AN INTRODUCTION TO SELF-INQUIRY
Introduction to Yoga of Action
This last verse is a good segue into what Krishna has next to teach his student—the wisdom of karma yoga that sets the individual free from the bondage of their actions. Karma means “action” and one of the important teachings of karma yoga or “action yoga” is that while you may have the freedom to choose your actions, you are not the author of the results. Once this is understood by Arjuna, he can lose his attachment to the results of his actions and maintain composure regardless of the outcome—success or failure.
According to Swami Dayananda, karma yoga “includes any karma that is in keeping with dharma and done with a proper attitude, with devotion, bhakti.” Thus, karma yoga can be summed up as proper action plus proper attitude. Krishna introduces karma yoga by suggesting one have an attitude of sameness or samatva. Samatva is having a pragmatic outlook on life knowing that you can’t always have things the way you want it. The best way to think of this is through the simple reminder to “Do your best and let it rest.”
As beings with intellects—and thus, free will—we like to believe if we just try hard enough, we can control the outcome. When things go well for us, we’re happy; and when things go badly, we get upset. Why? Because the fragile ego is unable to accept the results of the unpredictable field from which it operates. Due to our attachment to results, we suffer from this unpredictability over and over again. However, if we are able to see that the results aren’t up to us, we can accept both success and failure with equanimity knowing that we aren’t in control. By practicing karma yoga, we can step back and relax knowing that, in spite of our best efforts, often times life isn’t negotiable. Using samatva we are not elated when things go our way, nor are we depressed when they don’t, because we know it’s ultimately not up to us and that life is both joy and sorrow woven fine.