It’s no surprise: I find myself more and more consumed by thought and activity regarding the state of the country and what I can do as a citizen (including voting) to make things better. As I seek to stay engaged, but grounded and without anxiety, I find solace of the teaching in the Bhagavad Gita that true yoga is action without attachment. To be detached is not the same as withdrawing from action. In fact, the Gita suggests that the path of action is better than the path of renunciation.
What is actionless action? Given the Gita’s fundamental premise that we must act in accordance with our duty (what that means is the subject of much debate that is beyond a simple blog), actionless action does not mean disengaging from the process. It also does not mean not caring. Rather, it means that we should act fully in accordance with our principles (which principles should be shaped by the yoga guidelines of non-harming, truthfulness, non-stealing, alignment with nature, non-greediness, cleanliness, contentment, fervor, self-study, and surrender), but with the mental understanding that we are ultimately not in control of the outcome. We act because not to act is a cop out. We offer the fruits of our action to forces beyond ourselves. We act out of love — not selfish love for personal gain — but with loving gratitude for being able to act at all. We engage fully and then still seek to be free of being unsettled by either pleasure or pain from the outcome. Whatever the results, we keep acting, we keep doing our duty, fully and with loving engagement.
See: BG IV.19-20: He whose undertakings are free from anxious desire and fanciful thought, whose work is made pure in the fire of wisdom: he is called wise by those who see. In whatever work he does such a man in truth has peace: he expects nothing, he relies on nothing, and ever has fullness of joy. (trans. Juan Munoz)
He who has abandoned all attachment to the fruits of action,/ Always content, not dependent,/ Even when performing action,/Does, in effect, nothing at all./ Performing action with the body alone, / Without wish, restrained in thought and self,/ With all motives of acquisition abandoned, He incurs no evil. (trans. Winthrop Sargeant)
P.S. I will have voted in the morning and will be teaching at Wm Penn House on Tuesday so come join me resting in yoga before going home to watch the returns.