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Where Is Your Karma Yoga Attitude?
Claude: Thank you so much for such a detailed and considered reply. I have read over this a few times; it speaks directly to my experience and your words have already been immensely helpful in dealing with this situation practically. I’m tooling up against fear and I can already see a difference. The ability to dig down to the root of it, take it to its absurd conclusion and think the opposite thought is on the up. It takes a lot of effort, but as you say, what other choice is there? I’m sick of suffering and want to be done with it.
Sundari: You are welcome, Claude. I am glad it helped. Freedom from our conditioning is a thought by thought process; it requires eternal vigilance until Self-knowledge is firm. There is no shortcut. Whenever a fear thought/feeling appears in the mind, put a full stop behind the word “fear.” Forget the story or the reason behind it because it does not matter. Focus on the guna that caused the fear, anxiety, stress and worry, which are all the result of either rajas or tamas, often both. In fact rajas and tamas are impossible to separate because they always work together. In fact you could say they are two aspects of the same guna, projection and denial. But the reason we say fear is primarily tamasic is that it dulls the mind, making it incapable of self-inquiry, and is also the result of a dull, ignorant mind.
Claude: Can I also ask you about surrendering to the higher power? I know intellectually it makes perfect sense to do so (and I have no choice really, God is in charge), but conditioning has reinforced the absurd belief that God will meet me on my terms. No need for me to get up out of my seat, a tip of the hat will do!
Is this another “fake it till you make it” scenario? Or do I have to walk the path paved with all my failed attempts at control until it runs out and finally there is no other choice but to fall into surrender, i.e. hit rock bottom for the doer? Or do I just need to focus on the methods you’ve given me and worry about this later once the major fear vasanas are neutralized?
I wish you and James a lovely time in Spain and thank you once more for such helpful advice. I feel very thankful that this knowledge has come into my life.
Sundari: It is clear you have not understood the teachings on karma yoga at all or you would not be asking this question. Have you read James’ books? Please do so if you have not.
Here is a short teaching on karma yoga, without which you will never negate the doer or progress with Self-inquiry. Karma yoga is renunciation of the idea of doership.
It is true that if you understand the natural laws that run the field of existence and operate by them, taking appropriate and timely action, you are more likely to get what you want, though this is no guarantee. To lessen the pressure of the vasanas and negate the doer, the most important teaching of all is karma yoga. If you do not understand this teaching or do not apply it religiously, Self-inquiry will not work for you and you will not bear fruit.
Karma yoga does not say that you must stop doing, even if you could, which as the jiva you cannot. Even not doing is a doing. Karma yoga is an attitude one takes towards actions and their results. (1) 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. It is an attitude based on the understanding that life is a great gift that requires reciprocation, and with this attitude, we renounce the IDEA of doership, not necessarily the action. (2) It is the knowledge that the results of any action are not up to me, the jiva. 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. If you are still feeling agitation, disappointment and frustration, it means you have not surrendered the results, and therefore cannot take what results that do come as prasad. You are still invested in getting what you want or avoiding what you don’t want. It’s that simple.
What this means is that 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. It does not care what you want and will give you what you need. However, we can 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 whether or not 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. Actualizing this knowledge is freedom, Claude.
The 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. So nobody fails. As the jiva, it is only a matter of bad judgment because we are not omniscient, and we cannot have the knowledge of all the factors that shape the results of the actions. Only Isvara is omniscient. Action can produce likes and dislikes (vasanas) only if we see the result as a success or failure.
When I see the result as a function of the immutable laws of action or what is even better if I see it as the grace of the Field of Existence, no new likes and dislikes are created, and I maintain peace of mind. 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) concerning 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, one can see the order. At the beginning of our spiritual practice, karma yoga is an attitude we must cultivate, but eventually it is simply knowledge, so becomes natural.
Claude: I have read a couple of James’s books, but I have obviously failed to fully grasp this point. Each morning I say a comprehensive gratitude to Isvara, yet I struggle to bring this same dynamic to every thought, word and action as they happen. I will reread James’ books and reflect on the teaching you have outlined here, and step up my game to cultivate the right attitude.
Sundari: To succeed at small-self inquiry and big-Self inquiry, you need to use the tools given to you by the Vedanta means of knowledge, such as understanding the qualifications required, values/motivations, dharma, karma yoga, triguna vibhava yoga (guna-knowledge) and mind management, understanding what the mind is, what kind of thoughts condition it and how to manage them through guna management. I have attached a satsang on the basics of inquiry for you, and the stages involved.
~ Om, Sundari