Karma Yoga – Chapter 3 – Slokas 3.01-3.43

Arjuna said, “O Janārdana, if it be Your opinion that Wisdom that is Yoga of Wisdom which is equanimity practised along with Yoga of Knowledge with the single-pointed conviction of the Supreme Goal is superior to action then, why O Kesava, do You urge me to do this horrible and cruel action that will cause injury to another?


O Lord, though, Your speech and utterance is eloquent, still, to me who is of dull understanding, it appears conflicting. You bewilder my understanding as it were with this conflicting statement. You have surely undertaken this speech to dispel my ignorance and dullness and confusion arising from this grave situation and yet I am confused. Tell me for certain, from which and through which namely Knowledge or action, may I attain the Highest Good.”


The Blessed Lord said, “O unblemished One, O sinless One, there are two kinds of steadfastness and persistence in what is undertaken in this world, for the people of the three castes who are qualified for following the scriptures and were spoken of by Me, the Omniscient God, who had revealed for them the traditional teachings of the Vedas which are the means of securing prosperity and the highest Goal in the days of yore and at the beginning of creation. Jnānayogena, through the Yoga of Knowledge where Knowledge itself being the Yoga for the men of realization whose single-pointed conviction of the Supreme Goal namely Me remains steadfast and undeterred throughout their existence wherein even after realizing the Supreme Goal that is Me in its entirety, they continue to live till the physical frame drops off as a Jeevanmukta. The other being karma-yogena, through Yoga of action as stated for the yogis where every action and fruits of the action is surrendered to Me as they have only the right to action and not to the fruits of the action or the cause for the production of the actions. Here, they adore Me in every action, inaction, word and thought surrendering to Me practising righteousness.


A person does not attain freedom from action, that is to be steadfast in the Yoga of Knowledge by abiding in one’s own Self at all times by abstaining from actions and nor does he attain fulfilment that is steadfastness in the Yoga of Knowledge characterized by freedom from action merely through renunciation.


Because, no one ever remains without doing some work or action even for a moment. For, all the creatures born in this Nature are made to work under the compulsion of the gunas of sattvarajas and tamas


One who after withdrawing the organs of action sits mentally recollecting and thinking about the objects of the senses, that one of deluded mind is called a hypocrite and a sinful person.


But, on the other hand, O Arjuna, one who is unenlightened and who is eligible for action and right to perform his ordained duty, engages in Karma Yoga. He engages in Karma Yoga with the organs of action controlling the sense-organs with the mind and becomes unattached, excelling the other one as he is ever-aware and mindful of the Supreme Goal.


You, O Arjuna, perform the obligatory duties as ordained and those that you are competent to do, for action and performance of duty is superior to inaction and non-performance of ordained and customary duties. Why, through inaction and non-performance of customary actions, even the maintenance of your body will not be possible.


This man, the one who is eligible for action becomes bound by actions, becomes bound by actions other than that action meant for God. Therefore, without being attached and being free from the attachment to the results of actions, O son of Kunti, you perform karma, for Him.


In the days of yore, in the beginning of creation, having created the beings, together with the sacrifices, Prajāpati said, “By this sacrifice, you multiply. Let this sacrifice be your yielder of coveted objects of desire and particular results as desired.


You nourish the gods, Indra and others with this sacrifice. Let those gods nourish you. By nourishing one another, you shall attain the Supreme Good.”


Being nourished by sacrifices, the gods will indeed bestow upon you the coveted enjoyments. He is certainly a thief and a stealer of the wealth of gods and others who gratifies only his own body and organs with what enjoyable things have been bestowed by the gods without offering any to them thereby not repaying the debt to them.


Those who are partakers of the remnants of sacrifices, who, after making offering to the gods, eat the remnants of those offerings, called nectar, become freed from all sins. But the unholy selfish persons, who cook only for themselves, incur sin.


It is a matter of understanding that from the food that is eaten, creatures are born. The origin of food is from rainfall and rainfall originates from sacrifice and sacrifice has action as its origin.


Know that karma has Brahma and the Veda as its origin and further Brahma that is (aksarasamudbhavam), has aksara, the Immutable Brahman who is the Supreme Self as its source. Since the Veda has its origin in the Immutable Supreme Self, it becomes the revealer of everything and all-pervading. Even though all-pervading, the Veda is eternal and immortal based on sacrifice because the injunctions about sacrifices predominate in it.


O Pārtha, he lives in vain, who, though competent for action and executing the ordained and customary duties, does not follow here, the wheel of the world that is set in motion and whose life is sinful and who indulges in the senses and who only wants to enjoy the objects through the senses.


But that man has no duty to perform, who is a sannyāsin (the man of Knowledge and steadfast in the knowledge of the Self), who rejoices only in the Self and who is satisfied only with the Self and is contented only in the Self.


Moreover, for him, who rejoices in the Supreme Self, there is neither any concern or interest at all in performing action nor is there any concern or interest in non-performance of action. Moreover, for him, there is no dependence on any object, from Brahmā to an unmoving thing that will serve any purpose.


Therefore, remaining unattached, always perform the obligatory, customary and ordained duties, for by performing one’s duty without attachment (doing the assigned work as dedication to God), the person attains the Supreme or the Highest Liberation.


For in the olden days, Janaka and other learned beings, strove to attain Liberation through action itself. You should perform your ordained and assigned duties keeping also in view, the prevention of mankind from going astray and failing to do their assigned work and duties.


Whatever action a superior person or a leader does, another person follows him and does that very action. Further, whatever the superior person upholds as authority, an ordinary person follows that very thing.


na me parthasti kartavyam
trisu lokesu kincana
nanavaptam avaptavyam
varta eva ca karmani 
– O Pārtha, there is no duty whatsoever for Me to fulfil in all the three worlds; there is nothing that remains unachieved nor to be achieved and still I continue to do action.


yadi hy aham na varteyam
jatu karmany atandritah
mama vartmanuvartante
manusyah partha sarvasah 
– For O Pārtha, if at any time, I do not continue in action tirelessly, then men will follow My path in every way.


utsideyur ime loka
na kuryam karma ced aham
sankarasya ca karta syam
upahanyam imah prajah
 – If I do not perform karma, then all these worlds will be ruined owing to the absence of assigned and required work that is customary and obligatory for the maintenance of the worlds. Further, I shall become an agent of intermingling and confusion among beings and consequently I shall be destroying these beings.


O scion of the Bharata dynasty, as some unenlightened people act with attachment to work, so should the enlightened person, knower of the Self act without attachment being aware and conscious of preventing people from going astray.


The enlightened man should not create disturbance in the beliefs of the ignorant and the non-discriminating ones and those who are attached to work but instead, should continue performing the customary, obligatory and assigned work and duties of the ignorant while encouraging them and making the ignorant do all those duties.


While customary and obligatory actions as ordained are being done in every way by the gunas of Nature, one who is deluded by egoism thinks that “I am the doer”.


But, O mighty-armed one, the one who is a knower of facts about the qualities of the gunas and the according diversity of actions does not become attached, thinking thus: “The gunas act on the objects of the gunas namely the organs and senses.”


Those who are wholly deluded by the gunas of Nature become attached to the activities of the gunas. The knower of All and one who is the knower of the Self, should not disturb those who are attached to actions who are of dull intellect, who do not know the Supreme All.


mayi sarvani karmani
nirasir nirmamo bhutva
yudhyasva vigata-jvarah – Devoid of the fever of conscience that is being free from repentance and without remorse, engage in battle, by dedicating all actions to Me, who am the Omniscient Supreme Lord, the Supreme Self, with your mind intent on the Self becoming free from expectations and results and egoism.


Those men who eternally follow this teaching of Mine performing their ordained and obligatory duties dedicating it to Me with faith and without cavil, will also become freed from actions.


But those, who ignore and criticize this instruction of Mine and do not follow My teaching are to be known as deluded in various ways with respect to all knowledge and are devoid of discrimination and have gone to ruin.


Even a jnānavān (a man of wisdom) behaves according to his own nature. Therefore, all the created beings follow their prescribed nature. What can restraint do?


Attraction and repulsion are accorded to the objects of all organs. Therefore, one should not come under the sway of these two with extreme reactions of love and hate or like and dislike because they are his adversaries.


To do one’s own duty however blemished and deficient it might be is more commendable than doing another’s duty skillfully. Even death is better while engaged in one’s own duty as compared to being alive while engaged in somebody else’s duty which is fraught with fear.”


Arjuna said, “O scion of the Vrisni dynasty, being impelled by what that acts as a cause, makes a man commit a sin even against his wish, being constrained by a force as it were?”


The Blessed Lord said, “kama esa krodha esa
mahasano maha-papma
viddhy enam iha vairinam
 – This desire, this anger that is born of the quality of rajas is the great devourer and a great sinner. Know this desire to be the enemy here in this world.


As fire which is naturally bright is enveloped by smoke, which is born concomitantly with fire and is naturally dark, or as a mirror is covered by dirt, and, as a foetus remains enclosed in the womb, so is this shrouded by that.


O son of Kunti, Knowledge is covered by this constant enemy of the wise in the form of desire which is an insatiable fire.


The organs, the mind and the intellect are said to be its abode. This one desire diversely deludes the embodied being by veiling Knowledge with the help of these.


So therefore, O scion of the Bharata dynasty, after first controlling the organs being ever-aware and intent on the Supreme Goal, renounce this one enemy under consideration which is sinful and a destroyer of learning and wisdom.


The learned ones say that the organs are superior to the external gross body; the mind is superior to the organs; the intellect is superior to the mind. However, the one who is innermost and superior to the intellect is He, the Supreme Self who is a witness of the intellect.


evam buddheh param buddhva
samstabhyatmanam atmana
jahi satrum maha-baho
kama-rupam durasadam – Understanding the Self as thus superior to the intellect and completely establishing the mind in the Self in absolute immersion and absorption, O mighty-armed one, vanquish this enemy in the form of desire that is difficult to subdue.

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