Thursday, April 4, 2013

acting without attachment to the result - a practical step by step guide.

Verse 2.48: Perform your duty equipoised, O Arjuna, abandoning all attachment to success or failure. Such equanimity is called yoga.

~This post is dedicated to my spiritual guide and all my bhakti mentors. Without your love, gentle chastisement, continuous encouragement and empowerment, I would be lost.~

Yesterday I went to my weekly yoga/pilates class. At the end of the class, during the relaxation period, the instructor asked everyone to focus on their breathing. She added, "If thoughts come to your mind, acknowledge them with compassion and let them go." I was left thinking, "What in the world does that mean? Acknowledge your thoughts with compassion." It sounds really beautiful, but how does one actually go about doing it?

In a similar vein, many persons today, equate yoga with feeling peaceful. My question to all of you today is, what does peace mean? That's the challenge with words. No one actually decodes the intangibles like peace, compassion, humility etc., as what is given in the dictionary. They are coloured by our experiences and perceptions. That's why spirituality, which promotes the development of so many of these intangible characteristics, can be confusing to many.

This is why bhakti yoga is not only practical but complete, as it not only gives one the process but explains what the outcome is. Here, a very beautiful and practical definition of yoga is given - "Practice your duty in an equipoised frame of mind, abandoning all attachment to success or failure." Let's stop and really understand what the word equipoised means as, for most of us, this is not a common word we use in our vernacular. Simply put it means balanced or equilibrium.

In the context of yoga, equipoised means to do things for the sake of doing it and giving up the attitude and motivation of "I'm doing this because somehow it will benefit me."

The thing is, we all need some motivating force to drive us to accomplish something. If we don't have one, we won't do anything! Wouldn't you agree? So that begs the question, "If I'm not doing this for me, then what should motivate me?" One could respond and say, "Well, the motivation why I do certain things is certainly not centered on me. I'm motivated because I'm doing it for my friends, family, my country or even for the world." To this, the Gita replies, "Wonderful! That is huge step up from always focusing on ourselves!"

However, like any well-wishing coach or guide who wants to help us attain the best goal possible, Krsna gives us something even higher to strive for. That's right, we can actually operate on even higher motivating principle.

So what is that principle? Prabhupada, our wonderful bhakti guide and teacher, explains in the purport, "Yoga means to concentrate the mind upon the Supreme by controlling the ever-disturbing senses." See the step-wise progression? Let's break it down.

In order to perform one's duties in an equipoised frame of mind (i.e. in yoga):

1. One needs to control the ever-disturbing senses. The senses are like tentacles that are always trying to grab some object so that they can derive some pleasure from it. So how do we control the senses? By purifying them. More on that to come later!

2. One concentrates the mind upon the Supreme. This can be a hard one for many people. The simplest way, however, is to engage in mantra meditation. Simply by repeating transcendental sound vibration, it immediately calms the mind and focuses it. If you've never tried it, just try repeating the simple mantra "Govinda".

3. When one concentrates the mind upon the Supreme, one of the effects we experience is that of gratitude. How's that? Mantra meditation naturally results in the transfer of one's attention from oneself to a higher consciousness. When we tap into that higher consciousness, the worries and anxieties that normally swirl through our mind are exposed for what they really are - temporary and insignificant. That's not to imply that we don't need to take care of them. It means we take care of them with the proper perspective, and thereby don't experience the anxiety factor.

4. This leads one to feeling grateful. Grateful to the Supreme who is always taking care of us and is looking to help us. When we really feel grateful, we want to find a way to demonstrate it to the object of our gratitude, don't we? This is the motivation that drives us - we offer everything we do in appreciation of our gratitude to the Supreme.

In this way, we can be equipoised and naturally give up our obsession with success or failure. We become inspired to do our very best since it's an expression of our gratitude for all that we have been given, but notice how the attachment has changed! It's very subtle. We become attached to offering our best and become unattached to the conception of successful and failure. As they say, "It's the thought that counts." We don't realize it, but it's actually true!

And the best part of it all? The Gita states that the Supreme doesn't measure success or failure the way we do. It's the motivation that matters, and if we become attached to offering our best in a spirit of gratitude, there is nothing greater than that.


  1. A wonderful explanation of acting without attachment to the outcome. This is such a difficult concept for many people. Thank you.

    1. Thank you Galen! All credit goes to my teachers and mentors who are practicing this everyday and are showing me how to practically live like this by their example.

  2. Great post. If all we do is offered to the Lord, then detachment becomes natural because it no longer belongs to us - that is the way I try to detach. Peace for me comes in blissful connection with the Lord through bhakti and shradha. Om Namah Shivaya, Jai Sri Krishna, Jai Sri Rama.

    1. Just beautiful Suzy. What you say is so true - all we need is bhakti and faith. Thank you so much for sharing!

  3. a wise interpretation and description of moving through the levels of detachment. well done!

    i love this description of your mentors: ", gentle chastisement, continuous encouragement and empowerment.."

    this is how i would describe my best teachers and how i would like to be described by those i mentor and teach.

    if i may offer one bit of gentle chastisement, i notice you often use extreme descriptors such as in this case: "No one actually decodes the intangibles like peace, compassion, humility etc..." i also noticed and commented on that last time i visited your site.

    it may seem nit-picky, but when you say 'no one' or 'everyone', 'always' or 'never', that sort of thing, i find my mind drifting away from your main message because i start thinking, "Well that's not true. EVERYONE doesn't do that..."

    i glad i brought myself back because your main message was really worth it ;-)

    1. Thank you Linda! It's true that I tend to use extreme descriptors. :P It's definitely something that I'm aware of but need to keep working on! Thank you for the sweet reminder. :D

  4. This article really helped me. I have been struggling with attachment for a very long time, especially attachment to outcome. Just reading the article today brings a feeling of balance in my life. Thank you so much!!

    1. Thank you! I'm so happy if this is any way helped, Victoria! :) I think sometimes we struggle with attachment because we interpret that to mean that we shouldn't be invested in something. But that's not what it's about! It's about transforming the motivation behind it. If we can just be attached to offering everything we do in a spirit of gratitude to the Supreme, then attachment is the most wonderful thing!

  5. I've been hypnotized many times by the same person. Part of the ritual is to acknowledge all those thoughts that won't quiet the mind. They become bubbles to me, those thoughts and sensations, bubbles floating upwards. Seeing them as bubbles, my thoughts and feelings in distorted, shiny round bubbles getting smaller as they drift up, is beautiful. I've often wondered where they go, do those bubbles travel around while I'm under? Do they pop and leave miniscule bits of me on the ether?
    Maybe next time I get hypnotized, we will do it just to follow the bubbles, to see where they go!

  6. Wow, very thought provoking.

  7. wao.. simply awesome !!! concept of akarma rises from this....