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CHAPTER 3 - Karma Yoga
« on: April 09, 2019, 11:56:33 PM »
Introduction:
The two aspects of wisdom - relating respectively to Pravritti and Nivritti, i.e., to the Path of Works and the Path of Renunciation - with which the Gita-sastra is concerned have been pointed out by the Lord in the Second Discourse, He has recommended renunciation of action to those who hold to the Sankhya - buddhi (Sankhya aspect of wisdom) and has added in ii. 72 that their end can be achieved by being devoted to that alone. And as to Arjuna, He has declared in ii. 47 that he should resort to works (karma) alone as based on Yoga - buddhi (the Yoga aspect of wisdom), while it has not been said that the Highest Good can be attained by that alone. Seeing this, Arjuna is troubled in mind and therefore puts a question to the Lord. (III 1,2).

This perplexity in Arjuna's mind is quite explicable. He thinks, "how might the Lord first describe to me - a devout seeker of Bliss - the direct means of attaining Bliss, namely adherence to the Sankhya aspect of wisdom, and then command me to do action which is fraught with many a tangible evil and which is but an indirect and uncertain means of attaining Bliss? Arjuna's question, too points to this state of mind; and the Lord's words in reply to the question are explicable only when the sastra makes such a distinction (between Sankhya and Yoga) as has been described above.


No conjunction of Knowledge and Action
A certain commentator interprets the meaning of Arjuna's question differently and explains the Lord's reply as opposed (to the question) in meaning. So also, he sums up the teaching of the Gita-sastra in one way in the introductory portion of his commentary, while he interprets the question and answer in this connection in a different way - How? -
It is stated in the introduction that a simultaneous conjunction of knowledge and action for men in all stages of religious life is inculcated in the Gita-sastra; and moreover a specific statement is made amounting to an emphatic denial of the doctrine that moksha can be attained by knowledge alone, i.e., without those works which are enjoined by the scriptures as obligatory throughout life.

But here, in the Third Discourse, he makes out that devotion to only one of the two paths is taught. This is tantamount to saying that the very works which are enjoined by the scriptures as obligatory throughout life have to be renounced. How is it possible either for the Lord to teach such contradictions or for the disciple to accept them? That commentator may perhaps explain away the contradiction thus: - It is only to the grhasthas (to the order of married house - holders) - but not to other orders - that salvation by mere knowledge, preceded by the renunciation of works enjoined in the sruti and in the smrti, is denied.

This, too, involves a self-contradiction. For, after declaring (in the introduction) that a simultaneous conjunction of knowledge and action is meant for all religious orders by the (Gita Sastra, how could he, in contradiction thereto, say here (in iii. Discourse) that salvation by mere knowledge is meant for some religious orders? Then the commentator may explain away the contradiction thus: It is with reference to the srauta - karma (action enjoined in the sruti) that the assertion is made that salvation by mere - i.e., unconjoined with the smarta-karma knowledge is denied to the grihastha.

The smarta-karma (action enjoined in tlie smriti) that is meant for a grihasthas ignored as if it were absent. It is in this sense that salvation by mere knowledge is denied in the case of grihasthas. This also involves an absurdity. For how is it possible for any intelligent man to believe that salvation by knowledge conjoined only with the smarta-karma is denied to a grihastha alone, but not to other orders? On the other hand, if, as a means of obtaining salvation, the smarta-karma should be conjoined with knowledge in the case of the samnyasins - the fourth religious order, - then it follows that, for the gnhasthas also, knowledge should be conjoined only with the smarta-karma, not with the srauta-karma.

Then, he may explain away the contradiction thus: it is only in the case of a grihastha that a conjunction (of knowledge) with both the srauta - karma and, the smarta-karma - both being of equal importance to him - is necessary for salvation, whereas the samnyasins can attain moksha by knowledge conjoined with the smarta-karma only.

If so, too much exertion in the shape of both the srautakarma and the smarta-karma, very painful in themselves, falls to the lot of the grihastha.


Renunciation enjoined in the scriptures
The commentator in question may now say: Because of this multiplicity of exertion, salvation is attained only by a grihastha, but not by other religious orders who have not to do the nitya or obligatory srauta - karma.
This, too, is wrong; for, in all the Upanishads, in the Itihasas, in the Purana, and in the Yoga-sastra, renunciation of all karma is enjoined on the seeker of moksha as an accessory to knowledge. Both in the sruti and in the smriti, a gradual passage (through the three orders to the fourth order) is enjoined, as well as a sudden jump (from any one of the three to the fourth order). If so - the commentator in question may retort - it follows that a conjunction of knowledge
with action is necessary for all religious orders. No, (we reply). For, renunciation of all action is enjoined on the seeker of moksha, as the following passages from the sruti show:
"Having given up all desire for progeny, for wealth, and for the world, they lead a mendicant life." - (Bri. Up 3.5.1)
"Wherefore, of these austerities, renunciation, they say, is excellent." " Renunciation alone excelled." (Taittiriya Up. 4).
"Not by action, not by progeny, not by wealth, but by renunciation, some attained immortality." (Ibid. 4 - 12).
"One may renounce the world when yet a student." (Jabala - Upanishad, 4).

The following passages from the smrti may also be quoted: -“Give up religion, give up irreligion. Give up truth, give up untruth. Having given up both
truth and untruth, give up that by which you give them up.” "Finding the samsara (mundane existence) worthless and wishing to get at the essence, the
unmarried grow quite weary of life and renounce the world." - (Brihaspati) Suka's teaching runs as follows:
"By action a person is bound, and by wisdom he is released. Therefore, the sages who see the goal do no action." (Santiparva, Mokshadharma, 241 - 7).
Here (in the Bhagavad - Gita) also we have, " Renouncing all actions by thought, " (v. 12).


Moksha cannot be the effect of an action
Moksha, too, being no effect of an act, no action will be of any avail a mumukshu, a seeker of moksha.

Objection: - The performance of obligatory duties is intended for the mere avoidance of the sin (of their omission).
Answer: - No. For, the sin arises only in the case of one who has not formally entered the fourth order, the order of samnyasins. It is certainly (as the opponent must admit) not possible to imagine that a samnyasin will incur sin by omitting the agni-karya-worship of the sacred fire - as students (Brahmacharins) do thereby incur when they are not yet samnyasins, i.e., when they have not formally renounced works.
Neither is it, indeed, possible to imagine the generation of sin - which is a bhava or positive effect - out of the omission of the obligatory duties, - which is an abhava or mere negation; for, that the generation of existence out of Non-existence is impossible is taught by the sruti in the words "How can existence arise out of Non-existence?" (Chhandogya-Upanishad , 6-2).
If the Veda should teach what is inconceivable to us, viz., that evil arises from the omission of prescribed duties, it is tantamount to saying that the Veda conduces to no good and is, therefore, no authority; for, performance and non-performance alike would only produce pain. This would further lead to the absurd conclusion that sastra or revelation is creative, not indicative, a conclusion which is acceptable to none. Hence no karma for samnyasins; and hence also the absurdity of a conjunction of knowledge and action.


Conjunction is inconsistent with Arjuna's question. Arjuna's question (in iii,) would also be inexplicable. If, in the Second Discourse, it was said by the Lord that both knowledge and action should be simultaneously conjoined in Arjuna himself, then his question in iii. i. cannot be explained.
If it was taught to Arjuna that both knowledge and action should be conjoined in him, knowledge which is superior to action must certainly have been meant for him. Then there could be no occasion for the question, or for the blame, which is implied in Arjuna's words "Then why dost Thou, O Kesava, direct me to
this terrible action? " (iii. i.)

It can by no means be supposed that knowledge, the superior of the two, was forbidden to Arjuna alone by the Lord in His previous teaching, - in which case
the question on the part of Arjuna distinguishing (one path from the other) might arise. If, on the other hand, it has been previously taught by the Lord that knowledge and action are intended for two distinct classes of men respectively, on the ground that a simultaneous devotion - on the part of one man - to knowledge and action was impossible owing to their mutual opposition, then the question (in iii. i) becomes explicable. Even supposing that the question was asked from ignorance, the Lord's answer that devotion to knowledge and devotion to action are assigned to two distinct classes of men cannot be explained.
Neither can the reply of the Lord be attributed to His ignorance. From this very answer of the Lord - that devotion to knowledge and devotion to action are assigned to distinct classes of persons - follows the impossibility of a conjunction of knowledge and action.

Wherefore the conclusion of the Gita and of all the Upanishads is this, that moksha can be obtained by knowledge alone, unaided (by action).
If a conjunction of the two were possible (for one man), Arjuna's request to the Lord to teach him only one of the two, jnana or karma, would be unaccountable. The Lord, moreover, emphatically teaches the impossibility of devotion to jnana in the case of Arjuna, in the words "do thou therefore perform action only." (iv. 15).


Arjuna said:
1. If it be thought by Thee that knowledge is superior to action, O Janardana, why then dost Thou, O Kesava, direct me to this terrible action?
If it bad been meant that knowledge and action should be conjoined, then the means of salvation would be one only; and, in that case, a groundless separation of knowledge from action would have been made by Arjuna declaring knowledge to be superior to action. If the two be regarded as constituting together a single means to a single end, they cannot at the same time be regarded to be distinct as producing distinct effects.
Neither could we account for what Arjuna said - "Why then dost Thou direct me to this terrible action?" - as if meaning to censure the Lord, on finding that He - for what reason Arjuna could not see clearly - had exhorted him to follow the unwholesome course of action after declaring that knowledge was superior to action. Now, if a conjunction of knowledge with the smartakarma only were intended for all by the Lord and understood by Arjuna as so intended, how could we then justify the words of Arjuna6 "why dost Thou direct me to this terrible action?"


2. With an apparently perplexing speech, Thou confusest as it were my understanding. Tell me with certainty that one (way) by which I may attain bliss.
No doubt the Lord speaks clearly; still, to me of dull understanding the speech of the Lord appears to be perplexing. Thereby "Thou confusest as it were my understanding." Arjuna means – “It is not possible that Thou wouldst confuse me, Thou who hast undertaken to remove my confusion? Hence I say Thou confusest as it were my understanding.” He goes on: - If Thou thinkest that knowledge and action, which are intended for two distinct classes of aspirants, cannot both be followed by one and the same person, then teach me one of the two, knowledge or action, after determining (within Thyself) that "this one alone is suited to Arjuna, and is in accordance with the state and powers of his understanding; "teach me that one of the two, knowledge or action, by which I may attain bliss. If knowledge had been intended by the Lord to be at least an accessory to devotion to action, why then should Arjuna wish to know about only one of them. It had not indeed been said by the Lord that He would teach him one only of the two, knowledge or action, but not both, - in which case alone Arjuna might ask for one only, seeing that both would not be taught to him.

The Paths of Knowledge and Action
The Blessed Lord gives the following reply, which is in conformity with the question:

The Blessed Lord said:
3. In this world a twofold path was taught by Me at first, O sinless one: that of the Sankhyas by devotion to knowledge, and that of the Yogins by devotion to action.
In this world - with reference to the people of the three castes, for whom alone are intended the teachings of the sastra (the Scripture), - a twofold nishtha or path of devotion was taught by Me, the Omniscient Lord, when at first, at the beginning of creation, I created people and revived the tradition of the Vedic doctrine for teaching them the means of attaining worldly prosperity and Bliss. What was that twofold path of devotion?

One of them was jnanayoga, the devotion of knowledge - knowledge itself being yoga - suited to the Sankhyas, to those who possessed a clear knowledge of the Self and the not-Self, who renounced the world from the Brahmacharya (the first holy order or asrama), who determined the nature of things in the light of the Vedantic wisdom, who belonged to the highestclass of samnyasins known as the Paramahamsas, whose thoughts ever dwelt on Brahman only.

The other was Karma-Yoga, the devotion of action, action itself being Yoga or devotion, - suited to yogins, to karmins, to those who were inclined to action.
If it had already been taught or is going to be taught by the Lord in the Gita - and if it had been taught in the Vedas as well - that both knowledge and action should be conjoined in one and the same person as a means to one and the same end, how might the Lord teach Arjuna, who approached Him as a beloved pupil, that the two paths of knowledge and action were respectively intended for two distinct classes of aspirants? If, on the other hand, we suppose, that the Lord meant that Arjuna, after hearing Him teach knowledge and action, would devote himself, of his own accord, to both of them simultaneously conjoined, but that to others He would teach that the two paths were intended for two distinct classes of aspirants, then it would be tantamount to saying that the Lord is subject to love and hatred and that therefore He is no authority (in such matters): which is absurd. Wherefore by no argument can a conjunction of knowledge and action be proved.

Karma-Yoga leads to freedom from action
The superiority of knowledge to action, referred to by Arjuna (iii. i), must be true, because there is no denial of it. And it must also be true that the path of knowledge is intended for samnyasins only. Since it has been stated that the two paths are intended for two distinct classes of aspirants, such is evidently the opinion of the Lord. Now seeing that Arjuna, afflicted as he was at heart on the ground that the Lord had urged him to action which caused bondage, was resolved not to perform action, the Lord proceeds with iii. 4. Or, the connection of what has gone before with the sequel may be thus stated: As devotion to knowledge and devotion to action are mutually opposed, it is impossible for one man to resort to both of them at one and the same time. From this it may follow that each leads to the goal quite independently of the other.

But the truth is this: Devotion to action is a means to the end, not directly, but only as leading to devotion to knowledge; whereas the latter, which
is attained by means of devotion to action, leads to the goal directly, without extraneous help. To show this, the Lord says:


4. Not by abstaining from action does man win actionlessness, nor by mere renunciation does he attain perfection.
'Action’ refers to the acts of worship (Yajna) which, performed in this or a previous birth, conduce to the destruction of sins committed in the past and cause purity of mind (sattva, Antah-karana); and by thus purifying mind, they cause knowledge to spring up and lead to the path of devotion to knowledge. It is said in the Mahabharata: "Knowledge springs in men on the destruction of sinful karma, when the Self is seen in self as in a clean mirror." (Santiparva, 204-8)
By abstaining from action man cannot attain to actionlessness (naishkarmya), freedom from activity, i.e., devotion in the path of knowledge, the condition of the actionless Self. From the statement that man wins not freedom from activity by abstaining from action, it is understood that by the opposite course, i.e., by performing action, man attains freedom from activity. For what reason, then, does he not attain freedom from activity by abstaining from action?
The answer follows: For, performance of action is a means of attaining freedom from activity. Certainly there is no attaining of an end except by proper means. Devotion to action is the means of attaining freedom from activity, i.e, devotion to knowledge, as taught in the sruti as well as here.

In the sruti, for instance, Karma-Yoga is declared to be a means to jnana-yoga in the following passage. "The Brahmanas seek to know this (the Self) by the study of the Vedas, by yajna or worship." (Bri.Up. 4.4.22) - In this passage, Karma-Yoga is pointed out as a means of realising the Self that is sought after. Here (in the Bhagavad - Gita) the following passages point to the same view: "But without Yoga, O mighty - armed, renunciation is hard to attain." (v. 6.)
" Having abandoned attachment, Yogins perform action for the purification of the Self." (v. 11.) "Sacrifice, gift and also austerity are the purifiers of the wise." (xviii. 5.)
Now, the following objection may be raised: - A passage in the smrti, - "Having promised immunity from fear to all beings, one should resort to freedom from activity (naishkarmya)," shows that actionlessness can be attained by renouncing the prescribed duties. Our experience also favours the idea that freedom from activity can be attained by abstaining from action. Of what use then is the performance of action to one who seeks for freedom from action?
In reply the Lord says: Nobody can attain perfection, - i.e., freedom from activity, or devotion in the path of knowledge - by mere renunciation, by merely abandoning action, without possessing knowledge.


The ignorant are swayed by Nature
For what reason, then, does a person not attain perfection, i.e., freedom from activity, by mere renunciation unaccompanied with knowledge? - The reason thus asked for is given as follows:

5. None, verily, even for an instant, ever remains doing no action; for every one is driven helpless to action by the energies born of Nature.
The energies (gunas) are three, Sattva, Rajas and Tamas. ‘Every one’ means every living being that is ignorant, (ajna), who knows not (the Self); for, it is said of a wise man (that he is one) "who is unshaken by the energies" (xiv. 23.)
Since the Sankhyas have been distinguished from the Yogins (iii. 3), the Karma-Yoga, devotion to action, is indeed meant for the ignorant only, not for the wise. As for the wise who are unshaken by the gunas, and who in themselves are devoid of any change whatever, the Karma-Yoga is out of place.


The unenlightened should not give up Karma-Yoga
Now, for him who knows not the Self, it is not right to neglect the duty enjoined on him. So, the Lord says:

6. He who, restraining the organs of action, sits thinking in his mind of the objects of the senses, self-deluded, he is said to be one of false conduct.
The organs of action are the hand, etc. The self-deluded man, the man whose Antah-karana is thus deluded, is called a hypocrite, a man of sinful conduct

7. But whoso, restraining the senses by mind, O Arjuna, engages in Karma-Yoga, unattached, with organs of action, he is esteemed.
If the ignorant man, who is only qualified for action, performs action with the hand, with the organ of speech, etc. restraining the organs of knowledge by mind and unmindful of the result, he is more worthy than the other, who is a hypocrite. Wherefore,

8. ‘Do thou perform (thy) bounden duty; for, action is superior to inaction. And even the maintenance of the body would not be possible for thee by inaction.
Thy bounden duty is the obligatory (nitya) act, that which one is bound to perform, and which is not prescribed (in the scriptures) as a means to a specific end. Action is superior to inaction in point of result. By inaction you cannot attain success in the life's journey. The distinction between action and inaction is thus seen in our own experience. It is also wrong to suppose that actions lead to bondage and that they should not therefore be performed. Why?

9. Except in the case of action for Sacrifice's sake, this world is action-bound. Action for the sake Thereof, do thou, O son of Kunti, perform, free from attachment.
Sacrifice (Yajna) here means Isvara, the Supreme Lord. So, the sruti says ‘Yajna, verily, is Vishnu.’ ‘This world’ means those persons who, as qualified for action only, are bound to do it and who accordingly perform it. The world is not bound by action done for the Lord's sake.

Perform action without attachment
For the following reason also, action should be done by him who is qualified for it:

10. Having first created mankind together with sacrilices, the Prajapati said, "By this shall ye propagate; let this be to you the cow of plenty.
Mankind: composed of three castes. First: at the beginning of creation. The cow of plenty: the cow which yields all desires. How can this be achieved by sacrifice?

11. With this do ye nourish the Gods, and the Gods shall nourish you: thus nourishing one another, ye shall attain the supreme good.
"By this sacrifice ye nourish the Gods such as Indra. The Gods shall nourish you with rain, etc." ‘The supreme good’ is the attainment of the knowledge of Brahman in due course. Or, the ‘supreme good’ may mean ‘svarga.’ Moreover,

12. “Nourished by the sacrifice, the Gods shall indeed bestow on you the enjoyments ye desire." Whoso enjoys - without offering to Them - Their gifts, he is verily a thief.
Pleased with your sacrifices, the Gods shall bestow on you all enjoyments, including women, cattle, children, etc.,. He who enjoys what is given by Gods, i.e., he who gratifies the cravings of his own body and senses without discharging the debt due to the Gods, is a thief indeed, a robber of the property of the Gods, etc. On the other hand,

13. The righteous, who eat the remnant of the sacrifice, are freed from all sins; but sin do the impious eat who cook for their own sakes.
Those who, after performing sacrifices to the Gods, etc., eat the remains of the food - which is called amrita, ambrosia - are freed from all sins committed at the five places of animal-slaughter (such as the fire-place), as well as from those sins which result from involuntary acts of injury and other causes. But as to the others, who are selfish and cook food for their own sakes, what they eat is sin itself, while they themselves are sinners.

The wheel of the world should be set going
For the following reason also should action be performed by him who is qualified for action. For, it is action that sets the wheel of the world going. - How? - The answer follows:

14 - 15. From food creatures come forth; the production of food is from rain; rain comes forth from sacrifice; sacrifice is born of action; know thou that action comes from Brahman and that Brahman comes from the Imperishable. Therefore, the all-pervading Brahman ever rests in sacrifice.
All living creatures, it is evident, are born from food, which, when eaten, is converted into blood and semen. Rain proceeds from sacrifice as taught in the following text from the smriti: "The offering thrown into the fire reaches the sun; from the sun comes rain; from rain food and from this (food) all creatures." (Manu, iii. 76). Yajna or sacrifice here spoken of refers to what is called apurva; and this apurva is the result of the activities of the sacrificer and his priests (ritviks) engaged in a sacrifice.
These activities are enjoined in the Veda (Brahman), and the Veda comes from the Imperishable, the Paramatman, the Highest Self. Because the Veda has arisen from the Highest Self, - the Akshara, the Imperishable, as the breath comes out of a man, therefore, the Veda, though all-comprehending as revealing all things, ever rests in sacrifice, i.e., it treats mainly of sacrifices and the mode of their performance.


16. He who follows not here the wheel thus set in motion, who is of sinful life, indulging in senses, he lives in vain, O son of Pritha.
He who ought to perform action, but who, indulging in sensual pleasures, does not follow the wheel of the world thus set revolving by Isvara on the basis of the Veda and sacrifices, he lives in vain. The main drift, therefore, of this section is that action should be performed by the ignorant man, for whom it is intended. In iii. 4 - 8, it was taught that till he attains the qualification for Devotion to the knowledge of the Self, the man who knows not the Self and is therefore qualified (for action only) should resort to Devotion to action as a means of attaining Devotion to knowledge; and, further, there were incidentally propounded (in iii. 9 - 16) many reasons why the man who knows not the Self and is (therefore) qualified for action should perform it.
Mention, too, has been made of evils arising from a neglect of action.


Karma-Yoga is not meant for the Self-knower
Now, the Lord Himself supposes Arjuna to ask the following question: Is the wheel, thus set in motion, to be followed by all, or by him only who has not yet attained to devotion in the path of knowledge which the Sankhyas or Self-knowers tread and which is attainable by the ignorant by means of devotion in the path of action already described? In answer to this question, or with a view to afford, of his own accord, a clear understanding of the teaching of the sastra, He proceeds to show that what is intended to be taught in the Gita-sastra is the same truth that is embodied in the following passage of the sruti:
"The brahmanas (the devotees of the Brahman, the Self), knowing this, the Self, and free from illusory knowledge, shake off all desires of progeny, etc., cherished, of necessity, by those who are still subject to illusion; and they lead a mendicant life for the barest necessaries of life. They have nothing else to do than resort to devotion to Self knowledge." (Bri. Up. 3.5.1).


17. That man, verily, who rejoices only in the Self, who is satisfied with the Self, who is content in the Self alone, - for him there is nothing to do.
But that man - a samnyasin, the Sankhya, one devoted to Self-knowledge whose joy is in the Self, not in the objects of the senses; who is satisfied only with the Self, not with food - essence, etc.; who is contented in the Self; - all others derive contentment from possession of external things, whereas, disregarding these, he is content in the Self only and has no desire for anything; - for such a man, for the man who knows the Self, there is nothing to do.
Moreover,


18. For him, there is here no interest whatever in what is done or what is not done. Nor is there in all beings any one he should resort to for any object.
For the man thus rejoicing in the Self, no purpose is served by action. - Does, then, any evil called sin (pratyavaya) arise from inaction? - No evil whatever, either by way of incurring sin, or by way of losing the Self, arises in this world from inaction. Nor is there, in all beings from Brahma (Prajapati) down to the sthavara or immovable objects, any whose support he has to gain by action. He has no object whatever to gain, for which he has to depend upon any particular being: if he were to have any object in view, then he would have to exert himself to gain that object.

Arjuna qualified for Karma yoga
You have not attained to the right knowledge, which corresponds to the all-spreading flood of water (vide ii. 46). Wherefore:

19. Therefore, without attachment, constantly perform the action which should be done; for, performing action without attachment, man reaches the Supreme.
Performing action, without attachment, for the sake of the Isvara, man attains moksha, through attaining purity of mind (sattva-suddhi).

The wise should set an example to the masses
For the following reason also (shouldst thou perform action):


20. By action only, indeed, did Janaka and others to attain perfection. Even with a view to the protection of the masses thou shouldst perform (action).
The wise kshatriyas of old, such as Janaka and Asvapati tried by action alone to attain moksha (samsiddhi). If they were persons possessed of right knowledge, then we should understand that, since they had been engaged in works they tried to reach moksha with action, i.e., without abandoning action, with a view to set an example to the world.
If, on the other hand, such men as Janaka were persons who had not attained right knowledge, then, (we should understand), they tried to attain moksha through action which is the means of attaining purity of mind (sattva - suddhi). If you think that obligatory works were performed by the ancients such as Janaka because they were ignorant, and that it does not follow from that fact alone that action should be performed by another who possesses right knowledge and has done all his duties, even then, as subject to your prarabdha - karma (the karma which has led you to this birth as a kshatriya), and having regard also to the purpose of preventing the masses from resorting to a wrong path, you ought to perform action. Who should secure the welfare of the world? And how? The answer follows:


21. Whatsoever a great man does, that alone the other men do; whatever he sets up as the standard, that the world follows.
Whatever authority the chief among men follows, whether in relation to the spiritual or temporal matters, the same is regarded as the authority by his followers. If you have a doubt even as regards the necessity there is for the protection of the masses, why do you not observe Me?

22. I have nothing whatsoever to achieve in the three worlds, O son of Pritha, nor is there anything unattained that should be attained; yet I engage in action.
I have nothing to achieve, for, there is nothing unattained.

23. For, should I not ever engage in action, unwearied, men would in all matters follow My path, O son of Pritha.
My: I being the chief among men. And what harm is there in that? - The Lord says:

24. These worlds would be ruined if I should not perform action; I should be the cause of confusion of castes, and should destroy these creatures.
If I should not perform action, then there would be no action conducive to the continuance of the universe, and all these worlds would fall into ruin. Moreover, I would be the author of confusion of castes, and thereby destroy these creatures. Thus, though working for the welfare of the creatures, I would bring about their ruin, which would be unbecoming of Me, their lord.

The wise man's action as contrasted with that of the ignorant
Suppose, on the other hand, you - or suppose (for that matter) any other man thinks that he has achieved his ends and has realised the Self, even he should work for the welfare of others, though for himself he may have nothing to do.

25. As ignorant men act attached to work, O Bharata, so should the wise man act, unattached, from a wish to protect the masses.
The ignorant expect the result of their action thus: "The result of this action shall accrue to me." The wise man: he who knows the Self.
For me, or for any other person who, knowing the Self, thus seeks the welfare of the world, there is nothing to do except it be with a view to that welfare of the world at large. To such a man who knows the Self, the following advice is oflfered:


26. Let no wise man cause unsettlement in the minds of the ignorant who are attached to action; he should make them do all actions, himself fulfilling them with devotion.
An ignorant man who is attached to action believes "I should do this action and enjoy its result." No wise man should unsettle that firm belief. - What then should he do? - Himself doing diligently and well the actions which the ignorant have to do, he should make them do those actions. In what way is an ignorant man attached to actions?

27. Actions are wrought in all cases by the energies of Nature. He whose mind is deluded by egoism thinks ‘I am the doer.'
Nature (Prakriti, Pradhana) is the equipoised state of the three gunas or energies, viz., sattva (goodness), rajas (activity), tamas (darkness). It is by the gunas or the modifications of Nature, manifesting themselves as the body and the senses, that all our actions, conducive to temporal and spiritual ends, are done.
The man whose mind (Antah-karana) is variously deluded by ahankara, by egoism identifying the aggregate of the body and the senses with the Self, i.e., who ascribes to himself all the attributes of the body and the senses and thus thoroughly identifies himself with them - he, by nescience, sees actions in himself: as regards every action, he thinks "I am the doer." But as regards the wise man:


28. But he who knows the truth, O mighty-armed, about the divisions of the energies and (their) functions, is not attached, thinking that the energies act upon the energies.
He who is versed in the classification of the energies (gunas) and their respective functions holds that the energies as sense-organs move amid the energies as sense objects, but not the Self. Thus holding, he forms no attachment (for actions). Now,

29. Those deluded by the energies of Nature are attached to the functions of the energies. He who knows the All should not unsettle the unwise who know not the All.
The foolish believe "we do action for the sake of its result." These men who are attached to action look only to the results of their actions. The man who knows the All - the man who knows the Self - should not of himself unsettle such men, i.e. he should not disturb their conviction.

How an aspirant for Moksha should do actions
How then should action be performed by the ignorant man who seeks moksha and who is qualified for action only? The answer follows:

30. Renouncing all actions in Me, with thy thought resting on the Self, being free from hope, free from selfishness, devoid of fever, do thou fight.
To me, Vasudeva, the Divine Being, the Supreme Lord, the Omniscient, the Self of all, surrender all actions, with the wise thought that "I, the agent, do this for the Isvara's sake as His liege." Fever: anguish, grief.

31. Men who constantly practise this teaching of Mine with faith and without cavilling, they too are liberated from actions.
Men who always follow this teaching of Mine without cavilling, i e., without cherishing any feeling of envy towards Me, Vasudeva, the Supreme Master (Parama-Guru) - they too are released from actions, i.e., from dharma and a-dharma, from the merit and demerit of actions.

32. But those who, carping at this, My teaching, practise it not, - know them as deluded in all knowledge, as senseless men doomed to destruction.

Influence of man's nature on his conduct
Then, why do they, not following Thy doctrine, perform others’duties and neglect their own? Thus opposed to Thee, why are they not afraid of the sin of transgressing Thy command?

33. Even the man of knowledge acts in conformity with his own nature; (all) beings follow (their) nature; what shall coercion avail?
Nature (prakriti) is the samskara (the latent self-reproductive impression of the past acts of dharma and a-dharma) manifesting itself at the commencement of the present birth. Even the man of knowledge acts according to his own nature; it needs no saying that an ignorant man acts according to his own nature. Thus all living beings follow their own nature.
What shall coercion in the shape of prohibition avail? That is to say, to Me or to anybody else, nature is irresistible.


Scope for man's personal exertion
Objection: If every being acts according to its own nature only, and there is none that has no nature of its own, then, there being possibly no scope for personal exertion, (purushakara), the Teaching (sastra) would be quite purposeless.
Answer: - The Lord replies as follows:


34. Love and hate lie towards the object of each sense; let none become subject to these two;for, they are his enemies.
As regards all sense-objects, such as sounds, there necessarily arises in each sense love for an agreeable object, and aversion for a disagreeable object. Now I shall tell you where lies the scope for personal exertion and for the Teaching (sastra). He who would follow the Teaching should at the very commencement rise above the sway of affection and aversion. For, what we speak of as the nature (prakriti) of a person draws him to its course only through love and aversion. He then neglects his own duties and sets about doing those of others. When, on the other hand, a person restrains these feelings by means of their enemy, then he will become mindful of the Teaching only, no longer subject to his own nature. Wherefore, let none come under the sway of these two; for, they are his adversaries, obstacles to his progress in the right path, like thieves on the road.
Now, the man who is led by love and aversion may misunderstand the Teaching; he may think that one man may follow the duty (dharma) of another because the latter is also a duty. But it is not right to think so:

35. Better one's own duty, though devoid of merit, than the duty of another well discharged Better is death in one's own duty; the duty of another is productive of danger.
For a man to die doing his own duty though devoid of merit is better than for him to live doing the duty of another though perfectly performed. For, the duty of another leads to danger, such as hell (naraka).

Desire is the enemy of man
Though the source of evil has been pointed out in ii. 62, etc. and in iii. 34, yet with a view to eliciting a concise and clear statement of what was but desultorily and vaguely expressed, - for, the exact cause being known, he might exert himself to exterminate it, - Arjuna asks:

36. But by what dragged on, O Varshneya, does a man, though reluctant, commit sin, as if constrained by force?
Dragged on and constrained: as a servant by the king. Varshneya: one born in the family of the Vrishnis. The Lord says: Listen, I shall tell you who that enemy is, of whom you ask, - who the source of all evil is:

The Blessed Lord said:
37. It is Desire, it is Wrath, born of the energy of Rajas, all-devouring, all-sinful; that, know thou, is the foe here.
The enemy of the whole world is desire, from which all the evil comes to living beings. When obstructed by some cause, desire is transformed into wrath. Whence wrath is desire itself. It is born of the energy of Rajas.
Or, desire itself is the cause of the energy of Rajas; for, when desire arises, it rouses the Rajas and urges the person to action. We often hear the cry of miserable perspons who are engaged in servitude, etc., under the impulse of the Rajas, - saying ‘I have been led to act so by desire.’ It is very sinful; for it is only when urged by desire that a man commits sin. Wherefore, know that this desire is man's foe here in Samsara.


Desire enshrouds wisdom
He now illustrates how it is our foe:

38. As fire is surrounded by smoke, as a mirror by rust, as the foetus is enclosed in the womb, so is this covered by it.
As a bright fire is surrounded by dark smoke co-existent with it so this is covered with desire. What is the thing referred to by ‘this’ and which is covered with desire? - The answer follows:

39. Covered, O son of Kunti, is wisdom by this constant enemy of the wise, in the form of desire, which is greedy and insatiable.
The wise man knows even before suffering the consequence, that he has been led by desire to evil ways, and therefore he feels ever miserable.
Whence desire is a constant enemy of the wise, not of the ignorant. For, the latter regards desire as a friend at the time he thirsts for objects, and it is only when suffering results from it, - but not before, - that he learns the truth that he has been rendered miserable by desire. Wherefore it is a constant enemy of the wise alone. It is insatiable and greedy; it never has enough, i.e., it finds nothing enough for itself, i.e., there is no limit to its consuming power.


The seat of desire
He now tells us where is seated desire which by enveloping wisdom, forms the enemy of the whole world. The seat of the enemy - being known , it is easy to kill it.

40. The senses, mind, and reason are said to be its seat; veiling wisdom through these, it deludes the embodied.
Its seat: the seat of desire. These: the senses, mind (manas), and reason (buddhi).

How to kill out desire

41. Therefore, O Lord of the Bharatas, restrain the senses first, do thou cast off this sinful thing which is destructrve of knowledge and wisdom.
"Jnana is the knowledge of the Self and other things acquired from the sastra (scripture) and from a teacher (acharya). Vijnana is the personal experience of the things so taught. Do thou cast off from you the destroyer of jnana and vijnana which lead to the highest good. It has been taught, “first master the senses, and cast off desire, thy enemy.” Now it may be asked, - Where should one take one's stand and cast off desire? The answer follows:

42. They say that the senses are superior: superior to the senses is mind: superior to mind is reason; one who is even superior to reason is He.
The senses are five, the sense of bearing, etc. When compared with the physical body, which is gross, external, and limited, the senses are superior as they are comparatively more subtle and internal, and have a more extensive sphere of action. So say the wise. Superior to the senses is mind (manas, the impulsive nature) which is composed of thoughts and desires, of errors and doubts, (sankalpa and vikalpa).
Superior to mind is reason (buddhi) characterized by determination (nischaya). So, He who is behind all things visible, inclusive of reason, the Dweller in the body, whom - it has been said - desire, seated in the senses and other quarters, bewilders by enveloping wisdom, He, the Self, the witness of reason, is superior to reason.


43. Thus knowing Him who is superior to reason, subduing the self by the self, slay thou, O mighty-armed, the enemy in the form of desire, hard to conquer.
Thus understanding the Self who is superior to reason and subduing the self by the self, i.e., steadily composing the self by means of the self, do thou slay desire. It is difficult to conquer desire, on account of its complex and incomprehensible nature.
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