The Sage and Samsara


Without the performance of obligatory actions, no one can attain the stage of non-desire (naishkarmya), in which the Yogin rejoices. It is absolute stupidity to expect anyone to reach this end by neglecting his obligations. No one discards a boat if he has to cross the river. If one must appease hunger, he must have his food cooked either by himself or by others. So long as there is no freedom from desire, there is action, but when contentment arises all desires spontaneously disappear. Those who aim at final liberation should not turn from their duties. It is not possible for one to perform actions or to abandon them at will. To talk of relinquishing actions is to talk nonsense, because however much one may wish, one cannot abandon them. So long as there are natural conditions (prakriti), actions are being done, because all actions are subject to the three qualities (gunas) and are being done involuntarily. Mere wish to abandon obligatory actions is not going to alter the tendencies of the senses.

If you said you would do nothing, will your ears cease to hear or the eyes fail to see, will the nose lose its function, will breathing be stopped, or will the mind become free from all ideas? Will hunger and thirst disappear? Will the cycle of sleep and waking stop? Will feet refuse to move and above all, will you be free from the chain of life and death? If all this cannot stop, then what is it that you would have abandoned? It is futile to believe that one can take up or throw away actions. A man sitting in a carriage moves because he is in the carriage, though he may be himself motionless. A dry and insentient leaf moves in the sky because it is wafted up by the wind. Even a disinterested person performs actions by the force of nature and by the tendencies of the organs of action. So long as one is  linked with nature (prakriti), his abandonment of actions is impossible. To talk otherwise is to show futile obstinacy....

I shall tell you the characteristics of a man who has gone beyond all desires. He is steadfast in heart and absorbed in Brahman and outwardly pursues the normal worldly activities of life. He does not direct his senses towards anything; he is not afraid of the objects of senses and he does not omit to perform any obligatory action as a duty. He does not obstruct the senses while doing actions; yet he is not controlled by the tides of these senses. He is not obsessed by desires. Nor is he tainted by the blackness of delusion, just as the lotus in water does not get wet.

A Sage living in this world appears like everybody else, just as the orb of the sun reflected in water appears like the sun, even though no sun is there in reality. Because he appears like one of the common crowd, you must not assess his spiritual worth accordingly. Recognize him to be free (mukta) who shows these characteristics and who has put himself beyond the snares of desire. Such a Yogin is worthy of universal respect. I ask you to set him up as your model. Control your mind; be firm in your heart; then let the senses freely perform their actions.

I repeat that it is not possible in life to remain free from actions and, therefore, actions have to be performed. Those that are prohibited by the Shastras must be eschewed. Do everything which is opportune and proper, but without motive for any of the results. There is a special characteristic of such action; being free from desires, it leads a man to liberation. Whosoever performs with care his own duties arising in his own condition of life certainly reaches liberation by his action.

To perform one's duties properly is in itself the highest offering. Those who pursue this path are not touched by sin. It is only when one's duties are neglected and one is inclined to do erroneous acts that one is caught in the cycle of life and death. The performance of one's duty is in itself the highest sacrifice (yajna) and the man who is devoted to such sacrifice is free from all bonds. The world is tied up by actions. He who allows himself to be drawn into this snare of delusion (maya) is bound to fail to give daily offerings.