As a teenager, the thought of being molded into a family man with a career was just another way for our civilization to indoctrinate its citizens into being consumers trapped in an endless cycle of spending in order to keep the economic machine running. As I learned more about economics, government policies, and the environmental impact of our choices as consumers, I rebelled furiously. I was determined not to fall in line with the status quo and contribute to a system that I believed to be outdated and inherently flawed.
Despite how I may have felt about the world ten years ago, here I stand in front of my closet and picking out my clothes for my full-time job. What happened?
I had recently begun to read the Bhagavad-Gita, a story written in Sanskrit 200 years BCE. It is an epic of Hindu culture involving the warrior named Arjuna and his charioteer Lord Krishna. Called to fight a righteous war between the Pandavas and the Kauravas, Arjuna sees in the opposing army the faces of those who he considered his friends and his teachers. Losing his taste for battle, Arjuna throws his bow to the ground and tells Krishna that he refuses to fight. Krishna advises Arjuna to do his duty as a warrior without any expectations of the outcome.
“To action alone hast thou a right and never at all to its fruits; let not the fruits of action be thy motive; neither let there be in thee any attachment to inaction.
Fixed in yoga, do thy work, O Winner of wealth (Arjuna), abandoning attachment, with an even mind in success and failure, for evenness of mind is called yoga.” (2.47-8)
Upon reading this sloka (verse), I had realized that my choices were a result of my sense of duty. I have a duty to contribute to the society that I live in, regardless of my perception of the current President or my distaste for the unconscious habits of humanity. I have a duty to provide for my family, even if that means working at a job that I don’t particularly enjoy all the time. As long as I am on this Earth as a human being, these are duties that I cannot simply ignore.
My wife and I may have goals that we want to achieve, but none of them will happen overnight. Some of those goals won’t happen at all. They are “fruits” that we may or may not obtain, but what remains crucial above all is how we spend our time in the present – with our children, our friends, and our elders. Goals can change. The passing of a loved one cannot be.
I don’t have to like my job, but I don’t use my precious time on this planet wishing that I was somewhere else, or that I had a bigger salary. That sort of thinking could go on with no end. I must set an example for others by doing my duty to the best of my ability and giving thanks to God for what I have now. I can promise you, success comes much more naturally when I am not attached to a particular result.
This is what is known as Karma Yoga.