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Three Types of Doer Renouncement and the Main Factors Involved in Karma Yoga
Nicola: To completely rob the doer from the notion of doership is more difficult.
Sundari: Yes, this is the tough part. There are three main types of doer renouncement: 1. karma yoga – surrendering the results of action to Isvara; 2. karma sannyas – renouncing actions; and 3. karma jnana sannyas, the knowledge that you may act but you are not the doer.
No one said self-inquiry is easy! Just remind yourself of all the factors that need to be present for anything to happen. Think through every single action, how much of it is not up to you. In fact the only thing up to the ego or doer is appropriate and timely action, nothing else. We all act to get certain results and of course we all want the results to be in accordance with our likes and dislikes. And often Isvara will accommodate us, if our needs are in accordance with the needs of the Total, which always come first. How is it possible to claim doership for anything? It is such a huge relief for the ego to finally understand this because the belief in doership wears everyone out, sooner or later. You see that utter existential exhaustion, disappointment and disillusionment in the faces of samsaris everywhere. We are not in control of the objects; there is no way we can force reality to conform to our likes and dislikes.
Nicola: I believe I have very strong perfection vasana. I put it on hold, but in fields that are most important for me, it does its binding. As a matter of fact, karma yoga keeps me steady between my lectures (I have two during one session), calms me as I offer all my negative thoughts to Isvara. I only need to apply it more firmly during the longer intervals when I’m preparing the lectures. I guess it is always like this – it is easier to resign from something that a jiva is not so strongly attached to. But when it comes to the core of the ego, then the battlefield begins. Our conversation just opened my eyes to this. There are fields where I have peace but there are others when I need to stand up against my recent allies – ideas about myself from mithya field.
Sundari: The perfection vasana is not an easy one to dissolve, as we have discussed previously. It is an indication of an ego invested in results and identified with them. This is the work of self-inquiry, Nicola, and you are “doing” it perfectly by applying the knowledge every step of the way, moment to moment. There will come a time when the pressure of these vasanas is no more and you will suddenly find that they are like burnt ropes which no longer have the power to bind. Well done, keep up the good work!
A reminder about the factors involved in karma yoga:
Karma yoga is not about not acting. It is an identity issue. It is about surrendering the results of action to Life.
Karma yoga is an attitude one takes towards actions and their results. It is (1) an attitude of loving consecration of one’s actions based on the understanding that life is a great gift that requires reciprocation and (2) that the results of any action are not up to the individual. All results are up to the Field of Existence, or Isvara. Karma yoga means responding appropriately to what life asks on a moment-to-moment basis. It is consecrating every thought, word and deed before you speak or act to Isvara, the Field of Existence, which is to say to your Self, whether or not you see that both the person and the Field of Existence share a common identity with you, consciousness.
We can act to gain a given result (which may or may not give us what we want) but whether we like it or not, the Field of Existence alone determines the result. It is possible to take the right action with the right attitude and still get a result we do not want because the Field of Existence, or Isvara, considers the needs of the whole before it takes our individual needs into account. However, we can definitely maximize the chances of getting a positive result with appropriate and timely actions.
How we relate to results determines how peaceful our mind is. If we are very attached to the idea of getting what we want (strong likes and dislikes), Life will soon prove to us that we lose as much as we win, maybe more. At best, we will be happy half the time and unhappy the other half. More likely though, when one is driven by likes and dislikes, the mind is agitated regardless of whether we get what we want because nothing ever really satisfies the mind for long, other than self-knowledge. It is the contention of Vedanta that happiness is our true nature and exists independently of winning or losing. Actualising this knowledge is freedom.
Action itself can never fail us; it only produces results. A given expectation may be said to have failed, but the one with the expectation has not failed. That I have failed or that the action has failed is the wrong conclusion; the expectation is the problem. Understanding this is particularly important for people like you who feel the need to do things perfectly or feel they have failed. Nobody fails. It is only a matter of wrong judgment because we are not omniscient and we cannot have the knowledge of all the factors that shape the results of the actions. Action can produce likes and dislikes (vasanas) only if the result is looked upon as a success or failure.
When the result is looked upon as a function of the invariable laws of action or what is even better, if it is looked upon as the grace of the Field of Existence, no new likes and dislikes are created. And peace of mind is maintained. With this attitude towards results actions born of likes and dislikes become the means of eliminating the likes and dislikes. The mind becomes free from the agitations of elation (rajas) and depression (tamas). Such a mind is tranquil and contemplative.
If peace of mind is the aim, taking whatever results that do come as a gift will be the attitude one brings to everything. Sameness of mind (towards success and failure) with respect to action is another definition of karma yoga and is the essence of peace of mind, sattva. In cultivating the right attitude toward life, one performs one’s duty by conforming to the pattern and harmony of creation, and thus one becomes alive to the beauty of the cosmic order. When the mind becomes clear, we can see the natural order. In the beginning of our spiritual practice, karma yoga is an attitude we must cultivate, but eventually it is simply knowledge because it is obvious that the field runs this way, so becomes natural.
Nicola: Recently I saw the show directed by Peter Brook, Battlefield, shorter version of his Mahabharata – it was splendid and funny in a way that Isvara put this opportunity on my way right now. It is beautifully done and obviously, all in Vedanta. :-)
Sundari: I have not seen it but James saw it in New York. He enjoyed it but found it a bit “artsy.”
Nicola: And I wanted to share with you a book I just read recently, and maybe you have heard about it too. It is the The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben. It shows beautifully how awareness works within trees. I felt like I was breathing in the forest while I was reading it.
Sundari: Yes, it is an amazing book. Have you read The Secret Life of Plants by Peter Tompkins and Christopher Bird? It has the same material. It is strange that science should find it necessary to prove sentience in the field when it is so obvious that it is not only intelligently designed but intelligent. So there must be an intelligent designer. How could it not be, seeing as it is all consciousness?
Nicola: I send you my love.
Sundari: Much love to you too.