Unit III: Art and Science of Work-Theory of Nishkam Karma


We are pursuing our goal of developing Purity of Mind in order to achieve Holistic Competence. We have seen in Unit II, that if we get involved in Tamasic and Rajasic Guna out of ego, they can lead to disaster both personal and organisational. We have also seen that a moderate life with a balance between these two gunas can only lead us to values – the Sattwa Guna, which is so essential and helpful in improving our own life and the workculture in our orgaisations. We now come to concept II – the Art
and Science of work. We will see in the following pages how the work done in the state of Detached involvement and without expecting result, one as to one, is helpful in making our achievements wholesome and at the same time keeping us calm, thus conserving our energy also.


After going through this Unit, you will be able to:

Describe how Nishkam Karma is much more beneficial than Sakam Karma
Explain benefits of detached involvement
Analyse your own behaviour for self-improvement
Enrich your Mind-stilling Exercise for self-improvement.


Let us reflect on our own experience in day-to-day life.
In our life, we undertake different types of jobs and expect a
particular type of outcome or result. Let us recall one such


Now let us have a look at working of nature for a while. We have many things to learn from nature. Ancient Saints also had been learning from the
nature. Nature is a part of grand cosmos. It is a master worker. Continuous action is going on in nature. The sun rises everyday in the morning offers its light, energy and power for sustenance of life on this earth. The river flowing all its way from the mountains gives water, so essential for our sustenance. The earth keeps revolving around its own axis to form day and night so essential for regularity of life on the earth. The flowers blossom in their own glory and give joy to all. The trees give their shade for comfort and fruits for food to all the living beings. Same way the breeze, the moon
and stars, the clouds and rain, these entire objects keep on performing their own action.

We know very well that if any of these natural objects fail to perform the way they are doing; the impact on our life is going to be direct and adverse. But we find that all of them keep offering to all the receivers, whatever they have to give. They are not bothered for who is the receiver and never expect anything in return. They keep on performing their own duty, the way they are supposed to perform. Through their action, they are unfolding or observing their own Dharma; the ‘Law of being’, or ‘Swadharma’. They do not calculate or workout the outcomes.

These natural things, however big or small they may be; however important or insignificant they may appear to be, are bound by the natural Laws. But we human beings have choice. We exercise our discretion to decide – what to do? How much to do? When to do? For whom they should perform etc. etc. Because we are different from the natural things, are at a higher footing as we have much developed brain, the intellect. With the excessive exercise of our power of intellect we have failed to maintain consonance with the
cosmic consciousness, the Natural Harmony. The whole infrastructure of nature is so beautifully maid that each object of nature is fully taken care of by the ecosystems. In these systems each individual object is fulfilling its own Dharma (the law of its being), which is for the benevolence of all: and is in turn automatically getting everything that is required for its sustenance from the system.

We have become calculative because of self-interest. We
have deviated from swadharma, the law of (human) being to
Swarthadharma (self interest). Consequently, all the public
affairs in ‘Administration’, which is required to bring about
social welfare, are resulting in ‘Swarthdharma’. Not only this,
we have gone to the extreme of self-interest and are
exploiting the blessings of nature to the extent of ruining it.
Such pursuance of self-interest also sets aside the
benevolence of all i.e. Lok-hit. This self-interest only is the
main cause of corruption, red-tapism, misuse of power.
However, if we maintain the natural harmony in all our deeds
and start working for the benevolence of all (Lok-hit), all the
bigger and higher-interests will automatically be taken care
of. And if there is benevolence prevailing all over, how can
the self-interests remain unfulfilled?


Thus what is required is, to expand the notion of selfinterest, to make it holistic.

Because benefit of an organisation is inversely proportionate to the personal desires. The more personal desires of the individuals that make an organisation, the less will be the benefits to the organisation. If we get
oriented to watch self-interest only, the organisation is bound to ruin. And if the organisation is ruined, how can its employees flourish? It is just like we cannot enjoy good food eating with right hand when the left hand is injured and bleeding.

As opposed to this, if we can learn to perform desire-less action, the organisation will benefit more. And the benefits of an organisation in turn benefit the individuals. This desireless action is what is termed as Nishkam Karma- the Principle of Detached involvement i.e. involved in work and detached from personal rewards or gains. In Mahabharata, Arjuna was
given this lesson in the battlefield at the time of his psychological crisis. How to fight his own loved ones? Srikrishna advised him to do the right full action in Lok-hit.

Thus Nishkama Karma is the act done as a duty without expecting the fruit for self. As against this, Sakam Karma is involvement in work with an expectation of a quick return. This is the Art and Science of work given in Geeta: “Thou hest a right to action but only action, never to its fruits; let not the fruits of thy works be thy motive; neither let there be in thee any attachment to inactivity”. The modern mind is prone to immediately dismiss this sloka as a hopelessly impractical guideline for the people at
work. We may think that it is just impossible to work without the motive of result for self. It is important, therefore to describe the importance of the above sloka. The followingnexplanation will help the readers:

  1. In Sakam Karma we are constantly conscious of the desired results and the benefits to the self. Our concentration thus moves to the end result which is not present but the future. This takes our attention and
    energies away, from the present, i.e. the work, thus resulting in dissipation of energy. As the involvement is more with the result than the work, the best performance may not be ensured thereby giving a
    chance to failure in achievement. As the future expectation on the result was too high the failure to achieve leads to much more agony and dissatisfaction.
  2. As against this, in case of Nishkam Karma, the emphasis is on the Karma and not the desired result. This reduction of concern for result psychologically leads to conservation of energy. How? Once the
    decision to act has been taken after due deliberation about the ends and the means, from that moment our entire energies are focussed on execution. If the result is not according to expectation; it will not make us feel completely beaten and hopeless. Neither will its fulfillment puff us up with euphoria and pride.
  3. The strength of Nishkam Karma are the ‘Satwic Guna’ which give mental equilibrium i.e. ‘Samatwa’- the state in which one accepts the positive results gracefully and does not get derailed in case of failure.
    One can take success and failure both as the two sides of the same coin, thus can handle both. The ‘Sakam Karma’ is driven by Rajasic forces of ego, greed and anger, which lead to inequilibrium and can prompt the doer to twist the meanness to ensure the desired
    result. As Mahatma Gandhi said: He who is ever brooding over result often loses nerve in the performance of his duty. He becomes impatient and then gives vent to anger and begins to do unworthy things; he jumps from action to action, never remaining faithful to any. He who broods over results is like a man given to objects of sense; he is ever distracted, he says good-bye to all scruples, everything is right in his estimation and he therefore resorts to means fair and foul to attain his end.
  4. In the former case of Niskam Karma, work is worship of divine, whereas in the later case, work is worship of ego. Thus the former agrees with the cosmic order. In Sakam Karma the goals are egocentric whereas in Niskam Karma they go beyond to socio-centric and Cosmo-centric causes. Here the work is performed in a natural way like the flower that gives fragrance, the sun that gives sunlight without asking for the rewards. Management of ego helps in
    becoming wholesome worker.
  5. In Sakam Karma, success is the aim whereas in Nishkam Karma, perfection is the aim. The former is normally short-lived and temporary. When perfection is the aim the failures are accepted as stepping-stones and journey to perfection continues. Such performance only can lead to Sustenance of the World-
  6. The modern concepts of success treat man as a rational animal. Work is performed in competitive spirit quoting the law of jungle – survival of the fittest. One tries to excel through competitive rivalries. As
    against this in Nishkama karma excellence is achieved through the principle of ‘work is worship’. And when one is striving for perfection, who is the competitor? None else, but you yourself. As Dr. Radhakrishnan says: Work is man’s homage to the Supreme.
  7. One following Nishkam Karma is internally autonomous and self motivated. The Sakam karma worker is externally dependent and can attain jobenrichment only. As against this Nishkam Karma brings mind enrichment, which bring beauty to all jobs. Such desire less action can have no decisiveness, no effectiveness, no efficient motive, no large vigorous creative power? Not so. Action done in this spirit is
    not only the highest but the wisest, the most potent and efficient, even for the affairs of the world. —- Sri Aurobindo
    Let us see in the story linked below how our worry
    of the result distracts us from real performance.


We have mentioned about the detached involvement in the preceding pages. Let us perform a small activity here to understand its importance.

Here the adjustment to limitations does not mean to confine oneself within the limits but to be capable of working out alternatives to overcome the given constraints. This needs creativity which can work in an open-mind, not the one which is over-involved (stuck) in the situation. As already
explained in unit I, we can work in constraints by accepting them, not by rejecting them. Michelangelo was once asked how he made beautiful status from pieces of marble, which had no shape. He said that the statue was in his mind and he went on removing from the marble whatever was not
part of the statue and soon the statue emerged.

Thus he did not get involved in the shapeless stone. The shapeless stone did not disturb the statue in his mind. This detachment from the stone and involvement in the Job (the statue) alone was his strength. Thus the beauty of the inner world can manifest in the outer world through detached involvement only. Without detachment we get derailed and lost in the chaotic world. This inner beauty should be given a chance to manifest within the Zone of our Discretion. Let the other things around not disturb us.


A few doubts may arise in our minds, when it comes to practicing Nishkam Karma. One such doubt is: if I begin to follow this approach then I may soon confine myself to oblivion in the present day environment’. This very anxiety seems natural in today’s work environment. Indian thinkers
have always stressed that such efforts cannot and should not be contingent upon whether others reciprocate the same attitude or not. Such a contingency approach will tend to act as an obstacle to the initiation of change because each one is waiting and guessing what the other(s) might or might not do. Let us initiate it even though all alone. Because we know if the cause, the intention, the motivation is right and pure, the effect, the result must also be wholesome.

In the cosmic scheme, this law is just immutable. Men like Vivekananda, Tagore, Tilak, Gandhi, and Ramana have also proved this fundamental truth in contemporary times. And they were workers and achievers par excellence! But the real obstacle lies in our own mechanical mental
assumptions and constructions. We have become conditioned to keep over-planning our actions for the desired outcomes. Most of us are concerned about success at each and every step of our life. The goals have become so shortlived that even the failure to get expected result in trivial matters is enough to upset us, when we are not even sure if the expected result only is really beneficial to us. The following story on Akbar and Birbal can help us understand why we need to come out of such conditionings.


Akbar the emperor is known for his generosity and Birbal, his minister, for his wisdom. That is why Akbar always consulted him on all issued and loved his company. Once they went to jungle for hunting. Following a deer, both of them went far into the jungle and lost their way.

Their accompanies were left behind. The deer could not be caught and in turn Akbar got his thumb injured. With the result they could not continue hunting anymore. Leaving their horses, both started walking slowly. Akbar asked Birbal, ‘ Now you keep saying that God is great and he brings
all the benevolence to us. Do you think so even now when my thumb is injured and I am not able to hunt anymore?’ Birbal answered humbly, ‘ Yes my Lord! I still feel so.’ The emperor got annoyed and pushed Birbal, who fell into a nearby pit. Birbal tried to come out but in vain. Akbar asked
him again, ‘ Do you still hold the same opinion?’ To this again Birbal replied in affirmative. “O.K. then enjoy His grace.’ Saying so, the emperor walked ahead alone.

Hardly had he gone half a furlong, a group of tribal soldiers came around him. They took him along to their tribe, gave him a bath and presented him before their leader, who was busy performing yagna with his people. The leader directed his soldiers to inspect the captive’s body. It was found that his thumb was injured. Realising that he was not fit for the ritual sacrifice, the soldiers were ordered to leave the captive.

Akbar felt relieved and rushed back to Birbal. The whole situation was now clear to him. He pulled out Birbal from the pit and told him the tale. Then he said, ‘ Oh Birbal, now I understand how great He is! I am saved just because of this injury on my thumb.’ ‘Yes my Lord!’ said Birbal, ‘ that is why
I am always grateful to him. Had you not thrown me in this pit, I could have lost my life in the sacrifice.’

The moral of this story is that even if the things do not move the way we desire them to, and for which we have made the required effort, we should not get frustrated. Here we have to understand that this whole universe is infinite and there are infinite cause and effect factors going around.
We with our limited power of sense organs cannot know all of them. Also with our limited intellect, we cannot comprehend all of them. So if we have taken a particular action with reference to the limited factors known to us, we cannot be sure of the desired result. Because we do not know what is going to be the impact of all the factors not known to us. Further, even if we are able to achieve the desired result we cannot be sure that the desired outcome only is for my benevolence in the long run. The fact that the
working of the all pervading Cosmic or Divine power is for the benevolence of all may not be so directly visible to us in our day to day life as in the above case of Akbar and Birbal. But definitely this endless act of well-being is going on and on.

Thus while working with selfless pure desire, we have to cultivate an inner certitude that the effects of such work are bound to be wholesome in a total sense. And a sincere beginning does indeed produce evidence soon enough for the practitioner to prove its truth. For, our mind by then gets tuned to observe and interpret facts and events in an altogether new and integral light. We start perceiving meaningful cause and effect linkages in all the apparently random happenings around us.


‘Work is worship’: we have heard this phrase as much in western thought as in India. Its common usage in the West limits itself to emphasis disciplined dedication to the task at hand. This is highly desirable. But it stops there.

The word

worship is not taken to its full spiritual meaning. In the Indian thought we can understand the deep spiritual meaning of the phrase by practicing it in these sequential stages:
a) Work and worship
b) Work as worship, and
c) Work is worship

For those of us who go to churches only on Sundays, or to temples or gurudwaras or mosques on festive days alone, there is a complete demarcation between work and worship. Even for those who sit twice daily for prayers before their deities or god, as is still the practice in a dwindling number of Indian homes, such worship is often conceived in opposition to work. Of course during prayers, the mind is somewhat more pure and calm. But the effect is short-lived.

This state of affairs is mentioned as work and worship. The next advanced stage is when we are able, in a conscious way, to offer our work also as a prayer to the Supreme Power, Universal Energy, conceived and understood
either intellectually, or through a chosen deity (bhakti marga). This brings a touch of purity in the means employed, and some extra dedication and humility while doing, work. This is the stage of work as worship.

The final stage is when all distinction vanishes between sitting down for prayers and formally worshipping on the one hand, and standing up to a machine, or sitting at a desk scanning through papers and files, or lecturing on a topic.

Man’s entire living and conduct then become an unending worship. In this state, no work remains higher or lower for us. Nature of work is not important, but the manner in which it is performed is important. The importance of work is the dedication with which it is done. A man like Gandhi, Tagore, Vivekananda, Ramana and Vinoba are some such examples of Work is worship. This is the climax, the crowning achievement of the ancient Indian method of work, which needs to be our work ethics. We can attain this method and art of work through Purification of Mind, which helps us keep aside ego-driven self-interests. This method and art of work can help us reach the culmination of Work is worship – the
true basis of work ethics.

This attitude towards work, if adopted, can nurture and give strength to the worker through all ups and downs, success and failures, and gradually stimulate him towards perfection and progress, even when the work being
performed is apparently the meanest. This theory thus gives dignity to all jobs- the big and small.


A teacher had learnt about a wise-man who lived uphill. One day he decided to visit this man with his two students. On their way they had to pass through a meadow, where they found a shepherd with a flock of sheep. The shepherd seemed very angry and was seen time and again beating a
sheep, which was limping slowly because of a wounded foreleg and was often left behind. At the same time there appeared an old man who was walking with a stick and was passing by the same flock. After some time the old man picked up the limping sheep, put it on his shoulders and kept
walking. On the way he dropped the sheep at shepherds house and walked away calmly. Throughout the way this old man was seen to be walking patiently. The two students kept watching all this and started talking to each other.

Student I: Why should this old man carry the sheep? It is difficult for him to walk.
Student II: May be the sheep belong to him.
Student I: But he is not talking to anyone. I don’t think he knows the shepherd or the sheep.
Student II: But even the shepherd could carry the sheep. He is quite young.
Student I: He must be making fool of this old man. He is not bothered.
Student II: (when the sheep was dropped) But the sheep seems to be thankful.
Student I: What about the old-man, he does not look tired, even he does not seems to be expecting any thanks from the shepherd.
Student II: Oh! The shepherd is a thankless person.
Student I: But why could not you or I pick up the sheep.
Student I: Come on, at least I am not interested in all this charity. Soon the teacher and the student were climbing the hill and they reached the place where, they were to see the wise man. To their astonishment, this wise man was none else but the same old man.

The old man welcomed them and offered them seats. They asked him: ‘ Sir we saw you on our way. You were carrying a sheep. But we wondered why
were you carrying the sheep all the way when we could see, it is difficult for you to walk? Even the shepherd could pick it. He even did not have any feeling of thankfulness.’ The old man did not reply and was quite and calm.
The teacher took the students back. On their way he told them that the wise man was above all these small things to expect gratitude or something else in return. He showed you what is Nishkam Karma. It is the Sattwa Gunas like compassion and care which prompted him to pick-up the poor sheep. Even you or I could do that. We did feel concern for the sheep but did not have courage to carry it. This shows the wise man’s ego-less state. He was not bothered what others might be feeling about him. Whatever job came
his way he did it with full enrichment and thereafter just forget. Great men do not remember the good done by them.

They just enjoy it. This state can be reached only when one performs his job as an offering to the divine. Thus Whatever work we do, we should offer it to the supreme.

This is a real mind enrichment formula in Nishkam Karma. Because when I do Niskam Karma, my heart will be pure, if I do Sakama Karma, my emotions will be involved.

Thus the true skill in work, as given in our ancient Indian thoughts is the capacity to do work while being consciously in union of the supreme. The attention put outside on work is balanced by the inner anchor in the supreme intelligence or power. Such action done in yoga is not only the highest but the wisest also; the most potent and efficient even for
the affairs of the world.

Thusbefore you start the day’s work, at your desk or work-place, silently invoke the Supreme Power and offer your effort to Him; sometime half-way through the day, repeat this, and close the working day too by a similar inner process. In fact, this also is what yoga in practice really boils
down to. Practicising this with ardent faith does produce good results pretty soon. And, of course, by this means, the goal of the improvement of the quality of working life in organizations becomes attainable.


We have seen in Unit II that the active people reflect Rajo Guna when they become overactive to satisfy their ego. Such egoistical behaviour has all self-pampering objectives, where they neglect feelings and emotions of others. Similarly the emotional people become Tamoguni when they
get involved in emotions and become oversensitive to others (moha). This brings imbalance in due to over dependence on the wrong conditionings (super-ego), which such people have developed over a period of time. Their action/inaction is then guided by such conditionings and not by the openminded thinking. Thus in both the situations one is over involved and is devoid of detachment, so vital for openminded and pure-minded thinking and action. However, in the balanced state of Sattwa, there is no such involvement. One becomes open-minded and detached. Thus the detached involvement of Nishkam Karma is attained through Sattwic Guna.



Senior Manager (Internal Audit): (Angrily) within these four walls let me tell you, Sir, that the internal audit department itself should share a large measure of responsibly for the Rs. 20 lakh scam you had sent me to
investigate last week at one of four regional headquarters.

General Manager (Internal Audit): (Startled) why do you say that? S.M: for the past two years our audit programmers for various plants and regions have been omitting the audit of payment vouchers without consulting us. Plant-level accountants and other related employees also know very
well that neither statutory, nor government auditors will ever go to the length of auditing these vouchers. This allows ample scope for mala fide cash drainage from the organisation.

GM: (Chuckles) Well, Well-perhaps you are not aware of the circumstances that led to the pruning of our audit programme.
S.M: What were they?
G.M: The present CEO, who assumed this position three years ago, felt that the Board was finding it very difficult to cope with our reports and therefore constituted an Audit Sub-Committee of the Board. It, however, hardly meets to consider our reports. This suggested to me that our
painstaking labour of voucher-auditing was a rather futile exercise, hence its cancellation.
S.M.: What a sea change from the times of the previous CEO. Although both CEOs had grown from within the company, the former was a thoroughbred finance and accounting professional, while the present one is a technocrat.
G.M: What difference does that make?
S.M.: You should know better, Sir. During the regime of the former CEO, all the plants’/regional GMs were called before the full Board to explain internal audit queries, and had to commit themselves to remedial action within a specified time frame. At the end of this period they had
to report back to the CEO about the actual status in the concerned problem areas.
GM.: But are we not trying these days to move forward towards a trust-based organizational culture? We paid ten lakh rupees to an ace consultant only very recently, and he recommended restructuring our firm on terms of
‘strategic business units’. Isn’t trust a basic value that underpins the SBU system?
S.M.: (Smile cynically) Sir, 1 had better not open my small mouth on this big subject!
G.M.: (half-serious) Alright then. Let’s get back to your onsite investigations over the last week. What’s your overall judgment?
S.M.: (pauses to collect himself) in my opinion, Sir, both the Chief Accountant and the General Manager have been the key players in the scam. And even the Cashier has been persuaded to be an accomplice in the game.
GM.: Tell me first how the Cashier was involved in aiding and abetting the scam.
S.M.: On the very day of my arrival, following conventional audit practice, I checked the cash position and discovered a shortfall. On further probing the Cashier showed me quite a few IOUs signed by the Chief Accountant, a good number of which had been cancelled and a few others current, I could clearly see that a ‘teeming and lading’ process was merrily being carried on for about a year or so. As indicated by the Cashier, this was at the behest of
and for personal ways and means advances to the Chief Accountant.
GM: Why didn’t the Cashier object to this practice?
S.M.: I asked him the same question. He replied that being just an average B.Com. He would not be able to secure an identical job outside if he was thrown out by the Chief Accountant for not dancing to him tune.
S.M: Could you now be a little more specific about the other irregularities?
S.M.: Surely, notices from sales tax, excise and other Departments have been raised in an organized manner. Often the sum involved in each bill has been of the order of Rs 80,000 or more. On the plea of extreme urgency,
cash payment vouchers were approved regularly for such payments. This was a clear violation of an existing rule that permits a maximum of Rs. 20,000 cash payment on a single transaction at the GM-level.
G.M: But how could you be certain that the notices from the indirect tax authorities were false? Did you check whether he had to really pay such sums of money to the concerned authorities? as bribes to avoid any nuisance or harassment from them?
S.M.: The answer to the second part of your question is No! As you will appreciate transactions of this nature are outside the scope of audit. But the plant GM should have given prior approval for any such payments, if made at all. Frankly I have not broached the subject with him. But I did privately visit the tax authorities with some of these so-called notices and got a confirmation from them that they were indeed false.

GM.: Good Lord! I don’t understand why our internal audit boys on site did not carry out such checks and inform us about matters!

S.M: I think this would be more an investigation and therefore outside the jurisdiction of the unit level internal audit. Moreover, they are too junior to have the courage to report such things to us in the head office. In fact, I
was also not an appropriate choice for this investigation because the two concerned officers were of DGM and GM levels, and I’m not even an AGM. Either you or an AGM from here should have gone. I fail to understand why you shirked this responsibility. Why should I be made to face the wolves all the time? Where is the recognition for my labour?

GM.: (in a somewhat faltering voice) you know, the CEO wanted that a senior officer should handle this investigation.

S.M: (snaps back) yes, indeed! I’m senior only by age, not by designation. In any case, I don’t think the CEO suggested me by name.

GM.: (After short pause) well, what are your impressions about the Chief Accountant?

S.M.: (hesitantly) Is it right for me to do so?

G.M.: (patronizingly) Come on! It’s between you and me.

S.M.: (In a reminiscent mood) I think I had met him only once before at our annual accountants’ conference. I didn’t really get to know him closely. But I know then that he had acquired all the three professional qualifications in
finance and accounting. Many spoke of him as ‘a brilliant accountant’.

GM.: But that’s in the past. Are you being evasive?
S.M.: Not altogether. After a number of direct discussions with him, I got yet more evidence to support mt hypothesis that the cleverer and more brilliant a person is, the more is he/she liable to be selfishly manipulative.

G.M: (jocularly) You seem to be wiser than your age! What else did you discover?

S.M: Yes, I have also uncovered something far deeper, not from him directly though. On many occasions while I was at the Chief Accountant’s Office, I could make out that a good number of phone calls to and from his office were in connection with stock market operations. I could clearly see the anguish and desperation writ large on his face and in his voice. I am therefore convinced that this man is a very active player in the stock market. Then I came to know something even more revealing.

G. M: What is that?

S.M: One evening a junior officer from the Plant took me for an evening stroll along the beach, and during the course of it revealed timely significant back-stage machinations.

G.M.: Let’s get on with it.

S.M.: The official said: ‘During 1990-91 when the Bombay stock market prices were shooting up, this brilliant accountant went out of his way to borrow money from all and sundry and invested in all kinds of shares. With
rising share prices he thought nothing of repaying these borrowings. He dreamt up fantastic visions for his future. And then suddenly the scam broke, the stock market crashed and he met with colossal losses on his portfolio. Relatives and friends who had lent him money were now
on his neck. So, with his brilliant mind and aided by the system’s slackness, he went on fleecing the company to repay his debts’.

G.M.: But I remember you having said that you are unwilling to buy the system’ slackness’ thesis.

S.M.: Yes, I reiterate my view. The ‘system’s slackness’ itself was a result of a taking it easy attitude by the powers that be.

G.M.: In that case, tell me how you would have modified the terms of reference given to you before leaving for the site?



I now know the difference between a visit and a pilgrimage. Most of us who go to Amarnath, Kailash Mansarovar, Mecca or Kashi, are visitors not pilgrims, if we really question ourselves. The true pilgrim seeks nothing, not
even salvation; he is humble enough to realise his own limitations.
The truth of this was brought home to me by a man who combines humility and wisdom effortlessly to convert his own life into a pilgrimage. A 40-minute meeting with Elayaraja Marthanda Varma, the surviving scion of the Travancore royal family, became the high point of my own “pilgrimage, of the past fortnight. Looking at him, not ‘just seeing him, listening
to him, not just hearing him, I could see why Kerala is the most literate, poor but graceful living State in the country. A succession of far-sighted, learned and self -less maharajahs of Travancore had ensured that every child born in the ‘State was assured of minimum education to assure every grown-up a livelihood. Almost all the roads that inter-connect the areas
of the former Trvancore-Cochin kingdom were built by the rulers of yore. Fifty years of alternating governance by the Congress and the Communists have contributed little to the industrial growth of Kerala but the royal initiative to provide the best human investment – education to all – has ensured that the peripatetic Keralite would find jobs anywhere in the

As we, (self and colleague T.N. Nair) took off our chappals before entering the nondescript permanent residence of the Elayaraja – the palace in the adjoining hillock, had been gifted to a hospital bearing the name of his more famous elder brother – he was already there at the door to greet us. For a fleeting second my eyes lingered on the hawaii chappals that our royal host was wearing. I didn’t know that the Elayaraja had noted my own ocular movement by reflex.

He led us inside, made us sit and then said: “I must apologise for wearing chappals.” In South India most people take off their footwear, not because of any ritualistic belief but on the solidly hygienic reasoning that shoes carry dirt dust and miscellaneous bacteria, which should not enter the
places one visits. What followed was a tale which fortified my firm belief that our country and our people are still insulated in the greatness of our culture and tradition for us to abandon hope. The Elayaraja had suffered the growth of big corn on his left foot, which needed surgery. Walking was
painful even with bandage and painkillers. Before the wound had healed, he was faced with a problem- a temple festival, where traditionally the Raja had to walk barefooted in a procession for two kilometres to receive the deity. The doctors said no, he shouldn’t walk. If he must, he should not
be bare-footed, but walk with shoes. The over-70 former ruler insisted that keeping up the tradition would come above personal health. So, he would
take part in the festival, walk, and walk bare-footed. The doctors said he wouldn’t be able to. Finally he told them: “Why don’t you cut the corn? Give me local anaesthesia and painkillers. Do that now, so that I do my duty to God and people”.

He did what he wanted to do, with the Communist Government sheepishly joining in and the people who voted the Communists to power periodically and enthusiastically observing the religious rituals. He did damage the “corned” foot and hence had to move around with chappals inside the
house. Isn’t it a paradox, I asked him, that two states which are strongholds of Communism – Kerala and West Bengal – professing atheism by ideology and zealously promoting faith-based festivals. “The atheism of our Communists,” he said, is bogus. This country has a rich tradition of spiritual
atheism. The Charvalca philosophy is based on atheism. Their (Communists) atheism is politics; and their secularism is politics; they dare not tamper with people’s faith, but they can pander to vote-based religious sentiments.

Travancore’s rulers, deeply religious were epitomes of secularism and social justice. More than six decades ago, Mahatma Gandhi sent G.D. Birla to Trivandrum to seek the -then King’s support for the movement to let Harijans into the temple. The King unhesitatingly said that he would pass a
law on temple-entry and would himself lead the first batch of Harijans. At a time when Kerala temples were steeped in rigid orthodoxy, it was truly evolutionary.

Later, when the Mahatma was scheduled to visit Trivandrum, the Maharajah sent messages offering his help to make the visit successful and properly arranged. The Mahatma, said the Elayaraja, told the King and his (my) mother that it was not a visit but a pilgrimage. “For me, your
palace is a temple and I have come here to worship”. The young Marthanda Varma stood transfixed watching Mahatma Gandhi refusing to take a seat because he was inside a temple’s sanctum sanctorum.

After the death of his elder brother, the King, the Elayaraja became the ruler without being called Maharajah. Travancore Kings, when they ascend the throne, go to the Padmanabha temple, possibly the oldest of 108 Vaishnavite “divyakshetras” of the south, and prostrate themselves
before the deity promising to rule as “the servant of the Lord” (Padmanabhadasa). Sometime in the seventies, at a conclave of former princes, any from the clan of expired eminence told him “They (the government) have taken away your throne, your kingdom, your purse your privileges, your palaces, well, your everything. You are loved by your people. Why don’t you be in public life, fight for your rights”.

He said: “I have sworn to be Padmanabhadasa. I have been blessed with sufficient resources to be of service to the people and to him… that is public life, isn’t it?” When Rajaji (C.Raja-gopalachari) started the Swatantra Party in the early sixties, he asked Elayaraja to join politics. He got the reply
that politics was not exactly service. “I do not know whether people love me or respect me, but no one hates me. And I am content with that and the opportunity to get to serve the people who come to me”.

Thus we see here that the Royal family had gifted out their palace for the hospital even though they knew of the things going around but were not disturbed by them – A SIGN OF PEOPLE STABALISED IN THE SATTWA. The participation of Elayaraja in the festival walk barefooted with his wounded
foot shows that he keeps sentiments of the people above his personal requirement. Here we see a man who is no more a king but still continues to work for the benevolence of the general public with the spirit of Niskama Karma. He prefers to rule in the hearts of his people than to enjoy power and politics. He proves to be Padmanabhadasa (at the service of GOD) in the true sense. As is well said that The Service of mankind is the real service of God. He is a contented person, has affluence (Poornatva) and enlightenment within.

Friends even today we have many such people amongst us. Need is to identify them and acknowledge them so that we can learn from them. For ourselves, we need to see what all resources the almighty has given us and should use them for others benevolence also. The story clearly shows the
persons in position and power are not the only competent persons to serve the people. Capacity and power to serve others has to be inculcated within so that within our own Zone of Discretion, we can serve people in small measures though, but effectively. And such zeal is much more expected
from us. As Government Servants, we are responsible in different capacities to serve the people. Need is to develop a helping attitude and to look into our files objectively and to work with a problem solving approach.


Sit comfortably. If you are wearing something, which is tight on your body, you can loosen it, relax, close your eyes………… feel from your toe to head that you are relaxed.

Your mind is relaxed and you do not feel like moving any part of your body. Keep your attention on the fontanel area of your head, i.e. above your brain. Relax your mind and body.

If thoughts come just let them go. You are relaxed. Breath slowly. Inhale, stop and exhale, stop. Again inhale, stop and exhale, stop. Follow it a few times. There are no thoughts, or very less thoughts. Now just prey: Let the fontanel bone area of my head open up in the form of a lotus. Let me be one with the all-pervading Divine power. Let this power nourish me.
Let the petals of the open lotus absorb this divine love into my brain, my central nervous system. Imagine that you are breathing through this opening, inhaling Sattwa guna, the positive energy and exhaling
out the vicious emotions, the negative energy. Keep sitting and be receptive.
You may also like to take some of the affirmations, which are mentioned in the previous units. After sometime slowly open your eyes.

We are doing mind stilling exercise or Meditation by following certain steps. We are also adding some new steps as and as we learn the new concepts on values. You might have been doing some sort of meditation earlier or you might have heard of different methods. A genuine query may arise in your mind as to which method should be followed in the true sense. While majority of the methods have the same purpose, the following article by Dr. Ramesh Manocha discusses some important methods, for clinical importance. But it is a useful guide to us as well.

Why meditation?

Meditation is seen by a number of researchers as potentially one of the most effective forms of stress reduction. While stress reduction techniques have been cultivated and studied in the West for approximately 70
years, the data indicates that they are not consistently beffective.

Meditation however, has been developed in Eastern cultures and has a documented history of more than several thousand years. Eastern meditative techniques have been developed, trialed and refined over hundreds of generations with the specific intention of developing a method by which the layperson can regularly attain a state of mental peace and
tranquillity i.e. relief from stress. It is a strategy that can easily be adapted to the needs of clinicians and their patients in the West.

A US study for example, showed that a short course of behaviour modification strategies that included meditation led to significantly fewer visits to physicians during the six months that followed. The savings were estimated at over $200 per patient. A study of insurance statistics showed that use of medical care was significantly less for meditators compared to non-meditators.

The growing emphasis on:
Quality of life outcomes Concepts such as psycho-neuro-immunology or mind– body medicine, and Reducing healthcare costs suggest that stress reduction and improving mental health are becoming increasingly relevant to healthcare.

The need for an evidence based approach A recent survey of Australian general practitioner showed that while GPs perceived meditation as an acceptable, even mainstream, health care strategy, it is paradoxically a poorly under stood discipline. In view of this, the authors concluded
that well designed trials and education are urgently needed to inform GPs’ decision making.

Meditation vs relaxation

Implicit in the fact that the term ‘meditation’ exists separately from that of relaxation’ suggests that there should be clear differences between the two phenomena. However, there is as yet insufficient evidence to draw a clear
distinction. Moreover, researchers have yet to systematically compare different techniques of meditation to determine whether or not these techniques use different or similar mechanisms or have differing effect profiles.

Lack of quality research

Despite the breadth of information available on meditation, a report of the US National Research Council (NRC) on meditation raised concerns about weak methodology and poor definition of the process. Examining
the literature using evidence based criteria reveals that while meditation does appear to have therapeutic potential, there is a great need for further research before definitive conclusions can be made. The body of knowledge currently suggests that not all meditation techniques are t he same; most techniques are probably elaborate relaxation methods while there are
others that may well involve physiological processes unique to meditation.

What is meditation?

There are many forms of meditation, ranging in complexity from strict, regulated practices to general recommendations. If practised regularly, meditation is thought to help develop habitual, unconscious micro
behaviours that can potentially produce wide-spread positive effects on physical and psychological functioning. Meditation even for 15 minutes twice a day has been shown to bring beneficial results.

How does meditation work?

  1. Parasympathetic response
    Most theories are based on the assumption that meditation is a sophisticated form of relaxation involving a concept called the parasympathetic response. Psychological stress is associated with activation of the sympathetic component of the autonomic nervous system, which in its extreme, causes the ‘fight or flight response’. Meditation and any form of rest or relaxation acts to reduce sympathetic activation by reducing the release of catecholamines and
    other stress hormones such as cortisol, and promoting increased parasympathetic activity which in turn slows the heart rate and improves the flow of blood to the viscera and away from the periphery.
  2. Other neurophysiological effects Other proponents claim that meditation involves unique neurophysiological effects; however, this remains to be proven. Research at the MRP suggests the limbic system may be involved in Sahaja yoga meditation (SYM) since significant
    effects involving mood state have been consistently observed.Defining what we mean by meditation The most important issue that must be addressed in this field of research is to clearly define meditation and then subject that definition to scientific testing. Meditation is popularly perceived to be any activity in which the individual’s
    attention is primarily focused on a repetitious cognitive activity. This very broad definition is, in the opinion of the MRP, the main cause for much of the inconsistent outcomes seen in meditation research.
  3. ‘Thoughtless awareness’
    If one closely examines the authentic tradition of meditation it is apparent that meditation is a discrete and well-defined experience of a state called ‘thought-less awareness’. This is a state in which the excessive and stress producing activity of the mind is neutralized without reducing alertness and effectiveness. Authentic meditation enables one to focus on the ‘present moment’ rather than dwell on
    the unchangeable past or undetermined future. It is this state
    of equipoise that is said to be therapeutic both psychologically and physically and which fundamentally distinguishes meditation from simple relaxation, physical rest or sleep.
  4. Reducing ‘background mental noise’
    According to this perspective, s tress is the inevitable byproduct of an overactive mind. The unsilenced mind is responsible for almost continuous background mental noise’ the content of which is mostly unnecessary and unproductive. Yet it is this ‘mental noise’ that impinges on our otherwise natural tendency toward psychological, mental and spiritual health.
    Most commercialised meditation techniques do not
    reliably give the key experience of mental silence or
    ‘thoughtless awareness’ hence they can more precisely be
    described as ‘quasi-meditative’. These include methods that
    use constant repetition of syllables (such as mantras),
    visualisations or other thought forms. This does not mean
    they may not be useful as they do encourage relaxation by
    reducing or simplifying mental activity or focusing attention.
    However, well-designed physiological and clinical trials have,
    on the whole, shown little difference between these
    techniques and physical rest or relaxation.
    Types of meditation
    There are many meditation techniques available to
    consumers. Three notable examples include transcendental
    meditation, mindfulness and Sahaja yoga.
    Transcendental meditation
    Transcendental meditation (TM) is the commonest form of
    mantra meditation. It aims to prevent distracting thoughts by
    use of a mantra. Students are instructed to be passive and, if
    thoughts other than the mantra come to mind, to notice them
    and return to the mantra. A TM student is asked to practise
    for 20 minutes in the morning and again in the evening.
    Transcendental meditation is said to be associated with
    clinical outcomes such as blood pressure r e d u c t ion and
    physiological changes such as lowered blood cortisol levels.

Adverse effects
There are however, a number of case reports in the
mainstream medical literature describing occasional adverse
psychological and physical effects that appear to be causally
related to the technique. These adverse events range from
mild to severe and warrant further systematic investigation.
Cost issues
The technique is taught using a commercial system in
which one begins by purchasing a mantra. Further instruction
entails an escalating system of fees that can be cost
prohibitive. Moreover, the TM organisation has on occasion
been implicated in unethical and cultic practices. In light of
this information, medical practitioners have no choice but to
recommend caution with regard to this method.
Mindfulness and Vipassana meditation
Mindfulness is a general method that serves as a basis
for techniques such as Vipassana meditation. It aims to use
focused attention (often by using a physical sensation such as
the breath) to cultivate mental calmness. Regular practice
enables one to objectively observe one’s thoughts and
therefore enhance one’s self-understanding. Mindfulness
approaches have been shown to be effective in certain clinical
applications such as chronic pain.
Vipassana is both a general term referring to a
specialised form of mindfulness meditation and also a specific
brand name. The following information refers to the latter.
Vipassana is taught in Australia via a number of Vipassana
retreats and centres. The retreats involve up to 10 days of
intensive meditation, several hours per day, and other strict
observances such not talking and encouragement to maintain
strict postures for long periods of time. There is no fee for
these retreats but ‘recommended donations’ are described.
These retreats are unsuitable for the average person,
particularly those unfamiliar wit h meditation, due t o the
extreme physical and psychological demands. Adverse events
associated with Vipassana have been described although it is
unclear as to which form these reports refer.
Sahaja yoga meditation
Sahaja yoga meditation (SYM) is the technique of choice
in the MRP. Sahaja yoga meditation aims to promote the
experience of ‘thoughtless awareness’ bas ed on t he original
meditative tradition. Meditators in the MRP consistently
describe the ability to achieve this experience. They are
encouraged to practise twice daily for approximately 15
minutes. Sahaja yoga meditation is well suited for the general
population and for research, because it is easy to learn and is
taught free of charge. Sahaja yoga meditation is currently used
in three Sydney hospitals for patients, staff and public.
Feedback from management teams and anecdotal reports from
patients and carers are favourable. As yet no adverse effects
have been reported in MRP’s trials, clinics or in the literature.
The MRP has conducted a number of small and large
trials on SYM, which have generated promising results in
Australian conditions. A randomised controlled trial of
meditation for moderate to severe asthma compared SYM to
a relaxation control. SYM was more effective in a number of
objective and subjective endpoints.
A number of locally conducted pilot studies examining
the effect of SYM suggest that it may have a beneficial role in
menopausal hot flushes, severe migraine and psychological
stress. Randomised controlled trials are underway in order to
obtain definitive data. Studies in India suggest that SYM is
more beneficial than mimicking exercises in the treatment of
epilepsy and hypertension.
Recommending meditation techniques to patients
General practitioners must exercise commonsense and
discrimination when recommending meditation to their
patients as they have a duty of care to ensure the
safety of their patients’ health and finances. Meditation is
contraindicated in those suffering from psychosis and
should only be applied with great caution in those with
severe psychological problems. The medico legal
implications of recommending a technique that leads to an
adverse event have not been explored.
A simple and effective rule of thumb when choosing
or recommending a meditation technique is to assume
that ‘the best things in life are free’. Organisations
involved in the commercialization and marketing of oftencostly ‘meditation’ techniques, courses and ‘master
classes’ are least likely to be selling an authentic method.
Unfortunately in these situations the welfare of the
individual and the community usually become secondary
to profit or fame.


We have seen that if we broaden our objective of performance from meeting self interests to the watching the interests and benevolence of all and make our approach holistic, our smaller self-interests will automatically be met. Such an approach i.e. working for good objectives but
not just for immediate returns (short-term gains) helps us avoid unnecessary thinking about the result and planning for the future. Thus we concentrate on the job in hand and are able to conserve our energies and reduce stress. We work with co-operative spirit (instead of the competitive spirit), which builds a congenial atmosphere. Nishkam Karma can be performed in the state of Sattwa Guna. The state of equilibrium and working with the principle of Nishkam Karma keeps us in balance.
When we are over concerned with results, we are not able to concentrate on the job in hand and keep jumping from one act to the other In the state of detached involvement, we can concentrate on the job fully without any deviation to the surroundings, i.e. not getting disturbed by the circumstances as we are not involved.

Work enriched by values within becomes worship itself. It brings satisfaction the doer regardless to the obvious status of the job.
We become real achievers if we have peace within like the Senior Manager of the case-study we can judge what actions we are required to take and can find out means to do them.


  1. Please state how is the work done in the state of Nishkama Karma more beneficial.
  2. How is detached involvement linked to Nishkam karma?
  3. Which of the three Gunas lead us to Nishkam Karma and how?
  4. State your organisational situation where you find hindrance in functioning smoothly. Think what ways and means can you adopt to function smoothly within the given constraints.


  1. Please read a real life story from The Chicken Soup for the Pre-teenage Soul by Jack Canfield & others reproduced in the following pages. Trash Bags Are for Trash Another Story Fire in the storm
  2. Management by Values: Toward Cultural Congruence by S.K.Chakraborty.