कुर्वन्नेवेह कर्माणि जिजीविषेच्छतँ समाः ।
एवं त्वयि नान्यथेतोऽस्ति न कर्म लिप्यते नरे ।। (यजुर्वेद ४०.२)
O Human! Desire to live for hundred years in this world but only through constant conduct of noble actions. This is the only way to escape being indulged in results of dishonorable actions. There is no other alternative whatsoever to this formula to achieve bliss.
Kurvan – Conducting
Eva – Alone/ Only
Iha – In this world
Karmani – Noble actions
Jijeevishet – Desire to live
Shatam – Hundred
Samah – Years
Evam – This is the way
Tvayi – In you
Na – No
Anyatha – Alternative
Etah – To this
Asti – Exists
Na – Does Not
Karma – Dishonorable actions
Lipyate – Indulges in
Nare – In the leader of all actions or You
The first mantra of Ishopanishad explains that principle and the second one extends it to practical application. The first mantra asserts that since you do not own anything in this world, hence you should not have the impossible desire to possess any worldly thing. Instead desire to possess the Ishwar who resides everywhere. Thus the mantra lays the foundation of the Corporate Governance policy of World Inc.
The second mantra spells out that giving up of the desire to own anything in the world DOES NOT mean that one should run away into a mode of inaction or limited action. On contrary, the only way to remain unaffected by perils of wasteful/ dishonorable actions is to proactively and enthusiastically keep conducting noble actions every moment of life. One should plan and desire for conduct of such noble actions for at least hundred years.
As with any Vedic mantra, this mantra also provides a vast treasure of practical knowledge in its few words. Let us try to extract a few of them:
a. The mantra implicitly explains that bad actions cause indulgence and hence miseries. On other hand, noble actions liberate us from miseries. The mantra, thus provides a clue to differentiate intuitively between good and bad actions. Here it is:
“ANY ACTION THAT CAUSES INDULGENCE IS BAD. ANY ACTION THAT DOES NOT CAUSE INDULGENCE IS GOOD.”
Now let us understand what is meant by ‘indulgence’. For this, let us get back to first mantra where it was explained that only Ishwar pervades every point in the world and we are not the owners. Thus any action performed with the motive of ‘ownership’ ignoring the presence of Ishwar – the ultimate CEO would lead to indulgence.
On contrary, any action performed with full understanding of Ishwar being everywhere and being our CEO is a noble action devoid of indulgence.
b. For most of us, except elated Yogis, all our actions have indulgence in varying proportions. Actions in themselves are not good or bad. It is the motive that creates the difference. Because of our ignorance, the motives we exhibit are a mix of knowledge and foolishness. And hence we cannot escape being indulged in our actions. The goal of life is to bring the proportion of indulgence down to 0%.
c. How do we do that? There are two ways. The smart and the dumb way. Dumb way is for the coward and lazy people. Smart way is for the brave and enterprising. But in a company, only the enterprising employees are rewarded. The lazy ones are demoted to their levels of intellect and actions. So the choice is ours!
d. The lazy way is to stop doing actions. The logic is that when no actions are being done, the proportion of bad actions will automatically become zero! The followers of this approach want to fool Ishwar and hack the system – knowingly or unknowingly. They will claim that the whole world is false and all actions cause miseries. They would run away from their duties and try to achieve Ishwar through perfect stillness of mind by reaching a state of complete inaction. Thus they are trying to make the denominator of the fraction zero! Thanks to such escapists, the nation and society finds itself in great disaster as India witnessed in last millenniums.
However, they forget that one cannot live for even a moment without conducting actions. The human body is so designed that to even survive, one has to conduct actions. Even if you do not desire, still you perform involuntary actions like breathing and blinking. Thus denominator can never be zero. But by doing lesser and lesser actions, even one bad action increases the proportion significantly.
And as we will see further, any escapist action is actually a bad action. We will see in a further mantra that those who pose to be intelligent and yet do not conduct vigorous actions face miseries worse than those faced by the true fools. You can relate it to our society and understand why despite being lighthouse of world and foundation of all wisdom of world, we continue to be one of the most molested societies for centuries!
e. The smart way is to practice and practice by doing more and more actions, better and better actions, even further challenging actions. The logic is that ‘practice makes a man perfect’. So the smart manager would conduct an action and do another action and yet another and so on. he would vigorously practice and soon become a world champion. This is the natural way that has been ingrained on our soul already. That is why we see a child trying to stand up and walk again and again despite innumerable falls and accidents. Eventually the child not only learns to walk but some of them even become acrobats!
The second mantra clearly states that THIS IS THE ONLY WAY TO ACHIEVE BLISS AND SUCCESS.
f. Thus instead of running away from actions, you take more and more challenges. You follow your inner voice. You keep an open eye to all resources around that can help you. You work swiftly and adeptly to keep improving your efficiency. You welcome new and variety of challenges to check out your performance and progress. You strive to rise up the learning curve. And in process you reach the desired state of 100% noble actions and 0% bad actions.
g. This principle is applied in everything in life. Through practice, an illiterate becomes a scholar. Through practice a polio patient becomes an athlete. Through practice an alcoholic becomes a Shradhanand. And by using the same principle, practice can make all of us Yogi.
h. Please also note that it is not enough to only conduct actions. It is important to reflect upon the action and work smarter next time. So we start with an action as per our conscience and knowledge. Then check whether our understanding of Ishwar all around has improved or not. Are we being more honest and smart managers? Are we more fearless? Are we more visionary? Are we more ambitious to achieve higher goals of world peace? Are we having better control of mind? Are we having enhanced peace and satisfaction? Are we having a life with higher unconditional happiness? Are we becoming even more action-oriented without being worrisome?
Use these clues to correct your actions and surge ahead. Never ever give up. Never be tired. More you exercise, more rejuvenating you shall feel. And now move faster towards the goal.
Edison is supposed to have conducted thousands of failed experiments to make a light bulb. Someone asked him what did he gain from so many failures. He replied, “I know thousands of ways to not make a bulb!” After a few more experiments, he could gift us with the first electric bulb.
The spirit should be similar to power the bulb of enlightenment within us. Keep trying again and again. But it would be foolish to keep repeating the same action again and again. Instead, as Edison, try a new variant and see if it works better. Then try something still better. Do not try something randomly merely for sake of trying. And do not keep repeating what did not work so far.
Needless to say, merely conducting actions without the goal in mind will lead us to miseries alone. Thus even if you are very enterprising, focused, daring, proactive but conduct actions to achieve fame for sake of fame itself or money for sake of money itself, you are fooling yourself. While Ishwar would grant you what you desired for – worldly fake sense of happiness – but that would only bring agony and sorrow throughout and afterward.
So if you think you can apply the laws of action in this mantra ignoring the guidelines of first mantra of Ishopanishad by aspiring to become or even admiring a model who promotes lust, or an actor in cheap movies, or a corrupt politician, or a fraud guru who fools people through flowery words etc etc, you are causing your own destruction. And Ishwar would not wait for you to become a celebrity to present you your appraisal. The Law of Karma would ensure that you have been digging your grave right from the very first misdirected thought that was brought by you.
i. The Vedas provide details of a large number of avenues for desirable actions that lead us to realization of ultimate bliss through the techniques of this mantra. For example, actions towards family, patriotism, society, health, education, mind control, strength etc etc. We need to exercise in all these areas to achieve perfect practice. Just as it is impossible to become a wrestler by doing only squats for legs but avoiding push-ups to strengthen arms, in same manner it is impossible to achieve mastery in goal-oriented actions without sufficient diversification. That is why Vedas urge for holistic development and not lopsided growth.
k. Ishwar provides clues to what actions we should choose at a given point in time through the radar of inner conscience. Thus when we feel a need in society or self to alleviate a given situation, we should follow that urge instead of seeking Mukti through avoidance. For example, Swami Dayanand felt a need to discover the mysteries of life and death to which no satisfactory answer was available to anyone around him. He thus followed his conscience, allowed himself to bear tremendous challenges, performed wonderful actions and gave us light of truth. Such actions are the ones that Ishopanishad demands us to perform because they are need of the hour.
But today, access to knowledge is not an issue while application of that knowledge in various domains of life is the imminent need. Yet we find many trying to blindly imitate Swami Dayanand by becoming so-called Sanyasis and jettisoning the urgent demands to set right examples in society. Such Sanyasis give no new timeless product or discovery to society and simply reiterate what has already been made available in public domain.
There are others who inspired by glory of Vedas decide to mug up entire Vedas in traditional manner. With due respect to their sentiments, this is not what society demands today. There was a time when this was the need of hour and this is how Vedas remained unadulterated and protected over ages. Thanks to the people who dedicated themselves in history to this cause, Vedas are today very much protected through publications and even voice recordings of Vedas are present as mp3s. But demands of the time have changed now. Protection of Vedas is not at all a cause of concern today. However application of Vedic mantras in real life and propagating them in succinct form to masses becomes the demand of today. So while this may be a good secondary work to memorize the Vedas or any text for that matter, to dedicate whole life solely to becoming yet another carbon-copy of voice recording is not what Ishopanishad would urge you to do at this juncture.
(In any case, just as books of Physics and Maths are not for mugging but for conceptual understanding, Vedas – the highest level of scientific wisdom – also should be understood conceptually. The inverse approach of mugging first and understanding later works for subjects like history and law perhaps. Or when there is need for protection of Vedas. But for science, the right way is to gather concepts and keep working on them to perfect them to an extent that you no longer need to mug them.)
Ishopanishad clearly states that all those who avoid actions that are need of hour are not on right track. They are being escapists – knowingly or unknowingly. This does not mean all Sanyasis or Veda Paathis or those who avoid mainstream society in general are escapists. But you must have a very compelling justifiable reason that addresses the need of hour effectively and uniquely.
l. The two mantras together provide a powerful checklist of right and wrong actions:
– Am I doing this act merely for fun without a purpose? If yes, watch out.
– Am I hurting anybody unnecessarily by this action? For example killing for taste of tongue or touch of skin. If yes, watch out.
– Am I escaping action because it will cause me troubles? If yes, watch out.
– Am I restricting my scope of actions because I feel I am incapable? If yes, watch out.
– Am I not willing to explore a wide variety of actions that are necessary for my goals as per my inner urge? If yes, watch out.
– Am I taking proactive steps to expand my knowledge and understanding so that I am able to sense my inner voice better? If yes, very good!
– Am I doing all actions for Ishwar and Ishwar alone? If yes, very good!
– Am I doing actions in a manner that I don’t care about worldly pressures, emotions, seductions and threats that go against the direction of my inner voice? If yes, very good!
– Am I doing actions that make me stronger – physically, intellectually, spiritually, socially, nationally? If yes, very good!
The whole of Vedas and especially the portion of Yoga as summarized in Ashtanga Yoga of Patanjali focuses on this aspect.
m. Another critical point to note is that the mantra asks us to plan for a business cycle of hundred years. Companies are concerned about their year-end profits. Similarly, we should focus on century-end profits. This does not mean that we should postpone all our worthwhile actions to last part of cycle-ending the way it happens in sales companies where in last week of month they would desperately try to close sales figures by hook or crook. This means, on contrary, that we should plan our life with a horizon of hundred years.
It is worth observing that living for hundred years does not mean merely surviving. We should work to live for hundred years in a manner that we are proactively into noble actions. This would require smart planning.
Just as expert marathon racers do not run in full steam in first few meters of race, in same manner, we should gradually and steadily, but aggressively, pursue our goals. Vedic culture provides a very effective framework – where the first 25 years at least are dedicated to strengthening ourselves morally, intellectually, spiritually and physically. Then we run in full steam. When growth of body has stopped and catabolic process have started predominating, we enter into actions that focus more on advisory and nurturing. Finally, we get into a stage where we focus only on knowledge dissemination and practice of self-control. Proportion of physical activities reduces and that of spiritual activities increases.
This is an ideal scenario which is rare to find today. But each of us can evaluate our own stage and customize the plan of life accordingly. But bottomline remains that we should plan for 100 years of proactive actions.
Such a 100 years of active, purposeful, dynamic life focused ONLY towards realization of Ishwar through noble actions of self-control and benevolence is the ONLY right way to live.
n. To wrap up, let us understand clearly that Ishwar does not give us any points on our wealth, fame, degrees, hunk status, celebrity status, designations, positions, resumes, influence etc. His criteria is solely the proportion of wisdom in the thoughts that propelled these actions. Thus our objective function, our goal should be to maximize the proportion of wisdom in all thought process that guide our actions. To do so, we should conduct more and more actions with wiser and wiser thoughts. (Wisdom means how close we are to truth – that Ishwar alone is our goal who resides everywhere within and outside us. To crave for anything else is utter foolishness and recipe for disaster.)
May Ishwar grant me the wisdom to pursue noble actions vigorously without an element of laziness or escapism from the duties you demand from me for 100 years!
May my noble deeds reach me to ultimate bliss of Your association by burning away all traces of greed!
May my life be in harmony with Your eternal laws and I am able to realize You everywhere!
May I become wiser and wiser every moment through better and better actions.
Idanna Mama (Nothing for me)
Sarvam Vai Poornam Swaha (I surrender to You everything that I wrongly assume to be mine)