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Karma in Human Life

— Rajeev Nair N V




Modern day has always debated on human life and karma and the present generation finds little significance in all this with no proper language to guide them. Karma yoga is explained as doing one’s duty without expecting any reward. Swami Vivekanada in his work ‘Secret of Work’ tries to establish the relationship between one’s duties and achieve fulfilment through that. The holy book Bhagavat Gita also expresses the same idea in one of its chapters ‘Karmayogam’. A lot of common elements expressed on doing one’s duty can be found in both the works. The works try to depict this message through philosophical explanations of life and duties. Swami compares the life of a house holder and the life of a sanyasi (sage). Ultimately he points out that it is very difficult to attain eternity by fulfilling house holder’s duty than being a sanyasi and only meditating all the time.

Wants of modern world are limitless. This is the main cause of all miseries. Only when the fire of the knowledge burns the ignorance or in other words innate desires of man, he will be saved from miseries. Moreover, a person who can help one to get over this is the most blessed one and the greatest help in this world. It is man’s material character that blinds him from understanding what his role is in the world and what he is supposed to do. Man has not evolved to the extent to understand the relevance of his duties. He is still ignorant about the ideal life one should go about. He claims to have no idea about the concept and difference of sanyasi life and house holder life.

Karma yoga is all about unattached work. Man will be freed from all his bondages once he learns what unattachment is and how it should be practiced. Expecting return makes us attached to a particular work. Selfless sacrifice should be our motto. Here attachment is an ambiguous term. It may give rise to the question, if we do not expect to get money, how do we live? Here the concept is different. You need to work. You need to earn money to live. But money should not be the priority to work. You should work out of love. Love for work entails us to work more and more perfectly. So directly I am not expecting anything from my work other than finishing it perfectly on the right time. This is what spirituality is all about. One should do one’s duty and the reward will follow. No need to work for reward. Then the work will become artificial that develops material character in a person. The same idea is given philosophically in Bhagavat Gita.

Man, as said by Vedas and puranas should strive for the liberation of the soul. Liberation of the soul can be attained through many ways. Among them the most significant and the simplest one a human being can adopt is the Karma yoga. Fulfilment of duty is the main aspect which is valued everywhere whether it is a service organisation or business organisation. When one accomplishes fulfilment in one’s prescribed duties, one should definitely reach the goal of liberation provided he is unattached to it and would have selfless love for its entire endeavour. Here the question of whether one should lead the life of a sanyasi or a house holder arises. In fact, both the ways of life have different kinds of karma. So the decision to take a particular life will depend upon the character of a person. But generally it is said that it is better to be a house holder than a monk. Being a monk, you only do the duties of a hermit. But when you are a house holder you need to perform your duties as an ordinary human being, but to attain liberation you need to have the qualities of a sanysai.

Qualities or characteristics of a sanyasi are very difficult to achieve in a common man’s life. It is a very tough pilgrimage a man may have in his life. A man’s characteristics are formed by sun total of actions that he does. So to achieve a yogic quality the house holder should do his duties unattached. Unattachment in a house holder’s life is a tedious enterprise. Whatever deeds that we do will reflect back on us. This cycle of reflection should not pave the way for attachment.

So, in order to get out of all these bondages, man should be aware of the form that may hinder him from getting unattached. Each and everything that we do will pose an effect on our striving to liberate the good. So here the dilemma arises, aren’t we supposed to do good and bad deeds. Vedas says, “You can do good and bad deeds, but be cautious that it may end up as one of your characteristics and your character is the main aspect that enables you to achieve the liberation of the soul.” And, in fact, this character is dependent upon the karmas that we do.

So the success of the person depends upon how well he can control the effect of such deeds in order to attain moksha or liberation. The word or idea ‘control’ indicates being in the sphere of spiritual light and not coming out of it to attain more materiality i.e expectation of reward and desire for it. He should not miss the link that he has already attained partly through his unattached karmas. One who has attained the concept of samskara will not get into the dilapidated state of getting too much into the results of the work. His unattachment, selfless love for his duties and not for his results enables him to be the master of his mind. His mind does not control him but he controls his mind. Thus emotions will have no role in his body and life. This is rarely found among today’s masses. Once this is achieved, then Karmayoga is achieved.

Scriptures advise the readers that ignorance is death and knowledge is life. They want man to understand that the real focus of human life should be to do his or her duties. To achieve fulfilment in the duties, one needs to have knowledge about karma and the relevance of karma both in spiritual and material planes. Only an understanding of the difference would help one to comprehend the essence of what is being said in Bhagavat Gita about karma yoga which has been reproduced in a simple language by Swami Vivekananda in his essay.

Spiritual success is not far away from a person who leads a married life. He can attain that through proper and truthful practices of his duties without being attached to it. As said by Vedas one who passes through the four stages of life viz. brahmacharya, grahastashrama, vanaprastha and sanyasa will be the most successful being in this world as he will be finishing all the earthly duties destined on human being.


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