Action without attachment is Yoga || Acharya Prashant, on Bhagwad Gita (2017)

August 22, 2017 | Acharya Prashant

योगस्थः कुरु कर्माणि संग त्यक्त्वा धनंजय |

सिध्यसिध्योः समो भूत्वा समत्वं योग उच्यते ||

~श्रीमद भगवद गीता


Perform your actions, O Dhananjaya (Arjuna),

Being established in or integrated with Yoga,

Abandoning attachment and

Remaining even-minded both in success and failure.

This evenness of mind is called Yoga.

~Bhagwad Gita

Acharya Prashant: The science of uniting the individual consciousness with the ultimate consciousness, this equanimity is known as Yoga. Which equanimity is he talking of? Becoming equipoised in success and failure. Could you get a more concise and direct definition of Yoga? Perform your activities, giving up attachment and become equipoised in success and failure – this is Yoga.

What does it mean to remain equipoised in success and failure?

Listener 1: To not become a football of situation and circumstances.

AP: It means that even when you enter an action, you enter the action as somebody, to whom the action does not matter too much. It is then not about the action, but about the actor. You enter as an already fulfilled actor. I am acting, but the actor is not acting for the sake of rewards, the actor is already fulfilled. When the actor is already fulfilled, then the action does not matter too much. Then one can have a little playfulness about the action. It doesn’t matter, which way the thing goes. Because whatever I wanted to have, has been achieved even before the action. The action cannot really bring anything new to me. I am alright as I am! I am not acting in order to become alright. This is Yoga. Too simple? (Smilingly) Unbelievable?

And this is the science of decision making and acting. “I am alright as I am. I am not acting to become alright. Yet I am acting!” Why am I acting? Just like that! I may as well not act and that would make no difference to my health. I may as well doubly act, with triple the intensity and energy, and that too would not really make a difference. This is Yoga!

Now success and failure cannot really matter because neither can they inflate you nor diminish you. Why won’t they inflate us? Because I am already alright! Now what can the fruit of my action give me? I require no fruit. Ah! Wonderful word! I ‘require’ no fruit. That doesn’t mean that there would be no fruit. Ah! There would be fruit, of course. Each cause bears an effect. The tree would bear the fruit! But I ‘require’ no fruit. Ah! If I get a fruit, wonderful! Nice fruit, nice taste! Ah! Little bitter! It’s okay. I require no fruit. I am already alright, and this is Yoga.

To not to have a thought that you are diseased, is health, and that is Yoga.

Yoga is not about feeling special. Yoga is not being in a great state of consciousness. Yoga is about ‘not’ having a lot of things that we usually have.

Now what do we usually have?

We usually have inferiority. We usually have lack of fulfilment. We usually have a lot of search and seeking. We usually have a lot of questions. Yoga is about not having these. “I am already alright, what would I do with achievement? I am already alright, what would I do with medicines and methods? I am already alright, what would I do with questions and their answers?” That is Yoga. Yoga is not a special feeling, mind you! Yoga is the absence of that which we usually keep feeling.

Look at the common man on the road, look at the streets of Rishikesh. Do you see people with no feeling? No, people are walking, and they are walking with a lot of feeling. The feeling might be divine! So called ‘divine’. The feeling might be heavenly. The feeling might be different from the feeling that one usually has in a metro city, in a corporate city. It’s a holy city, so you have different feelings.

Yoga is to be free of all feelings.

Yoga is not to be placing any demand on any kind of thought or feeling.

Every thought, every feeling arises as a promise, as a solution. It says, “There is something missing in your life, I’ll provide that to you.” To be situated in Yoga is to not to need any promises, “I do not ‘require’ your promise because whatever you would promise, I already have that. What can you promise to me when I have the highest?” Hence, Yoga is to be free of lot of things.

That does not mean that in Yoga you do not have those things. That does not mean that the Yogi kills those things. Thoughts are still there, feelings are still there, yet there is freedom from thought and feeling. We said, cause would bear effect. We said, action would bear fruit. So the fruit is still there. Prakarti operates, so the body is there. Prakarti operates, so thoughts are also there. But one does not place a lot of demands on thought. One does not want to think his way to wellness. Don’t we use thought as a means to our welfare? Don’t you do that? When we are not well, what do we do? We think how to be well! Whenever we are faced with the problem, what do we do? We think how to get a solution!

In Yoga, you do not place the onus of your welfare upon anything or anybody, simply because, you are already well. In Yoga, you do not follow any path or any role, why? Because you are already home. Hence Yoga is not at all about following this method or that method. Yoga is about realizing that all methods are futile, I am already there! I do not need any of these tactics. If tactics are there, then one would want success from those tactics and Krishna is saying, “You have to be equanimous towards success and failure.” Hence success is not something that you can take seriously.

Action without attachment is Yoga. And action without attachment is possible only when the actor is a very-very innocent and healthy actor. Then he acts just in fun, just for no reason. And such acting has a beautiful quality about it. Because then it is not the actions of a beggar. When you are desirous of a result, then you go about like a beggar, who acts in order to get a result. Why does a beggar approach you? Does he approach you in love? He approaches you because he wants something from you. He wants a result. That’s how the lot of mankind goes through life. Doing whatever it does for the sake of getting something. And that is “Viyoga”.

Krishna is saying, “No! Don’t act to get, realize that you have already got it and then act.” He is inverting the way we act. We act so that we may get. Krishna is saying, “Get and then act.” And that is a little incomprehensible to our purpose driven mind, because we ask, “If we have already got it then why would we act at all? You’d know that when you are free of the thought that you don’t have it then you will see what joy lies in acting even though you do not need the action.

We do not know the charm of needlessness. When you do something needlessly, reason-lessly, there is a particular beauty about it. That beauty is Yoga. To live without a reason, to love without a cause, to act without greed and desire, that is Yoga. Total purposelessness is Yoga. Yoga is freedom from all ‘Whys?’. Yoga is freedom from all questions. Yoga is freedom from all concepts and theories and sutras. Yoga is simply the statement, “I am alright.” You need not say, “You are Brahm. You need not say, you are God or the son of God or the daughter of God. You need not say, you are the Atman, you need not say that you are the holy Truth. All you need to say is, “I am not unwell!” I am not unwell!

I am not even saying that you need to say that you are alright. Because alright-ness would then again become a concept. We are buffeted by the thoughts of not being well. In fact every single thought that we have is a thought about our sickness. When everything is alright, do you think about it? When do you think about your thumb? When do you think about your tooth?

Listener 1: When it hurts.

AP: When it hurts! Thought itself arises when there is a perception of something being problematic, of something being not alright. Getting it? So, Yoga then is simply freedom from thoughts of disease. That does not mean thoughts are not there, I am repeating this. Thoughts will be there, yet you will be free of them. You are not laying importance upon them. Thoughts are doing what they must. And you are where, you must be! You are following your own nature, thoughts are following their own patterns. And you are not obliged to interfere in the patterns of thought or body. They are taking their own due course. You are letting them do what they want to do, this is Yoga!

Yoga means that you would not be unsettled by the fierce currents of body, mind, Prakriti, even as they flow all around you. One of the most beautiful images of Yoga, is the statue of Shiva in the middle of the Ganga. Have you seen that statue at Haridwar? The Ganga is flowing all around Shiva, and Shiva is still, that is Yoga. The streams of Prakriti are flowing all around you, even over you! And yet they are not carrying you away! That is Yoga. To be seated unflinchingly like Shiva is Yoga.

Which means that life goes on and does what it does, and you keep relaxing. You keep relaxing even as your body-mind apparatus keep responding to life. That does not mean that you have become lazy. That does not mean that you have become incapable of right action. In fact, you are now capable of right and vigorous action, yet you are relaxing. You are relaxing like Shiva. That is Yoga. With Ganga all around you, you are relaxing like Shiva. That is Yoga. And in your relaxation, lies the potency for vigorous action, right action! That is Yoga.

Yoga is giving up of all that which proves to you that you are little, inferior, handicapped or small. To be in Yoga is to be with Krishna. To be with Krishna is to be only with Krishna and not with that which is sick, ugly, limited and an agent of grief.

To be in Yoga is to not touch anything, anybody, any situation that causes a sense of littleness in you. Even if that littleness is induced in you in a holy pretext. Even if it is induced in you as an ostensible means of welfare. You refuse to admit it in.

Somebody may come and say, “You need protection.” You quickly see through what he is saying. You realize that what he is saying that I am weak. If I am not weak, why would I need protection? You refuse to entertain the advice. You refuse to take that person seriously, this is Yoga. Somebody comes and tells you, “You need God and God is all that you need.” You refuse to entertain this person. Because if he is saying that you need God then surely he means that you do not have God. He is proving that you are God-less. You refuse that person.

Somebody comes and says, “You need a lot of self-enquiry.” You immediately refuse this person because if you need to look, see and discover then surely first of all you must believe that you do not know that you are ignorant, which you are not. To be in Yoga is to refuse everything that keeps you little and limited. Littleness would not come to you as littleness. Littleness would come to you as friendly advice. Littleness would come to you as brotherly concern. Littleness would come to you as the sermons of a teacher. Littleness would come to you as a promise of security.

Had littleness would be honest enough to admit its real name, you could have easily refused it. But littleness rarely admits its real name. Littleness comes, wearing the mask of things that appears nice and sweet and promising. Be very cautious of all this stuff that is always ready to enter your mind. Anything that promises to make you better is an allegation upon you. Why is it an allegation? It is an allegation that you are currently not alright.

Anybody who offers to improve your life or help you realize that which you do not know, is actually proving to you that ignorance is what you are. The advertiser who is telling you that the next home or the next position or the next car will add something to your life, is actually causing Viyoga in you. Because he is proving to you that unless you have that house or that car, there is something missing in life. And you buy that in. Why do you buy that in? Arjuna too must have bought a lot of those things!


Acharya Prashant

One could call him the best contemporary representative of Advait Vedanta. Or one could simply call him a teacher beyond any tradition. Equally, one can see an abundance of compassion, love and reverence in his being. But the most appropriate way to know him would be through his work. Know More