will not cultivate
opium or tobacco to earn more money. He links his work to the
welfare of the society. Actions done in the pursuit of
swadharma will confer nothing but benefit on the community.
A trader who believes in working for the good of the people will
not sell foreign cloth. His business will therefore be
beneficial to the society. A society which has in its midst such
karmoyogis who have identified themselves with those
around them, forgetting their selfish interests, will have
prosperity, order and harmony.
- Work of a karmayogi helps
sustain him. It keeps his body healthy and intellect radiant. It
results in the welfare of the society as well. It also confers
on the karmayogi a great gift in the form of the purity
of his mind. It is said that work is a means for the
purification of the mind—‘कर्मणा
शुध्दि:’. But this is true only
of the work done by a karmayogi, as it is charged with
the spirit of selfless service, and not of the work ordinarily
done by the people. In the Mahabharata, there is a story of the
trader named Tuladhar. Jajali, a Brahmin goes to him
seeking true knowledge.9Tuladhar tells him, “My dear
fellow, what is really required is that the scales must always
be held even.” The outward action of weighing had made Tuladhar's
mind straightforward and perfectly balanced. Whosoever came to
the shop, Tuladhar's balance was always true. Work does have effect on one's
mind. A karmayogi's work is like japa10 —a
form of prayer. It purifies the mind and it is only the clean
and pure mind which receives true knowledge. A karmayogi's work ultimately leads to the attainment of wisdom.
Tuladhar learnt equanimity of mind from the weighing balance.
Sena was a barber who cut the hair and cleansed the heads of his
customers. While doing this work, a realisation dawned on him.
He thought, “I have been
cleansing others’ heads, but have I cleansed my own head, my own
mind?” Such words of
spiritual wisdom came to his lips while working. While removing
weeds from the field, it occurs to a karmayogi that the
weeds of base desires and passions should also be removed from
the mind. Gora Kumbhar, the potter, realised, while shaping and
baking earthen pots, that his own life should also be properly
moulded and baked in the fire of desireless action. He
eventually attained such an exalted status by virtue of his
wisdom that he earned the authority to judge the degree of
spiritual development of others.11Karmayogis
gained true knowledge through the terms used in their
respective vocations. To them, their vocations were like schools
of the spirit. Their work was imbued with the spirit of worship
and service. Although it appeared worldly, it was spiritual in
- Another great gain that flows from
the actions of a karmayogi is that a model is placed
before the society. In the society, there are persons belonging
to different generations. It is the duty of the older generation
to set an example to the younger generation. It is the duty of
an elder brother to his younger brother, of parents to their
children, of leaders to their followers, of masters to their
pupils, to set an example through their actions; and who else
but a karmayogi is fit to set an example?
As a karmayogi finds joy in the
work itself, he is ever-absorbed in his work. Hypocrisy does not,
therefore, gain ground in the society. A karmayogi is happy
and content with fulfillment; still he continues to work. Saint
Tukaram says, “Should I give
up singing bhajans12,
now that I have realized God through them? Singing bhajans
has now become my nature.”
संतसंग । तुका झाला पांडुरंग
राहीना । मूळस्वभाव जाईना’
(‘Earlier, Tukaram used to keep company with the saints. Eventually he became
one with Lord Pandurang. Still he cannot help singing bhajans.
One's original nature does not, after all, change.')
The karmayogi reaches the summit of spiritual liberation using the ladder of work. He does not
kick off that ladder even thereafter. He just cannot do so. Doing
work becomes his nature. He thus continues to impress on the society
the importance of service in the form of work enjoined by
Removal of hypocrisy from the society
is extremely important. Hypocrisy spells doom for the society. If a
working, others will follow suit. The jnani, being
ever-content within himself, may sit still in a state of bliss, but
others will become inactive even though inwardly unhappy and
disgruntled. One is at rest because he is happy at heart; the other
is merely passive but unhappy. This is a horrible situation. It will
encourage hypocrisy. That is why all the saints continued to hold on
steadfastly to the means even after reaching the end, the pinnacle
of fulfillment. They kept on working till the last breath. A mother
actively participates in the children’s play with the dolls even
though she knows that it is all make-believe. If she takes no part
in the play, the children will not enjoy it. Likewise if a
karmayogi stops working because of contentment, others will
follow suit despite being discontented; but inwardly they will
continue to be dissatisfied and joyless.
Therefore, a karmayogi
continues to work like an ordinary man. He does not think that he is
in any way an exceptional person. He exerts himself infinitely more
than others. It is not necessary to put a stamp on any action and
mark it as spiritual; no action should be publicised as such. If you
are a perfect brahmachari14 your
work should look hundred times more zestful than that of others. You
should work much more even if you get less to consume. Your service
to the society should be greater. Let your brahmacharya be
reflected in your actions. Let its fragrance, like sandalwood,
spread far and wide. This is what should be true for the truly
In short, a karmayogi, by
renouncing desire for the fruit of his actions, will receive
infinite rewards. His body will be sustained and both his body and
mind will remain healthy and radiant. The society to which he
belongs will also be happy and contented. His mind will be purified
and he will attain wisdom. The spread of hypocrisy in the society
will be precluded, and the sacred ideal will become clear to all.
Such is the glory of karmayoga, which is testified by
13. Obstacles In The Way Of Karmayoga
- A karmayogi’s work is much better than that of
others. For him, work is worship. We perform pooja15and
receive prasad thereafter. But is the prasad a
reward for the pooja? If one performs pooja for
the sake of prasad, one will, of course, get it. But a
karmayogi seeks to see God face to face through performance
of pooja. He does not think that the value of his
pooja is so trivial that the prasad is its only
reward. He is not prepared to underestimate the value of his
work. He does not measure the value of his work in gross terms.
The fruits of actions depend on the outlook behind them. A
person with a gross outlook and gross aim will receive reward in
gross terms. There is a saying among the farmers:
‘Sow deep, but sow in a moist soil.' It is not
enough to sow deep; there should also be moisture in the soil.
Then only the yield will be high. There should thus be depth,
that is, thoroughness and excellence in the work and there
should also be the moisture, that is, devotion and surrender to
God, dedication to God. A karmayogi has depth in his work
and he then dedicates that work to God.
We have developed some absurd ideas
about spirituality. People feel that a spiritual seeker need not do
any work. They wonder how a farmer or a weaver could be a spiritual
seeker. But they do not raise the question how one who feeds his
body could be a spiritual seeker! But the Lord of the karmayogis—Lord
Krishna—massaged horses, mopped the floor after people had their
meals at the time of Pandava's
Rajsooya Yajna, grazed the cattle. The ruler of Dwarka (Lord
Krishna) would play flute and graze the cattle whenever he visited
Gokul, his childhood abode. The saints have sketched the picture of
such a karmayogi God; and the saints themselves have attained
liberation while working as a tailor, or a weaver, or a gardener, or
a potter, or a grocer, or a barber, or a tanner.
- A person slips from the observance
of such a divine karmayoga on account of two reasons. We
should keep in mind the peculiar nature of our senses. They are
always caught up in the duality of likes and dislikes. We are
attached to or fond of what we want and are averse to what we do
not want. Love and hate, desire and anger pounce upon a man and
prey on him. How beautiful and infinitely rewarding karmayoga
is! But desire and anger are always after us, driving us to
hanker after something and reject something. The Lord is warning
us, at the end of this Chapter, to shun them. A karmayogi
should also become an embodiment of self-restraint like the
- In ancient India,
princesses used to choose their spouses. The custom was
called swayamvara. All those princes wishing to
marry the princess used to be invited to the ceremony at which
the princess would publicly choose a bridegroom for herself.
Often, the princes were made to perform some very difficult
task. For example, princes gathered at the swayamvara
of Sita were asked to lift the bow of Lord Shiva, which
nobody except Rama could succeed in doing.
The act signifies acceptance of the person as a spouse.
Lakshmi is the goddess of prosperity. So the verse also
means that one gets riches when one does not hanker after them.
Sudama, a childhood friend of Lord Krishna, was a poor
Brahmin. His wife once coaxed him to meet Krishna, who
was now the ruler of Dwarka and who could releive them of their
penury. Sudama visited Krishna with an offering of parched
rice as he could afford nothing else. The Lord sensed the
feeling of love behind this offering and gave him countless
It means money or other things offered to the priest with
reverence for the services rendered as a religious obligation.
Satyabhama and Rukmini, both queens of Lord Krishna, once had a
dispute over who loves Him the most. They thereupon
decided to weigh him. Krishna sat on one of the pans of
the balance and Satyabhama put heaps of gold ornaments on the
other pan, but they could not equal the Lord's weight.
Rukmini then weighed the Lord against a Tulsi leaf, but the leaf
equaled the Lord's weight.
A form of worshipping the Sun-God, it is also a well-known
yogic exercise wherein body goes through different motions,
thereby getting all-round physical exercise.
Handspun, hand woven cotton cloth, popularised by Mahatma
Gandhi. For him, it was a symbol of self-reliance and
identification with the poor.
In ancient India, teaching was the vocation of the Brahmins.
But here a Brahmin is shown going to a Vaishya
(trader) for knowledge.
Japa means repeated recitation/chanting of God's Name or
a sacred verse. It also implies unremitting mental
contemplation of the Brahman.
Saint Namdeva, when he was still a seeker, once thought that he
was quite close to Lord Pandurang, and had thus gained all that
he should. To remove his vain misconception, Lord
Pandurang sent him to Gora. Gora was busy testing the
strength of his pots when Namdeva approached him. Gora
then stroked Namdeva's head with his testing implement and
announced that 'the pot is not yet fully baked', meaning that
Namdeva had yet to attain Self-knowledge.
One who has attained Self-knowledge; a man of wisdom. The
term 'Jnana' is commonly used for knowledge and
understanding, but it also means Self-knowledge or saving
wisdom. The meaning has to be understood from the context.
Brahmachari is one who practices brahmacharya.
Brahmacharya is normally translated as chastity or
celibacy, but it is a much wider concept. Etymologically,
it means a course of conduct adopted for realization of
Brahman. It includes control of all the senses.
Pooja is a from of worshipping the Lord in the form of
idols. After completion of the same, sweets, fruits, etc.
are offered to the Lord. It is called naivedya.
These eatables are then distributed to those present, as a mark
of God's grace. They are called prasad.