karmany evādhikāras te
mā phalesu kadācana
mā karma-phala-hetur bhūr
mā te sańgo 'stv akarmani
You have a right to perform your prescribed duty, but you are not entitled to the fruits of action. Never consider yourself the cause of the results of your activities, and never be attached to not doing your duty - BG 2.47
Growing up, this is the all the Bhagavad Gita I was exposed to – do your duty and don’t expect for results. In other words, work without thinking about the results. I could not find anyone following this and I could not follow this myself. I am still learning to understand this sloka in a deeper way.
The more I think about this sloka and its meaning, the more I feel it a herculean task. How can I work so hard and not think of the result? The other day I was listening to a lecture given by H.H.Radhanath Swami and in that he said “be attached to striving hard for the result” but “do not be attached to the result”. There is a thin line dividing them both. If we study the sloka again, Krishna says never be attached to not doing your duty. So in essence we have to be attached to work hard to produce results. After all, if we do not work for a result then our work has no meaning per se. For example I just do not go to class to study as duty but I study to get a good grade ultimately pass out successfully. If I do not have my short term and long term goals in mind, then simply sitting in class does not constitute “performing duty” but becomes “whimsical action”. However, having a goal in mind and performing work constitutes duty. Just like Arjuna was simply not shooting arrows but shooting arrows with a result to kill.
Therefore to work means to achieve a result. We have to, in fact, strive hard in all ethical and legal ways to work to produce good quality product or result. We should be motivated to build the best building architecture wise, construct the best roads engineering wise, best computer technology wise and best devotee spiritually. All this requires the understanding of goals and results. Srila Prabhupada wanted the best of everything for Krishna. He struggled hard and even was ready to fight to push on the Krishna Conscious movement. He wanted to know how many books were distributed and how many life members were made. He sought pleasure when his literature was profusely distributed or when devotees construct temples or raised money for ISKCON. Srila Prabhupada took delight in apparently mundane results. From this, it is evident that we have to be attached to strive hard for the result of our work.
The difficulty arises, however, when we put so much work behind a work, naturally we get attached to the result and from which arises passion etc. Therefore Krishna categorically tells that we have no “entitlement” over the results meaning we “should not” be attached to the result of our work. We should be attached to working hard for the result but not be attached to the result – this requires sacrifice and humility. Humility in that “I am not the doer” and sacrifice in that “dedicate the results to Krishna”.
In conclusion, the true meaning and understanding of the above sloka is that we must be attached to strive hard to produce results but not be attached to the results per se. Tough one...but we have to continue to try from our side.