An Attitude Towards Action

Modern management thinkers have not been left behind in attempting their own versions. Here is another humble one in the same series of endeavours.


Almost like the obsession of the West with the quintessential Mona Lisa and her smile is how philosophers, experts, and commentators across ages have tried to decode the deep meaning behind that most famous, much debated and mostly misunderstood verse 47 of Chapter 2 of the Bhagwat Gita.

Modern management thinkers have not been left behind in attempting their own versions. Here is another humble one in the same series of endeavours.

The Bhagavad Gita often referred to as the Gita, is a 700 verse Hindu scripture in Sanskrit that is part of the Hindu epic Mahabharata. The Gita is set in a narrative framework of a dialogue between Pandava prince Arjuna and his guide and charioteer Lord Krishna. 

The setting for Bhagwat Gita discourse is unique in that it is a lesson delivered from Lord Krishna to Arjuna in the most unexpected setting of a battle-zone.

Arjuna is struggling with bouts of emotions while trying to reconcile picking up arms to kill kith and kin of his own. And Lord Krishna, in his role as a charioteer serves as the friend, philosopher, and guide.

Karma Yoga is entirely captured in this verse which fundamentally needs to be understood as an attitude.  

A basic literal translation of the verse: You have the choice over your action but not over the results at any time. Do not take yourself to be the author of the results of the action; neither be attached to inaction.

Karmanye Vadhikaraste, Ma phaleshou kada chana – You have a right to perform your prescribed duty, but you are not entitled to the fruits of actions

Ma Karma Phala Hetur Bhurmatey Sangostva Akarmani – Never consider yourself the cause of the results of your activities, and never be attached to not doing your duty.

Most popular and totally misunderstood explanation is that one should perform an action without expecting a result.  

There is an important lesson to be learnt for modern leaders here. 

Attention needs to be drawn to ‘Te Karmani eva adhikarah, ma phalesu’ - Work alone is your privilege, never its results. No one performs an action without expecting some result.  Desire is a privilege. The desire for action is what motivates a person to act and to deliver.

What the verse means is that you have a choice in your action but never in the results. ‘Karmaphala’, the fruit of action is governed by laws that are not necessarily under your control.  We can attempt to understand them but not change them.

The true meaning of the verse is: Perform action. Act so that you achieve what you desire. Plan and execute. Do expect results. If the results are not in line with your expectation, do not react and call yourself a failure. 

This is, however, a learned reaction and not a natural reaction. 

This requires one to develop an attitude born of an understanding of the nature of actions and their results. The nature of action requires one to develop a fundamental understanding that the result of an action is governed by the laws of the universe. Example: the action of a person jumping out of the window is governed by the law of gravity and not of the intent behind the action or the persona behind the action.  The moment one understands the laws of the nature and their governance of the results of any action, it is what is called an attitude of karma yoga – an attitude towards action.

Modern leaders need to understand this simple yet deep meaning and align all their actions accordingly. Leadership is action, not position.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house

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