Bhagavad Gita- Chapter 3 (Part 1) Karma Yogah- Yoga of Action


yastwaatmaratir eva syaad  aatmatriptashcha maanavah
    aatmanyeva cha santushtas tasya kaaryam  na vidyate  // 3.17 //

But  for that man who rejoices only in the Self, who is satisfied in the Self, who  is content in the Self alone, verily there is nothing to do.

The  motivation for any human action in the outer world is to achieve better  satisfaction and contentment.  The man of  perfection does not depend on external objects for his happiness. He finds his  joy, bliss and contentment in his own Divine experience. When he has already  achieved satisfaction and contentment, no more desires arise in him.  Where there are no desires there is no action.  Such a realized man is a person endowed with Self-Knowledge. He has no worldly  duties to perform. He is the knower of Brahman.

naiva tasya kritenaartho naakriteneha  kashchana
    na chaasya sarvabhooteshu  kashchidartha vyapaashrayah  //3.18 //

He  has nothing to gain by what he does in this world, nor anything to lose by what  he leaves undone; nor is there anyone, among all beings, on whom he need to  depend for any thing.

An  ordinary man is required to act for earning profit or avoiding loss. But for a  man who discovered eternal satisfaction in his own Self and reached perfect  contentment therein no purpose is served by engaging himself in any action  because there is neither anticipation of gain nor fear of loss for him.  Such a person depends upon nothing for his  joy, neither on any being from the Creator, Brahma to a blade of grass nor on  any object. 


tasmaad asaktah satatam  kaaryam karma samaachara
    asakto hyaacharan karma param aapnoti  poorushah  // 3.19 //

Therefore,  always do without attachment the work you have to do; for by performing action  without attachment a man reaches the Supreme.

After  explaining the wheel of action Sri Krishna concludes His dissertation by asking  Arjuna to perform actions which are obligatory on his part in his present  status in life. Even here The Lord warns him to keep his mind away from the  pitfalls of attachments.

Though  the liberated man has nothing to gain by action or non-action and is perfectly  happy in the enjoyment of the Self, there is such a thing called desire less  action which he undertakes for the welfare of the world. The work done without  attachment is superior to the work done in a spirit of sacrifice which is  itself higher than work done with selfish aims. While this verse says that the  man reaches the Supreme performing actions without attachment, Sankara holds  that karma yoga helps us to attain purity of mind which leads to salvation. It  takes us to perfection indirectly through the attainment of purity of mind.


karmanaiva hi samsiddhim aasthitaa  janakaadayah
    lokasangraham evaapi sampashyan kartum  arhasi  // 3.20 //

Janaka  and others attained perfection verily by action only; even with a view to the  protection of the masses you should perform action.

Ancient  kings like Janaka and others attained perfection or liberation - samsiddhi - by the path of action, performing right actions in a spirit of detachment and  self-dedication. They set an example to the world by their lives of service and  achievement. They attained purity of mind through the performance of duty and  then realized Brahman.

Sri  Krishna means Arjuna too, belonging to a princely class, who has the  responsibility to protect his people, should act diligently and perform his  kshatriya duties without running away from the battle as he intended earlier.

We  can notice the modern leadership principle here.  Born as a king Arjuna has got a greater  commitment towards his subjects. He is a leader of men and a lot depends on him  and his activities. Therefore, it is his bounden obligation to keep his post  and discharge his duties diligently, risking all dangers and fighting enemies  for achieving Lokasangraha.

Lokasangraha stands for the unity of the world, the inter  connectedness of society, protection and maintenance by each other. If the  world is not to sink into physical misery and moral degradation, if the common  life is to be decent and dignified, religious ethics must control social  action. The aim of religion is to spiritualize everyday life for establishing universal  brotherhood on earth and maintenance of the world order.


yad yad aacharati shreshthas  tattadevetaro janah
    sa yat pramaanam kurute lokas tad  anuvartate  // 3. 21 //
    Whatever  a great man does, that, others follow; whatever he sets up as the standard,  that, the world follows.

Common  people are more influenced by the living examples of great men than by the  abstract teaching of the scriptures. Man is a social animal.  He is also an imitating animal. He takes his  ideas of right and wrong from those whom he considers his superiors. The examples  set by the leaders are implemented by the followers. As is the quality of  leaders, so will be the quality of the followers. Whatever the persons in  authority do, the subordinates imitate.

Sri  Krishna implies that if Arjuna were to abandon his duty to act, then the entire  community will follow the low standard of retreating from action set up by him  which will lead to general social decadence. The Lord cites Himself as an  example for Arjuna to act.

na me paarthaasti kartavyam  trishu lokeshu kinchana
    naanavaaptam avaaptavyam  varta eva cha karmani  // 3.22 //

There  is nothing in the three worlds, O Partha, that has to be done by me, or is  there anything unattained that should be attained by me, yet, I continue to engage  myself in work.

Being  a Perfect man and a Yogi, Sri Krishna had nothing to gain in this world. His  entire life is an example of a perfect life of complete detachment. Even though  He had nothing that He did not gain nor had anything further to gain, He was engaging  Himself constantly in activity.

Here  Krishna speaks of Himself as the Godhead. Though He transcends all claims of  duty, yet He acts according to the scriptural injunctions to set an example to  others.

yadi hyaham na varteyam jaatu  karmanyatandritah
    mama vartmaanuvartante manushyaah  paartha sarvashah // 3.23 //

For,  should I not ever engage in action, without relaxation, men would in every way  follow my path, O Son of Pritha.

If  The Lord remains inactive the people also will imitate Him and sink themselves  in inertia and unproductive existence and great harm will come in the world.  The entire Universe survives and sustains itself by activity alone.  In these verses the word `I' implies Atman or  the Self-realized man of perfection. The God principle serves the pluralistic  phenomenal world as a substratum for its existence.

utseedeyur ime lokaa na kuryaam karma  ched aham
    sankarasya cha kartaa syaamupahanyaam  imaah prajaah  // 3.24 //

If  I should cease to work, these worlds would perish.  I should then be the cause of confusion and  destruction of these people.

If  The Lord does not work it will not be conducive to the progress of the  Universe. The Universe is not chaos but a cosmos. Nowhere chaotic conditions  are observed in the working of the cosmic forces. Movement of planets, occurring  of seasons, laws of the oceans, various social orders and disiplines etc.,  always obey the law of nature or God.

The  Lord represents not only the law governing the outer world of things but also  the law that governs the inner world of thoughts and emotions. Human society is  divided into four castes on the basis of individual mental temperaments. In  case the law governing the inner temperaments does not function there will be  confusion in behavior and instability in the character of people bringing about  their own destruction.

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