Action Without Reaction

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Lord Krishna reveals the secret to escaping the bondage of karma.

yajnarthat karmano ’nyatra
loko ’yam karma-bandhanah
tad-artham karma kaunteya
mukta-sangah samachara

"Work done as a sacrifice for Vishnu has to be performed; otherwise work causes bondage in this material world. Therefore, O son of Kunti, perform your prescribed duties for His satisfaction, and in that way you will always remain free from bondage." (Bhagavad-gita 3.9)

God has various names, and one of them is Yajna-pati, "the Lord of yajna, sacrifice."

You have to act for yajna. The example is that a soldier is fighting and killing many enemies, but he is not responsible for killing. The same man, when he is not fighting for the country or for the government, if he kills one man he is hanged. Because he is fighting or killing on the order of higher authority, the government, he is not responsible for all those killings. Rather, sometimes he is recognized by receiving a medal: "Oh, you have killed so many enemies. Very good." But if he kills outside the war field, at home, he will be hanged. If he argues in the court, "In the battlefield I killed so many enemies, and I was given recognition. But at home I have killed only one enemy, and for that I am going to be hanged. What is this law?" this argument will not stay.

If you do something under higher authority's order, you are not responsible. Take Arjuna, for example. In the beginning he was not willing to fight. He was considering in terms of his personal satisfaction. But later on, the same Arjuna wanted to satisfy Krishna, and he fought and became a great devotee.

This is the secret of all activities. We are all part and parcel of the Supreme Lord; therefore our business is to act in such a way that He is satisfied. That is the success of life. That is described in the Srimad-Bhagavatam (1.2.13):

atah pumbhir dvija-shreshtha
varnashrama-vibhagashah
svanushthitasya dharmasya
samsiddhir hari-toshanam

"O best among the twice-born, it is therefore concluded that the highest perfection one can achieve by discharging the duties prescribed for one's own occupation according to caste divisions and orders of life is to please the Personality of Godhead." This was spoken by Suta Goswami in the assembly of great saintly persons and brahmanas. He addressed the brahmanas as dvija-shreshthah, "the best of the brahmanas." He was especially addressing the brahmanas.

Unless one has attained the brahminical qualifications, it is very difficult to understand what spiritual life is, what spiritual success is. That is explained in the Bhagavad-gita (18.54):

brahma-bhutah prasannatma
na shochati na kankshati
samah sarveshu bhuteshu
mad-bhaktim labhate param

"One who is thus transcendentally situated at once realizes the Supreme Brahman and becomes fully joyful. He never laments or desires to have anything. He is equally disposed toward every living entity. In that state he attains pure devotional service unto Me." Brahman realization means understanding "I am not this body; I am spirit soul, part and parcel of God." When we understand this position, then we are liberated from the reactions of karma, or material activities.

"The best of the brahmanas" means the Krishna conscious person, one who knows the Supreme Personality of Godhead. A brahmana is one who can distinguish spirit from matter. Brahma janati iti brahmanah. But when he understands the Supreme Brahman – Para-brahman, Krishna – then he actually becomes a brahmana Vaishnava. A brahmana should advance further to become a Vaishnava. Therefore one who is a Vaishnava is already a brahmana. This is to be understood.

Social and Spiritual Divisions

In human society there should be divisions of work. Activities for the most intellectual persons are called the brahmana division. The activities of the politicians and administrators are called the kshatriya division. The activities of the mercantile people are called the vaishya division. And ordinary workers who get some salary for serving the master are called shudras. In this way everybody has his duty. The brahmana has his duty, the kshatriya has his duty, the vaishya has his duty, and the shudras have their duty.

Similarly, the brahmachari, celibate student, has his duty; the grihasthas, householders, have their duties; the vanaprasthas, retired persons, have their duties; and the sannyasis, those in the renounced order of life, have their duties. The first division is called varna: brahmana, kshatriya, vaishya, shudra. And the second division is called ashrama. Vedic civilization means varna and ashrama – human society divided into varnas and ashramas. Everyone has his particular duty. And the consideration of whether you are perfect in discharging your duty is whether you have satisfied the Supreme Personality of Godhead by your duty.

It is very easy to understand. In any office or any place, there is the supreme man. In big, big offices there is a record of one's service. What kind of service an employee is rendering to the establishment or to the government is recorded, and he is recognized. So this is the system in our ordinary life. Similarly, everyone has to do something, even for keeping the body and soul together. But after doing something, the activities should be tested by whether the Supreme Lord is satisfied by such activities. If the Supreme Lord is satisfied, then one is freed from the reactions to those activities.

There are two kinds of reaction for every activity, pious or impious. Both pious and impious activities bind us under the law of karma. But above pious or impious activities is another activity, called devotional activity. If one performs devotional activities, he is above the control of this material nature.

The material nature is being controlled by three qualities: sattva-guna, rajo-guna, tamo-guna – goodness, passion, and ignorance. But one who acts for the Supreme Personality of Godhead becomes freed from the reaction of these qualities. That is called karmany akarma. Although a devotee is seen to be very active, his activities are not like material activity, which produces either a pious result or an impious result. Both of them – pious and impious – are bondage.

If we become bound by pious or impious activities, then we'll have to accept another material body. That is called karma-bandhana. And as soon as you accept a material body, you are under the laws of material nature, especially birth, death, old age, and disease. You become bound up. Therefore this human form of life is especially meant to get freedom from this bondage of birth, death, disease, and old age.

Like Animals Being Led to Slaughter

People do not understand this. Their brains are so packed up with material things that they have become just like animals. They cannot understand. But unless one understands the spiritual significance of life, he is just like an animal. Shastra, Vedic scripture, has said go-kharah. Go-kharah means animal. Go means cow, and khara means ass. Anyone who is acting in the bodily concept of life, without any spiritual understanding, is no better than an animal.

But he is satisfied. The animal is being sent to the slaughterhouse, but still he is satisfied. He does not know that "I am going to be slaughtered. I am going with this herd, but I am simply waiting to be slaughtered."

As the animals are being slaughtered, so everyone without spiritual consciousness, without Krishna consciousness, is to be slaughtered by the laws of material nature. They do not know that. Just like the animal – even if he is to be slaughtered, he is not sorry. That is the position of the present human society.

So there is a great need of this Krishna consciousness movement. People are so fallen that they are reluctant to even to hear about Bhagavad-gita, where everything is explained. They are living like animals. It is our duty to awaken them. That is the Vedic injunction. They are sleeping in ignorance. When a man sleeps, he is ignorant of everything going on outside. He is sleeping, deep sleeping. So the Vedic injunction says, uttishthata jagrata prapya varan nibodhata: "Please get up. You have this human form of body. Now get up and get out of these clutches of the cycle of birth and death." (Katha Upanishad 1.3.14) Unfortunately, they have become so dull that they cannot understand.

People should be trained how to live conscientiously, especially in Krishna consciousness. That will solve the problems of life. Otherwise one is committing suicide. That is the verdict of the shastra.

Thank you very much.