yogasthaha kuru karmaani sangam tyaktvaa dhananjaya |
siddhyasiddhyoh samo bhootvaa samatvam yoga uchyate || 48 ||

Perform action, established in yoga, and discard attachment, O Dhananjaya. Remain balanced in success and failure. Yoga is defined as equanimity.

yogasthaha : established in yoga
kuru : perform
karmaani : action
sangam : attachment
tyaktvaa : discard
dhananjaya : O Dhananjaya
siddhyasiddhyoh : in success and failure
samaha : balanced
bhootvaa : remain
samatvam : equanimity
yoga : yoga
uchyate : defined

This shloka pushes further the teaching of Karmayoga by advising us to begin discarding our attachments to objects in the material world. Obviously, we will not be able to totally discard all our attachments in one day. This will take a long time. However, Shri Krishna asks us to slowly start treading on this path. Why is he asking us to do so? He wants us to diminish our hankering for the outcome of our actions, and the only way to do that is by reducing our attachments to the material world.

Consider a mother who takes care of her 5 year old child. She gets extremely attached to it and develops lots of expectations: my child will take care of me when it grows up, it will become a doctor etc. If those things don’t happen, she will generate lots of sorrow for herself. But a nanny taking care of a child will not be attached to it. She will perform her svadharma by taking good care of child. However, she will have zero expectations from the child, and therefore she will be able to maintain equanimity in action.

The only difference between the mother and the nanny is their attitude – one is attached, one is unattached. And the one that has attachments has expectations for the future, the other does not.

Now in this shloka we encounter Shri Krishna defining the term “yoga”. It has nothing to do with arcane rituals. It has nothing to do with complex physical postures. It is a surprisingly simple and practical definition: equanimity of mind during performance of action. It is how the nanny operated in the earlier example.

So what is the practical technique to cast off attachments? How do we actually do this? We have to rid ourself of all expectations and worries about the future, as well as memories of the past. If we eliminate constant thinking about past and future, we can channel all that energy into the present moment and into executing the task at hand.

We probably have experienced instances in our lives where we were so joyfully and blissfully immersed in our work that we forgot where we were and what time it was. But those experiences were few and far between. By going deeper into each and every task we perform, no matter how big or small the task, we will minimize past and future thinking, which will enable us to remain balanced regardless of success and failure. This is the true definition of yoga.

To recap, our toolkit contains 3 techniques: reducing unnecessary thoughts, improving quality of thought, and focusing on the task and hand. We can practice this teaching with mundane tasks, and move on to more complex ones. Next time we wash dishes, lets give each movement of the hand our single and undivided attention, and try to sustain it while washing each and every dish. Give it a shot, see what happens.


1. There are four kinds of attachment: attachment to result (I want a reward for singing this song), action (I will sing a song only in my way), doership (I will song the song, not anyone else), non-doership (I am the non-singer of this song).