I once wrote about my understanding of the inverted tree here and I am back with another verse from the Bhagavad Gita.
Lord Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita says:
karmany evadhikaras te, ma phalesu kadacana.
ma karma-phala-hetur bhur, ma te sango ‘stv akarmani.
You are entitled to (or have a right to) perform rightful actions. But you are never entitled to the fruits of your action. Never be motivated by the fruits of actions nor be attached to inaction.
This verse is very common and you would have all heard of it more than me. But truth be told who can really understand God? I definitely don’t, actually I don’t even understand Hindi very well but the good news is that life can definitely understand God. And if we learn to hear the song of life, then life in turn teaches us about all that there is to be known. Funnily enough, I understood this verse while brushing my teeth the other day. As they say the best ideas come in the strangest ways.
So, what’s the trick to be detached from the fruits of our actions? How can we develop detachment? It’s simple- if we try hard to not want a desired outcome, it is futile as such an effort, will simply be an inner battle of the mind.
The trick is to make detachment happen naturally! And what’s the secret to natural detachment?
Natural detachment arises when we focus in the intention in the action itself. Yes. Intention in action. In other words, with what mindset and intention are you performing your actions?
There are two ways to go about it; one way increases our attachment to the outcome and the other way gives rise to natural detachment.
The approach to be avoided:
Actions which increase attachment to the outcome.
If we act with the outcome in mind and attaching ourselves to how we will feel when the act has been performed, will naturally bring attachment.
For example: Studying to pass an exam and your entire focus while studying is just to pass. Or doing your job just to get paid, with your salary and wealth accumulation being the sole focus.This approach however is polluted, because as you might appreciate, it only leads to attachment, i.e. if you fail the exam you will be disappointed or if you are fired, you might shed a few tears or murder a few people (just kidding).
The liberating approach, to be adopted:
Acting in a way to naturally develop detachment from the outcome.
The second way is to act with the action itself in mind. If we verify our intention while performing the action itself, not the intention behind the action but the intention in the action, then the entire game changes. Am I doing something for the sake of it or to attain something? Or am I doing a task in the best way that I can, with my best efforts? Think about it: if our entire focus is on the task, we don’t have time to think of the outcome.
Let me expound with some examples:
For example, If you’re a student, you’d study with the intent to learn and give it your best shot while studying. The natural outcome would be to pass, but you would have done so well while studying and done your very best, that you naturally detach from the outcome. Now this is what I mean by “intention in action”. It is by doing the best you can with the task at hand, and that way we detach naturally from the action.
Or if you have a job, then intention in action would be to do the best you can in your daily duties, whether it’s checking accounts, teaching children, growing a business, taking care of your children and raising them or simply serving customers as a cashier. Even if for example we are giving feedback to our boss or some authority, very often we may feel scared. But we only fear if we are attached to a desired outcome. If for instance our feedback or criticism is for the welfare of an individual, a company or humanity at large, if our intention is pure, and we value ourselves, then detachment to the fruits of our action comes naturally; only the action matters.
Benefits of the detached approach.
When we take this approach in life of having the best intention in our actions, we develop unbelievable mental strength and detachment becomes a natural outcome. Why? Because we couldn’t have done any better and therefore whatever the outcome is, we wouldn’t be able to change it. That is probably why other versions of this verse call it ‘Surrendering the fruits of your actions’.
So all in all, it is about focussing in the intention in the action and not in the outcome. It is about naturally creating detachment as an outcome by doing the best we can. Have you noticed that when we are lazy and don’t do out best we tend to be more attached to the outcome? Or when we think we don’t deserve something our misery increases? It’s probably because deep down we either erroneously believe or know that there is some lack on our side. We can either change our mindset by dropping the thought of inadequacy or simply doing the best we can.
Fun detachment in daily life
So why not try this next time? For most actions we take, let’s realign and detach from the fruits of our actions and strangely enough, we can apply this to anything. Can you think of some fun and mundane examples? I’ll go first:
1. Washing your hair by focussing on the action of washing it with love and not worrying about how shiny or bouncy it will be.
2. Exercising at the gym with your best efforts and eating healthily, and being able to put your hand on your heart and say “I did the best I could and it’s fine if I don’t look like so and so actor or actress but hey at least I can get the same hairstyle or the same outfit. I’ll live”
When detachment becomes a natural outcome, we become more flexible. But be warned, your lack of attachment may annoy the people around you! So, what’s your take on detachment? But oh don’t worry, I am detached from the outcome of your take about detachment but I would love to know how to detached you plan to be. Phew! On that note, I’ll detach from the keyboard.