Why focus on actions and not on the fruits of actions?


Everything that happens to us happens in the present moment. Past and future moments are simply a creation of our mind recollecting and projecting from our memory while casting a veil over our perception of the present moment. Nothing can actually happen in a past or in a future moment. Our thoughts on the actions at hand apply to the present moment. Our thoughts on the fruits of actions involve a future that is not here and now. Therefore the thoughts revolving around the fruits of actions have very little relevance to the present moment and do not contribute to the progress of work at hand. Little do we notice how we let the present moment slip away while our mind broods over the future. We let valuable time pass.

When our work is only motivated by the fruits of actions and the actions themselves have no value to us – then sooner or later we are bound to lose interest in our work. Our passion and enthusiasm to get to somewhere or to get something turns into desperation and our mind becomes consumed with a sense of bitterness over work. We grow impatient with the work at hand. Our will and faith are easily shaken when faced with adversities. We find fault with our actions. We find fault with the world around us. We may even consider our work to be a burden and feel frustrated about it. We do not enjoy doing our actions and therefore we do not enjoy life. In an extreme situation, our mind conjures up excuses to enable us to finally give up our actions while we sink into despair and hopelessness.

We can find importance and value in actions when we undertake our actions on the understanding that they are our duty. When we nurture a feeling of being dedicated to our duty, our will to act strengthens. Focus on action is also easily attained when we have some emotional values attached to the work. For example a deep interest in the subject matters concerning the work, a feeling of reverence and satisfaction to find that your work not only fulfils you but also serves a greater cause or even having a sense of intimate pleasure derived directly through the performance of work. These create value on the actions for us and lessen our concern over the fruits of actions. Our mind becomes more available to be fully invested in the actions required. This increases our efficiency in work.

We have a choice to act or not to act. We also can choose to act in various different ways. None of these are available for us when it comes to the fruits of actions. We do not have the power to change the fruits of actions once they have appeared; we can only influence the possibility of an outcome through the actions that cause it. We have the power to choose and change our actions although we may face limitations and obstacles.

Dwelling on the fruits of actions can ignite doubt on the processes of your work as they shift your focus to the opposite of the favoured outcome. Although the pairs of opposites such as gain and loss, honour and dishonour, joy and sorrow and so on are an unavoidable fact of life, we can only move forward in life by rising above these dualities. If the mind is swayed by them then you will hold back from making decisions and performing actions. In short, they take you nowhere and only imprison your mind in fear, indecisiveness and worries.

When we focus our thoughts on actions, we are working in the domain of the known. It is known because our actions arise from our knowledge and will therefore be evident, perceivable and definite to us. That creates a sense of certainty and control. The fruits of actions belong to an unforeseen future, uncertain and unknown, which are therefore beyond our control. When we have no control over something that we are attached to naturally fear, restlessness, worries and doubt will afflict our mind. They exhaust our mental energy and destroy our inner peace.

To focus on the fruits of actions is to be closed to everything because to be fixated on a particular outcome is to deny ourselves new possibilities. To surrender our mental hold over the unknown future and to focus our attention on the actions at hand is to work with what is known while being open to everything else.

When all is said and done, it makes complete sense for the discerning mind to abandon all fears and worries over the fruits of actions and to dedicate the mind to the work at hand. It is a fact that we have command only over our actions and never over the fruits of our actions and this is why it is said in the Bhagavad Gita – Karmaṇyēvādhikārastē mā phalēṣu kadācana – Your right is to actions only, but never to the fruits thereof; (half stanza of verse 2.47)

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