Perform Work with Detachment
Excerpts from “Talks with Ramana Maharshi”.
Mr. Evans-Wentz: Is solitude necessary for a Jnani?
M.: Solitude is in the mind of man. One might be in the thick of the world and maintain serenity of mind; such a one is in solitude. Another may stay in a forest, but still be unable to control his mind. He cannot be said to be in solitude. Solitude is a function of the mind. A man attached to desire cannot get solitude wherever he may be; a detached man is always in solitude.
D.: So then, one might be engaged in work and be free from desire and keep up solitude. Is it so?
M.: Yes. Work performed with attachment is a shackle, whereas work performed with detachment does not affect the doer. He is, even while working, in solitude.
D.: Is Dhyana (meditation) necessary?
M.: The Upanishads say that even the Earth is in eternal Dhyana.
D.: How does Karma, good actions, help it? Will it not add to the already heavy load to be removed?
M.: Karma done unselfishly purifies the mind and helps to fix it in meditation.
D.: What if one meditates incessantly without Karma?
M.: Try and see. The Vasanas (mental tendencies) will not let you do it. Dhyana comes only step by step with the gradual weakening of the Vasanas by the Grace of the Master.
D.: I have my professional work and yet I want to be in perpetual dhyana. Will they conflict with each other?
M.: There will be no conflict. As you practise both and develop your powers you will be able to attend to both. You will begin to look on business as a dream. The Bhagavad~Gita says: “That which is the night of all beings, for the disciplined man is the time of waking; when other beings are waking, then is it night for the Sage who Sees.” (11.69.)
D.: My work demands the best part of my time and energy; often I am too tired to devote myself to Atma-chintana.
M.: The feeling “I work” is the hindrance. Enquire, “Who works?” Remember, “Who am I?” The work will not bind you. It will go on automatically. Make no effort either to work or to renounce work. Your effort is the bondage. What is bound to happen will happen.
If you are destined to cease working, work cannot be had even if you hunt for it. If you are destined to work you cannot leave it; you will be forced to engage in it. So leave it to the Higher Power. You cannot renounce or hold as you choose.
Mr. Sridhar, a Hindu from Goa, asked: What is kousalam (skill) in Yogah karmasu kousalam (yoga is skill in action). How is that gained?
M.: Do actions without caring for the result. Do not think that you are the doer. Dedicate the work to God. That is the skill and also the way to gain it.
D.: Samatvam yogah uchyate (Equanimity is yoga). What is that equanimity?
M.: It is unity in diversity. The universe is now seen to be diverse. See the common factor (sama) in all the objects. When that is done equality in the pairs of opposites (dwandwani) naturally follows. It is the latter which is however spoken of as equanimity ordinarily.
D.: How is the common factor to be perceived in the diversity?
M.: The seer is only one. They do not appear without the seer. There is no change in the seer, however much the others may change.
Yogah karmasu kousalam = Skill in work is yoga,
Samatvam yoga uchyate = Equanimity is yoga,
Mamekam saranam vraja = Only surrender to Me,
Ekamevadwiteeyam = Only one without a second,
representing Karma, Yoga, Bhakti and Jnana convey the same meaning. They are only the single Truth presented in different aspects.
A Professor asked.
D.: How can I do my duties without attachment? There is my wife, there are my children. I must do my duty towards them. Affection is necessary. Am I right?
M.: How do you do your work in the College?
D.: (laughing) For wages.
M.: Not because you are attached, simply as doing your duty.
D.: But my pupils expect me to love them.
M.: “Detachment in the interior and attachment in appearance,” says Yoga Vasishta.
Some Congressmen handed over … questions to Maharshi…
The questions were not answered categorically. Sri Bhagavan simply remarked:
Gandhiji has surrendered himself to the Divine and works accordingly with no self-interest. He does not concern himself with the results but accepts them as they turn up. That must be the attitude of national workers.
D.: Will the work be crowned with success?
M.: This question arises because the questioner has not surrendered himself to the Divine.