June 2019

C. N. VAZE
Chartered Accountant

Yoga karmasu kaushalam. This is a message from the Geeta – Chapter 2.50. And this is perhaps one of the most valuable and practical messages given by anyone to mankind. Its plain meaning is: yoga is ‘skill in performing any action / task.’ Skill could mean excellence and total immersion in the work at hand. Skill also means being detached from the fruit of action while being completely involved in the work at hand. In the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson – The reward of a thing well done is to have done it. Krishna propagates three kinds of yogas to achieve salvation – Dnyana (knowledge), Bhakti (devotion) and Karma (work). Yoga literally means being in communion, for it comes from the word Yuj.

Many great personalities were inspired by this message. Lokmanya Tilak, one of the early freedom fighters, gave stress to ‘Karma’ i.e. action. In our fight for independence this was necessary. The entire verse is even more poignant. It reads thus – One who is equipped with equanimity in this life discards both merit and sin. Therefore, remain established in yoga; yoga results in perfect action.

Krishna says that the Chaturvarnas (four categories) in the society were created by HIM based on the qualities and nature of activity of an individual. Hence, Brahmanas were concerned with knowledge; Kshatriyas with security, governance and war; Vaishyas with trade and industry; and Shudras with the remaining services. In Indian scriptures, we have references that two brothers could belong to different professions or ‘Varnas’. Therefore, ‘varnas’ were not attached to birth but to the predisposition of each individual. Interestingly, Krishna Himself performed all these functions Himself at once:

  • when giving knowledge to Arjuna, He was Brahmana,
  • killing demons like Kans and Shishupal, He was a Kshatriya or warrior,
  • trading in dairy products in Mathura, Krishna was a Vaishya; and
  • as charioteer (sarathi) of Arjuna, He maintained horses – the work of shudras.

Every role that He performed, He performed it with dexterity. At the same time, He was completely detached from the fruit of His action. This is the lesson to be learnt from these words of counsel.

At the end of the Geeta, Krishna tells Arjuna that he has the liberty of choosing his course of action. This implies that once a person has grasped the full purport of equanimity, he is endowed with the capability to make right choices.

I would conclude: in Yoga an individual has:

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