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How To Act

Part 19 of the Bhagavad Gita for Awakening

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Krishna has told us how not to act, and now will tell us how to act.

Steadfast in yoga, perform actions abandoning attachment, being indifferent to success or failure. It is said that such evenness of mind is yoga (2:48).

Steadfast in yoga, perform actions

The first factor of right action is the all-encompassing factor of fixing the mind and heart in yoga–that is, being constantly engaged in the interior process of yoga whatever the external situation or action. Ultimately it means to do all things with our consciousness united with divine consciousness: God. That is easy to say, but what does it really mean? Krishna is being eminently practical: the only way to act united to divine consciousness is to hold on to that Consciousness through continual immersion in yoga sadhana. “Established in yoga concentration,… he who thinks of me constantly, whose mind never goes elsewhere, for him, the constantly-joined [yoked] yogi, I am easy to attain” (8:12-14). There we have it as easy to see as the oft-cited amalaka fruit in the hand.

Having abandoned attachment

One of the major obstacles in our life is attachment to the fruits of our actions. This, too, will disappear as through interior cultivation our consciousness will turn inward, the inner divine eye will open, and seeing all things in their true nature, the fruits of our actions will no longer seem relevant to us.

Once we have tasted good food, bad food loses all attraction for us. Once we have tasted the Supreme, have touched “the hem of his garment,” external attainments will mean very little–and in time will seem nothing. But this holy indifference can only come from touching the Divine. Mental gymnastics in the form of analyzing objects of desire and recounting their defects is ultimately without worth and is even harmful, for thinking so much about them (even though disparagingly) will attach us to them and draw them to us. “For a man dwelling on the objects of the senses, attachment to them is born,” Krishna will tell us in the sixty-second verse of this chapter.

We detach ourselves from objects by attaching ourselves to God. It is the only way–not just the best or the easiest.

Become indifferent to success or failure

Even-mindedness in success and failure is impossible to achieve by mind-gaming and is in the final analysis worthless. Here, too, it is the fixing of the consciousness on/in God that does the needful. “Keep your mind on me alone, causing your intellect to enter into me. Thenceforward, without doubt, you shall dwell in me” (12:8). When a person dwells in God, what outside success or failure can mean anything to him? What desire or attachment can arise in someone who is united in consciousness to the Source of all?

So often in spiritual life we think of what we should not do, rather than be intent on what we should do. For example, in the consciousness of spirit greed cannot arise. So there is no need to go around telling ourselves: “I must not let greed enter my mind.” Instead we should be intent on remembering God, fixing our mind on Divinity. Then greed will become impossible to us.

It is said that evenness of mind is yoga

Evenness of mind is possible only when the awareness is centered in that which is perfectly stable and still. And that is only a single thing: Spirit. Everything else is changing and therefore unstable and subject to anxiety and compulsion. “Change and decay all around I see. O Thou Who changest not, abide with me,” says the song. But God always abides with and within us. The problem is that we do not abide in the consciousness of God. And this is what is yoga: the uniting (joining–yoga) of our mind with God.

“Lose thyself in him, even as the arrow is lost in the target” (Mundaka Upanishad 2.2.4).

Read the next article in the Bhagavad Gita for Awakening: Right Perspective

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Introduction to The Bhagavad Gita for Awakening

Preface to The Bhagavad Gita for Awakening

Bhagavad Gita for Awakening links:

  1. The Battlefield of the Mind
  2. On the Field of Dharma
  3. Taking Stock
  4. The Smile of Krishna
  5. Birth and Death–The Great Illusions
  6. Experiencing the Unreal
  7. The Unreal and the Real
  8. The Body and the Spirit
  9. Know the Atman!
  10. Practical Self-Knowledge
  11. Perspective on Birth and Death
  12. The Wonder of the Atman
  13. The Indestructible Self
  14. “Happy the Warrior”
  15. Buddhi Yoga
  16. Religiosity Versus Religion
  17. Perspective on Scriptures
  18. How Not To Act
  19. How To Act
  20. Right Perspective
  21. Wisdom About the Wise
  22. Wisdom About Both the Foolish and the Wise
  23. The Way of Peace
  24. Calming the Storm
  25. First Steps in Karma Yoga
  26. From the Beginning to the End
  27. The Real “Doers”
  28. Our Spiritual Marching Orders
  29. Freedom From Karma
  30. “Nature”
  31. Swadharma
  32. In the Grip of the Monster
  33. Devotee and Friend
  34. The Eternal Being
  35. The Path
  36. Caste and Karma
  37. Action–Divine and Human
  38. The Mystery of Action and Inaction
  39. The Wise in Action
  40. Sacrificial Offerings
  41. The Worship of Brahman
  42. Action–Renounced and Performed
  43. Freedom (Moksha)
  44. The Brahman-Knower
  45. The Goal of Karma Yoga
  46. Getting There
  47. The Yogi’s Retreat
  48. The Yogi’s Inner and Outer Life
  49. Union With Brahman
  50. The Yogi’s Future
  51. Success in Yoga
  52. The Net and Its Weaver
  53. Those Who Seek God
  54. Those Who Worship God and the Gods
  55. The Veil in the Mind
  56. The Big Picture
  57. The Sure Way To Realize God
  58. Day, Night, and the Two Paths
  59. The Supreme Knowledge
  60. Universal Being
  61. Maya–Its Dupes and Its Knowers
  62. Worshipping the One
  63. Going To God
  64. Wisdom and Knowing
  65. Going To The Source
  66. From Hearing To Seeing
  67. The Wisdom of Devotion
  68. Right Conduct
  69. The Field and Its Knower
  70. Interaction of Purusha and Prakriti
  71. Seeing the One Within the All
  72. The Three Gunas
  73. The Cosmic Tree
  74. Freedom
  75. The All-pervading Reality
  76. The Divine and the Demonic
  77. Faith and the Three Gunas
  78. Food and the Three Gunas
  79. Religion and the Three Gunas
  80. Tapasya and the Three Gunas
  81. Charity and the Three Gunas
  82. Sannyasa and Tyaga
  83. Deeper Insights On Action
  84. Knowledge, Action, Doer, and the Three Gunas
  85. The Three Gunas: Intellect and Firmness
  86. The Three Kinds of Happiness
  87. Freedom
  88. The Great Devotee
  89. The Final Words
  90. Glossary

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Read the Maharshi Gita, an arrangement of verses of the Bhagavad Gita made by Sri Ramana Maharshi that gives an overview of the essential message of the Gita.

Read The Bhagavad Gita (arranged in verses for singing) by Swami Nirmalananda Giri (Abbot George Burke).

Read about the meanings of unfamiliar terms in A Brief Sanskrit Glossary

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