I did it, so I should be rewarded. It was my effort, I’ve earned it, don’t I deserve to be rewarded? Aren’t I entitled? These expressions of thoughts or feelings are often associated with many of the actions in our life. In our everyday world they aren’t challenged or investigated but accepted as an everyday fact. You did it, you are entitled to your reward.
Except according to the teachings of yoga science you are not entitled to rewards for your actions. Ever.
In Swami Rama’s commentary on the Bhagavad Gita we read at Chapter 2, Verse 47
“You are entitled only to actions and never to fruits; do not consider yourself to be a cause of the fruits of actions, nor let your attachment be to inaction.” Guruiji comments, “Krishna advises Arjuna to become aware of that which is his and that which is not his.”
Let’s consider the implications of Krishna’s teaching. Our duty as human beings is to perform actions of all kinds but we never have the right to the fruits of our actions. So our efforts in life, even sincere efforts do not entitle us to a specific reward. This can be a difficult teaching at first. It is not that nothing will happen as a consequence of our actions, there are always consequences or results of our actions, it’s that we can’t dictate the outcome because it is beyond our control. And our expectation for the fruits and outcomes of our actions are actually harmful.
Guruji comments, “Neither duty performed with the motivation to acquire the fruits of one’s actions nor attachment towards inaction are helpful. Both tendencies are harmful.”
Actions motivated by reward are harmful to us. Harmful, as in himsa, a contradiction to ahimsa, to act in the opposite way of the most important yama. Furthermore, we can’t deliver an outcome or fruit to an action. It’s not possible because fruits bestowed by the Hand of Providence. God decides what is going to happen, not us.
Guruji elaborates on some of the consequences. “Krishna advises Arjuna to go beyond all expectations for expectation is the cause of despair and disappointment.” “Disappointment is a great enemy of self-reliance. It obstructs the faculty of discrimination, judgment and decisiveness.” “Suffering comes when one is interested in reward”. “Actions done for reward create bondage.” So our motivation for reward brings us despair, disappointment, suffering, it adds to our karmic bondage and weakens buddhi the most important faculty of our mind.
In addition, expectation of reward is a wave (vritti) in the mind field. It is a painful wave(klishta vritti) and that wave (vritti) leaves its imprint (samskara) on our mind. Repetition and intensity of feeling over time of these waves deepen and strengthen the similar imprints (samskaras) adding to our negative karma. It also inclines (vasana) us to repeat this pattern unconsciously in the future becoming a kind of negative self-fulfilling prophecy.
These consequences are bad enough but there is more. Selfish motivations and actions strengthen the, afflictions (kleshas) that prevent us from realizing the Divinity within us which is the very purpose of our human birth. The dominant affliction (klesha) of spiritual ignorance is strengthened when we consider our self as the agent of action, the sense that I am the doer. This is manifested as the affliction (klesha) of I-am-ness (asmita). The definition of which is; we see ourselves as the agent of action. To appropriate the actions of the body to the Supreme Self as it were. As a result of the forgoing we become deeply invested in the things that attract us and the things we wish to avoid. The rollercoaster of everyday life.
There are three general categories of action. Tamasic action is to act in a careless and inattentive manner. To be indifferent to harmful effects of misplaced intention. Guruji describes this as animalistic behavior. Rajasic action is selfish action, action that is done to acquire something.
Sattvic action is to act selflessly. Actions that are dedicated to the Lord and/or that are performed for the benefit of others with no attention paid to the outcome. To act selflessly and lovingly is a form of prayer and the fulfillment of harmlessness (ahimsa). The waves in the mind field created by selfless actions are not harmful (aklishta). They create no karma and in fact reduce karma, furnish protection from fear and danger. Repetition and intensity over time deepen the selfless imprints (samskaras) creating a strong inclination or propensity (vasana) a habit, to act selflessly and lovingly in the future. Selfless actions also cultivate dispassion (vairagya), weaken the afflictions (kleshas), and foster peace of mind.
Guruji closes his commentary on the 47th verse, “Actions done for reward create bondage. One becomes a slave to rewards…performing only those actions that bring him a token reinforcement. But there is a way to attain release from such enslavement: perform your duties skillfully and selflessly without attachment to reward. Then you will be free, a mukta (free being) traveling and singing the songs of joy without cares or fears.
[i]Swami Rama, Perennial Psychology of the Bhagavad Gita, Himalayan International Institute of Yoga Science and Philosophy of the USA, 1985. Quotes are pages 81-83.
Manuraj with Swami Jaidev.