Three architects are given the same job. They have to build a school for small children.
The first architect’s reaction is Oh God... does this mean I have to work?! So he grumbles and complains and manages to dig out some old drawings from somewhere and calls for some unauthorised and incompetent builders. He procures substandard bricks and adulterated cement. He does not take necessary building permissions and the whole thing is one unholy mess. The building barely gets built, when the problems start. Roofs start leaking. Walls start cracking. Safety regulations are not up to standard. And sooner or later the school is closed down.
This is the result of tamasik action. The tamasik man is simply unmotivated. Money does not motivate him. Neither does recognition, ethics or a sense or duty. He is slothful, lazy, ignorant, sloppy, lethargic and his energy is dark and heavy.
Architect number two is full of dynamic energy. He sees a golden opportunity. I’m going to make an extraordinary building. Generations will talk about it. I will win every award under the sun. And then they will put my picture on the cover of Time magazine. And then I’ll be made partner in the firm. And then I can take over the South Asia operations and I can finally buy that Ferrari and play golf everyday while my wife can socialise over martinis at the club.
Now, this man will not compromise on his work, simply because he has too much at stake. He is extremely motivated... but he is selfishly motivated. This makes him a Rajasik person. While the rajasik man is a man of action, his actions are motivated by his need for money, fame, pleasure and recognition. He craves the spotlight and would give anything to see his name in the headlines.
Architect number three also sees a golden opportunity. Wow! I’ve been asked to make a school for children. What a blessing. Children are our future and they deserve the very best. Let me see how I can make this the absolute best centre for learning for the little ones. Let me do some research and see what the ancients say about directional science. Which way should the kids face so that they can learn better? I think it’ll be wonderful to have some meditation rooms. I think we should have rounded edges on all the furniture so that the children don’t hurt themselves when they run around. A little waterfall or fountain could be a nice touch...the sound of water will calm restless minds...
Do you see how his mind is working? He too is extremely motivated and dynamic. But his is a selfless motivation. His energy is positive, effulgent, humble, pure. A sattvik man is selflessly motivated. As a result, the result of sattvik action is always pleasant and rewarding. Yes, the sattvik architect will probably win every award under the sun. And they might put his picture on the cover of Time magazine. And then he could certainly make partner in the firm. And then he will probably be offered to take over the South Asia operations and he can buy a Ferrari if he wants to and play golf everyday if wants to while his wife can socialise over martinis at the club if she wishes to. BUT, none of this is motivation for him. His heart lies in selfless action. All he is thinking about is service...seva. This is true karma yoga.
In one of the most important shlokas of the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna tells Arjuna,
कर्मणयेवाधिकारस्ते मा फलेषु कदाचन।
मा कर्मफलहेतुर्भूर्मा ते सङ्गोऽस्त्वकर्मणि।
Karmanyevadhikaraste, ma phaleshu kadachana
Ma Karmaphalaheturbhurmatey sangostvakarmani
“You have the right to perform your actions, but you are not entitled to the fruits of the actions. Do not let the fruit be the purpose of your actions, and therefore you won’t be attached to not doing your duty.”
Imagine if we could all rise to our pure, effulgent, selfless sattvik nature. What an amazing world that would be.