Ni K makarma: How desireless need one be?

Asian Philosophy 14 (3):239 – 254 (2004)
Christopher G. Framarin
University of Calgary
In the Bhagavadgīt K a advises Arjuna to act without desire. He also describes the ni k makarmin as possessed of perfect equanimity. Some scholars have argued that K a's advice is a contradiction. Because action requires desire, desireless action is impossible. Others have claimed that this fact only suggests that K a's prohibition is against a subset of desires and not desire as a whole. These 'subset' positions, however, are not consistent with the equanimity requirement. The conclusion that K a's advice is a contradiction can be avoided however. The word 'desire' in English is ambiguous. In one sense it means 'whatever motivated', and in another sense it means a 'desire proper' in contrast to beliefs and other mental states. If it is possible that not only desires proper motivate, then it is possible to act desirelessly in this sense. This distinction, I will argue, makes the best sense of K a's advice.
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DOI 10.1080/1463136042000270597
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