Talks on the Gita -Vinoba 20

Chapter 3
11. Renunciation of the Fruit Leads To Infinite Gains

1. Brothers, in the Second Chapter we viewed the whole of the science of life. The Third Chapter provides further elaboration of that science. We had a look at the principles; now we shall look into the details. In the last Chapter, we dealt with karmayoga. Renunciation of the fruit of actions is the thing of distinctive importance in karmayoga. The question then is, does any gain accrue to a karmayogi or not? The Third Chapter tells us that renunciation of the fruit results in infinite gains for a karmayogi. Here I am reminded of the story of Lakshmi’s swayamvara.[1] A whole lot of gods and demons had gathered at her swayamvara with the hope of marrying her. Lakshmi had not announced any test that they had to pass. Coming to the pandal where they were seated, she declared that she would marry one who was not coveting her. But all of those assembled there were desirous of marrying her; so all of them were naturally ruled out. Lakshmi then set forth in search of one having no desire for her. She finally found Lord Vishnu lying serenely on Shesha, the cobra. She put the garland around His neck[2] and has been sitting at His feet ever since. As the poet puts it, ‘न मागे तयाची रमा होय दासी।’[3]— ‘Lakshmi serves one who does not covet her.’ This is the beauty of it.

2. The ordinary man closely guards the fruit of his actions so that none else could have it. But thereby he loses infinite gains that could otherwise have been his. The man attached to worldly affairs toils a lot, but gets little in return. On the other hand, a karmayogi receives infinite gains with little effort. The difference in their mental attitudes makes all the difference. Tolstoy says, ‘‘People talk a lot about Jesus’ sacrifice, but the ordinary people toil much more than Jesus, carry much more burden, suffer much more. Were they to put in half the labour for the Lord, they would become greater than Jesus!’’

3. Worldly people put in arduous labour; but in the pursuit of petty gains. We reap what we sow; as is the desire, so is the fruit. The world will not pay more for our goods than the price that we ourselves mark on them. Sudama went to Lord Krishna with the offering of a handful of parched rice. It might not have been worth a farthing, but to Sudama, it was priceless. It had the stamp of his love and devotion on them[4] which, as it were, had charged them with magical potency. A small, insignificant thing gains in value and potency when it is so charged. What, after all, is a currency note? It is just a little piece of paper. If burnt, it would not warm up even a drop of water. But it has the stamp of the government on it, and that gives it value.


References and Context

  1. In ancient India, princesses used to choose their spouses. The custom was called swayamvara. All those princes wishing to marry the princess used to be invited to the ceremony at which the princess would publicly choose a bridegroom for herself. Often, the princes were made to perform some very difficult task. For example, princes gathered at the swayamvara of Sita were asked to lift the bow of Lord Shiva, which nobody except Rama could succeed in doing.
  2. The act signifies acceptance of the person as a spouse.
  3. Lakshmi is the goddess of prosperity. So the verse also means that one gets riches when one does not hanker after them.
  4. Sudama, a childhood friend of Lord Krishna, was a poor Brahmin. His wife once coaxed him to meet Krishna, who was now the ruler of Dwarka and who could releive them of their penury. Sudama visited Krishna with an offering of parched rice as he could afford nothing else. The Lord sensed the feeling of love behind this offering and gave him countless riches.