कर्मण्येवाधिकारस्ते मा फलेषु कदाचन।
मा कर्मफलहेतुर्भूर्मा ते सङ्गोऽस्त्वकर्मणि॥
Karmanye vadhikaraste Ma Phaleshu Kadachana,Bhagavad Gita Chapter 2, Verse 47
Ma Karmaphalaheturbhurma Te Sangostvakarmani
This verse in the Bhagavad Gita gave a new direction to my life. In 2003, I had just graduated from Ramakrishna Mission Vidyapith, in Purulia from the junior high school. I barely survived there for the last 7 years. I wasn’t good at the sciences, but loved humanities. But the school was result oriented, and you were told, pretty much for your entire school career there that if you were not good in the sciences then you do not have a future. So I emerged from this school bruised, battered and really low on self-esteem. I had done enough to get a decent enough score to get myself into a humanities course in a good enough high school. But psychologically, I was broken. Seven years of indoctrination made me lose faith in myself, and acutely doubt whether my passion for history and the social sciences, were worth it. I doubted whether my passion was going to get me anywhere in life.
Despite my misgivings about Ramakrishna Mission-run boarding schools after my 7-year long psychological ordeal, my parents decided to send me to another of their boarding schools, this time near their global headquarters in Belur Math, nor far away from my home in Kolkata. Low in confidence and self-esteem, I braced for the worst.
But then, suddenly, the clouds parted and there was a burst of sunlight that changed my life for the better. After our morning prayer one Sunday, a new monk who had just joined the school stood up to give a talk. He quoted the above two lines from the Bahagavad Gita, one of the holiest texts in Hinduism. Then he explained what these lines meant:
You have right on what you do, but never to the results.
Let results not be your motivation for your work, neither let inaction grip you.
This was profound. He explained you can only control what you do, You cannot control how the results would turn out. You can only be really dedicated and committed to your work, without worrying about the results. Focusing on the results is distracting. It does not let you live in the moment, enjoy your work, if you always worry about how things will turn out in the future, which you cannot possibly know or control, anyway. He explained that if you strive for doing good work, the results will take care of themselves. And if you have worked hard and still failed, then you can learn a lot from your failure. You can introspect about why you failed, and then get up and do it differently the next time. He said that the fear of failure is the greatest productivity killer of them all. That constant fear of failure actually prevents us from trying and working hard. That it makes us lazy.
Sitting at the prayer hall that day, I felt all the tension, all self doubt and the constant fear of failing drained away. I physically felt the best I had ever felt in life. I finally had hope. The rest was history. I put razor sharp focus on whatever I did every day. I never worried about results. Occasionally, self-doubt would creep in, but at those times I always went back to that day, in that prayer hall. I did not only good in studies- I did great! I started believing in my dream, my passion ever more. I started enjoying whatever I did, without worrying about the ultimate outcome, as long as I did not harm anyone. This gave me my chutzpah to take what others would call “grave risks” and got rid of the “What ifs” from my thinking. I still do that today. One Ramakrishna Mission school broke me, and another made me get my self-esteem back.