Updated: Nov 3, 2020
“The wise see that there is action in the midst of inaction and inaction in the midst of action. Their consciousness is unified, and every act is done with complete awareness”.
Bhagvad Gita 4.18
कर्मण्यकर्म य: पश्येदकर्मणि च कर्म य: | स बुद्धिमान्मनुष्येषु स युक्त: कृत्स्नकर्मकृत् |
karmaṇyakarma yaḥ paśhyed akarmaṇi cha karma yaḥ sa buddhimān manuṣhyeṣhu sa yuktaḥ kṛitsna-karma-kṛit
For the past 3 weeks I have been mulling over the above verse (one of the most puzzling verses in the Bhagvad Gita) to the point of having sleepless nights. Intoxicated with thoughts, words and voices that leaves its mark like a drowsy hangover that has remnants from the previous night, blurry, vague but within reach!
My days were consumed with the pursuit in understanding its deep meaning. The present environment is toxic, harsh and unforgiving. Nothing I do is good enough, nothing I say is worth its understanding and stepping back in silence to listen is considered complacent and harmful, so I retreat further inward to learn.
Lord Krishna explains how one can act in a way that does not bind us to the fruits of our actions. But to understand this, I had to go back to the meaning of KARMA.
Sanskrit is a language that is layered with subtle nuances and meanings. It is a language of deep emotions and subtle pronunciations. It is a language where one word can reflect different expressions depending on the context. When we view our ancient scriptures from a western lens it takes away from the essence of what is being conveyed. I believe that to understand the depth of our sacred texts one needs to read and feel from the core of our heart and not from the thinking mind.
The word KARMA can have multiple meanings
Karma: action in general
Karma: a reaction created from an action
Karma: a system of action and reaction
Karma: a particular action
Now all past actions hold space within our physical, emotional and mental body in the form of memories and it is through these memories which are constantly being re-packaged or re-created by none other than the ego that we act or react from.
To further grasp the meaning of the verse it was important to understand that the word Karma is further divided into 3 types.
KARMA; action aligned with one’s consciousness
AKARMA; Non-action or Non-reaction
VIKARMA; immoral action/ not in align with self
As each day goes by the verse (4.18) is becoming clearer and brighter to me but even more difficult to put into practice because of my attachments to my deep-rooted memories, beliefs etc.
You see it’s not about an action and its attachment to the fruits that is in question here. It is much more than that. It’s a practice steeped in Svādhyāya/Self Study and complete devotion to that place within that is untouched; the divinity within.
In my humble way I've finally understood the depth of this verse. As mentioned earlier that actions reside as memories in every fibre of my being so if..
I am in a state of physical activity/action and my mental and emotional body is in a state of inaction, free from all reactions and desires, complete devotion, alignment with my consciousness then I am free from all karmic ties. This is the practice of yoga.
I am in a state of physical inactivity/ inaction but my mental and emotional body is in a state of activity/ action, reacting, desiring, then this will create karmic bondage for myself.
I am in a state of physical activity/action and so is my mental and emotional body, as it is reacting to, desiring of the benefits of that action then I am most certainly creating karmic bondage for myself.
I struggled … to put what I've understood into words and in doing so I am sure I have accumulated some karmic attachments; I am not perfect but am not one to shy away from going back to my practice to unlearn and re-learn till it aligns with my spirit.
"Life is not black or white..it's filled with shades of grey and it is within this that resides integrity and wisdom; we need to pause; absorb and digest."
As we step onto the battlefield of the world’s injustices and yoga; remember that liberation is no easy task; it requires action from a place of true alignment with one’s consciousness; one who understands this dynamism; begins to pave the way for others to follow.
Conversation between Arjun and Lord Krishna
Artwork: Dominique Amendola