On non-attachment to the fruits of one’s activities

Our suffering is only the result of inflated expectations and a misunderstanding of how to work.

In previous article we discussed karma yoga as a path to God through fulfilling one’s duties. We talked about the varnasrama system - a system of social and personal relationships that help regulate human activity for spiritual development. We have also mentioned that in karma yoga it is very important to perform one's duties, but not to become attached to the fruits of one's labors. In this article we will talk about this in more detail.

We work all our lives, do something for loved ones, help others and, as a rule, expect gratitude for this. This expectation of gratitude is attachment to the fruits of one’s activities. This is what haunts us when we carry out some requests, instructions or help. We naturally want to hear something pleasant in response.

For example, a young wife helps her husband’s mother receive guests. She helps her, cooks, carries out all her instructions, runs in support, while trying to do as her mother-in-law asks, and in the end, when the guests leave, of course, she wants to hear gratitude for her efforts. It’s good if this gratitude is expressed by the mother-in-law. But it often happens that they even say thank you to us, but it’s still not enough for us, because much more mental strength was spent. As a result, this girl loses the desire to help, and next time she won’t want to strain herself so much. After all, her efforts are perceived from the outside as granted, and not as a bright impulse.

Or an incident at work. You were once again given overtime work and told that for this you would be given bonuses at the end of the month as an incentive. But the salary comes, but no bonus. Is this a familiar example? Why do we suffer so much from not getting what we wanted, from not being praised or simply not being appreciated for our work? Because we are too attached to the result, we want to enjoy the fruits of our labors. Since we are not given pleasure, we become despondent, and subsequently criticize these people in the mood of “I am everything to them, and they are nothing to me.” However, our accusations are only the fruit of our inflated expectations. Our suffering is just a misunderstanding of how to work.

The scriptures say: “He who acts without seeking to enjoy the fruits of his labor has the fullness of knowledge. The sages say about such a person that all the consequences of his actions were burned in the fire of perfect knowledge. Free from attachment to the fruits of his labor, always satisfied and not dependent on anything, he does not commit karmic actions, although he works tirelessly” (Bhagavad-gita, 4.19).

Such a person dedicates all his actions to God, and since he is filled with love for Him, he does not feel attached to the fruits of his labor. If something works out for him, he calmly accepts it; if it doesn’t work out, he also accepts it. He understands that God is behind all this, that he himself does not control what the result will be. He gives the right to dispose of the results of his activities to God, so if something does not work out, he does not suffer, but accepts this situation.

Such a person does not strive to acquire things or preserve what he already has. He tries to fulfill his duty as best he can, and for everything else he relies on God. Here you can recall an episode from the book “The Journey Home” by the great saint of our days, Radhanath Swami. He tells how once, while settling down for the night in a cave with his mentor, he noticed that he had picked up a stick. He asked the teacher why he needed a stick at night. To which the mentor replied: “This afternoon people saw a man-eating leopard climb the mountains and go towards us.”

Then Radhanatha Swami was very surprised and asked him if he really believed that this stick could save him from the predator. The mentor noted: “Everything is the will of the Lord, but He must know that I did everything that was in my power.” Radhanatha Swami recalls that this answer completely satisfied him, and he was able to sleep peacefully after hearing it.

Let us note that the activities of a person free from worldly attachments have no consequences, either good or bad, as if he did not perform any actions at all. Such activity is called akarma, and it does not entail karmic consequences. We covered this topic in more detail in the article "How karma manifests itself in our lives?”. Therefore, any of our actions that we do not to satisfy God, but for ourselves, enslave us and lead to various consequences.

However, our level of self-awareness is not so high, so we find it difficult to accept even the slightest changes in our plans. Let's say we decided to go out of town and relax in nature, but on the way it started to rain, and now everyone is complaining about the weather. Or, for example, they started a wedding for the summer, but circumstances were such that the wedding had to wait, and everyone around them began to worry. Or you planned important responsible things for today, but everything went wrong, and you suffer terribly from it.

Why? Because when we plan something, we usually expect that everything will go according to plan. We leave no room for the possibility that things could be different. However, as they say: “People believe, but God disposes,” and here the plot of the film “The Irony of Fate, or Enjoy Your Bath” is indicative, where the main character, without knowing it, ended up in Leningrad on New Year’s Day.

You may ask, why do you need to not become attached to the fruits of your activities? Why is this so important? Because this way we will experience less dissatisfaction and suffering. After all, when you don’t expect anything, there are fewer disappointments. And there are plenty of reasons for them in life. It’s enough that when a woman cooks every evening, she wants someone to celebrate her work, but usually the husband and children simply leave the table after dinner and go about their business. Or when a husband goes to work, feeds the whole family, provides the necessities, he naturally wants respect, but most often he only hears reproaches. Therefore, the Vedas say that in this world it is dangerous to become attached to anything, because this way we will invariably suffer.

If you get attached to work, your colleagues and boss will torment you and give you extra work, but pay you and respect you less. If you get attached to grades in your studies, it will be impossible to truly learn. If you really try to get your loved ones to listen to Oleg Gennadievich’s lectures, you can ruin your relationship with them. If you do good deeds and expect praise, then the chance of receiving it will be very small. “If you expect gratitude for good, you are not giving good, you are selling it,” wrote Omar Khayyam.

If with colleagues, friends and distant relatives we can not attach much importance to their words and actions, then with close people it will be incredibly difficult to do this. Therefore, it is very important to learn not to become attached to the fruits of our labors in family life, because in these relationships we invest all our strength and soul. However, if we serve and do not see the appropriate feedback, we begin to think that our loved ones are not worthy of being with us, and we either suffer or look for love in other relationships. After all, we are all driven by the desire to enjoy. Everyone wants happiness, but they don’t want to give it, and this is one of the main reasons why marriages fail.

“There will always be rainbows and bitter tears.” If we want to enjoy, then there will always be both the first and the second. If you want to look at one side of the coin, you have to look at the other. But there is life in which there is only one side. This is service, that is, a very pure and happy life. But a person does not have the opportunity to live like this. Karma took this opportunity from us. She forces us to live, caring only about ourselves. The Vedas call this bondage to material existence. We are in slavery to our desires. But freedom from slavery lies in forgetting about yourself and starting to serve everyone. Do this in a state of joy and understanding that this is a happy life. After all, when a person serves with a kind heart, slavery ends,” notes Oleg Gennadievich.

If we talk about attachment in a broader sense, then it is it that fetters us and makes us slaves to our desires. Desires, in turn, lead to actions, actions - to consequences, consequences - to new births, new births - to endless wanderings in the material world and suffering. Therefore, as long as we satisfy our desires, we are in slavery. And when someone does something not the way I want it, we protest. This is the consequence of our attachment. We want it to be our way and nothing else. But life is given to us so that we learn to accept everything as it is, give freedom of choice to loved ones, and direct all our actions not towards ourselves, but towards serving people and God. And if we can live so detachedly and selflessly, then happiness will inevitably come into our lives.


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