Of the paths of spiritual liberation, in Hinduism karma yoga or Nishkama Karma is the path of unselfish action, as stated in the Bhagavad Gita. It teaches that a spiritual seeker should act according to his dharma (duty), without being attached to the fruits or personal consequences of such work.
On the battlefield, Krishna told Arjuna, “Do your duty without thinking about the outcome.”
What he meant was, one cannot be sure about the results and hence must not think about the outcomes, when one is performing his/her duty. One may or may not attain the desired result in the end, but thinking in a loop about the possible outcomes will only pile to the confusion, make one doubtful, distracted and increase chances of failures!
This is the significance of karma-yoga in spiritual progression, to do one’s duty for duty’s sake. It’s not work which is painful, it is the attachment to that work and the desire for expected results that brings pain.
What significance does ‘karma-yoga’ holds in our preparation? After all, the words of the wise must help us deal in our practical lives too!
The cut-throat competition that this examination hosts and the nerve-wrecking hard work it demands can easily bog one down with the mere thought of remaining empty-handed even after giving away all in the preparation. For example, with prelims approaching, one might tend to stress all the more about what will be the end result? Will the burning of midnight lamps pay off? Or will it be another year of perseverance? Such questions at this crucial time can very well plant seeds of self-doubt and discouragement in one’s mind. And once it happens, your salvation from the preparation phase is bleak.
CSE is the battlefield and you are Arjuna! You will have to be the Krishna for yourself and tell yourself to do your duty of preparation, without clinging to the results. What yields frustration, disappointment in you is the fear lurking around the results. The more you fret about the results, about the meaning of your labour and toil if you don’t get through, the more cynical and self-sabotaging you’ll get.
The more you are committed to ‘disinterested action’, the more one focuses on other aspects of the action, strive to do one’s best and this renders one self-empowered and liberated from the results. When one understands and embraces that preparing well is one’s responsibility and not the outcome, when one learns to remain even minded in success and failure, the fear of not making to the list will start to fade away. What will remain is pure hard work and a motivation to give one’s best!
Having said that, no one of the aspirants is saint-like, who can stay unfazed with the negative or positive value of the result. We are humans and not attaining something in which we’ve invested so much is definitely going to prick and pierce. But, one can grieve (or rejoice) once the outcome is known, till then “Do your duty without thinking about the outcome.”
Your work is your responsibility,
not its result.
Never let the fruits of your actions
be your motive.
Nor give in to inaction.
Set firmly in yourself, do your work,
not attached to anything.
Remain evenminded in success,
and in failure.
Evenmindedness is true yoga.
—Bhagavad Gita, 2.47-49[