karmany evadhikaras te ma phalesu kadacana ma karma-phala-hetur bhur ma te sango ‘stv akarmani
karmani–prescribed duties; eva–certainly; adhikarah–right; te–of you; ma–never; phalesu–in the fruits; kadacana–at any time; ma–never; karma-phala–in the result of the work; hetuh–cause; bhuh–become; ma–never; te–of you; sangah–attachment; astu–be there;akarmani–in not doing.
You have the right to perform an action, but you can never determine the fruits of action, its outcome . When you never consider yourself to be the cause of the outcome of your activities, then you will experience the joy of not being the “doer” of your actions.
Commentary by the Author Dr.Raju:
This sutra is the back bone of Karma Yoga. Thinking that one is the “doer” of action and one can determine the outcome of action is binding and is due to wrong understanding of nature of action. Life is action in relationship and we do not know the nature of action and its outcome. When one thinks that one is the “doer” of action and has the capacity to determine its outcome every act circumscribes our consciousness and the ego is strengthened and we will be in bondage forever. Such action never liberates us, on the contrary it binds us. Our freedom does not go as far as determining its outcome. Our freedom is limited to perform the action. The result of action is determined by the collective. So individual performs the action and the outcome depends on the collective. So expectation on the outcome of action brings frustration because the ouycome may not be in accordance with your expectation. But commonly our expectation comes first, then action follows. That is why there is so much misery in the world. We don’t do action for action sake, we do action for the sake of our expectation. We are free to act and that is enough. Those who have an eye on fruit of action perform less action because he acts in a calculative way. The action is not pure. Trying to manipulate the outcome of action limits the action. Such action is never holistic. The focus is more on the outcome rather than the action per se. Once we try to determine the outcome of action then we become future oriented and we miss the present and are caught in the trap of time, mind.
Then mind is more involved with expectations and so loses its capacity to do the act skilfully. So action proceeding from such mind becomes insignificant and mediocre. The more a mind is free from any expectations the more it is capable of acting totally because action remains. It is the concern about the outcome that creates the split. When we have no ida of manipulating the outcome our whole being, mind, body are concentrated into single action in the present moment without any split between them. Usually we do action with a split personality, thinking one thing, doing another, talking completely differently. Then our consciousness is pulled in different directions and the action is spoiled.
The action itself is the way towards the outcome, your expectations cannot lead you to the outcome. If you are total in your action you can reap the fruit of action. The more the mind is filled with expectations with regard to outcome, the less it is able to act.
Ramana Maharshi says if you do self-inquiry you will realize the Self.
Doing self-inquiry is action and Self realization is the outcome.
In psychological dimension “perception is action”. In self-inquiry we perceive the way of functioning of mind, then we develop the capacity to go beyond the mind and realize the Self. But nobody focus his attention on the first part which is “perception of the activity of mind in awareness” but everybody’s focus is on the outcome which is Self realization. In the first place how can you expect the fruit of action without doing the action at all. In self-inquiry just ‘perception is action” but majority don’t do that action. How can they reap the fruit of action then? Even Bhagawan advises us to drop all concrns with regard to the outcome which is Self-realization. During his death experience Bhagawan did only self-inquiry, he has not even idea about Self realization. Because his action is total he reaped the fruit and got Self realized in just 20 minutes. If we drop all concerns with regard to outcome divine takes care of outcome of actions. This is exactly what happened in the case of Ramana Maharshi. Non-concern about the outcome of action is real surrender and the collective will take care of such person. Such surrender needs a great trust in the divine. Expectations are due to non-trusting the divine. The more you are non-trusting the more you are focussed on the outcome. When the mind is split between the action and the outcome, the amount of expectation with regard to outcome increases and the outcome becomes more uncertain.
So our part ends with sincerely doing the action, the outcome will be decided by the divine. This is the message of this sutra.