The whole game of this life is about knowing and not knowing. The gyāni knows and thus lives this life beautifully, fearlessly. Agyānis, on the other hand, live with all sorts of fears, anxieties, and worries. And fear of death is the root of all fears. Not knowing what death is, one is fearful of the unknown.

Birth and death are two faces of the same coin. They are distinct phases in the circle of life. That which is born will inevitably die. The crucial question is: who or what is born and who or what dies? And is there something that is eternal, untouched by birth and death? Veritably, there is. It is the indestructible, indivisible real Self which is distinct from the body, mind, and intellect. The biggest delusion is to regard this unit of body-mind-intellect as the real ‘I’. This false ‘I’ is a mere reflection of the real Self, the timeless pure existence which is beyond the concept of birth and death; which is, which simply is.

It is this physical body that takes birth and then dies. But if we look deeper, even this is not true. This gross body is nothing but a coming together of the five elements (earth, water, fire, air, and ether). Birth is the manifestation of this elemental form and death is the dissolution of the elements into their cosmic counterparts. From the unmanifest to the manifest and again to unmanifest, thus the play continues. Nothing is destroyed; it is merely transformed. Sometimes forms are visible, at other times they are not. But the constituent elements continue to exist as does the cycle of life which is governed by Prakriti’s laws.

The laws of nature are neither dependent on belief nor on scientific authentication for their existence. Gravitational force would have continued to act even if the apple hadn’t fallen on Newton’s head. There is a lot more even in this tangible world that science is yet to understand or discover. Then what to say about the intangible! A scientist cannot do much in the absence of appropriate analytical gizmo. You need a microscope to see a microbe. But just because you don’t have a microscope, or don’t know how to use it, doesn’t mean micro-organisms don’t exist. The same is true for the transcendental realm. Our sages recognized the tool to discover the esoteric. And the day scientists investigate this with an open mind, their unfounded skepticism will finally come to rest!

One such, albeit metaphysical yet fundamental law governing our lives, is the ubiquitous law of karma. Karma means action. To be precise, it is the physical execution of a thought. The driving force behind the action can be any desire, emotion, or sensory impulse. Samskārās (deep impressions in the unconscious mind) lead to a surge of vāsanās (innate tendencies), and these emerge as desires in the conscious mind. These desires then lead to the inception of sankalpa (the thought planning preceding any action), and this finally translates into physical action. And every action affects an appropriate reaction, namely, the fruit of the action.

There are different categories of karma – the sum total karma accrued from all previous lifetimes, karma fruits that one has to deal with in the current life, and so on. But the most familiar terms are: punya (meritorious act), pāpa (sinful act), sakāma, and nishkāma karma.

That which expands consciousness, reduces the darkness of ignorance, enhances one’s positive attributes, and imparts peace to the mind is punya karma, and the converse is pāpa karma. To put it simplistically, punya is joy and pāpa is pain. From a deeper perspective though, since ignorance is the root of all evil, this ignorance is, in effect, pāpa.

Sakāma karma is result-oriented actions, prompted by the desire to gain or achieve something, including the desire for enlightenment. Nishkāma karma, on the other hand, is selfless action performed without any attachment to the action or fruit of the action. Many self-proclaimed social workers misguidedly believe that they are doing nishkāma karma, whereas, in reality, their actions are driven by egocentric desire for self-gratification in some form or another.

The fact of the matter is that you cannot enter the realm of nishkāma karma without killing your ego first. It is the path of devotion where all actions are intended for and offered unto the Lord. The devotee acts selflessly and choicelessly accepts all fruits - be it happiness or suffering, acclaim or condemnation, profit or loss, accepting it gratefully as a divine blessing.

Now, some may think it is best not to perform any action so that one can escape the law of karma. But as long as you live, you will have to do some action or the other – even if you are sitting in some remote cave. You will have to do something to sustain your body. Then, what is the way out of this bondage of karma? Akarma or karma sannyāsa is the answer, and please note that this does not mean inaction.

In essence, karma sannyāsa and nishkāma karma are not dissimilar. The devotee says everything belongs to the Lord, nothing is mine. And the gyāni says, "I am everything, there is no one other than me." But essentially, both are pointing to the same truth.

The gyāni says, "I am neither the body, nor the senses; neither the mind, nor the intellect. I am the detached witness, the all-pervasive, ever-conscious, ever-blissful, pure existence." So, from the gyāni’s point of view, the very foundation of body-mind-intellect, the very foundation of everything in this universe is this existence, which is neither the doer nor the experiencer because it is way beyond the body, mind, and intellect.

When you are the doer of an action, you will have to bear its fruits. So, what is this state of being wherein you are neither the doer nor the bearer, but rather, an unattached witness of the actions occurring through the body and mind?

It is the state of enlightenment. An enlightened being, a gyāni, has no vāsanās and thus no desire for the fruits of actions. Akarma can happen only through a person who is ego-less and who experientially ‘knows’ the real Self in all its radiant incandescence. The one who has attained self-realization, who verily knows his Self distinct from the body-mind-intellect and whose mind is completely empty of desires – akarma can happen only through such an enlightened being because there is no more any doer of actions.

Enlightenment is the complete eradication of all ignorance. Not knowing one’s true Self, deludedly linking one’s identity to the body-mind-intellect, not knowing the nature of this world – this is ignorance. By experientially knowing one’s real Self, the enlightened being comes to know all there is to know. All delusions, all attachments, all desires get incinerated in the fire of tattwa-gyāna (luminous wisdom).

When there is no desire at all, none whatsoever, not even of moksha, that is being totally choiceless. When bondage and liberation too are viewed as no more than a part of the divine play; when everything is seen as divine – then be it truth or untruth, darkness or light, ignorance or enlightenment! What is left to hold on to or discard then? And the one who realizes this transcends all dualities, and such a being is known as a gyāni. Everything is a game, a play to a gyāni. Kabir puts it beautifully, ‘The creator is the creation and the creation is the creator.’ Thus the gyāni plays the game mirthfully, accepting everything and rejecting nothing.