Chapter 2 Verse 47 of the Bhagavad Gita tells us that, “Thy human right is for activity only, never for the resultant fruits of actions. Do not consider thyself the creator of the fruits of thy activities, neither allow thyself attachment to inactivity.” In Chapter 3 Verse 42 we learn that, “The senses are said to be superior to the physical body, the mind is superior to the sense faculties, the intelligence is superior to the mind, but the Self is superior to the intelligence.” We can substitute the Self for the spirit, soul, god, light, energy, universe, nature, inner guide, or whatever concept of a power within that resonates with us. These verses taken together give us a nice illustration of how best to determine which activity we are called to do, and why inactivity is to be avoided.
As humans we are given the gift of this life: a body, senses, mind, and intelligence, which are all useful and we are called to share our gifts. My partner has the theory that for a perfect being to grow, it must become imperfect. In certain mythology it is said that the Absolute cannot see itself, so it must look into a mirror, and we are that mirror. The Bible says that we are made in the image and likeness of our creator. We must act, we must live this life, or else our gift is wasted. We are each bestowed with a spark of divine light within, the Self, and because this spirit is superior to all the physical and mental abilities we have, we cannot become egotistical and believe ourselves to be the creator of the fruits or results of our actions. The body is only animated–the senses able to take in information, the mind able to think, and the intelligence able to rationalize–because of this energy of spirit within. In the commentary to the Gita, Parmahansa Yogananda says that even egotistical activity is better than inactivity. Not acting, not using the gifts we are given, is an insult to the very spark that allows us to exist. However the best way to show gratitude for these gifts, and to assure that more will be given, is to use our activities to the betterment of the world in which we live. He says that accumulating material wealth is not bad in and of itself, as long as we use our “good fortunes for worthy causes and to help those less fortunate.
Nonattachment to the fruits of our actions does not mean that we perform action with no thought to the outcome. We do our best and then we either let go of any outcomes we perceive as negative or relinquish claim as the sole creator of any outcomes we perceive as positive. Everything we do is possible because of the gifts we have been given from this higher power, whether you consider that to be a divine being, energy, or nature. We care for the body, mind, and spirit, always remembering which is superior. We meditate to connect to the Self and then receive guidance on what actions to take, how to use our intelligence and mind, our senses and body. Parmahansa also makes the point that, “Human existence is not predestined, every man is given free choice to accept the divine plan of existence, or to follow the path of ignorance and misery.” If we are given signs by the universe of which path to follow and we either ignore them willfully or because we neglect to meditate and practice self-awareness, then we can choose to not follow the path. However, you will soon find that going against the flow is not only difficult and painful, but also that eventually you will be caught up in the current and forced onto the path. It is better to introspectively ask for the guidance and willingly go where it leads you. My partner once said, “Life is like a river. Stand still and the current will beat upon you till you move. Swim against it and you will go nowhere. Let it carry you and you’ll reach your destination. Swim with it and there is no telling how far you’ll go.” One of my favorite spiritual authors, Gabrielle Bernstein, said, “Magic is when you tell the Universe what you want, Miracles are when you ask the Universe what it wants.” Letting the Self take the lead is the best way to perform right action. As long as you are sincerely seeking the right path and listening to the guidance of the Universe, you can’t make a wrong choice. It will ultimately guide you back onto the path, so practicing nonattachment and trust is key, especially when you don’t think things are going your way. A seemingly negative situation will always work out for the greater good for the sincere spiritual seeker.
In my yoga practice I try not to attach to the postures that I can or can’t achieve. Instead I focus on my asana practice as a way to prepare the body and calm the mind so that I can better receive the guidance of spirit. Activity, or asana, is necessary, but is not the goal. The results, or achievements, are not bad, as long as you use them for the greater good. My asana practice keeps my body healthy so I can continue my spiritual practice. I may inspire others to persevere in their own practice by demonstrating the amazing things the body is capable of. As a teacher, if I have a good grasp of asana and a strong practice I can better teach others. I always emphasize to my students that it is not about what the pose looks like on the outside, but what it feels like inside their bodies. The benefits happen within. I have recently shied away from posting too many advanced asana pictures so as not to overly emphasize that aspect of yoga. I prefer to highlight my meditation practice, basic asana for health, and living a good life through the yamas and niyamas.
In my life I am always open to using my gifts, and every morning I pray the Prayer of St. Francis that the divine will work through me to bring peace, love, joy, light, hope, and forgiveness into the world. I am open to material wealth but do not feel entitled to it. Anything I have that someone else can use I give away. I focus on gratitude for everything I am given. On days when I feel sad or lethargic, I remember that I must keep going, moving, persevering. There are people depending on me, and it is more important to help others than wallow in my own troubles. The great thing is that most of the time, helping someone else makes me realize how lucky I really am and gives me a better perspective on my own issues. I know that even when I have a desire for a particular outcome, that spirit is always the first place to look for guidance. Even rational, logical thought is subservient to the intuition and guidance of the Self. I now see the guiding hand of spirit everywhere, and even though I still become frustrated or upset and confused, it is becoming more second nature for me to focus on love and faith. Even when my intelligence, mind, senses, or body feels bad, I know that I will be ok. My spirit will prevail.