Stages of Devotion (Part 4)

4. Renouncing the fruit of all action

For those who are unable to work for God's sake, Sri Krishna describes the fourth stage of devotion: "Resign yourself to Me, be self-disciplined and surrender the fruit of all action to Me." (Bhagavad Gita, 12.11)

We need to remember that this stage of devotion is for the aspirant who cannot fix his mind and buddhi on God, take to the yoga of constant practice, or do work for God's sake. So he resigns himself to God's saving power. Sri Krishna teaches Arjuna: "One should pray, 'I take refuge in that Primal Being from whom has streamed forth this eternal activity,' and seek that Goal from which they who have reached it never return." (Gita, 15.4)

The first three stages of devotion enable the seeker, in various ways, to practice remembrance of God. Thinking about God makes it easy for the aspirant to develop self-control by giving an inward turn to his outward-directed mind. But in the fourth stage, self-control is not a result of practice but an integral part of practice. At this stage, it requires a great struggle for the aspirant to attain self-control. With an effort of the will he has to curb the outgoing tendencies of his mind and coax it to give up attachment to the fruit of action.

As he repeatedly surrenders the fruit of action to God, the aspirant begins to feel more and more that God and not he is the real doer of action, and therefore the results of his actions belong to God.

When we surrender the fruit of action to God, we grow in devotion and become more conscious about our actions, both physical and mental, for they are to be offered to God, to whom nothing but the very best can be offered. With our mind free from anxiety about the results of actions, we become calm and do our work better.

All actions leave impressions in the mind, called samskaras. The sum total of these impressions, good and bad, is what Swami Vivekananda calls character. To be free from the grip of bad impressions, we cultivate good thoughts and actions, and strengthen our character. But being good is not the goal of life. There is a higher ideal, which is the desire for freedom-the desire to be free from the hold of good impressions too. Offering our actions and their results to God detaches the mind from the world and leads us to true surrender and freedom: "Whatever you do, whatever you eat, whatever you offer in sacrifice, whatever you give away, and whatever you practice in the form of austerities-do it as an offering to Me. Thus you will become free from the bondage of the good and bad results of your actions. With your mind firmly set on renunciation, you will attain liberation and thereby come to Me." (Gita, 9.27-8)

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