Chapter 14: Action, Inaction and Non-Action
As I see, remembering comes through relaxation, silence and emptiness. You don’t have to do a thing to remember, because activity will hinder rather than help you to remember. Just sit quietly without doing a thing; just be still and empty. Through action one can achieve something one does not have. By doing something you can become something that you are not. If you want to become an engineer you will have to do something to become it. Or you will have to act if you want to possess a car. But remembering is an entirely different dimension. To remember something you have forgotten, you have to sit still and quiet and do nothing. Doing will only obstruct remembering. In its deeper meaning, remembering is total inaction. That is why Krishna lays so much emphasis on akarma or inaction. Inaction is his key word. Inaction in depth is his message.
As I said earlier, even if you want to remember a friend’s name you cannot succeed as long as you make efforts to remember. You will never remember it as long as you go on straining your mind. Memory comes alive only when you give up efforts and become totally inactive. Similarly if you become totally inactive - inactive in depth - the memory buried in the cosmic unconscious will spring like an arrow from there and shoot up to your conscious mind. It is as if a flower seed buried in the soil has sprouted and sent its shoots up in the form of a plant in your garden. And when the meteor of remembering, awareness arising from the cosmic unconscious, reaches and illumines your conscious mind, you know who you are.
So inaction is the key to remembering, as remembering is the key to devotion. On the other hand, action is central to spiritual discipline, it is only through action that you can discipline yourself and achieve your goal. And inaction is the door to devotion.
It would b e good to properly understand Krishna’s principle of inaction. Unfortunately it has not been rightly understood so far; all those who have interpreted Krishna up to now seem to have no right understanding of inaction. Most of them have interpreted inaction as renunciation. They always said, “Renounce the world, renounce your family, renounce everything!” But renunciation is an act; you have to do something to renounce the world or the family. The interpreters went on telling people to give up everything - their professions, families and even love - and escape to mountains and monasteries. But renunciation is as much an act as indulgence is; Krishna was really misunderstood. Inaction was thought to be just renunciation and escapism. For this reason, India has a centuries-long tradition of renunciation and escape from life.
And all this has happened in the name of Krishna. No one has ever bothered to see that Krishna himself is not a renunciate, he never left his world, his family and his worldly responsibilities. Sometimes I wonder how such a long tradition can be so blind; all along it has refused to see the stark fact that the man who applauds inaction so much is himself deeply engaged in action throughout his life. He loves, he marries, he has children. He fights war and negotiates peace. He does many other things. So by no stretch of imagination can Krishna’s inaction be interpreted as renunciation and escape.