Anaasritah karmaphalam kaaryam karma karoti yah ।
Sa sannyaasi cha yogi cha na niragnir-na chaakriyah ।।
One who does whatever has to be done, without indulging in or clinging to the desireful thoughts about the result, is the real Sannyaasin and Yogin; not the one who has abandoned all fire-sacrifices, rituals, or other activities.
Bhagavadgeeta excels in re-defining the usual religious concepts giving them an inner, experiential, and universal dimension. In this verse, Krishna is defining Sannyaasa and Yoga as inner attainments, as characteristics of a liberated mind. The outward changes that take place in the life and activities of the seeker are but a natural expression of the inner transformation.
Usually, a sannyaasin is believed to be one who has visibly renounced all worldly activities as well as religious rituals. But, Krishna says that real sannyaasa does not consist in external abandonment of activities. A so-called sannyaasin who has renounced all external activities, however may cling to the desired result of his renunciation. He may even be egoistic about his renunciation. Real sannyaasa comes from the renunciation of desires and hatred – renunciation of the desireful or fearful thoughts about the results of our action. In verse 5.3 also, Krishna has emphasized: “ Know that person to be always (even when he is engaged in activities) a sannyaasin, who neither desires nor hates.”
In verse 2.48, Krishna has defined Yoga as an attitude of the mind – mind’s evenness (samatva) towards success and failure. So, a person cannot be called a yogi just because he has renounced all activities. Also, sometimes people claim that they are karmayogis because they are very active. In fact doing work does not make one a karma-yogin; it is the yoga-attitude of the mind that transforms the karma into yoga. Any activity undertaken with this yoga attitude will never produce bondage (verse 18.17).
“Anaasritah karmaphalam” does not mean that when you are planning a project, you will not think well about the result or the aim of the project, considering all the factors associated with it. “Phala-tyaaga” does not mean that after completion of the project you will throw away the end-product. Objective result of any action will naturally follow by the law of causality. In fact the result is an inseparable consequence of the action itself. There is no question of abandoning the objective result.
What Bhagavadgeeta advises us is to deal with the “subjective result” – the uneven response of our mind to the objective result depending on whether it is what we like or what we dislike (verse 18.12). In fact, while performing any action, our attention does not remain fully on the performance because our mind is anxious to enjoy the desired outcome and worried or fearful about facing the opposite. If our mind could be free of this clinging to preference and prejudice, being ready to embrace whatever comes, the performance will be our best. Such a free mind will always be delightful. It will not have to wait for joy, which may come only after the work is completed and the final result is the desired one. Also, it will not be depressed or dejected if the action fails to produce the desired result. That is why Bhagavadgeeta says that the yoga-attitude is the key to performantial excellence (verse 2.50).
Evenness towards success and failure, good and bad, etc. does not mean that we will not plan and strive for success, or we will not like to see good development. It means, our mind should be flexible enough to be able to accommodate both without any clinging to what we like and intolerance or hatred towards what we dislike.
Normally, all our actions are motivated by desires, and the fundamental drive behind all our endeavours is the delusion that “by doing this and fulfilling my desire I will be happy”. We go on fulfilling so many desires throughout our life; has any body become permanently happy and contented by that? Truly, happiness is a natural characteristic of our Soul. Distractions and agitations born of desires and hatred prevent us from feeling this natural delight of our core identity. When a desire gets fulfilled, the mind becomes contented for a while, allowing us to feel the natural delight of the Soul, till the mind is distracted again by another desire or hatred or fear.
In fact, the inner Sannyaasa as well as the Yoga-attitude – both lead to an expansive natural state of the mind, free of the constrictions produced by desires and hatred (raaga-dvesha). For such a mind, all actions become a natural expression of our being – a natural offering to the Universal Yajna of the Universal Lord.