It is a widespread belief that Sri Krsna enunciated Karmayoga through the universal wisdom of Gita, as the most practicable spiritual pursuit for anyone to attain the Ultimate. Indeed, the philosophy has been explained by Him with absolute accuracy yet, over the years, emphasis on Karmayoga has been blurred to such an extent that pursuit of any action of one’s liking is being regarded as the Karmayoga by the masses.
Can Jehadism / Terrorism can be dubbed as Karmayoga ? Why not, because it is done in the name of a religion, that too, quite selflessly with a fantastic degree of devotion and commitment ? Right ? Completely wrong. Then the question arises, which Karma shall constitute Karmayoga and how to identify that. Let us re-visit this grand concept with downright humility to ferret out answers to these queries.
Apart from Karmayoga, other three disciplines of spiritual pursuits i.e. Samkhyayoga, Bhaktiyoga and Rajayoga demand incessantly exhaustive efforts precluding the possibility of pursuing any other activity apart from that of the spirituality.
Consequently, spiritual pursuits were mostly out of reach of most of the people. Then, Vedic wisdom had been mostly confined to Sakama Karma i.e. oblations offered to the sacrificial fire with the intent of cornering fruits thereof while Upanisad-s, to the rigours of meditation. Vedic- and Upanisadic-wisdom are the two extremes of Sanatan Darsana, one leading to excessive engagement with mortality and the other, excessive withdrawal with the potential of causing disruptions in the world order. These two ideological poles left scope for a midway to bridge that could render spiritual pursuits more accessible, achievable and enjoyable to perform.
It is not that anyone is at liberty to pursue any Karma i.e. action of his inclination. Through the spiritual discipline of Karmayoga, Sri Krsna has ordained that only specified Karma for the person is to be performed. That too, in the spirit of utter renunciation !!!
Karma-s that are specific to the person are based on the nature, content and relative predominance of Samskara-s (i.e. impressions thereof) that one gathers for himself on the basis of Karma-s accomplished during his previous existence. These may be called Cause-Karma giving rise to Cause-Samskara. Entire sum-total of unredeemed Cause-Samskara-s defines one’s Guna-s which in turn, one’s Varna. Whatever Karma-s have been prescribed for all the Varna-s, are essentially in the nature of effect-Karma, meant to nullify and dissolve the Cause-Samskara, left behind by the enactment of Cause-Karma during one’s past embodied existence.
Cosmic dissolution of Cause-Samskara by the Effect-Karma is possible ONLY when the Effect-Karma has been enacted in the spirit of renunciation i.e. performer is completely detached from the proceeds of Effect-Karma. Effect-Samskara as proceeds of the Effect-Karma performed in the spirit of utter detachment / renunciation fails to create further Samskara i.e Effect-turned Cause Samskara on the horizon of mind, afresh. In this way, the doer is purified of the original cause-Samskara through the instrument of Effect-Karma i.e.
Yogsannyastakarmanam Jnansanchhinnasamsayam I
Atmavantam Na Karmani Nibadhnanti Dhananjaya II (IV/41)
O Dhananjaya ! Actions do not shackle him who has dedicated all his actions to the Supreme Deity, according to the spirit of Karmayoga, whose doubts have been dispelled by wisdom and is self-possessed.
This is the ONLY purpose and intent of a set of Karma-s being specified for a particular Varna-s. So, the sole purpose of prescribed Karma-s for all respective Varna-s is to liberate and purify them from their past, effectively. Karma-s prescribed for different Varna-s have been declared as ‘Sva'(means one’s own) Dharma (the righteous Karma) respectively for the Varna by Sri Krsna in the wisdom of Gita. Sva-Dharma as one’s own Karma, is downright inviolable and sacrosanct to the core, as expounded by Sri Krsna Himself as under –
Sreyansvadharmo Vigunah Pardharmatsvanusthitat I
Svadharme Nidhanam sreyah Paradharmo Bhayavahah II (III/35)
One’s own Karma even if devoid of merit, is preferred to the other’s Karma, even if well-accomplished. Even death while performing Sva-Dharma brings benediction while performing Para-Dharma, fraught with terrible consequences.
For his disciple-friend Arjuna, He prescribed his Svadharma as under-
Svadharmamapi Caveksya Na Vikampitumarhasi I
Dharmyaddhi Yuddhachhreyoanyatksatriyasya Na Vidyate II (II/31)
Besides, considering your own Dharma too, you should not waver, for there is nothing more coveted for a person of the warrior Varna than a righteous war.
And if one disowns his Svadharma, as prescribed on the basis of his Varna (herein Ksatriya), consequences are terrible.
This is how the Supreme Deity declared Svadharma as inevitable –
Atha Chetvamimam Dharmyam Sangramam Na Karisyasi I
Tatah Svadharmam Kirtim Ca Hitva Papamvapsyasi II (II/33)
Now, if you refuse to battle this righteous war, then shirking your Dharma and losing your reputation, you shall incur sin.
It is now explicit that ‘Karmayoga’ is a broad spectrum term. Addressing Gita as a treatise of Karmayoga does not really do justice to the enormity of it’s range, immensity of it’s concept and the unfathomable depth of this grand philosophy of human pursuits. It certainly deserves a title-description that is precise and reflective of the core of the universal wisdom.
SRIMADBHAGVADGITA IS THE SVADHARMAYOGA UPANISAD.