The destiny ... beyond one's duty
THIS IS a rejoinder to the article, "Even destiny honours karma" by Debarshi Sen (Education Page, July 16). The writer cites the cases of two prominent and successful luminaries of the day, Verghese Kurien and Abdul Kalam to drive home the message that adherence to Nishkama karma (karma without desire) has put them in the place where they are today. The present day student community is called upon to draw this lesson from them and concentrate on whatever field they get and become successful in that field by performing karma. This contention of Mr. Sen has failed to address two issues. One, why are others who have been performing karma with a similar state of mind, not always successful and second, why people doing similar tasks with similar propensity to do karma are not successful in equal measures. Mr. Sen has used the performance factor to explain the success of these two eminent persons.
Taking up the first issue, there are scores of people who perform well and yet cannot rise or have not risen to eminence in their respective fields. If performance of karma favours persons like Mr. Verghese and Mr. Kalam, the same must have helped numerous others also. But the fact is that it has not been so. What we see in reality is that adherence to karma has not always been directly proportional to the attainment of success. This is what has been made out in the Gita too, when it says karmani eva adhikaarasthe, maa paleshu. One has control over the action alone, but not on the results. One can keep on doing his job, but the result is not in his hands. This injunction of the Gita, if drawn to explain the success of the two luminaries in discussion, will be found wanting to give a satisfactory explanation. For, according to the Gita, they had done their karma. Destiny has favoured them for some other reason!
The next issue is that no two persons doing the same kind of action are rewarded in similar measures. To explain this, let us assume that two persons have been given the task of lifting a heavy stone. The two have to lift similar stones of the same weight, under similar conditions. One of them tries at first to lift it with bare hands and then proceeds to employ some techniques like using a rod as a lever or trying to roll it, etc., and finally succeeds in lifting it. But the other may keep trying with his hand and still find no success. He may also say that he has done his karma but he has failed to succeed. Herein, destiny has not paid for the performance of karma but has favoured the one with extra inputs — the inputs being creativity, intelligence, tactfulness etc. It is observed here that what has been performed has little to do with success, as it is about HOW the karma is being performed that has made the difference. And there is another input also, called ATTITUDE. In the two instances that Mr. Sen has quoted, mere performance has not paid. The attitude with which Mr. Kurien and Mr. Kalam performed throughout their career had elevated them. This attitude is something different from and more unique than the intellectual propensities that have been quoted as inputs in the instance cited above. This attitude can be better understood by the kindergarten tale of the fox and the grapes! The fox tries to catch hold of the grapes hanging above. The several attempts of jumping that the fox is found doing, can be termed as the karma (action). Finally the fox gives up, as it cannot see any shred of success. But what it says finally has something to convey as a moral. The fox gives up with the remark, "These grapes are sour"! but it has not totally abandoned the karma, as it moves on in search of another vineyard. The world is large and it can still succeed elsewhere. That is what is meant by attitude.
When Mr. Kurien found himself in the dock by the denial of entry into the field of his choice, he must have consoled his mind that it was a sour grape and the dairy milk was after all the sweetest of all! Similarly, when Mr. Kalam faced his worst time in the interview board, he did not think that he has faced his nemesis. He managed to resurrect in a different domain. These two undoubtedly performed their karma in the new environs, but what fetched them rewards is their attitude — the mind to accept whatever comes in their way and perform with utmost commitment and dedication. Had they cast their eyes on the results of their karma, the disappointment from denial might have proved too much. They, instead, banked upon samathvam — treating failure and success alike — and went ahead with undiluted enthusiasm and dedication into what the Gita calls as karmasu kaushalam (dexterity inaction). This attitude termed as samathvam, coupled with dexterity in action ensures that at no time failure bogs one down. A person with samathvam will care less about the results and instead start concentrating more on how to improve his performance.