Karma Misinterpreted

Disclaimer: This piece of literature is based purely on personal opinion of the author. It does not reflect or aim to reflect or to hurt the religious sentiments of any particular community.
You must be familiar with the Bhagvad Gita – one of the best works in Sanskrit literature and a book of tremendous religious and moral values, not only for the Hindu religion, but for mankind in general. Today I write to discuss what I feel is the most misquoted and misinterpreted, yet quite simple to understand, quote in the Bhagvad Gita –
“Karmani ave adhikars te
–you have the power to act only
ma phalesu kadachana
–you do not have the power to influence the result
ma karmaphal hetur bhoo
–therefore you must act without the anticipation of the result
ma sangostu akramani
–without succumbing to inaction”
How is it misquoted? If you are an Indian, you must have heard the distorted version of the saying in Hindi – “कर्मकरतेचलो, फलकीआशामतकरो” (Keep working without dwelling on the thought of the result). Although it seems correct at the first glance, when I thought about it in a deeper manner, I found it to be a grave distortion of the original. It tells only half the story as you can see by comparing the original translation with this misquote, and that too can be very wrongly interpreted.  To understand the quote fully, you must know the context of the Bhagvad Gita. Gita was recited by Lord Krishna in the battle of Mahabharata, which was between the 5 Pandavas and their cousins Kauravas ,in the battlefield of Kurukshetra. As Kauravas was the ruling clan then ,their army included many of the gurus who had trained the Pandavas in their childhood, and also the senior members of the joint family like Bheeshma. Seeing this, Arjun, the most skilled warrior among the Pandavas, was confused as the battle was on the horizon. He said to Lord Krishna, his charioteer then, “O Great Lord, How can I pick up arms against my own family and teachers. I will surely deserve hell if I go through with this. I cannot possibly do this.” To this the witty lord replied, “O Arjuna! Do not be driven by misconceptions and baseless feelings. This is your Karma, your duty as a Kshatriya (member of the ruling class) to protect the honor of your mother,your brothers and specially your wife. It doesn’t matter who is or who is not at the other end of this battlefield. All are bound to die one day, whether they win this battle or lose it. Their fate has already been written, yours too. You are here only to fulfill what destiny wants from you, in the form of your Karma. So fear not and pick up your weapons and fulfill your Karma, your destiny.” And after this, he recited the Bhagvad Gita by assuming the Virat Roop (the form of almighty, from where everything begins and where everything ends).
Now back to our saying. So you see, the Karma referred in the saying is actually our duties, as the person we are- duties as a father/mother, duties as a son/daughter, duties as husband/wife etc. These duties have to be performed without worrying about the outcome, for as human beings, we are obliged to complete them and they stand where they do, always fundamentally correct. These duties have to be performed by us to the best of our abilities, without caring for the result or leaving room for any sort of inaction.
And now to the line misquoted – Do your work without caring for the result. Do our jobs without caring fir the result? According to me, that means in a crude sense to work without motivation of the prize which might await us once we are done with the job at hand. And that is simply impossible, for it will leave no difference between humans and machines. To put my idea out there – Why would a student prepare for entrance exams if he/she did not care to get selected? Why would a man/woman leave home and family every day to go for work if they were not convinced it was for a better future for their loved ones?  Motivation, in the form of visualization of a successful result, is a big building block in the success of an aspirant. You dream about success and wake up the next morning to go out there and put your energies into the job at hand. So you see, there is a big difference between a simple job and a duty. One requires motivated commitment whereas the other requires unconditional devotion. And to be successful one has to imbibe both in one’s life.
So the next time you hear someone misquote that saying, correct them !

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