Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Obligations, Rewards and Detachment

Basically continuing from last post on the importance of virtue, I would like to take the first verse of the sixth chapter of Bhagavad-Gita and go in depth as to the possibility of achieving the seemingly impossible task of performing our worldly duties. In the first verse Lord Krishna tells Arjuna:

“One who is unattached to the fruits of his work and who works as he is obligated is in the renounced order of life, and he is the true mystic, not he who lights no fire and performs no duty.”.
......Bhagavad-Gita 6:1

There are a number of elements in this saying. They are:
- fruits of one’s work
- non-attachment and finally
- Obligatory work to be performed
It is better to start from the understanding of obligatory work and then move on to what is to be seen as the fruits of such work and finally the detachment or renunciation of all that is derived from such fruits of labour.

Creation has a purpose and the main purpose as I see it is one of phenomenal transcendence. The transcendence must be towards higher level of consciousness. The creative purpose is not self centred but involves the entire milieu of our existence. Hence there are two distinct aspects of our creation namely; being and acting. While being is self driven, acting involves agencies such as to act upon or to act with. The objective world becomes the stage of our existence and acting. This is the reason that the concluding part of the first verse says “………he is the true mystic, not he who lights no fire and performs no duty”.

Any object oriented ontology must address this primary parameter. In the act of functioning every human being has to interact with a variety of objects. If you were a teacher then you had students and content of what you taught, if you were a king you had your kingdom and the subjects and the ethical and empowering conduct of governance, if you were a trader you had your customers and goods and its quality and if you were a person providing services then again you had the recipient of services and the quality of services themselves which had set objectives. The reason I elaborate on the nature of work is because obligation is not exterior to existence or a choice of free will but, if properly understood, is the karmic resultant in every new creation. This is the first renunciation. Though through the mind and intellect one may assume that he has a choice of work, accepting a current position or state in life and performing duties arising there of, qualifies one to be called as one “who works as he is obligated”.

The fruits of such a work would be rewarding in two distinct planes. The first and most visible or comprehensible level is a reward at the intellectual and materialistic level. The second is at the spiritual level where there is no visible or perceivable self gratification. There is always a strong tendency to get stuck in the intellectual or materialistic level especially in this Kali Yuga, where the spiritual consciousness lies under very heavy smog of materialistic and sensory existence. This is the reason that a strong advice is given towards non-attachment. This advice is seen in the Bible “But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing”
…….Matthew 6:3

To be in the renounced order of life does not mean that one has to stop doing things and go away to a forest. But as Lord Krishna says it is those who perform obligated duty with intent on spiritual elevation through their own transcendence and those who understand this great truth that all actions are part of the great interplay of the supreme consciousness can be called true mystic or renunciate.

Love to you all


  1. SS, thank for your appreciation. I receive this knowledge from you. You are a true Karma Yogi.

  2. The whole idea of doing your obligated duty,and understanding this as part of one's overall life plan is a new insight.Because many of us always resent that we are not in the 'right place'.The problem is with attachments. I personally find it easier to detatch myself from the fame or material benefits of my actions or efforts.But i do find it difficult to detatch myself from emotionally bonding with the persons whom I work for.

  3. Subathra,Even in the emotional bonds one has to see them as inherent fruits of one's labour. Individual Atma has no other desire in this manifestation except to elevate itself by getting rid of karmic trappings. Hence we have to qualify the emotional bonds that we develop as to whether they empower us towards a higher purpose or not and wean out those which do not promote this transcendence.