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The three Types of Actions
There are three types of activities emerging from different aspects of this flame of life. There are the ordinary actions which lead to ordinary results, which in turn, lead to more actions in an endless cycle. This is like a flame that burns steadily one moment and sputters the next, or burns in various hues and at various temperatures.
Then there are the good actions, those which always bring good results. These good actions are like an unchanging flame which is ever steady. This second type of activity applies to performing your worldly duties in a righteous manner, being active in good causes, engaging in devotional practices, etc. These are all good actions but along with them, there will still be a clear interest in the results. The Vedas have declared that even the best and most beneficial actions performed with interest in the results can only take you as far as heaven. You should not be under the impression that heaven endows you with immortality; when the merits of the actions have been consumed, you have to come back down to earth. So, this second type of action, also perpetuates the cycle of birth and death.
Lastly, there are actions which are not related to the attributes of the flame. This third type of activity is associated with the pure radiance, the effulgence of the atmic light. For such actions, interest in the fruit is not relevant, at all. Such actions emerge out of your inner nature, your deepest truth, which is divine. You perform all your actions as an offering to the divinity, knowing that the one divinity is in everyone. Such sacred acts can be called yoga, for then you are engaged in karma yoga. This is purity in action where there is no attachment to the outcome.
Realize that when you are interested in the fruits, they soon become exhausted, and new actions have to be undertaken again and again, in an endless cycle. Take, for example, a member of the legislative assembly who runs for election. If he achieves victory in the election, he can go to the assembly for five years. As time passes, his term of office runs out and at the end of five years he has to return home. Similarly, all the merits which you earn through your activities may be compared to this kind of limited term which lasts for a number of years. At the end of the period you have to come back into birth again.
As long as your merits last you enjoy heaven, but as soon as they get exhausted you must again descend into birth. Therefore, while describing the doctrine of karma to Arjuna, Krishna said, "Instead of aspiring for the temporary result of an action, which keeps you bound to the cycle of birth and death, aspire to realize the supreme divinity which is your own true self. When you know that the one divinity is the immortal self of all and act from that knowledge, then your actions are aligned with the divine will and they will be sacred. Then you will never have to come back into birth again. But, if instead, your actions are motivated by the results, which, in turn, leads you into to life after life and you are perpetually coming and going, then how will you ever be able to reach your permanent goal?" There is a small story to illustrate this.