Action in Inaction
Guru Arjan Dev speaks of karam karath hovai nihakaram. This is a puzzle, a paradox, not unlike the concept of "action in inaction." Nihakaram is typically translated as the "reward of action." An alternate translation for karam karath hovai nihakaram is, "He who beholds inaction in action." In other words, we do what we must do (we perform our karam). And, by going beyond ego, without trying to expect any results of our action (nihakaram), we are able to go beyond our karma. This is about the paradox of making an effort while being in a state of ultimate surrender to the Akaal Purakh(u) who is the "doer of everthing." In Buddhism there is a parallel idea having to do with the effort (karam) and the acceptance of the reality that we can give up control and we can be still expecting nothing (nihakaram), which is needed to sustain spiritual practice.
ਬੈਸਨੋ ਸੋ ਜਿਸੁ ਊਪਰਿ ਸੁਪ੍ਰਸੰਨ ॥
baisano so jis oopar suprasann ||
The true Vaishnaav, the devotee of Vishnu, is the one with whom God is thoroughly pleased.
ਬਿਸਨ ਕੀ ਮਾਇਆ ਤੇ ਹੋਇ ਭਿੰਨ ॥
bisan kee maaeiaa thae hoe bhinn ||
He dwells apart from Maya.
ਕਰਮ ਕਰਤ ਹੋਵੈ ਨਿਹਕਰਮ ॥
karam karath hovai nihakaram ||
Performing good deeds, he does not seek rewards.
(obviously I don't agree with the translation of this line)
ਤਿਸੁ ਬੈਸਨੋ ਕਾ ਨਿਰਮਲ ਧਰਮ ॥
this baisano kaa niramal dhharam ||
Spotlessly pure is the religion of such a Vaishnaav;