Ch 18 Yoga of Single-pointed Surrender (Part 11)

This article is part 106 of 118 in the series Jīvana-dharma-yoga

Qualities like truth and purity are not the special property of brahmins. They are to be practised by others as well. Why did we specially mention them as brahmaṇic qualities? The real meaning is that an excellent, exemplary brāhmaṇa behaves thus, and these qualities are easily practised by him; therefore other varṇas should also try to emulate him and earn those qualities — this is the real meaning.

ṣve sve karmaṇyabhirataḥ saṃsiddhiṃ labhate narah ।
svakarma-nirataḥ siddhiṃ yathā vindati tacchruṇu ॥

BG 18.45

Everyone should be engaged in their natural duties. A man’s capability is not decided based on whether the work he has secured is big or small; however insignificant his job is — even if it is only to sweep the road — the quality of his work, the devotion he shows towards his job, his enthusiasm and skill — decide his worth.

During this discussion, it is worthwhile to remember this piece of advice that  Sir M Visvesvaraya, the celebrated engineer and the administrator par excellence, gave to young engineers.

“The bulk of the work in the districts is of a very ordinary character, but it is not on that account to be despised. Many a young engineer may find no higher work to design or construct than a road-culvert or a tank-sluice. A dispensary or a dak bungalow may be his dream in architecture. But whatever the work, if the designs are to be proper and economical, a close study of local conditions and a correct knowledge of how similar work is best done elsewhere are very necessary. The young engineer may lay to heart the advice which Mr. Moberly Bell of the London Times gave on similar occasion. “If your business,” said he, “is only to sweep a crossing, remember that it is your duty to make that crossing the best swept in the world.”

(14th November 1910)

The performance of one’s dharma through the performance of one’s own duties is indeed the worship of the divine. He who is engaged in the performance of svadharma attains siddhi.
That it is possible to attain siddhi through the performance of one’s dharma is one of the cardinal teachings of the Gītā.

yataḥ pravṛttir bhūtānāṃ yena sarvam idaṃ tatam |
sva-karmaṇā tam abhyarchya siddhiṃ vindati mānavaḥ ||

BG 18.46

“The energy and direction for all actions of every being arise from that root consciousness that has brought forth the entire universe from within itself and pervades it inside out. He, having worshipped the supreme consciousness through the performance of duties that are natural and obligatory to him, attains the greatest siddhi.”

This śloka is pregnant with much meaning. There is likely no better or more apt description of Brahman than this. Neither is there a more concise elucidation of the method to worship Brahman. All-pervading Brahman is the source of every being’s inner urge that prompts it to perform an action or not. When the impurities of a jīva - its guṇas and tendencies  accumulated through a beginningless succession of lives - are cleansed, the jīva attains the true experience of his own Self.  The mechanism to cleanse oneself of such impurities is dharma in the form of purifying works prescribed via one’s varṇa or family or stem from one’s own innate character. Thus, the path towards self-knowledge proceeds through the performance of works that 1. are prescribed by the śāstras, 2. are useful to the world, and 3. purify the jīva. Whatever action has to be performed should be performed dexterously and efficiently.

śreyān sva-dharmo viguṇaḥ para-dharmāt svanuṣṭhitāt
svabhāva-niyataṃ karma kurvan nāpnoti kilbiṣam

BG 18.47

“Though not much virtue might be seen in svadharma, it is more beneficial than another’s dharma that appears to be more virtuous. One does not incur pāpa by performing karma attuned to one’s own nature.”

Trading in meat, even if more profitable than the profession of teaching, is not the dharma of a brāhmaṇa. Though a butcher might prefer acting in plays or in cinemas over his own profession that he does not like so much, his own family business is his dharma. If one does not perform one’s dharma, he is subject to pāpa. This is the principle explained in the tale of Dharmavyādha[1].

sahajaṃ karma kaunteya sa-doṣam api na tyajet
sarvārambhā hi doṣeṇa dhūmenāgnir ivāvṛtāḥ

BG 18.48

“One should not give up duties that are part of one’s nature and are established through one’s own community, even though they might seem to be faulty from others’ perspectives. Every profession in this world is fraught with one defect or the other - just as fire is always enveloped in smoke.”

Hariśchandra, due to circumstances of time and duty, had to stay guard at a funeral-ground. Was that a joyous duty? It does not seem so to us. When fate brought him to that place, he had to fulfil his duties as they had to be fulfilled. Thus, even when his wife Candramatī carried the corpse of their son Lohitāśva, he insisted, “The fee due here must be paid”. There is no place for likes and dislikes during the performance of one’s duty.

All the smṛtis accept the opinion stated above. Manu has clarified the same. The following ślokas from the atri-saṃhitā state the same succinctly with no scope for doubt.

svāni karmāṇi kurvāṇā dūre santo’pi mānavāḥ ।
priyā bhavanti lokasya sve sve karmaṇyavasthitāḥ ॥

Atri saṃhitā 8.41

Those men immersed in their own duties, even if they are afar, are liked by the world.

ye vyapetāḥ svadharmebhyaḥ paradharme vyavasthitāḥ ।
teṣāṃ śāstikaro rājā svargaloke mahīyate ॥

That king, who chastises those established in others’ duties while neglecting their own, reigns in svarga. 

ātmīye saṃsthito dharme śūdro’pi svargamaśnute ।
paradharmo bhavet tyājyaḥ surūpa-paradāravat ॥ 

Even a śūdra established in his own dharma attains svarga. Thus another’s dharma is to be discarded like another’s wife, beautiful though she might be.

Plato, the pre-eminent Greek philosopher and considered the foremost among truth-seekers from all over the world, has again and again elucidated the concept of svadharma in his Republic - bolstering it with arguments and examples.

“Justice is the having and doing of what is a man’s own and belongs to him”

Republic. Book IV.

Can an activity that has no touch of pāpa even exist? Though every activity has the possibility of association with pāpa, it should not become an excuse for us to stay away from action. Activity has to be performed. The question is whether it attaches to us or not. If the activity in question comes to us naturally as an obligation, there is no attachment. There are several situations in which we may have to do something that we either do not like or is not considered proper by society at large. Bhagavān refers to activities as - “aniṣṭamiṣṭaṃ miśraṃ ca” - those that we like, those that we do not like and those that we like partially. Whatever may be the obligatory duty, there is no defect in its performance as long as there is no tinge of selfishness. That indeed is phalatyāga (giving up the fruit of actions) and the essence of saṃnyāsa (renunciation). When we perform karma in that manner, our impurities in the form of the three guṇas are eroded. Our vāsanas (latent tendencies) are weakened. Qualities, virtues, and strengths that are hidden in our psyche are brought to light. This is conducive to goodness in the world. Erosion of the jīva’s debts and impurities and an expression of the jīva’s sattva make it easier to attain paramātmā.

However, in the twelfth chapter, Bhagavān instructs us to give up all endeavours!

sarvārambhaparityāgī yo madbhaktaḥ sa me priyaḥ |

BG 12.16

Whatever may be the endeavour, it is not free of one defect or the other. This is the instruction from the twelfth.
But in this chapter, Bhagavān mandates us to perform suitable activity without worrying about accompanying defects, for no action is truly defect-free. Thus on the surface, there seems to be some disagreement between these two teachings. There is another verse that resolves this inconsistency.

yasya sarve samārambhāḥ kāma-saṅkalpa-varjitāḥ |
jñānāgni-dagdha-karmāṇaṃ tamāhuḥ paṇḍitaṃ budhāḥ ||

BG 4.19

There is the possibility of an iota of pāpa in all human activity. Even so, there is a strategy to completely negate even this sliver of pāpa from our activities. The strategy is an attitude of desirelessness. “It is not me who acts. This action is not for me. Whatever is done is being done in subservience to Bhagavān. The guṇas of prakṛti make us act. Results of those actions accrue to us via the laws of karma. I am ready for any kind of result. The decision to perform karma is not to be made from the perspective of my benefit, enjoyment, or prestige. By virtue of prior karma, I have attained a certain position and a specific set of opportunities in the world. It is from this understanding that I can decide upon dharma. My karma follows suit.” An action performed with the sole sense of duty after exercising such discernment does not result in pāpa, for there is no ego in it but obedience towards Bhagavān. This is the essence of the principle of karma.

To be continued...

The present series is a modern English translation of DVG’s Kendra Sahitya Akademi Award-winning work, Bhagavad-gītā-tātparya or Jīvana-dharma-yoga. The translators wish to express their thanks to Śatāvadhāni R Ganesh for his valuable feedback and to Hari Ravikumar for his astute edits.

Footnotes

[1]The tale of the butcher from the Mahābhārata’s vana-parvan.

Author(s)

About:

Devanahalli Venkataramanayya Gundappa (1887-1975) was a great visionary and polymath. He was a journalist, poet, art connoisseur, philosopher, political analyst, institution builder, social commentator, social worker, and activist.

Translator(s)

About:

Engineer. Lapsed blogger. Abiding interest in Sanskrit, religion, and philosophy. A wannabe jack-of-all.

About:

Mother of two. Engineer. Worshiper of Indian music, poetry, and art.

Prekshaa Publications

Indian Perspective of Truth and Beauty in Homer’s Epics is a unique work on the comparative study of the Greek Epics Iliad and Odyssey with the Indian Epics – Rāmāyaṇa and Mahābhārata. Homer, who laid the foundations for the classical tradition of the West, occupies a stature similar to that occupied by the seer-poets Vālmīki and Vyāsa, who are synonymous with the Indian culture. The author...

Karnataka’s celebrated polymath, D V Gundappa brings together in the sixth volume of reminiscences character sketches of prominent public figures, liberals, and social workers. These remarkable personages hailing from different corners of South India are from a period that spans from the late nineteenth century to the mid-twentieth century. Written in Kannada in the 1970s, these memoirs go...

An Introduction to Hinduism based on Primary Sources

Authors: Śatāvadhānī Dr. R Ganesh, Hari Ravikumar

What is the philosophical basis for Sanātana-dharma, the ancient Indian way of life? What makes it the most inclusive and natural of all religio-philosophical systems in the world?

The Essential Sanātana-dharma serves as a handbook for anyone who wishes to grasp the...

Karnataka’s celebrated polymath, D V Gundappa brings together in the fifth volume, episodes from the lives of traditional savants responsible for upholding the Vedic culture. These memorable characters lived a life of opulence amidst poverty— theirs  was the wealth of the soul, far beyond money and gold. These vidvāns hailed from different corners of the erstwhile Mysore Kingdom and lived in...

Padma Bhushan Dr. Padma Subrahmanyam represents the quintessence of Sage Bharata’s art and Bhārata, the country that gave birth to the peerless seer of the Nāṭya-veda. Padma’s erudition in various streams of Indic knowledge, mastery over many classical arts, deep understanding of the nuances of Indian culture, creative genius, and sublime vision bolstered by the vedāntic and nationalistic...

Bhārata has been a land of plenty in many ways. We have had a timeless tradition of the twofold principle of Brāhma (spirit of wisdom) and Kṣāttra (spirit of valour) nourishing and protecting this sacred land. The Hindu civilisation, rooted in Sanātana-dharma, has constantly been enriched by brāhma and safeguarded by kṣāttra.
The renowned Sanskrit poet and scholar, Śatāvadhānī Dr. R...

ಛಂದೋವಿವೇಕವು ವರ್ಣವೃತ್ತ, ಮಾತ್ರಾಜಾತಿ ಮತ್ತು ಕರ್ಷಣಜಾತಿ ಎಂದು ವಿಭಕ್ತವಾದ ಎಲ್ಲ ಬಗೆಯ ಛಂದಸ್ಸುಗಳನ್ನೂ ವಿವೇಚಿಸುವ ಪ್ರಬಂಧಗಳ ಸಂಕಲನ. ಲೇಖಕರ ದೀರ್ಘಕಾಲಿಕ ಆಲೋಚನೆಯ ಸಾರವನ್ನು ಒಳಗೊಂಡ ಈ ಹೊತ್ತಗೆ ಪ್ರಧಾನವಾಗಿ ಛಂದಸ್ಸಿನ ಸೌಂದರ್ಯವನ್ನು ಲಕ್ಷಿಸುತ್ತದೆ. ತೌಲನಿಕ ವಿಶ್ಲೇಷಣೆ ಮತ್ತು ಅಂತಃಶಾಸ್ತ್ರೀಯ ಅಧ್ಯಯನಗಳ ತೆಕ್ಕೆಗೆ ಬರುವ ಬರೆಹಗಳೂ ಇಲ್ಲಿವೆ. ಶಾಸ್ತ್ರಕಾರನಿಗಲ್ಲದೆ ಸಿದ್ಧಹಸ್ತನಾದ ಕವಿಗೆ ಮಾತ್ರ ಸ್ಫುರಿಸಬಲ್ಲ ಎಷ್ಟೋ ಹೊಳಹುಗಳು ಕೃತಿಯ ಮೌಲಿಕತೆಯನ್ನು ಹೆಚ್ಚಿಸಿವೆ. ಈ...

Karnataka’s celebrated polymath, D V Gundappa brings together in the fourth volume, some character sketches of the Dewans of Mysore preceded by an account of the political framework of the State before Independence and followed by a review of the political conditions of the State after 1940. These remarkable leaders of Mysore lived in a period that spans from the mid-nineteenth century to the...

Bharatiya Kavya-mimamseya Hinnele is a monograph on Indian Aesthetics by Mahamahopadhyaya N. Ranganatha Sharma. The book discusses the history and significance of concepts pivotal to Indian literary theory. It is equally useful to the learned and the laity.

Sahitya-samhite is a collection of literary essays in Kannada. The book discusses aestheticians such as Ananda-vardhana and Rajashekhara; Sanskrit scholars such as Mena Ramakrishna Bhat, Sridhar Bhaskar Varnekar and K S Arjunwadkar; and Kannada litterateurs such as DVG, S L Bhyrappa and S R Ramaswamy. It has a foreword by Shatavadhani Dr. R Ganesh.

The Mahābhārata is the greatest epic in the world both in magnitude and profundity. A veritable cultural compendium of Bhārata-varṣa, it is a product of the creative genius of Maharṣi Kṛṣṇa-dvaipāyana Vyāsa. The epic captures the experiential wisdom of our civilization and all subsequent literary, artistic, and philosophical creations are indebted to it. To read the Mahābhārata is to...

Shiva Rama Krishna

சிவன். ராமன். கிருஷ்ணன்.
இந்திய பாரம்பரியத்தின் முப்பெரும் கதாநாயகர்கள்.
உயர் இந்தியாவில் தலைமுறைகள் பல கடந்தும் கடவுளர்களாக போற்றப்பட்டு வழிகாட்டிகளாக விளங்குபவர்கள்.
மனித ஒற்றுமை நூற்றாண்டுகால பரிணாம வளர்ச்சியின் பரிமாணம்.
தனிநபர்களாகவும், குடும்ப உறுப்பினர்களாகவும், சமுதாய பிரஜைகளாகவும் நாம் அனைவரும் பரிமளிக்கிறோம்.
சிவன் தனிமனித அடையாளமாக அமைகிறான்....

ऋतुभिः सह कवयः सदैव सम्बद्धाः। विशिष्य संस्कृतकवयः। यथा हि ऋतवः प्रतिसंवत्सरं प्रतिनवतामावहन्ति मानवेषु तथैव ऋतुवर्णनान्यपि काव्यरसिकेषु कामपि विच्छित्तिमातन्वते। ऋतुकल्याणं हि सत्यमिदमेव हृदि कृत्वा प्रवृत्तम्। नगरजीवनस्य यान्त्रिकतां मान्त्रिकतां च ध्वनदिदं चम्पूकाव्यं गद्यपद्यमिश्रितमिति सुव्यक्तमेव। ऐदम्पूर्वतया प्रायः पुरीपरिसरप्रसृतानाम् ऋतूनां विलासोऽत्र प्रपञ्चितः। बेङ्गलूरुनामके...

The Art and Science of Avadhānam in Sanskrit is a definitive work on Sāhityāvadhānam, a form of Indian classical art based on multitasking, lateral thinking, and extempore versification. Dotted throughout with tasteful examples, it expounds in great detail on the theory and practice of this unique performing art. It is as much a handbook of performance as it is an anthology of well-turned...

This anthology is a revised edition of the author's 1978 classic. This series of essays, containing his original research in various fields, throws light on the socio-cultural landscape of Tamil Nadu spanning several centuries. These compelling episodes will appeal to scholars and laymen alike.
“When superstitious mediaevalists mislead the country about its judicial past, we have to...

The cultural history of a nation, unlike the customary mainstream history, has a larger time-frame and encompasses the timeless ethos of a society undergirding the course of events and vicissitudes. A major key to the understanding of a society’s unique character is an appreciation of the far-reaching contributions by outstanding personalities of certain periods – especially in the realms of...

Prekṣaṇīyam is an anthology of essays on Indian classical dance and theatre authored by multifaceted scholar and creative genius, Śatāvadhānī Dr. R Ganesh. As a master of śāstra, a performing artiste (of the ancient art of Avadhānam), and a cultured rasika, he brings a unique, holistic perspective to every discussion. These essays deal with the philosophy, history, aesthetics, and practice of...

Yaugandharam

इदं किञ्चिद्यामलं काव्यं द्वयोः खण्डकाव्ययोः सङ्कलनरूपम्। रामानुरागानलं हि सीतापरित्यागाल्लक्ष्मणवियोगाच्च श्रीरामेणानुभूतं हृदयसङ्क्षोभं वर्णयति । वात्सल्यगोपालकं तु कदाचिद्भानूपरागसमये घटितं यशोदाश्रीकृष्णयोर्मेलनं वर्णयति । इदम्प्रथमतया संस्कृतसाहित्ये सम्पूर्णं काव्यं...

Vanitakavitotsavah

इदं खण्डकाव्यमान्तं मालिनीछन्दसोपनिबद्धं विलसति। मेनकाविश्वामित्रयोः समागमः, तत्फलतया शकुन्तलाया जननम्, मातापितृभ्यां त्यक्तस्य शिशोः कण्वमहर्षिणा परिपालनं चेति काव्यस्यास्येतिवृत्तसङ्क्षेपः।

Vaiphalyaphalam

इदं खण्डकाव्यमान्तं मालिनीछन्दसोपनिबद्धं विलसति। मेनकाविश्वामित्रयोः समागमः, तत्फलतया शकुन्तलाया जननम्, मातापितृभ्यां त्यक्तस्य शिशोः कण्वमहर्षिणा परिपालनं चेति काव्यस्यास्येतिवृत्तसङ्क्षेपः।

Nipunapraghunakam

इयं रचना दशसु रूपकेष्वन्यतमस्य भाणस्य निदर्शनतामुपैति। एकाङ्करूपकेऽस्मिन् शेखरकनामा चित्रोद्यमलेखकः केनापि हेतुना वियोगम् अनुभवतोश्चित्रलेखामिलिन्दकयोः समागमं सिसाधयिषुः कथामाकाशभाषणरूपेण निर्वहति।

Bharavatarastavah

अस्मिन् स्तोत्रकाव्ये भगवन्तं शिवं कविरभिष्टौति। वसन्ततिलकयोपनिबद्धस्य काव्यस्यास्य कविकृतम् उल्लाघनाभिधं व्याख्यानं च वर्तते।

Karnataka’s celebrated polymath, D V Gundappa brings together in the third volume, some character sketches of great literary savants responsible for Kannada renaissance during the first half of the twentieth century. These remarkable...

Karnataka’s celebrated polymath, D V Gundappa brings together in the second volume, episodes from the lives of remarkable exponents of classical music and dance, traditional storytellers, thespians, and connoisseurs; as well as his...

Karnataka’s celebrated polymath, D V Gundappa brings together in the first volume, episodes from the lives of great writers, poets, literary aficionados, exemplars of public life, literary scholars, noble-hearted common folk, advocates...

Evolution of Mahabharata and Other Writings on the Epic is the English translation of S R Ramaswamy's 1972 Kannada classic 'Mahabharatada Belavanige' along with seven of his essays on the great epic. It tells the riveting...

Shiva-Rama-Krishna is an English adaptation of Śatāvadhāni Dr. R Ganesh's popular lecture series on the three great...

Bharatilochana

ಮಹಾಮಾಹೇಶ್ವರ ಅಭಿನವಗುಪ್ತ ಜಗತ್ತಿನ ವಿದ್ಯಾವಲಯದಲ್ಲಿ ಮರೆಯಲಾಗದ ಹೆಸರು. ಮುಖ್ಯವಾಗಿ ಶೈವದರ್ಶನ ಮತ್ತು ಸೌಂದರ್ಯಮೀಮಾಂಸೆಗಳ ಪರಮಾಚಾರ್ಯನಾಗಿ  ಸಾವಿರ ವರ್ಷಗಳಿಂದ ಇವನು ಜ್ಞಾನಪ್ರಪಂಚವನ್ನು ಪ್ರಭಾವಿಸುತ್ತಲೇ ಇದ್ದಾನೆ. ಭರತಮುನಿಯ ನಾಟ್ಯಶಾಸ್ತ್ರವನ್ನು ಅರ್ಥಮಾಡಿಕೊಳ್ಳಲು ಇವನೊಬ್ಬನೇ ನಮಗಿರುವ ಆಲಂಬನ. ಇದೇ ರೀತಿ ರಸಧ್ವನಿಸಿದ್ಧಾಂತವನ್ನು...

Vagarthavismayasvadah

“वागर्थविस्मयास्वादः” प्रमुखतया साहित्यशास्त्रतत्त्वानि विमृशति । अत्र सौन्दर्यर्यशास्त्रीयमूलतत्त्वानि यथा रस-ध्वनि-वक्रता-औचित्यादीनि सुनिपुणं परामृष्टानि प्रतिनवे चिकित्सकप्रज्ञाप्रकाशे। तदन्तर एव संस्कृतवाङ्मयस्य सामर्थ्यसमाविष्कारोऽपि विहितः। क्वचिदिव च्छन्दोमीमांसा च...

The Best of Hiriyanna

The Best of Hiriyanna is a collection of forty-eight essays by Prof. M. Hiriyanna that sheds new light on Sanskrit Literature, Indian...

Stories Behind Verses

Stories Behind Verses is a remarkable collection of over a hundred anecdotes, each of which captures a story behind the composition of a Sanskrit verse. Collected over several years from...