Success, in this and most other such passages in the Gita, means actualization of the aimed-at ultimate results of an action. It does not mean the action itself.
The Gita says: ‘Do the action, but be even-minded in success or no-success.’
This never means to do the action carelessly. To be careless about it is not doing it; it is only half-doing it. A watcher who takes naps is not in fact a watcher. Associations of success and no-success from actions are singled out in this line of the Gita, because though passing, they are often intense.
They can involve intensely personal emotions like greed, pride, and fear. Such associations anticipate or actually blur the clarity of action.
Sankara extends the principle to hoped-for purification of mind from a virtuous action.
This yoga is not an emotional state of ‘I have done well’ or ‘May the Lord be pleased’.
Such states often have reactions: ‘Why did the Lord let my sincere efforts be so wantonly destroyed? I have been let down.’
The yoga of action is a spacious inner calm, however energetic the outward activities of body and mind.
© Trevor Leggett