The ancient texts outline some broad indicators of karmic merit – respectable birth, abundance of wealth, sharp intelligence and good looks. According to our activities in previous lives, we are rewarded with a specific configuration of these. In this life, most people work hard to enhance and upgrade what they have – we attempt to climb the social ladder, expand our riches, educate ourselves to intellectually outshine others, and beautify the body as far as possible. People invest unspeakable amounts of energy into such endeavours.
Continuing the theme of remaining in the world, Krishna shares an essential paradigm to etch within our being. In Chapter Five He explains that we’re not entirely in control of success or failure in our material endeavours, but rather there are factors beyond us that are influencing the outcome. The expected rewards may or may not appear, and regardless, we shouldn’t become too fixated on them, because even when they do appear, they don’t actually bring happiness.
Most of us, however, are convinced we are in control. Thus, when we fail to achieve certain goals we feel deflated. In success we’re also dissatisfied because we quickly realise that the vacancy within the heart remains. The famed Queen Kunti states that only when we retire from the rush for these ephemeral rewards, can we really and truly embrace the spiritual path. When we invest our hopes and energies in material success, not only do we internally starve, but we’re overcome by the three cancers of the mind - comparison, competition and criticism. Perpetually dissatisfied because enough is never enough.
Some years ago, ‘The Secret’ by Rhonda Byrne, was a book everyone was reading. The secret that Byrne felt she had discovered was the ‘law of attraction’: whatever you think about and focus on, eventually becomes your reality. The universe, she said, is essentially energy, and all energy vibrates at different frequencies. Since each person also vibrates at a certain frequency, they attract the same within the larger energy field. Thus, we attract objects, fortunes, people and situations that are of a similar ‘vibration’ to ourselves.
It’s a mouth-watering concept – the possibility of attracting anything you desire. While the Bhagavad-Gita would agree with the general notion of designing our destiny, there is more to the story. Philosophical exploration and practical observation clearly reveals that we are not the sole dictators of our fortunes. There’s something called karma. We may desire a variety of things, but without the necessary karmic credit, those things will remain elusive. The secret, then, is not as simple and straightforward as it sounds.
The Bhagavad-Gita, however, reveals a more profound secret to life. While Rhonda’s book is about attracting, the Gita encourages one to first establish what is worthy of being attracted. Most people hastily draw up their shopping lists of life without significantly considering this point. Our basic problem is that we’re attracted to the wrong things - things that won’t bring us what we’re ultimately looking for. When we redefine success, turn our attention towards the right things, spiritual things, things that allow us to connect with our very essence, then everything falls into place perfectly. This is the secret behind the secret.
“One who works in devotion, who is a pure soul, and who controls his mind and senses is dear to everyone, and everyone is dear to him. Though always working, such a man is never entangled.” (Bhagavad-Gita 5.7)
5.12 – The art of how to live and work like a lotus, untouched by the water.
5.14-15 – The three doers - the living entity desires, the Supreme Lord sanctions and material nature facilitates.