ACTION TO PERFECTION
The Art of Selfless Action
The best way to live is to remain steadfast in our duties and dedicate all our actions to God. Since we are continuously receiving and taking from the world, we should contribute to the smooth functioning of the wheel of action by fulfilling our responsibilities towards society. Sri Krishna declares that he who does not fulfil these responsibilities lives in vain (Bhagavad Gita 3.16) Everyone must know their responsibilities, feel responsible, and fulfil them.
The principle is that as long as we have something to achieve or gain in life, we feel incomplete; so long as there are goals to be achieved and objects to be acquired, action will be required to obtain them. Some people may want to secure admission to a renowned college, get a well-paying job, go to USA or even perform rituals to go to heaven. As long as you want to reach somewhere, become something or achieve anything, you have to do something.
By deeply analysing this situation, we realise that all this wanting to achieve, become or reach, is only meant to gain total fulfilment and completeness in life. In simple words, what we want is everlasting happiness. Everything we do is for this sole purpose.
However, As long as we seek this happiness externally, in things or beings, our pursuit will never end. It will go on and on. It is important to appreciate that happiness is not in any object or being. Happiness itself is neither a thing nor the nature of anything. When you taste sugar, you taste sweetness. Sweetness is the essential quality of sugar. It is its very nature. In that same way, happiness is not the nature or property of any particular object. It is a projection of the mind.
There are only two entities: one is I, myself, and the other is the entire world. Logically applying the maxim of remainder – parishesa nyaya – if happiness is not in the world, then it is my own nature.
The Realised Master
The Realised Master having attained the infinite Self knows that happiness is his/her nature (ananda svarupa), it is his own Self. Such a human being is totally fulfilled within and is independent of the external world.
The realised one revels in the Self, is satisfied with the Self and content in the Self alone. There is nothing more for him to achieve by doing something, nor is there anything that he will lose by not performing actions. An enlightened person is no longer dependent on any being or objects for anything. Such a person has no duties to perform. But that does not mean he/she does not work.
Let us take the example of a well-settled person whose children are earning well and taking good care of him. As such, he does not need to work; but if he is in good health and wants to use his time productively, he may work whenever he chooses – there is no compulsion. However, this does not apply to a young person, with family responsibilities – he cannot renounce everything. Similarly, Arjuna had responsibilities to fulfil; he had to fight against the Kaurava forces. The time was not right for him to renounce action
Selfless Action Leads to Perfection
The supreme state of Perfection can be attained by the selfless performance of action without attachment to the results. What is this Perfection?
The path of selfless action cleanses the mind of likes, dislikes; it becomes pure. When such a person enquires into the nature of the Truth, he gains Knowledge of the Infinite Self. He revels in that Self-knowledge; he is content and fulfilled. This is how one moves from selfless action to Perfection. Noble kings of the past such as King Janaka of Mithila worked in the world and attained Perfection. Janak Maharaj was the epitome of the perfect king, ruler, warrior and householder. He attained Perfection and continued to work in the world by serving others as his worship of the Supreme.
Thus, Sri Krishna highlights the path of selfless action as the way to the Supreme State. Perfection cannot be gained by merely renunciation of action.