The Bhagwat Purana has a story of Raja Nimi asking Yogi Avirhotra ji how karma yoga could purify one of ego-centric actions. The Yogi Rishi replies:
“O King, preternatural are the Vedas. They are the embodiment of the creator, and therefore supremely difficult to fathom. They challenge the intellect of the wise who fail to interpret their intended meaning mostly interpreting them wrongly. The callow and wanting in wisdom are immature in intellect and therefore an unfit receptacle for this knowledge. For example, the Vedas prescribe karma for those whom they want to wean away from karma. (very similar to what Aristotle calls ‘Cathartic Exhaustion’ in his Poetics). Curing by excess is a very effective method. Therefore, working hard for selfless and noble goals through elevating actions is prescribed. These are termed as Karma (ordained actions). A hypocritical, man who gives up even ordained actions is the doer of ‘Akarma’ (prohibited actions) and those that (transgress the ordained actions) fall into the category of “Vikarma”.
The Bhagwat uses an illustrative example to lure the people into noble, generous, actions by promises of ‘heaven’ just as a child is lured to take bitter medicine by promises of sweets. He who surrenders his actions as well as their results to the Lord, attains the Siddhi (power) of knowledge which facilitates his transcendence to actions. In a very bold and unconventional statement, the Rishi in the Bhagawat clearly denies the existence of a ‘Heaven’ described in graphic detail by the Vedas and puranas. The Rishi accords an imaginary reality to ‘heaven’ and accepts that it is a mere ‘ruse’ to tempt man into noble actions that would benefit mankind. ‘Heaven’ and ‘Hell’ being states of mind that determine one’s happiness or sorrow, wherever and in whatever circumstance one is placed.
Prarthna Saran, President Chinmaya Mission New Delhi.