Does motives really matter?

The residents of Ekacakra rejoiced at the destruction of Bakasura. The Pandavas continued to stay in Ekacakra in disguise. After a while, they came across a wandering ascetic who informed about the svayamvara of Draupadi that is soon going to be held at Kampilya. The Pandavas were intrigued and asked the ascetic to explain everything about the svayamvara. The ascetic first explained about the friendship between Drona and Drupada and the subsequent enmity that ensued. Drupada was defeated by Pandavas and was humiliated by Drona. Drupada was desperate for revenge. He concluded that a brahmana’s power only could match Drona’s spiritual strength. After some time, Drupada came across two Brahmin brothers named Yaja and Upayaja, descendents of Kasyapa, a powerful son of Brahmä. The king worshipped and served the two Brahmins for some time, then asked for their assistance. He approached the younger of the two, Upayaja, first, knowing him to be the more powerful. Drupada asked him to conduct a sacrifice that would give the king a son capable of killing Droëa. Drupada offered him ten thousand cows as payment, but the Brahmin replied, “I shall not perform any act directed toward material gain, either for myself or for another. Why is this sage Upayaja so much concerned about the motives? Let us explore.

Motives indeed matter

“Just do it” seems to be an easy way in life. Is it the best way? No. “Do your best” is the best way. How do we know our best? We need to be conscious of ourselves (BG 4.33). An important thing that we need to be conscious are our motives. A particular action can be performed with various motives. For eg: we can have a meal because we are hungry or we want to taste something good or we want to spend time with our near and dear. Being conscious of our motive helps us to have the right focus while putting our efforts so that we can achieve our desired goal. Our enthusiasm wanes owing to several distractions and difficulties (BG 2.44). Being conscious of our motive helps in renewing our enthusiasm to carry on our efforts. Being clear and conscious of our motives finally helps in evaluating our efforts at the end and identifying appropriate room for improvement. Keeping our motives clear and being conscious of them makes our efforts efficient and effective.

Which is better – selfish or selfless?

We can do a particular task for just our sake or for other’s sake. If our motives are just centered around ourselves, we are concerned about how much time and energy we are investing and how much are we gaining. We will have high expectations and are prone to frustration. It will be difficult for us to appreciate and value others’ contributions. It is more likely that in case of lapses and failures, we complain and blame others rather than owning responsibility. We will also tend to consider others as our competitors and likely we may harbor envy towards them (BG 16.13-15). This will adversely affect the overall efficiency and the overall fulfilment we can derive. If our motives are centered around others – helping them, contributing to their lives, then it will be easy for us to appreciate and value others’ contributions. In case of lapses and failures, we will own responsibility rather than blaming others. Relatively, there will be higher synergy and higher overall fulfilment.

Which one – material or spiritual?   

The things of this world like wealth, fame and assets are influenced by several factors which are not under our control. The means to attain these things are also not fully under our control. If our motives are directed to acquiring only worldly things, then we are prone to subjected to frustration because the results of activities cannot be fully under our control. The results also will be temporary, subject to decay and destruction. We are also prone to be subjected to anxiety (BG 16.11) because our efforts also cannot be fully under our control. Our efforts depend on the instruments as well as circumstances which cannot be fully under our control (BG 18.14). The spiritual phenomena are beyond the dualities and dynamics of this world. The spiritual assets can bestow lasting fulfilment and satisfaction. If our motives are directed spiritually, then there is no chance of anxiety and frustration and we can achieve lasting fulfilment and happiness.