Change Your Focus – In Gita Verse 18.5 Acts of sacrifice, charity and penance are not to be given up; they must be performed. Indeed, sacrifice, charity and penance purify even the great souls.

Krishna says if your act will come without any guilt and with awareness then your act will be of sacrifice, charity and penance. Which will purify you.

To act without guilt it needs tremendous training and discipline. As generally we forget about awareness while we are at work. And when we become aware that we were not aware. We feel guilty; we feel that I have made a mistake.

It is one of the basic problems for anybody who is trying to be aware while at work – because work demands that you should forget yourself completely. You should be involved in it so deeply… as if you are absent. Unless such total involvement is there, the work remains superficial.

All that is great, created by man – in painting, in poetry, in architecture, in sculpture – in any dimension of life – needs you to be totally involved. And if you are trying to be aware at the same time, your work will never be first rate, because you will not be in it.

So awareness while you are working needs tremendous training and discipline, and one has to start from very simple actions. For example, walking: you can walk, and you can be aware that you are walking – each step can be full of awareness. Eating… just the way in Zen monasteries they drink tea; they call it the “tea ceremony” because sipping the tea, one has to remain alert and aware.

These are small actions, but to begin with they are perfectly good. One should not start with something like painting, dancing – those are very deep and complex phenomena. Start with small actions of daily routine life. As you become more and more accustomed to awareness, as awareness becomes just like breathing – you don’t have to make any effort for it, it has become spontaneous – then in any act, any work, you can be aware.

But remember the condition: it has to be effortless; it has to come out of spontaneity. Then painting or composing music, or dancing, or even fighting an enemy with a sword, you can remain absolutely aware. But that awareness is not the awareness you are trying for. It is not the beginning; it is the culmination of a long discipline. Sometimes it can happen without discipline too. 

At least one story I remember… A great swordsman, a great warrior, came back home and found that his servant was making love to his wife. According to custom, he challenged the servant – gave him a sword and told him to come out of the house and let it be decided; whoever remains alive will be the husband of the woman.

The servant did not even know how to hold a sword – he was a poor servant, he had never been trained in swordsmanship. He said, “Master, although you are following a convention, and respecting even a servant and giving him an opportunity, this is for you just a game. I don’t know anything about swordsmanship. At least give me a few minutes so that I can go to the greatest master – who lives nearby in a monastery, a Zen monk – to have some clue.”

The man agreed. He said, “You can go. And if it is needed, a few hours, or even a few days, or even a few months – you can get disciplined. I will wait for you.”

He went to the great warrior, the Zen master. The Zen master said, “Even years of training will not help you. Your boss is just second to me in the whole country – you cannot hope to compete with him. My suggestion is: this is the right moment to fight.”

The servant could not understand. He said, “What kind of puzzle are you giving to me: this moment is the right moment?”

And he said, “Yes, because you have one thing certain – your death. Now more than that you cannot lose. Your master has many things to lose: his wife, his prestige, his respectability as a warrior; he is a great landlord… all his money – his mind cannot be total while he is fighting. But you can be total. You have to be total – just a moment of unawareness and you are gone; you have to be totally alert. This is the right moment; don’t bother about any discipline – you simply take the sword and go.”

The servant came back within minutes. His boss said, “Have you learned anything?”

He said, “There is no need to learn anything. Come out of the house!”

And the way he shouted, “Come out of the house” … The boss could not believe what magical change had happened to his servant. As he came out, the servant, according to convention, bowed down to the boss; the boss bowed down to the servant. That is, in Japan, part of their culture; even with the enemy, you have to respect his dignity, his humanity, his divinity.

And then the servant started hitting the warrior – knowing nothing about swordsmanship.

The warrior was at a loss, because where any expert would have hit, the servant would not hit because he had no idea; he would hit somewhere where no expert would have ever hit. And he was fighting with such totality that the warrior started moving backwards, and as the warrior started moving backwards, the servant gathered more courage. He was moving his sword without knowing why – to what purpose, or where he was hitting. And since it has been decided that his death is certain, now there is nothing to worry about – all worries belong to life.

Soon he cornered the master. Behind, there was the wall surrounding the master’s garden.

He could not move backwards anymore. He was so afraid of death, for the first time in his life, and he said, “Wait! You can have my wife, you can have my properties; I am renouncing the world, I am becoming a monk.”

He was trembling with fear. Even he could not understand what happened. From where did this courage come? From where is this totality? From, where is this awareness? But it can be only in such special situations that without any discipline, just the situation can create so much awakening in you.

Whenever I have come across the story of the Zen master and his servant, I have always remembered he was total in his action.

Not even a single doubt crossed his mind, ever.

When death is certain, fear disappears. Fear is only there because of death. But when death is certain and there is no way to avoid it, what is the point of being afraid? He became almost a man of total integrity – knowing nothing, but defeating the master who had been a victorious man in many combats.

But this can happen only rarely, in extreme conditions. In everyday life you should follow a simple course. First become aware about actions which do not need your involvement. You can walk and you can go on thinking; you can eat and you can go on thinking. Replace thinking by awareness. Go on eating, and remain alert that you are eating. Walk; replace thinking by awareness. Go on walking; perhaps your walking will be a little slower and more graceful. But awareness is possible with these small acts. And as you become more and more articulate, use more complicated activities. A day comes when there is no activity in the world in which you cannot remain alert and at the same time, act with totality.

When you are total in your act, you cannot find anything to be guilty about, to me you have become a religious man. To the so-called religions, unless you are guilty you are not religious; the more guilty you are, the more religious you are.

People are torturing themselves as punishment, as penance. People are fasting; people are beating their chests with their fists till blood oozes from their chests. These people, to me, are psychopaths; they are not religious. Their so-called religions have taught them that if you commit anything wrong, it is better to punish yourself than be punished by God on Judgment Day – because that punishment is to be thrown into the abysmal darkness of hell for eternity.

I want to change your focus completely. Rather than counting how many times you forgot to remember to be aware, count those few beautiful moments when you were crystal clear and aware. Those few moments are enough to save you, are enough to cure you, to heal you. And if you pay attention to them, they will go on growing and spreading in your consciousness. Slowly, slowly the whole darkness of unawareness will disappear.

Krishna says anything that is as valuable as awareness – because it can open all the doors of the mysteries of existence, it can bring you to the very temple of God – you should start very carefully and from the very beginning. And move very slowly. In that moment, whatever is your act, that act is of sacrifice, charity and penance.


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