CHENNAI: It is not possible for the majority of people except men of wisdom (Jnani) to refrain from action. But, action gives rise to Karma, which is the cause of bondage and hence it is necessary to know how to act without accumulating more Karma. The question, "What is the difference between the action of a man of wisdom and that of a layman?" thus assumes importance in the spiritual tradition. Lord Krishna explained this to Arjuna while emphasising the need to engage in action by pointing out that the man who is unwise acted with attachment to the result while the Jnani engaged in action without attachment, for the maintenance of order in the world.
In his discourse, Sri N. Veezhinathan said as human nature was to imitate role models men of wisdom who had no motive for engaging in action continued to discharge their duties so that the mind of others who looked up to them does not get confused. The Yoga Vasishta also says that the highest truth should not be taught to those who do not have the maturity to understand it thereby stressing performance of duties (action). The aim of all scriptural teachings is to achieve control of mind and till the mind becomes one-pointed it is necessary to discharge one's duties.
How does action result in Karma? The mind in contact with the body engages in action with the feeling of `I' though the Self (Atman) is not tainted by action. The Gita says, "Everywhere the dispositions (powers) of Nature (Prakrti) perform all work. But deluded by egoism, man thinks, `I am the doer'." Thus man has forgotten his essential spiritual nature, and his ego is responsible for his continued bondage.
To appreciate this the insight that the mind and the senses engage in the domain of the material world (objects of perception) and the Self is beyond this is essential. Hence those who are deluded by them continue to be attached to them. In the sphere of religion the emphasis is on performance of the prescribed scriptural injunctions, which is the fundamental requirement of human life in the world. From the spiritual standpoint even if one scrupulously follows the rituals without advocating moral virtues he cannot evolve towards liberation; whereas, a person advocating spiritual practices diligently, even if he does not perform the rituals meticulously, will evolve towards liberation faster.