Talks on the Gita -Vinoba 22

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

6. The act may be the same outwardly; but the difference in the inward feelings makes a world of difference. Action by a spiritually motivated selfless person elevates him morally and spiritually whereas the same action by a worldly person serves to bind him. A karmayogi farmer will look upon farming as his swadharma. It will, of course, fill his stomach; but he is not farming for that purpose. He will eat only to enable him to perform the swadharma of farming. Swadharma is the end for him, and food a means therefor. But to another farmer, food will be the end and farming a means therefor. These two attitudes are the reverse of each other. This has been figuratively described in the Second Chapter. It is stated therein that a karmayogi is asleep when others are awake whereas he is awake when others are asleep. What does this mean? We are ever mindful about filling our stomachs, while a karmayogi is keen about spending every moment in work and does not waste a single moment. While ordinary worldly persons live in order to eat, he eats only because something has to be fed to the body to survive to perform selfless service. While ordinary worldly persons enjoy eating, for a yogi it is a burdensome task. He would not therefore eat with relish; he would have control over his palate.

The attitudes are thus diametrically opposite to each other. What gives pleasure to one is burdensome to the other. This has been metaphorically described as ‘the night for the one is a day for the other, and the day for one is the night for the other.’ The actions look alike, but what is important is that a karmoyogi enjoys work leaving aside any attachment to the fruit of his actions. He will eat and sleep like others, but his attitude towards everything will be different. To impress this point, the ideal of the sthitaprajna has been put forth at the outset itself in the Gita, although sixteen Chapters are still ahead. The similarity and difference between the actions of a worldly man and those of a karmayogi are immediately clear. For example, if a karmayogi is engaged in the care of the cows, he will do the work with the idea of serving the society by providing it with plenty of milk; and at the same time he will look to it as an opportunity to have a relationship of love with all the lower orders of beings through the service of the cows. He will certainly get his wages, but that is not his motivation. Real joy lies in the divine feelings informing the actions.

7. Every act of a karmayogi unites him with the whole universe. We are supposed to take meals only after watering the Tulsi plant in the courtyard. This is for creating a bond of love with the whole world of plants. How can I eat, keeping the Tulsi plant starved? Beginning with the identification with the cow and the Tulsi plant we are to progress till we are one with the whole creation. In the Mahabharata war, fighting used to stop at sunset and everybody would then go for performing religious rites etc. But Lord Krishna would rejoice in actions like unyoking the horses from the chariot, giving them water, gently massaging their bodies and nursing their wounds. What a joy the Lord found in such service! The poet is never tired of describing all this. Bring before your mind’s eye the picture of the divine charioteer carrying the feed of the horses in the folds of His lower garment and feeding the horses with His own hands and realise how joyful karmayoga is. In karmayoga, all actions attain the highest spiritual character. Take khadi[1] work. A khadi worker hawking khadi from door to door carrying its load on his head never feels tired, for he knows that millions of his brothers and sisters are famished and is inspired by the idea of providing a few morsels to them. His work of selling a few yards of khadi is linked to daridranarayan—God in the form of the poor.


References and Context

  1. Handspun, hand woven cotton cloth, popularised by Mahatma Gandhi. For him, it was a symbol of self-reliance and identification with the poor.