ज्यायसी चेत्कर्मणस्ते मता बुद्धिर्जनार्दन ।
तत्किं कर्मणि घोरे मां नियोजयसि केशव ॥१॥
arjuna uvāca –
jyāyasī cet karmaṇas te matā buddhir janārdana
tat kiṁ karmaṇi ghore māṁ niyojayasi keśava
Arjuna said: O Janārdana, O Keśava, if it is Your opinion that wisdom is better than action, then why do You wish to engage me in such violent activities?
व्यामिश्रेणेव वाक्येन बुद्धिं मोहयसीव मे ।
तदेकं वद निश्चित्य येन श्रेयोऽहमाप्नुयाम् ॥२॥
vyāmiśreṇeva vākyena buddhiṁ mohayasīva me
tad ekaṁ vada niścitya yena śreyo’ham āpnuyām
Your words seem to be contradictory and my mind is now confused. Therefore, kindly tell me which particular path is most beneficial for me.
लोकेऽस्मिन् द्विविधा निष्ठा पुरा प्रोक्ता मयानघ ।
ज्ञानयोगेन साङ्ख्यानां कर्मयोगेन योगिनाम् ॥३॥
śrī bhagavān uvāca –
loke’smin dvi-vidhā niṣṭhā purā proktā mayānagha
jñāna-yogena sāṅkhyānāṁ karma-yogena yoginām
Bhagavān Śrī Kṛṣṇa said: O faultless one, previously I explained the two paths found in this world – the path of wisdom for the empirical philosophers and the path of action for those that must perform action.
न कर्मणामनारम्भान्नैष्कर्म्यं पुरुषोऽश्नुते ।
न च संन्यसनादेव सिद्धिं समधिगच्छति ॥४॥
na karmaṇām anārambhān naiṣkarmyaṁ puruṣo’śnute
na ca sannyasanād eva siddhiṁ samadhigacchati
A man cannot attain the state of divine consciousness free from material action simply by abstaining from action. Neither can perfection be attained simply by renunciation.
न हि कश्चित्क्षणमपि जातु तिष्ठत्यकर्मकृत् ।
कार्यते ह्यवशः कर्म सर्वः प्रकृतिजैर्गुणैः ॥५॥
na hi kaścit kṣaṇam api jātu tiṣṭhaty-akarmakṛt
kāryate hy-avaśaḥ karma sarvaḥ prakṛti-jair guṇaiḥ
One cannot abstain from activities even for a moment. Indeed, all living beings are forced to engage in activities due to the influence of the modes of material nature.
The purpose of Bhagavad-gītā is to elevate one beyond the bodily concept of life to the plane of consciousness or understanding the nature of the self. Śrī Kṛṣṇa has already established this in the Second Chapter, but it appears that Arjuna finds some contradiction in what Kṛṣṇa has said. Arjuna asks Kṛṣṇa to further explain wisdom and action so that he may follow the proper path. This confusion is common amongst novices – should one be a philosopher who is indifferent to the affairs of the material world, or should one engage in one’s prescribed duties?
What is ultimately to be understood by Kṛṣṇa’s instructions is that both wisdom and proper engagement are interdependent. One is not complete without the other. Engagement, sometimes seen as spiritual practices, without philosophy is merely sentiment and philosophy without practice is mental speculation. Religious practices without a solid philosophical basis often lead to fanaticism that results in destruction and death. Our modern world is all too aware of this.
The interdependent relationship between philosophy and spiritual practice is indispensable for one who wants to achieve the perfection of human life. Actions should be performed with proper knowledge, only then does one achieve the proper result and is considered a true yogī.
कर्मेन्द्रियाणि संयम्य य आस्ते मनसा स्मरन् ।
इन्द्रियार्थान्विमूढात्मा मिथ्याचारः स उच्यते ॥६॥
karmendriyāṇi saṁyamya ya āste manasā smaran
indriyārthān vimūḍhātmā mithyācāraḥ sa ucyate
One who controls the external senses yet mentally dwells upon the sense-objects is said to be foolish and hypocritical.
यस्त्विन्द्रियाणि मनसा नियम्यारभतेऽर्जुन ।
कर्मेन्द्रियैः कर्मयोगमसक्तः स विशिष्यते ॥७॥
yas tv-indriyāṇi manasā niyamyārabhate’rjuna
karmendriyaiḥ karma-yogam asaktaḥ sa viśiṣyate
However, that person who controls the senses with the mind and engages them in karma-yoga (the path of selfless action) without attachment is superior, O Arjuna.
नियतं कुरु कर्म त्वं कर्म ज्यायो ह्यकर्मणः ।
शरीरयात्रापि च ते न प्रसिद्ध्येदकर्मणः ॥८॥
niyataṁ kuru karma tvaṁ karma jyāyo hy-akarmaṇaḥ
śarīra-yātrāpi ca te na prasiddhyed akarmaṇaḥ
You should perform your prescribed duties, since action is better than inaction. You cannot maintain your existence without action.
यज्ञार्थात्कर्मणोऽन्यत्र लोकोऽयं कर्मबन्धनः ।
तदर्थं कर्म कौन्तेय मुक्तसङ्गः समाचर ॥९॥
yajñārthāt karmaṇo’nyatra loko’yaṁ karma-bandhanaḥ
tad-arthaṁ karma kaunteya mukta-saṅgaḥ samācara
All activities are meant for sacrifice (yajña) to Viṣṇu. Other than that, all other activities bind one to this material world. O son of Kuntī, work for Him alone and be free from any attachment.
The Vedic injunctions enjoin that all activities should be performed as an offering to Viṣṇu/Kṛṣṇa – yajño vai viṣṇuḥ. No embodied being can give up action even for a moment because in the material world everyone is forced to act under the influence of the modes of nature. It is also said that the pure nature of the ātmā is to be engaged in the spiritual activities of serving the Supreme Being, Kṛṣṇa. Therefore, all activities are to be connected to, and for the satisfaction of Viṣṇu/Kṛṣṇa. This is known as the constitutional position of the ātmā.
It is clear from the above verses that action is better than inaction. As it is said, “An idle mind is the Devil’s workshop.” If the senses are idle and one tries to empty the mind, then what usually transpires is that the mind becomes engaged in unproductive thoughts and eventually the sense-objects carry the mind and senses away.
The influence of the modes of material nature over the ātmā is called māyā, or illusion. This māyā is the external energy of the Absolute Truth. When the ātmā is separated, or disconnected from the Absolute Truth by improper philosophical understanding or improper activities, the result is bewilderment, confusion and saṁsāra.
सहयज्ञाः प्रजाः सृष्ट्वा पुरोवाच प्रजापतिः ।
अनेन प्रसविष्यध्वमेष वोऽस्त्विष्टकामधुक् ॥१०॥
saha-yajñāḥ prajāḥ sṛṣṭvā purovāca prajāpatiḥ
anena prasaviṣyadhvam eṣa vo’stv iṣṭa kāmadhuk
In the beginning of creation, Brahmā created mankind along with the system of sacrifice and said, “Through this sacrifice may you prosper. May it fulfil all your desires.”
देवान्भावयतानेन ते देवा भावयन्तु वः ।
परस्परं भावयन्तः श्रेयः परमवाप्स्यथ ॥११॥
devān bhāvayatānena te devā bhāvayantu vaḥ
parasparaṁ bhāvayantaḥ śreyaḥ param avāpsyatha
The demigods, being satisfied with sacrifices, will also satisfy you. By mutually pleasing each other, you will attain the highest benefit.
इष्टान्भोगान्हि वो देवा दास्यन्ते यज्ञभाविताः ।
तैर्दत्तानप्रदायैभ्यो यो भुङ्क्ते स्तेन एव सः ॥१२॥
iṣṭān bhogān hi vo devā dāsyante yajña-bhāvitāḥ
tair dattān apradāyaibhyo yo bhuṅkte stena eva saḥ
Being satisfied by your performance of sacrifices, the demigods will bestow unto you all the necessities of life. But one who enjoys these gifts without offering them to the demigods is a thief.
यज्ञशिष्टाशिनः सन्तो मुच्यन्ते सर्वकिल्बिषैः ।
भुञ्जते ते त्वघं पापा ये पचन्त्यात्मकारणात् ॥१३॥
yajña-śiṣṭāśinaḥ santo mucyante sarva-kilbiṣaiḥ
bhuñjate te tvaghaṁ pāpā ye pacanty-ātma-kāraṇāt
Enlightened individuals are liberated from all types of impiety by accepting the remnants of foodstuffs offered in sacrifice. However, those who only cook for themselves perpetuate their own bondage.
अन्नाद्भवन्ति भूतानि पर्जन्यादन्नसम्भवः ।
यज्ञाद्भवति पर्जन्यो यज्ञः कर्मसमुद्भवः ॥१४॥
annād bhavanti bhūtāni parjanyād anna-sambhavaḥ
yajñād bhavati parjanyo yajñaḥ karma-samudbhavaḥ
All living beings subsist on food, and food is produced by rain. Rain is produced due to the performance of sacrifice, and sacrifice is born of prescribed activities.
In verse 10 Brahmā is mentioned as the creator. According to the Vedas, Brahmā is the first living being in this universe and is manifest directly by Viṣṇu. Brahmā’s function is as the secondary creator of the planetary systems. In modern times, some atheistic thinkers, such as Professor Richard Dawkins, an evolutionary biologist from Oxford University, have conceded that aliens from another planet may have possibly seeded life on Earth. Far-fetched as this may sound to some of us, the idea does come very close to the truth.
The ancient texts of India state that Brahmā resides in the highest realm in the universe known as Satya-loka. Some of the offspring of Brahmā known as the Prajāpatis are then sent forth to seed life throughout the cosmos. But rather than look at Brahmā as an alien, the Vedic texts describe him as the father of all living beings in the material world.
Since western civilisation first came into contact with the pantheon of Vedic demigods there has always been the speculation that the Vedic people, often referred to as Hindus, were pagans – pagan meaning the worshippers of many gods and not one Supreme God. Thus western observers conclude that monotheism, the worship or reverence of one Supreme God, originated with the Abrahamic religions of the west. This however is not a fact.
The Vedic pantheon does indeed include many lesser demigods, but the Vedic texts are quite clear that there is only one Supreme Being or Super Consciousness that is above all. That is always referred to as Brahman, Paramātmā, Bhagavān, Viṣṇu or Kṛṣṇa. For example, the Ṛg Veda (1. 22. 20) states as follows:
tad viṣṇoḥ paramaṁ padaṁ sadā paśyanti surayaḥ
divīva cakṣur ātatam
The divine feet of Viṣṇu are above all, like the sun above our heads. His holy feet are like the vigilant eye of a grand guardian over our heads like the sun.
Śrīmad Bhāgavatam says:
ete cāmśa kalāḥ pumsaḥ kṛṣṇas tu bhagavān svayam
The various avatāras are either plenary expansions or parts of plenary expansions. But Śrī Kṛṣṇa is the original source of all these avatāras. (Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 1.3.28)
Historically speaking, it is erroneous to assume that monotheism was developed by Abrahamic civilisations independent of any outside influence. In fact, the Abrahamic religions borrowed the idea of monotheism from the Persians after King Cyrus subjugated Babylon and Judea circa 500 BCE. Prior to the arrival of the Persians, and continuing into the 2nd and 3rd Centuries, Judaism and Christianity were known to have belief systems based on one or more gods. Thus, monotheism only gradually developed among the Abrahamic religions.
Since the monotheistic concept found in the Vedas is much older than the Abrahamic religions, it is only logical to conclude that the latter borrowed their thinking from the former. During the interim, the Persians, under the influence of Zoroaster, took the monotheistic philosophy from India and then transmitted it to the Middle Eastern civilisations. Indeed, monotheism has always been the central theme of India’s Vedic literature.
However, failing to look deeply into the philosophy of the Vedas or possibly being culturally intimidated by the superiority of Vedic knowledge as opposed to western philosophies and religions, Eurocentric academics and fundamental religionists have marginalised the ancient Vedic civilisation of India. The German scholar Max Muller propagated further misinformation on this subject in the 19th Century with the invention of the Aryan Invasion Theory, stating that Vedic civilisation did not originate in India. Yet all this is quite far from the truth.
According to Muller, the āryans were a nomadic tribe from Europe who invaded India. Yet there is no evidence that the āryans were nomads. In fact, to suggest that a nomadic tribe of barbarians wrote literature of such profound wisdom as the Vedas defies imagination.
Furthermore, within the Vedas, there is no mention whatsoever of an original homeland, and archaeologically there is a complete lack of evidence to prove an invasion ever occurred. It can only be concluded that the āryan people and Vedic knowledge were always indigenous to India.
The Vedic knowledge is that Viṣṇu/Kṛṣṇa is Supreme and the lesser gods and goddesses such as Brahmā, Śiva, Gaṇeśa, Kārtikeya, Kālī and Sarasvatī etc. are actually servants of the Supreme Being and are empowered with the duties of managing the universal affairs of material nature. In the above verses Śrī Kṛṣṇa recommends that offerings should be made to the demigods and thus the demigods will be pleased to bestow unto humanity all the necessities of life. This is, in short, a universal law of taxation. In other words, we must give the demigods their dues.
It is also intrinsic to the nature of the ātmā, to perform service and sacrifice. Constitutionally the ātmā, being part of the organic whole (the Absolute Truth), is duty-bound to serve the whole, both in this life and in eternity. When sacrifice or offerings are made to Viṣṇu such as fruits, vegetables etc. then one’s senses become purified by eating the remnants of such offerings. But if one takes the things of this world without first acknowledging to whom they actually belong, then one simply incurs a karmic reaction. This also includes our daily food that should first be offered to Viṣṇu/Kṛṣṇa. It will be explained by Śrī Kṛṣṇa later in Bhagavad-gītā that these food offerings should comprise of vegetables, fruits, milk products, flowers etc. Non-vegetarian food items cannot be offered to Viṣṇu or Kṛṣṇa – consequently the servants of Viṣṇu/Kṛṣṇa are vegetarian. Kṛṣṇa will also explain that those who serve the Absolute Truth are not duty-bound to serve the demigods, nor are they bound by any other social consideration.
कर्म ब्रह्मोद्भवं विद्धि ब्रह्माक्षरसमुद्भवम् ।
तस्मात्सर्वगतं ब्रह्म नित्यं यज्ञे प्रतिष्ठितम् ॥१५॥
karma brahmodbhavaṁ viddhi brahmākṣara-samudbhavam
tasmāt sarva-gataṁ brahma nityaṁ yajñe pratiṣṭhitam
One should know that prescribed activities originate from the Vedas, and the Vedas originate from the imperishable Absolute Truth. Thus, the omnipresent Absolute Truth is eternally present within acts of sacrifice.
एवं प्रवर्तितं चक्रं नानुवर्तयतीह यः ।
अघायुरिन्द्रियारामो मोघं पार्थ स जीवति ॥१६॥
evaṁ pravartitaṁ cakraṁ nānuvartayatīha yaḥ
aghāyur indriyārāmo moghaṁ pārtha sa jīvati
O Pārtha, one who lives in this world but does not accept the Vedic system, lives an impious life in pursuit of sense pleasure – thus he lives his life in vain.
यस्त्वात्मरतिरेव स्यादात्मतृप्तश्च मानवः ।
आत्मन्येव च सन्तुष्टस्तस्य कार्यं न विद्यते ॥१७॥
yas tv-ātmaratir eva syād ātma-tṛptaś ca mānavaḥ
ātmany-eva ca santuṣṭas tasya kāryaṁ na vidyate
However, for one who finds pleasure in the self, there is no duty to fulfil. He rejoices in the self, and internally is completely self-satisfied.
नैव तस्य कृतेनार्थो नाकृतेनेह कश्चन ।
न चास्य सर्वभूतेषु कश्चिदर्थव्यपाश्रयः ॥१८॥
naiva tasya kṛtenārtho nākṛteneha kaścana
na cāsya sarva-bhūteṣu kaścid artha-vyapāśrayaḥ
In this world, he neither gains by action, nor gains by inaction. Neither does he depend upon any other person.
तस्मादसक्तः सततं कार्यं कर्म समाचर ।
असक्तो ह्याचरन्कर्म परमाप्नोति पूरुषः ॥१९॥
tasmād asaktaḥ satataṁ kāryaṁ karma samācara
asakto hyācaran karma param āpnoti pūruṣaḥ
Therefore, continue to perform your prescribed duties perfectly without attachment to the results. By acting without attachment one attains the Absolute.
कर्मणैव हि संसिद्धिमास्थिता जनकादयः ।
लोकसंग्रहमेवापि सम्पश्यन्कर्तुमर्हसि ॥२०॥
karmaṇaiva hi saṁsiddhim āsthitā janakādayaḥ
loka-saṅgraham evāpi sampaśyan kartum arhasi
In the past, kings such as Janaka and others attained perfection by performing their prescribed duties. In order to set a proper example to the people in general, you should also act appropriately.
यद्यदाचरति श्रेष्ठस्तत्तदेवेतरो जनः ।
स यत्प्रमाणं कुरुते लोकस्तदनुवर्तते ॥२१॥
yad yad ācarati śreṣṭhas tat tad evetaro janaḥ
sa yat pramāṇaṁ kurute lokas tad anuvartate
However a great man conducts himself, common men will follow. Accordingly, whatever standards he sets by his actions, others will follow in his footsteps.
The Vedic system of political and spiritual leadership is that one should lead by example. Unfortunately, in today’s world, good leaders of any kind are hard to come by. Not only are we disappointed to learn that those we have elected to public office are often pilfering the wealth of the country for their own benefit, but we are even more shocked to learn that many of our so-called spiritual leaders cannot even maintain the most basic principles of morality and engage in abominable, depraved practices.
Śrī Kṛṣṇa states in the above verse that what a great man does the common man will follow. This is most evident when we observe how movie stars, rock stars, and sports personalities influence the majority of people today. That we tend to be influenced by others is a human characteristic, therefore role models are essential. But what human society needs are role models that are knowledgeable, cultured, morally principled and spiritually advanced.
न मे पार्थास्ति कर्तव्यं त्रिषु लोकेषु किञ्चन ।
नानवाप्तमवाप्तव्यं वर्त एव च कर्मणि ॥२२॥
na me pārthāsti kartavyaṁ triṣu lokeṣu kiñcana
nānavāptam avāptavyaṁ varta eva ca karmaṇi
O Arjuna, son of Pṛthā, I have no duty to perform whatsoever in the three worlds. I lack nothing nor do I need to gain anything – yet I still engage in activities.
यदि ह्यहं न वर्तेयं जातु कर्मण्यतन्द्रितः ।
मम वर्त्मानुवर्तन्ते मनुष्याः पार्थ सर्वशः ॥२३॥
yadi hy-ahaṁ na varteyaṁ jātu karmaṇy-atandritaḥ
mama vartmānuvartante manuṣyāḥ pārtha sarvaśaḥ
If I avoid activity then all men will follow My path and neglect their prescribed duties, O Pārtha.
उत्सीदेयुरिमे लोका न कुर्यां कर्म चेदहम् ।
सङ्करस्य च कर्ता स्यामुपहन्यामिमाः प्रजाः ॥२४॥
utsīdeyur ime lokā na kuryāṁ karma ced aham
saṅkarasya ca kartā syām upahanyām imāḥ prajāḥ
If I do not act properly, then the general populace will be ruined and I will be the cause of unwanted progeny. In this way I will cause the destruction of all beings.
सक्ताः कर्मण्यविद्वांसो यथा कुर्वन्ति भारत ।
saktāḥ karmaṇy-avidvāṁso yathā kurvanti bhārata
kuryād vidvāṁs tathāsaktaś cikīrṣur loka-saṅgraham
O descendant of Bharata, just as the ignorant are attached to their activities, similarly the wise must also work, but without attachment, for the welfare of all.
न बुद्धिभेदं जनयेदज्ञानां कर्मसङ्गिनाम् ।
जोषयेत्सर्वकर्माणि विद्वान्युक्तः समाचरन् ॥२६॥
na buddhi-bhedaṁ janayed ajñānāṁ karma-saṅginām
joṣayet sarva-karmāṇi vidvān yuktaḥ samācaran
The wise should not disturb the minds of the ignorant who are attached to their selfish activities. Rather, remaining unattached and fully executing their duties, they should encourage the ignorant and engage them in pious activities.
प्रकृतेः क्रियमाणानि गुणैः कर्माणि सर्वशः ।
अहङ्कारविमूढात्मा कर्ताहमिति मन्यते ॥२७॥
prakṛteḥ kriyamāṇāni guṇaiḥ karmāṇi sarvaśaḥ
ahaṅkāra-vimūḍhātmā kartāham iti manyate
All activities are performed by the modes of nature. But those who are deluded by the false identification of the body think, “I am the doer.”
Śrī Kṛṣṇa states in the above verses that He has no duty to perform, that He lacks nothing nor has He anything to gain. In other words, Kṛṣṇa is already perfect and complete – oṁ pūrṇam. Yet Kṛṣṇa acts; He is not idle. He acts for the benefit of humanity by establishing spiritual practices in every age – dharmaṁ tu sākṣād bhagavat-praṇītaṁ. When an avatāra of the Absolute Truth makes His appearance in the material world, He does so to establish eternal principles of dharma.
Kṛṣṇa appeared at the end of Dvāpara-yuga, 5,237 years ago (3228 BCE) and spoke the Bhagavad-gītā. However, this was not Kṛṣṇa’s most recent appearance. Kṛṣṇa appeared again after the beginning of Kali-yuga 525 years ago. This Kali-yuga avatāra of Kṛṣṇa is known as Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu. In His avatāra as Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, Kṛṣṇa taught the process of saṅkīrtana, the congregational chanting of the mahā-mantra, to accompany the study of Bhagavad-gītā. As regards the mahā-mantra, the Kali-santaraṇa Upaniṣad states as follows:
hare kṛṣṇa hare kṛṣṇa kṛṣṇa kṛṣṇa hare hare
hare rāma hare rāma rāma rāma hare hare
iti ṣoḍaśakaṁ nāmnāṁ kali-kalmaṣa nāśanam
nātaḥ parataropāyaḥ sarva-vedeṣu dṛśyate
The sixteen words of this mahā-mantra are specifically meant for counteracting the contamination of Kali-yuga. There is no other way but to chant these names of Kṛṣṇa. After searching throughout the Vedic literature one will not find a process for this age that is more sublime. (Kali-santaraṇa Upaniṣad 2)
The transcendental potency of the mahā-mantra is further described as follows in Padma Purāṇa:
nāma cintāmaṇiḥ kṛṣṇaś caitanya-rasa-vigrahaḥ
pūrṇaḥ śuddho nitya-mukto ‘bhinnatvān nāma-nāminoḥ
The name of Śrī Kṛṣṇa is a transcendental touchstone, full of all transcendental mellows. Complete, pure, and eternally liberating, the name of Kṛṣṇa is non-different than Kṛṣṇa.
The study of the Bhagavad-gītā and the practice of saṅkīrtana have now spread all over the world. It is no longer something that is only available in India. There will be more discussion on this particular topic in Chapter 4, verse 8.
The proper mode of action and the proprietor of the results of action is only understood when one is free from the identification of the self as the body, as being a byproduct of the body or that one is the doer of activities.
We walk, we talk, we digest food, we construct buildings and even empires, but all these activities are made possible for us by a combination of material nature and the Paramātmā, the Super Consciousness that pervades the entire universe. How all this transpires is inconceivable to those under the bodily conception of life. Thus the idea that, “I am this body” arising from the false ego must be abandoned. Who are we? Where do we come from? Why are we here? Is there life after death? The answers to all these questions begin to fall into place when one gives up the concept of the body as the self. Many great thinkers from western civilisation have struggled with the ultimate questions of life and death, but failed to find the answers or the solutions to the problems. This in part was due to the fact that they contemplated life under the false premise that the body is the self. Self-realisation and realisation of the Absolute Truth begins with the abandonment of the bodily concept of life.
तत्त्ववित्तु महाबाहो गुणकर्मविभागयोः ।
गुणा गुणेषु वर्तन्त इति मत्वा न सज्जते ॥२८॥
tattvavit tu mahā-bāho guṇa-karma-vibhāgayoḥ
guṇā guṇeṣu vartanta iti matvā na sajjate
Yet, O mighty-armed one, one who is a knower of the truth concerning action and the modes of material nature, understands that it is the modes interacting with one another and thus he remains unattached.
प्रकृतेर्गुणसम्मूढाः सज्जन्ते गुणकर्मसु ।
तानकृत्स्नविदो मन्दान्कृत्स्नविन्न विचालयेत् ॥२९॥
prakṛter guṇa-saṁmūḍhāḥ sajjante guṇa-karmasu
tān akṛtsna-vido mandān kṛtsna-vin na vicālayet
Those bewildered by the modes of material nature are engrossed in material activities conducted by those modes. The wise should not disturb the ignorant who are bereft of proper knowledge.
मयि सर्वाणि कर्माणि संन्यस्याध्यात्मचेतसा ।
निराशीर्निर्ममो भूत्वा युध्यस्व विगतज्वरः ॥३०॥
mayi sarvāṇi karmāṇi sannyasyādhyātma-cetasā
nirāśīr nirmamo bhūtvā yudhyasva vigata-jvaraḥ
Completely surrendering all your activities unto Me, with your consciousness fully situated in the self, without any selfish motivation, without any sense of ownership and without grief – fight!
ये मे मतमिदं नित्यमनुतिष्ठन्ति मानवाः ।
श्रद्धावन्तोऽनसूयन्तो मुच्यन्ते तेऽपि कर्मभिः ॥३१॥
ye me matam idaṁ nityam anutiṣṭhanti mānavāḥ
śraddhāvanto’nasūyanto mucyante te’pi karmabhiḥ
Those that faithfully follow these instructions of Mine without envy will become free from the bondage of actions.
ये त्वेतदभ्यसूयन्तो नानुतिष्ठन्ति मे मतम् ।
सर्वज्ञानविमूढांस्तान्विद्धि नष्टानचेतसः ॥३२॥
ye tv-etad abhyasūyanto nānutiṣṭhanti me matam
sarva-jñāna-vimūḍhāṁs tān viddhi naṣṭān acetasaḥ
However, you should know that those persons who, out of envy, do not follow My instructions are deprived of all knowledge. They have lost sight of the goal of life and are bereft of intelligence.
सदृशं चेष्टते स्वस्याः प्रकृतेर्ज्ञानवानपि ।
प्रकृतिं यान्ति भूतानि निग्रहः किं करिष्यति ॥३३॥
sadṛśaṁ ceṣṭate svasyāḥ prakṛter jñānavān api
prakṛtiṁ yānti bhūtāni nigrahaḥ kiṁ kariṣyati
Even a wise man acts according to his nature. All living beings act according to their natures, for what can repression achieve?
इन्द्रियस्येन्द्रियस्यार्थे रागद्वेषौ व्यवस्थितौ ।
तयोर्न वशमागच्छेत्तौ ह्यस्य परिपन्थिनौ ॥३४॥
indriyasyendriyasyārthe rāga-dveṣau vyavasthitau
tayor na vaśam āgacchet tau hy-asya paripanthinau
The senses are attracted to and repelled by the objects of the senses. But one must not become controlled by such attraction or aversion for they are obstacles.
श्रेयान्स्वधर्मो विगुणः परधर्मात्स्वनुष्ठितात् ।
स्वधर्मे निधनं श्रेयः परधर्मो भयावहः ॥३५॥
śreyān svadharmo viguṇaḥ para-dharmāt svanuṣṭhitāt
sva-dharme nidhanaṁ śreyaḥ para-dharmo bhayāvahaḥ
It is better to perform one’s own prescribed duties imperfectly rather than perform another’s duties perfectly. It is better to die while performing one’s own duties, for executing the duties of another is fraught with uncertainty.
The faults of material life are many. Herein, Śrī Kṛṣṇa has mentioned certain faults that a serious student of the Bhagavad-gītā should be preeminently aware of. Ignorance, foolishness, selfish motivation, a false sense of proprietorship, as well as attraction and aversion to the sense-objects are mentioned by Kṛṣṇa. But more dangerous than any other fault is envy. Envy, it seems, is purely evil as Kṛṣṇa says that those who do not follow the teachings of the Bhagavad-gītā out of enviousness are bereft of all knowledge and intelligence.
Another danger is the tendency of neglecting one’s own duty and trying to perform the duty of another. In other words, Kṛṣṇa tells Arjuna to tend to his own business. Arjuna is a kṣatriya and his duty, as already discussed, is to protect and defend the kingdom. Arjuna however, is showing leanings towards renunciation – becoming a monk, a sannyāsī. Arjuna wants to abandon his duty and perform that of another, but Kṛṣṇa warns him that this is not a good idea. In fact, Kṛṣṇa says it is even dangerous. Kṛṣṇa explains that it is better to perform one’s own duty imperfectly than perform another’s duty perfectly.
In particular, Kṛṣṇa is encouraging Arjuna to follow the codes of conduct set down for kṣatriyas – of which abandoning the battlefield for a warrior is not an option.
अथ केन प्रयुक्तोऽयं पापं चरति पूरुषः ।
अनिच्छन्नपि वार्ष्णेय बलादिव नियोजितः ॥३६॥
arjuna uvāca –
atha kena prayukto’yaṁ pāpaṁ carati pūruṣaḥ
anicchann api vārṣṇeya balād iva niyojitaḥ
Arjuna asked: O Kṛṣṇa, descendant of the Vṛṣṇis, what is it that makes a man perform impious activities even against his will, as if by force?
काम एष क्रोध एष रजोगुणसमुद्भवः ।
महाशनो महापाप्मा विद्ध्येनमिह वैरिणम् ॥३७॥
śrī bhagavān uvāca –
kāma eṣa krodha eṣa rajoguṇa-samudbhavaḥ
mahā-śano mahā-pāpmā viddhy-enam iha vairiṇam
Bhagavān Śrī Kṛṣṇa said: It is lust, which transforms into anger that is manifest from the mode of passion. Know this lust to be totally insatiable and extremely evil. It is the great enemy of this world.
धूमेनाव्रियते वह्निर्यथादर्शो मलेन च ।
यथोल्बेनावृतो गर्भस्तथा तेनेदमावृतम् ॥३८॥
dhūmenāvriyate vahnir yathādarśo malena ca
yatholbenāvṛto garbhas tathā tenedam āvṛtam
As a fire is covered by smoke, as a mirror is covered by dust, and as the womb covers an embryo, similarly, lust covers the consciousness of the living being.
आवृतं ज्ञानमेतेन ज्ञानिनो नित्यवैरिणा ।
कामरूपेण कौन्तेय दुष्पूरेणानलेन च ॥३९॥
āvṛtaṁ jñānam etena jñānino nitya-vairiṇā
kāma-rūpeṇa kaunteya duṣpūreṇānalena ca
O Kaunteya, the discrimination of even a wise man can become covered by this eternal nemesis in the form of lust that is like an all-devouring fire.
इन्द्रियाणि मनो बुद्धिरस्याधिष्ठानमुच्यते ।
एतैर्विमोहयत्येष ज्ञानमावृत्य देहिनम् ॥४०॥
indriyāṇi mano buddhir asyādhiṣṭhānam ucyate
etair vimohayaty eṣa jñānam āvṛtya dehinam
It is said that the senses, mind and intelligence are the sitting places of this enemy. Covering one’s knowledge, it bewilders the embodied living being.
तस्मात्त्वमिन्द्रियाण्यादौ नियम्य भरतर्षभ ।
पाप्मानं प्रजहि ह्येनं ज्ञानविज्ञाननाशनम् ॥४१॥
tasmāt tvam indriyāṇy-ādau niyamya bharatarṣabha
pāpmānaṁ prajahi hy-enaṁ jñāna-vijñāna-nāśanam
Therefore, O noblest amongst the Bharatas, you must first bring the senses under control and eliminate lust, which is the embodiment of all impiety and the destroyer of knowledge and realisation.
इन्द्रियाणि पराण्याहुरिन्द्रियेभ्यः परं मनः ।
मनसस्तु परा बुद्धिर्यो बुद्धेः परतस्तु सः ॥४२॥
indriyāṇi parāṇy-āhur indriyebhyaḥ paraṁ manaḥ
manasas tu parā buddhir yo buddheḥ paratas tu saḥ
It is said by the wise that the senses are superior to the sense-objects, the mind is superior to the senses, and the intelligence is superior to the mind. Superior to the intelligence is the individual unit of consciousness.
एवं बुद्धेः परं बुद्ध्वा संस्तभ्यात्मानमात्मना ।
जहि शत्रुं महाबाहो कामरूपं दुरासदम् ॥४३॥
evaṁ buddheḥ paraṁ buddhvā saṁstabhyātmānam ātmanā
jahi śatruṁ mahā-bāho kāma-rūpaṁ durāsadam
O mighty armed Arjuna, knowing the individual unit of consciousness to be superior to the intelligence, steady the mind with the pure intellect of the self and conquer this indomitable enemy in the form of lust.
Herein, it is stated that the mind is superior to the senses and intelligence is superior to the mind, but above the intelligence is the consciousness or ātmā. The material body is comprised of the mind, senses and intelligence and they are therefore considered as material elements. In Chapter 7, verse 4 of Bhagavad-gītā, Śrī Kṛṣṇa lists the eight material elements as earth, water, fire, air, space, mind, intelligence and false ego. Then, in the next verse, Kṛṣṇa describes a superior energy known as jīva-bhūta, the units of individual consciousness. Kṛṣṇa says that this jīva-bhūta, also known as ātmā, is categorically different than the material elements. It is fully spiritual.
But when lust, the all-devouring enemy of self-realisation, covers the mind, senses and intelligence of the superior jīva-bhūta, then the knowledge and realisation of the jīva-bhūta are destroyed. Therefore, Kṛṣṇa says that first the yogī must conquer lust. If one does not pursue the cravings of lust and instead takes control of one’s lower self with one’s higher self, lust will eventually be vanquished. However, if one tries to satisfy his burning lust then it is like pouring fuel onto a fire.
ॐ तत्सदिति श्रीमहाभारते शतसाहस्रयां संहितायां
श्रीमद्भगवदीतासूपनिषत्सु ब्रह्मविद्यायं योगशास्त्रे श्रीकृष्णार्जुनसंवादे
कर्मयोगो नाम तृतीयोऽध्यायः।।
oṁ tat saditi śrī-mahābhārate-śata-sāhasryāṁ saṁhitāyāṁ vaiyāsikyāṁ bhīṣma-parvāṇi
brahma-vidyāyāṁ yoga-śāstre śrī kṛṣṇārjuna-saṁvāde
karma-yogo nāma tṛtīyo’dhyāyaḥ
OṀ TAT SAT – Thus ends Chapter Three entitled Karma Yoga from the conversation between Śrī Kṛṣṇa and Arjuna in the Upaniṣad known as Śrīmad Bhagavad-gītā, the yoga-śāstra of divine knowledge, from the Bhīṣma-parva of Mahābhārata, the literature revealed by Vyāsa in one hundred thousand verses.