Every word, statement and stanza of the Bhagavad Gita is important, but it has a nucleus, a seed, a basic philosophy. It is said (2:47):
Karmanyevaadhikaaraste maa phaleshu kadaachana;
Maa karmaphalaheturbhoormaa te sango’stvakarmani.
Your right is to work only, but never its fruits;
let not the fruits of actions be your motive,
nor become attached to inaction.
One’s sphere is the fulfilment and accomplishment of the duty and nothing beyond that. The results, outcomes and consequences are none of one’s business. The individual’s right is only to do the work. One has no right over the result of the work, which is beyond one’s control and authority. Doing action is within one’s authority, but the results of the action are not. If a person is worrying, he is an idiot. Ambition should not be the cause of the action or work, as it does not pay in the long run.
Life does not run on expectations. If one makes expectations the basis of life, one will have a nervous breakdown. People should not live in expectation of the results, but of course everyone bases their life on expectation. They should just limit themselves to the performance of karma. People who rise to the highest pinnacle of spiritual life are those who limit themselves to the accomplishment of duty, karma and dharma.
No one should be idle. A person should not renounce karma, even a sannyasin, even a millionaire or billionaire, even a master of a thousand servants, even an emperor, a king, president or prime minister. One should also not become an agent of the consequences of karma. Those who think about the results and outcomes can never rest as they are tossed like a shuttlecock from one end to another. It is the greatest mistake a person can make due to a lack of understanding of the role of karma in life.
Karma is an expression of one’s total energy. It is an expression of the great instinct, intelligence and intuition that one can express in the form of karma as an engineer, painter, carpenter, shopkeeper, housewife, and as a swami! A labourer can express it. People are suffering because they work for an end. It is true that one has a physical body and, therefore, one needs to survive in the realm of matter, or prakriti, so one works and receives a little pay.
There are many methods of performing action without desiring its fruits. While working, one should think of nothing but the work itself and, if possible, not the fruits. One should do the work at hand to the best of one’s ability, and a person who is devotionally inclined may do it as worship.
Published in Conversations on the Science of Yoga, Karma Yoga Book 5