Karma Yoga – Gaining mastery over actions


Business Matter

By Manish Shah

I learned a great deal about business by getting my MBA. However, I did not learn how to attain mastery in performing everyday actions. In my search for getting answers, I came across some timeless wisdom in the Bhagavad Gita.

The 47th verse (Chapter 2)  in Gita guides us as to how we should perform our actions:
Karmanyevaadhikaaraste maa phaleshu kadaachana;

Maa karmaphalahetur bhoor maa te sango’stwakarmani.

Translation: We should understand that only action is within our jurisdiction and not the results. We should not be focused on the fruits of the action but that does not imply that we should be inclined towards inaction.

Let’s us say a sales person has been assigned the goal selling ten software licenses a quarter. The end of the quarter is approaching rapidly and he has sold only eight licenses. He gets anxious about the goal and dissipates valuable time and energy day dreaming about it. The fear of failure paralyzes him. There  is a practical remedy for this situation. According to Gita, the sales person should stay focused on the process and not the outcome. This    will increase his concentration several fold and help him excel in the task at hand. By focusing on the present he  will not be anxious about the future or be weighed down by his past. So his stress level will go down dramatically.

The 48th verse (Chapter 2) talks about right demeanor for performing actions.

Yogasthah kuru karmaani sangam tyaktwaa dhananjaya;
Siddhyasiddhyoh samo bhootwaa samatwam yoga uchyate.

Translation: One should keep his mind balanced regardless of success or failure while performing his duties.

Our current President is always even keeled in face of adversity. His chief adviser David Axelrod recounts this experience from the Presidential campaign after they had lost the critical Ohio and Texas primaries to Hillary Clinton.

Obama started off by saying, “I can think of a dozen things that I did wrong in these last couple of weeks. And I’m sure each of you can think of things that you would have done differently. I don’t want to review that. I want to think about what we’ve learned from this and how it affects what we do moving forward.”

And we came out with an action plan for how to move forward. And he got up, as he was walking out of the room, he turned and said, “I’m not yelling at you guys. I want you to understand that.”

We should take victory and defeat in stride. We should not be intoxicated by success or get disheartened by failure. If the sales person in our previous example exceeds his goals, he should inject a bit of humility in him by recognizing that others played an integral role in his success. On the other hand if he falls short, he should reflect on his failure, adjust and then move on. By being equanimous in the face of pain and pleasure, the sales person avoids the emotional turmoil. This emotional turbulence is the cause of all psychosomatic illnesses.

The essence of Karma Yoga can be summed up in one line. A Karma Yogi finds happiness in all his actions; he does not perform actions in order to find happiness.

Manish Shah is the former president of Midwest Law Printing in Chicago. He also worked at Intel, PwC and Motorola. He has an MBA from Kellogg Graduate School of Management, and a MS in Computer Science from Illinois Institute of Technology. He can be reached at manishshahus@yahoo.com.

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