'Text-days' are for delving into the words and theory of Advaita Vedanta.
On Wings and Wheels is the publication we are delving into currently. It takes the form of a series of Q&As from devotees to HH Pujya Gurudev Swami Chinmayananda. There are many sections and subsections to this book - not all will be given, but it is hoped that the general thought-flow will not be broken for those omissions. To obtain the full picture and essence of the discussions, do consider attempting to purchase the text from the link above; it is currently only available from India.
MOTIVATION (and karma phala data - the dispensing of the fruits of actions)
Q - Don't motives count in the ethical worth of an action, swami-ji?
A - Yes! For example, a surgeon uses a knife in the operation theater to save a patient's life and, even should the patient die, it cannot be called a sin; whereas the act of killing somebody with that same knife for personal gain is decidedly sinful. The merit depends upon the motive of the act.
Q - If an action is to be judged good or bad by its motive, which of the several complex motives involved in any one action are to be taken as the main standard of judgement?
A - There can only be one motive; its branches will be the other motives, but they remain branches… there can be only one motive.
Q - but when I give to charity I can have several motives in giving…
A - having motive is not then charity!
Q - no?
Q - Let's say the act of giving money may have several motives…
A - Yes, according to the motive, it will may be charity or something else.
Q - I may feel kindness toward another and give money, but at the same time I know that people are watching me and at the back of my mind I feel I will get some applause. On the other hand, I may be getting some income-tax relief, or maybe I want to balance out some guilt from an earlier error… so there are several motives involved in giving away the money.
A - Then it will be the cumulative or the average of all motives that will decide the result of it. So many factors go into the determination of the final result of an action. Thus, when you do an action and surrender to the Higher, the judgement of the moral worth is also surrendered and the results will come back to you as you meet life.
Q - Should the totality of motives be accounted for?
A - the totality must play into it, but then for your practical purposes you should only think in terms of 'how far am I?' By giving this is one trying to gain joy and a sense of fulfilment and satisfaction, or is it going to disturb? Suppose the main motive was only the applause which might be gained, then ultimately the action will only leave you with a sense of disappointment. It is then not a morally good one. It is not charity. You with that amount are showing off and this way are trying to purchase something to further your vanity.
Q - That means the result of action is directly related to the totality of motive…
A - Yes, naturally. That is why every action, even in secular law, is calculated by means of the motive behind it
Q - an action may be prompted by dual or complex motives, some may be lofty others of base quality; like money given to relieve suffering but also to receive recognition. If the action is to be judged by this totality of motives, then no action is absolutely good or absolutely bad, it will be more a matter or predominance of one or the other, is it not?
A - Yes that is true. Really speaking, an action itself is neither good nor bad, whether absolute or relative. Action itself is of the relative world, not the Absolute… it is a relative manifestation of Reality, a delusion…
The conversation will continue, looking at means… note that Gurudev stated there can be only a one motive which initiates an action, and although the discussion seems to have now turned to the plurality behind motive, it is to be noted that at any given point of an action being undertaken, at that point a single motive alone is the catalyst, no matter how that motive is built. The discussion is looking at what builds up to the motive and demonstrates that we are adept at sidestepping our true reasons for action and that none are completely pure in their intention… it is all a matter of degrees.