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Devotion and Duty go Hand in Hand

Bhakti Yog / September 07, 2019

Duty and devotion are not mutually exclusive.  Some people think that they will do their best when they are completely focused on the results, and only the results.  They think, I have to be 100% committed to the results.  Only when I can see the prize, can I give my full effort.  Devotion is for the evenings and weekends, when I don’t have to worry about my duty.

Most of us are like that.  Society has indoctrinated us to think along those terms.  Many times, things go our way and it brings joy.  At least, until the next goal is established, and then we have to chase that target.  Inevitably, in this sequence of hopping from one benchmark to another, we will meet a few challenges on the way, and occasionally things won’t turn out the way we would have liked.  This can lead to disappointment, resentment, and self-doubt.  Since we can’t control the outcomes, there will inevitably be some of these periods of failure in our journey through life.

Being attached to results seems to make sense.  We can do our best when we are focused on the results.  But there is another way, and like most alternative paths, it is perfectly spelled out in the Bhagavad Gita. 

BG 2.47: You have a right to perform your prescribed duties, but you are not entitled to the fruits of your actions. Never consider yourself to be the cause of the results of your activities, nor be attached to inaction.

This seems to be contradictory to everything we have heard, and to everything that drives others’ motivations.  What exactly does it mean to do your duty and not worry about the results?  Are you supposed to be lackadaisical about the outcome?  What will keep you motivated to do your best if that is your mindset?  If you don’t care about the results, how can you possibly care about the efforts?  If people fail to recognize the splendor of your work, and the diligence of your efforts, should we not feel wronged?  How can we be fully dedicated to our work if we also have to divert some attention to devotion as well?  This line of logic appears to be irrefutable.

However, it is also irrational.  Try your best, and attach yourself to the results.  That means that your peace of mind – your satisfaction and sense of accomplishment – is tied to how others perceive your work.  People have many reasons for expressing disapproval for our work.  Maybe they didn’t have the time to appreciate it.  Possibly, they didn’t like the outcome.  Potentially, they were never really interested in it to begin with.  Perhaps, they don’t like the way we presented it, or liked something else someone else did better.  A poor reception of our work doesn’t necessarily mean that it was all our fault.  So it is non-sensical to attach our own joy to other’s perception of, or reaction to our work.

Instead, think of another way, as prescribed by the Gita.  Do your duty to the best of your ability, and do not worry about the results.  We must overcome the old refrain to fully appreciate this fundamental doctrine in the Gita.  “If I don’t worry about the results, how will I do my best?”  This is the response from most of us who, as described above, intimately associate our own assessment of our work with others’ perception of it.  What if, instead of this, you could completely detach yourselves from the results?  To do this, and maintain our own level of satisfaction, it would be important to say “I have done my best, with the information and circumstances I was presented.  If it’s not good enough to achieve the goal or doesn’t meet someone else’s standard, there is nothing more I could have done.”

Going back to the act of doing our best.  We all have a set of abilities, traits, qualities that have been ordained by the divine and nurtured through our own self-effort.  If we dedicate ourselves to our duty; if we truly do the best we can, then we are paying homage to God and others who have helped us assemble this collection of traits with which we are now being trusted to complete a task.  It is like telling someone, “This is what you trained me to do, and now I have done it to the best of the abilities given to me.”  Think of how truly liberating it is to be able to tell someone “What I have done is my best effort.  I hope it meets your needs.  If not, that is the best I could have done with the combination of information, circumstances, and abilities I had at the time.”  A spiritual analogy is “God, I am an imperfect being, and I have done what you have asked of me to the best of my abilities.  I dedicate this to you, please accept it.”

The key is to do our best, because it is an obligation that respects the efforts of all who have put us in this position.  Your spiritual teacher taught you the difference between good and evil, your parents taught you the difference between respect and abuse, and your teachers taught you the difference between right and wrong.  Whether the task is to fly a plane, raise a child, wash dishes, or sell pop corn, this is what someone has deemed fit for us, and we are doing the best we can to execute on that trust.  We are honoring the sum efforts of all those who have put us in this position.  We literally have an obligation to do our best, but having done, that, it can be liberating to remove ourselves from the results.

Podcast:

Video Transcript:

(Verse) Discussing this kirtan, all of us covered a number of topics and the point just before that this one, which came was about the name of God. Kripaluji Maharaj said that take God's name with every breath as a wonderful simple means of remembering him. Now, ahead of this he talks about "Ananya Bhakti". Ananya bhakti means the mind should be attached to the divine realm alone. It should be attached no where in the world. Neither to the family, nor to worldly objects, nor to prestige or material situations, nothing. Shree Krishna says repeatedly in the Bhagavad Gita, (verse), he says "If you do Ananya bhakti, I will take full care of you". (Verse). Again he says "I am easily attained by whom? Those who are Ananya". So Ananya means the mind must be attached to God. The entire world from one ant upto Brahma Ji is the realm of the three Gunas. Satva Gun, Rajo Gun, Tamo Gun. If we attach the mind anywhere out here, our mind will take on the quality of the gunas. In other words it will become more material. It will become dirty. And we are in the business of cleansing the mind. So, to cleanse it, you attach it to the divine realm. That does not mean you give up your worldly duties. Doing your duty is another thing. Getting attached is another thing. A teacher does her duty in school. She is not attached. At home, she is attached. That is why in the office you people work smoothly, there are no fights, quarrel, things are happening normally. And at home, there are four, five people and all day long Mahabharat goes on. Why? Because there is attachment at home. So attachment, the temperature goes up, then it goes down, then it goes up, then it goes down. God says, "Listen, I did not desire you to be attached to this world". I made this world because you will need it for your body. I have given you a body. The body needs Vitamins, Proteins, Minerals, Fats, Carbohydrates. That is why this world exists. Now you are getting attached. This way you will not attain me. Understand my condition carefully. (verse). Your mind should love me. That is the Karma Yog. (verse).” So in these lines Kripaluji Maharaj says, in the world neither attachment nor hatred, neutrality. (verse). Neither friendship nor enemity. Everything is alright. Just like if you are going in the market, you wish to go to the sweet shop, on the way, a number of shops exist. You keep passing them. There is a cloth shop. You look and continue. There is a liquor shop. You look and you continue. Now you don't start fighting out there. I wanted sweets and why do you have a liquor shop on the way. Nor do you compromise, alright if not sweet today let me take liquor today. You remain neutral and move ahead to your goal. Similarly, our goal is God. There are all kinds of shops in the world. We remain neutral. Neither become attached nor start fighting and we take our mind in the direction of God. So Kripaluji Maharaj says neutrality towards the world and attachment towards Hari Guru. That is the names of God. You attach your mind to any name of God. His forms, you attach your mind anywhere. His qualities, you think of any quality. His pastimes, you meditate upon them. His abode, his saints, you take your mind anywhere in this realm, it is meditation upon God. Your mind will get clean. But if you bring it to the world, it will start dirtying again. So this is the condition of "Ananyata". (verse).

So this attachment and detachment are activities of the mind. What becomes attached? The mind. What becomes detached? The mind. He says, "Don't trust your mind. Don't give too much importance to your feelings". Some people say, you know, feelings are paramount. Engage in Bhakti you ask somebody. He says, "You know if I feel like I will do it. I don't feel like doing it. So I don't want to do it. I go by my feelings. I go by my heart". Now what are these feelings? These are activities of the mind. If you go by your mind, it will lead you to a dead end. This mind is made of Maya. It is material. Don't trust this mind. Kripaluji Maharaj says think of the mind as your enemy. What is this mind? It is a subtle machine fitted inside that is constantly generating thoughts. All kinds of thoughts. So you are sitting and this thought comes, that thought comes, that thought comes. Now if you lay emphasis on your mind, Why am I thinking like this? Why am I thinking like that? You start chasing your thoughts, you lay more emphasis to your mind and your mind will take you on a wild goose chase. Instead, ignore it. The mind is like a little child. If it misbehaves, you detach yourself from the mind itself. No. I will have nothing to do with these thoughts. So don't befriend your mind. Be wary of it. It can make big big Yogis fall if they rely on the mind. There was one saint, he writes, that every morning when I get up I beat my mind with a hundred brooms. What he wishes to convey is that "I don't go by my mind. I look on it as my enemy". That is what Kripaluji Maharaj is saying "Don't listen to it. Treat it as you would treat your enemy. Be totally wary of it". So, then how should we lead our life? With the help of the intellect, you guide the mind until it becomes disciplined and under your control. Then it will become your friend. So use the intellect.

How do you use the intellect? The knowledge that you are gaining, you keep it in your intellect. And with that intellect you guide the mind. In other words, you have to fight with the intellect, you have to fight with the mind. That is the sadhana. The mind says I want this. I want that. The intellect has to be used to govern the mind.

So, how do we activate the intellect? He says bring this thought to it, that this body is temporary. It can be snatched away at any moment. When you bring this thought to your mind, automatically your perspective will change and you will desire to speed up. If your thought is you know I am only 40 years, I have got another 40 years at least. Then your sadhana will slow down. You know there was this management law, I think it is by Peter "Work expands to fill the time available". It is by Peter right? Peter Drucker. So, he says whatever the time available, your work expands to it. Similarly, if you think my time available is 50 years, you will say enough time, let me do it slowly. So, speed it up. Think what if today were my last day. You would then act with great speed. Speed up your sadhana in the same manner.

One person went to saint Ekanath, and he said "Maharaj, my mind doesn't go to God". Saint Ekanath said, "I am seeing you are going to die in seven days and you talk about mind going to God". Now this person got terrified. He said he is a saint. It is possible he is looking into my future and he says "I have got seven days". He was scared. He said, "Maharaj, what should I do?". Saint Ekanath said, "It is alright. You resolve all your responsibilities. Get a little free and come to me on the seventh day. I will tell you what to do". Now when he had this perspective that I have got only seven days to live, all the things that he thought were important became suddenly insignificant. Whether the neighbor has got a new Porsche or a new Cadillac, how does it matter? Whether the boss is nice to me or bad to me, it is insignificant. I am going to die in seven days. Suddenly life took on a new meaning. On the seventh day, he went back to the saint and he said, "Maharaj, today is my last day. Tell me what should I do". Saint Ekanath said, "Are you able to think of God today?". He said, "Yes, today my mind is repeatedly going to God". Saint Ekanath said "Do you know why? Because you are thinking today is my last day". Saint Ekanath said, "Everyday in the morning, I get up and I think today may be my last day. Whatever I can do, let me do it today. And that is why I am always thinking of God". So that is the art of living. To live each day as your last. That is what Kripaluji Maharaj says out here. (verse)