“One who endowed with karma-yoga, will get rid of bondage of action."
How does action bind? Every action binds a person by giving the result of punya and pāpa. Punya (unseen result of dharma-action which fructified as favourable condition) and pāpa (unseen result of adharma-action which fructified as unfavourable condition) are capital for janma - rebirth. These are unseen results - adrsta-phala. How about seen result - drsta-phala which right away affects the individual? Adharma-action will create guilt in individual, whereas dharma-action which expectation of certain result when is not fulfilled, will create hurt. Therefore one's attitude when doing karma is important so that there is no hurt and guilt (emotional imbalance) coming along, thus karma prepares oneself for self-knowledge. What is the basic understanding for one to cultivate the sameness of mind in every given situation?
karmaṇyevādhikāraste mā phaleṣu kadācana |
mā karmaphalaheturbhūrmā te saṅgo'stvakarmaṇi ||2.47||
Your choice is in action only, never in the results thereof. Do not think you are the author of the results for action. Let your attachment not be to inaction.
None of us can avoid karma - action. In fact the very purpose of the manifestation in different kāraka - different factors to support action are there for us to do karma, either to fulfil artha, kāma, and dharma or to gain qualification for self-knowledge.
"Your choice is in action," Lord Krsna stated the fact that how exalted human life can be by endowed with the faculty of choice. We can choose to do certain action, not to do, or do it differently. Unlike animals, they are more or less being programmed for their actions based on instinct (certain fixed pattern of behaviour in respond to certain stimuli). Therefore action itself is free-will for human being to attain his/her goal of life therefore it is called purusārtha - goal of human being. After certain fulfilment is there, and when the time is right, we will have enquiry for our moksa-purusārtha. Our karma is helping us to fulfil other purusārtha in the beginning by helping us in material growth, and later with the same karma itself (with different attitude), it helps us in spiritual growth in order to gain our ultimate goal which is moksa.
"Your choice is not in result", we understand that every action will gain its result. But how the result is unfolded is really not depend on us. Law of karma is there to govern karma (action) and phala (it's result), but my action itself can't determine the result as what I wanted. For example I sow the seeds for some plants. The action of sowing and also taking care of them can't ensure that the plants will grow. The type of soil, indoor or outdoor environment, amount of sun, even the maturity of the seeds, all are contributed to the result. Plant or not to plant is my choice, I even can choose to plant differently (with soil or hydroponic), but the result is not really hundred percent on my hand. Therefore I shouldn't let my emotion being affected by uncertain result, if that so, my emotion will also become uncertain. Choice to do karma is mine, but not the result.
Q: If it is so, why should we ever do karma where the result is not controllable?
A: Action itself is contributing to the result, but not as total contributor. If there is no action at all, there will be no result, or even fear for karma because the result is not in my hand. Either you are attached to it or fear for it, both are binding. Karma itself is not binding, but the respond to its result makes one bound.
This particular portion of the verse 2.47 often being missed interpret by "doing karma without expecting result", is not correct. Result is expected, nobody will do karma without expecting result, but how the result is unfolded we accept it with understanding of the law of karma. Main meaning for karma in this context is prescribed karma (nitya and naimittika-karma) by śastra, but it is extended to any duty in our life. Therefore Lord Krsna said, "let your attachment not be to inaction."
"You are not the author of the result", but Īśvara is. This is law of karma. Even though Īśvara is the one who bestow the result of our action, but he didn't give result as he wanted. Law of karma is there to govern. Because he manifests as the law itself, therefore we said that he is the author of the result of karma. Therefore we are not worshiping Īśvara only through the altar, but when we are keeping our action with his law, we are worshiping him alone through our action.
This is the basis for us to cultivate sameness of the mind. Do karma as offering to Īśvara / do karma in keeping with law of dharma - Īśvara-arpana-buddhi, and accept the result as grace - prasāda-buddhi. Grace is not really a good translation for prasāda-buddhi. The word prasāda is used for any offering to the altar which we received back. The attitude of receiving prasāda is always with full respect and total acceptance. If the result of your action comes to you more than what you’ve wanted is prasāda, or less than what you’ve wanted is also prasāda. This sameness of the mind which is born of understanding, when receiving the result of my karma is prasāda-buddhi.
With the understanding of karma and it's result, we can path our attitude toward how to do karma for our inner-growth as the intermediate means for moksa.