This little verse is telling us that all the knowledge in the world is not going to get us to the Promised Land. We’re going to have to ooooze over — something has to happen, some action has to take place. This next verse of the Gita, along with the verses leading up to it, gives us clues as to what this action is.
Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 2, Vs 51
Those who are firm in this understanding (of action-yoga), the wise who have abandoned the fruits of actions, are freed from the bondage of rebirth and reach the end of sorrows.
“The wise who have abandoned the fruits of actions”
The ‘wise’ do not act for the purpose of obtaining the results of an action. This does not say that there is no action, and it does not say that there are no fruits produced by action (karmajam). There will be actions and actions naturally produce results, but the wise person does not act with this intent. This is, in fact, the meaning of ‘wise’. Such a person understands action and yoga.
Not acting for the purpose of obtaining the results.
Acting in order to achieve certain results is the definition of ‘technique’. We ‘wise’ folks do not apply techniques, and the payoff for this is going to be that we are . . .
“Freed from the bondage of rebirth and reach the end of sorrows.”
That sounds like a pretty good result for not getting caught up in results! Our karma is over, we won’t have to come back here again, and all our sorrows and sufferings go away. So let’s make sure we get “firm in this understanding”.
The Highest Action
The superior action mentioned in previous verses has been explained. It is through action, not just knowledge, and not the suppression of action, but action done without any assumption of being the cause of it, or having any investment in anything that might result from it, that we reach freedom, liberation and the end of sorrows. This is not ordinary action, but the superior action of Karma Yoga (action-union). Some of you will recognize this as describing Surrender Meditation.
Action that takes place through indifference to actions and their effects (not taking the credit or blame for actions or their results) while not resisting action.
Yoga is indifference. Exercising our ability to detach ourselves from actions leads to being unattached to the outcomes of actions. By being indifferent to actions and their outcomes while not resisting actions that arise, we detach ourselves from being identified as the doers of actions. But this is for the meditation room, not everyday life.
This practice is called Karma Yoga, and other names as well, such as Kriya Yoga, Sahaja Yoga, and Hatha Yoga. These Sanskrit terms suggest action in the context of union (yoga), so it has to be confined to Yoga practice for many years before it can become the mode of everyday life. Why is this?
Ordinary action belongs in ordinary life, and superior action belongs in superior circumstances. We must become able to know the difference between ‘ordinary action’ and ‘superior action’ through our own personal experience in the sanctuary of the meditation room where there is minimal confusion and distraction, and where our errors do not affect others. We are babes in the woods with superior action, and we have to catch up before it can naturally become predominant. This is a long journey, but well rewarded all along the way.
Through this practice we become indifferent to the fruits of actions, which, according to this verse, is the key to freedom, liberation from rebirth and the end of sorrows. We become indifferent to the ‘fruits’ of action, the effects, and are no longer identified with being the cause of action even when fully engaged in action, so we naturally become free of attachment to the outcomes of actions. In this way, indifference, or surrender to the Absolute, becomes a skill known as Yoga.
Jaya Bhagavan! (Victory to God!),
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