“The wise man lets go of all”

I’m reading the Bhagavad Gita for the first time, and I was instantly struck by the repeated refrain to detach from outcomes. Always act, but

“the wise man lets go of all / results, whether good or bad, / and is focused on the action alone.” [2.50]

To underline the purity of this, Krishna emphasizes the wisdom of insight in which this letting go is rooted:

“When a man gives up all desires / that emerge from the mind, and rests / contented in the Self by the Self,” [2.55]

That’s the capital ‘S’ Self, as in the Source of All Being.

Focusing on action alone is therefore not about anarchy, as in who cares what happens when I do this, but is more about detaching from the desires of the little ‘s’ self or mind.

I fell asleep reflecting on that and how, if we really could focus on the action alone “contented in the Self”, we would no longer suffer from craving, greed, grief, fear, expectation, stress, anger, frustration, worry …

Most negative emotions seem to stem from our attachment to outcomes. Interesting, right?

Focusing on the action alone. I try to imagine myself doing that utterly, released from outcomes of any kind.

What would that even look like?

It would be less about asking what will I get out of this?, or how will this move me closer to my goal(s)?, and more about asking how will this action contribute to the accomplishment of life’s highest good?

Simply put: instead of the ends justifying the means, the means and the ends become one.

This may sound nebulous, and some may even think it’s unrealistic (Is REALity REALly REAL?). But it’s worth reflecting on for a moment.

As Krishna explains:

“Only by selfless action / did Janaka and other wise kings / govern, and thus assure / the well-being of the whole world. / Whatever a great man does / ordinary people will do; / whatever standard he sets / everyone else will follow.” [3.20–21]

There is still a goal, it’s just not about you. It’s more about acting for the highest good for all.

Think about the great rebels throughout our history — sounds a little like them, doesn’t it?

Today, I opened my Medium email to see Benjamin Hardy’s latest post— You Don’t Control the Outcomes of Your Life, Principles Do. I know, weird timing, don’t you think? Anyway …

His message? You don’t control outcomes … but you can control your behavior, which will then get you what you want based on ‘natural’ principles. Even as he points out that we don’t control outcomes, we will in essence control them by how we choose to behave, which will then align with the principles.

It’s a roundabout way of controlling things — of holding tight to the results that we desire.

After sleeping on the message in the Bhagavad Gita, I found myself reading Hardy’s message in a whole new light.

Just to be clear, I know it’s not just Benjamin Hardy that teaches this message; his post just happened to appear at the right time. What he says is one of many versions of the same message we hear and read everywhere.

It’s the message most of us live by, in one form or another. Summing it all up could go something like this:

Fear motivates: If you don’t do {actions here}, then you will not get what you want. If you do {actions here} you will not get what you want. Therefore, you must do {actions here}.

Expectation motivates: The law of {attraction, gravity, etc.} says this will cause that. Do this diligently, and you will get that. Don’t do this, and you won’t get that.

General undercurrent of worry/stress/fear: Don’t slip up … keep improving … be vigilant … behave this way … think that way … or else this won’t work.

We read these messages from the popular self-improvement gurus and we feel inspired. We seek it out because it’s fundamental to our western ideology around dream fulfillment.

Aren’t we all on the hunt for the latest approach …the secret formula to reaching our dream? Isn’t that what life is all about?

Attachment to the outcome.

We’re all so driven by it, so conditioned to think that way, that the idea of actually detaching from it boggles the mind.

In pursuit of ways to get the results we long for, we never even consider the notion that our higher purpose could be to let go of the little ‘s’ self results altogether, and to find contentment in the capital ‘S’ Self.

Within the contentment of the Self, results become inconsequential.

Imagine the freedom in that. The lightness of being.

Much to ponder …



Writer, teacher, photographer & perpetual thinker. Here to share what I find while wandering around in the messy middle of life.

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Tracey O.

Tracey O.


Writer, teacher, photographer & perpetual thinker. Here to share what I find while wandering around in the messy middle of life.