Verse 2.47: You have a right to perform your prescribed duty, but you are not entitled to the fruits of action. Never consider yourself the cause of the results of your activities, and never be attached to not doing your duty.
Prescribed duty. How do those words make you feel? Personally, when I hear those words, I feel a sense of dread. I associate adjectives like responsibility, burden and weight, which although honourable and necessary, can feel overwhelming sometimes.
You'll be happy and relieved (if you're anything like me!) to find out that the meaning of prescribed duty, as per the Gita, is as follows - performing those activities that are in line with one's nature. That is, those activities that we perform in order to ensure our livelihood, which are based on our qualities and proclivities. Once again, note how the Gita is so practical. We come with a particular mentality and are gifted with particular talents which can be used to meaningfully contribute to society, so why fight against that?
However, most of us face another challenge. Whenever we perform any action, whether it be at work, in our personal lives or as a service for society, we expect a result. Thing is, we not only expect that result but feel entitled to it and want to be identified as the the person who was responsible for that result. A little confusing? Let's give an example.
Say I make a sandwich for friend. I go about putting the pieces of bread together with some fresh veggies and spread, arrange it nicely on a plate and present it to her. What's the result that I'm expecting? Well, firstly I would hope that she likes it! But my expectation is that she appreciates the time I took to make it for her and will thank me. Whether we realize it or not, we always expect some result.
The secret of applying bhakti yoga in our everyday actions and receiving no karma (Remember! Every action results in good or bad karma and binds us) is to be unattached to the results of any work that we perform. Our expert bhakti guide, Prabhupada, puts it best: "One who is attached to the result of their work is also the cause of the action. Thus they are the enjoyer or sufferer of the result of such action."
Now for some, this may sound odd and for others, you may like the concept but maybe thinking "How in the world do you actually go about doing this?"
To my dear skeptics, it sounds odd because we have been inculcated with the need to take credit for or feel entitled to the result of any action that we perform. But if you think about it, it's a tad bit selfish to go through life like that, no? By living this way, it becomes all about "me". I invite you, instead of dismissing this idea completely, to instead think about it. By performing an action for the pure joy of doing it or out of a sense of giving without expecting anything in return, we are getting the opportunity to practice selflessness.
For those who may like the concept but are confused...it takes practice! It's not something that comes overnight. One thing that does help though is gratitude. When we consciously think of all the things we have been given in terms of talents, facility and faculty, it reminds us that these are gifts that we have received. By performing our prescribed duties without the "I'm entitled to the results of my work" attitude, we're getting an opportunity to give back the results of utilizing those gifts we've been given, to the one who gave them to us in the first place.
In this way, we can genuinely live and experience the appreciation we have for all that we have been given. Simultaneously, we will also experience a wonderful freedom - the freedom of throwing off the overwhelming weight that always comes with having expectations and feeling entitled.