Arjuna asked Krishna why he must perform the terrible action of killing people if intellect is superior to action. Then Krishna explained Karma Yoga, the way by which one can act and yet become a Yogi. Sankhya Yoga, the way of knowledge, is for the intellectuals, and Karma Yoga, the way of action, is for the Yogis.
Action is inevitable.
No one is inactive even for a minute. Nature makes everyone act. Renunciation does not make one successful. Inactivity does not make a person still. A hypocrite (Mithyachara : follower of illusion) externally renounces activity and internally meditates on perceptions. A person who regulates his senses and is mentally in Karma Yoga excels.
Do your prescribed duties, Karma is superior to Akarma (meaning not Karma; inaction). Through Akarma even the maintenance of your body is impossible.
3:1 Arjuna says, “if your view (matA- accepted thought), is that buddhi is better than karma, O janArdana, then why engage me in this terrible karma”?
This s’lOka is full of interesting words. First the word mata, which we have discussed in the previous post – which is a school of thought that a person accepts. That school may hold that s’iva is supreme or viSNu is supreme, it may hold that jeeva and paramAtma are one or that they are different, or that buddhi is better than karma or vice versa.
Arjuna is confirming with Krishna. “cEt – IF” I have understood correctly that you hold buddhi higher than karma, why make me do this terrible thing.”
This is the statement that stuck in Arjuna’s head : “buddhi yOga is way better than karma, take refuge in buddhi, those motivated by results are pitiful” 2: 49
The two points made before this have not registered in Arjuna’s head. (If a student like Arjuna does not listen completely then what hope do teachers of our generation have? Maybe that’s why present day gurus emphasise the slokas below over and over again.)
“May you never be attached to akarma (not doing the right thing, – shirking). Do not be motivated by karmaphala (the fruit of good actions). You have a right and duty (adhikAra) only to karma (good deeds – duty), never to its fruit” 2:47
“Do karma from a state of yoga, having renounced attachment O Dhananjaya (winner of wealth)! When siddhi and asiddhi (attainment and non-attainment) have become equal, that balance is called yOga”. 2: 48″
So Krishna is going to elaborate a little more on this concept of karma.
Let us look at the sense in which Arjuna uses the word karma.
The word karma has the following several meanings as given below.
- karma : any action
- karma : duty
- karma : consequences of one’s action
- karma : vedotkta karma : from karma kAnDa
From the context it is clear that Arjuna is using the words “ghOrE karmaNi” meaning terrible actions, or terrible duty. He is not referring to the karma of karmakAnDa of the vEdAs which is a duty for brahmaNAs or to karma as a consequence of one’s actions. He is not even referring to karma as “that which should be done” because in that case he would not prefix it with “ghOra” and look for ways out of it. Krishna’s lecture on Bhagavad Gita : Chapter Two : Slokas 31 to 38 : Kshatriya Dharma has not sunk in yet at all.
3:2 Arjuna says Krishna is confusing him with sentences that look mixed up. He says, please decide and tell me one thing by which I can attain welfare.
My previous Guru said that peoples’ questions hide their desires and attachments. If we have a clear direction and cannot see it, it is because we are attached to something or want something. We don’t like the answer we are getting. Arjuna clearly does not want an answer which requires him to kill his grandfather and hid Guru though they are standing on the side of adharma.
3:3 BhagawAn said that in the past, he had taught two kinds of niSTAs (disciplines).
- gnyAnayOga for the sAnkhyAs
- (“People who are engaged with their buddhi, attain that untainted state (anAmaya padam), having given up the fruit born of karma, and being free from the bondages of birth” 2:51 “When your buddhi crosses over the muck of fascination, then you will go to that state of nirvEda – indifference, of what you have heard and what you ought to hear”. 2: 52 “You will attain yOga when your buddhi is steady (unmoving) in samAdhi and it is unmoved by all that it has ever heard (s’Rtivipratipanna)”. 2: 53 )
- karmayOga for the yOgIs
- (“When siddhi and asiddhi (attainment and non-attainment) have become equal, that balance is called yOga.” 2: 48. “yOga is skill in karma (work/ duty/good deeds). Try to attain yOga. In this method, a person who is united with his buddhi lets go of the ideas of well-done and badly-done, both.” 2: 50)
Adi s’ankarAcArya refers to this in his bhASya of the Is’A upaniSad, first two mantrAs. (Isa Vasya Upanishad : “Sankara says that the first mantra is for the gnyanis and mumukhsus who want salvation. And that the second is for the ordinary people. But I think that the first 2 slokas taken together give us Karma Yoga. The first mantra says ”All this is to be covered by Is’a, all that moves in the moving world. Be protected by giving it up, don’t covet, for whose his wealth?” The second mantra says, “Karmas must be done only. (Life) is to be lived for a 100 years. Other than this there is no other way by which Karma does not stick to men.”)
3:4 “by not starting karmAs, a person does not attain the state of naishkarmya (inaction), and just by sannyAsa he does not attain siddhi.”
3:5 “Everyone does karma helplessly by the guNAs of prakRti, and does not stand still for a moment anytime doing no karma”.
In both these slokaaas karma is to be taken as mere action, not as duty or niyatam karma which one ought to do.
3:6 “One who controls the limbs-of-karma (doing – arms, legs, tongue etc) and remembers (dwells on) perceptions in his manas, that foolish one (vimUDhAtmA) is said to be practicing mithya (illusion)!”
We know the self cannot be foolish as per upanishads. So vimUDhAtmA refers to the union of the Atma, manas and dEha (the association of the self, mind and body) which clearly can be deluded! So a person who says “jagat mithya or jagat mAya” and gives up all karmAs physically while still dreaming about them is actually a practitioner of mithya.
3:7 “”He is distinguished, who controls his senses- indriyAs by his manas and then begins work by his karma-indriyAs, detachedly in karmayOga”.
“Indra” is king, controller. indriyAs are two kinds the ones we sense with eyes etc and the ones we do with, arms etc, which in a sense are our source of power. The manas can be controlled by indriyAs or it can control them.
3:8 “Do your niyata karma (assigned duty), karma is better than akarma (doing nothing). Even your s’arIra yAtra (bodily journey), is impossible through inaction.”
The term s’arIra yAtra like a noukA yatra or rail yAtra etc is suggestive of a journey where the vehicle is the body. So if you are travelling in a vehicle, you are expected to read the instruments and turn the steering wheel and so on ie your are expected to use and control your indriyAs.
- Bhagavad Gita : Chapter Two : Slokas 62 to 72 : Brahmi Sthiti : the brAhmI state : Audio (Sloka, split sandhis and prose order)
- Bhagavad Gita : Chapter Two : Slokas 54 to 61 : Sthita Pragnya (Stable Consciousness) : Audio (Sloka, split sandhis and prose order)
- Bhagavad Gita : Chapter Two : Slokas 47 to 53 : Destroy Karma Bandham With Detachment: Audio (Sloka, split sandhis and prose order)
- Bhagavad Gita : Chapter Two : Slokas 39 to 46 : Look beyond the knowledge of the Manifest Universe : Audio (Sloka, split sandhis and prose order)
- Bhagavad Gita : Chapter Two : Slokas 31 to 38 : Kshatriya Dharma : Audio (Sloka, split sandhis and prose order))
- Bhagavad Gita : Chanting: Chapter Two : Slokas 11 to 20 : Krishna Teaches Arjuna about the Eternal Self : (With pada chheda and anvyaya) : Audio
- Bhagavad Gita : Chanting : Chapter Two : Slokas : 1 to 10: Arjuna’s Sorrow at having to kill elders and relatives deepens, he seeks Krishna’s guidance : Audio
- Bhagavad Gita : Chanting : Chapter One : Slokas : 24 to End: Arjuna’s Fear that fighting relatives is adharma and will have bad consequences : Audio
- Bhagavad Gita : Chanting : Chapter 1 : Slokas 20 to 23 : Request to assess situation : Audio
- Bhagavad Gita : Chanting : Chapter 1 : Slokas 1 to 19 : Battle Preparation : Audio
- Bhagavad Gita : Chanting : Karanyasa, hrudyaadi nyaasa, dhyana sloka : Audio
Sankara’s Gita Bhasyam (My translation and explanation. Work in Progress.)
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