The Bhagvadgita

Chapter III: Karma Yoga (The Yoga of Action)


1                    Arjuna said: Krishna, if you consider Knowledge as superior to Action, why then do you urge me to this dreadful action, Kesava!

2                    You are, as it were, puzzling my mind by these seemingly involved expressions; therefore, tell me definitely the one discipline by which I may obtain the highest good.

3                    Sri Bhagvan said: Arjuna, in this world two courses of Sadhana (spiritual discipline) have been enunciated by Me in the past. In the case of the Sankhyayogi, the Sadhana proceeds along the path of Action.

4                    Man does not attain freedom from action (culmination of the path of Action) without entering upon action; nor does he reach perfection (culmination of the path of Knowledge) merely by renunciation of action.

5                    Surely none can remain inactive even for a moment; everyone is helplessly driven to action by nature-born qualities.

6                    He who outwardly restraining the organs of sense and action sits mentally dwelling on objects of senses, that man of deluded intellect is called a hypocrite.

7                    On the other hand, he who controlling the organs of sense and action by the mind, and remaining unattached, undertakes the Yoga of Action through those organs, Arjuna, he excels.

8                    Therefore, do you perform your allotted duty; for action is superior to inaction. Desisting from action, you cannot even maintain your body.

9                    Man is bound by shackles of Karma only when engaged in actions other than work performed for the sake of sacrifice. Therefore, Arjuna, do you efficiently perform your duty, free from attachments, for the sake of sacrifice alone.

10               Having create mankind along with the spirit of sacrifice at the beginning of creation, the Creator, Brahma, said to them, “Do you multiply through this; may this yield the enjoyment you seek.

11               “Foster the gods through this (sacrifice); and let the gods foster you. Thus fostering one another disinterestedly, you will attain the highest good.

12               “Fostered by sacrifice, the gods will surely bestow on you unasked all the desired enjoyments. He, who enjoys the gifts bestowed by them, without giving anything in return, is undoubtedly a thief.”

13               The virtuous, who partake of what is left after sacrifice, are absolved of all sins. Those sinful ones, who cook for the sake of nourishing their bodies alone, eat only sin.

14               All beings are evolved from food; production of food is dependent on rain; rain ensues from sacrifice, and sacrifice is rooted in action.

15               Know that action has its origin in the Vedas, and the Vedas proceed from the indestructible (God); hence, the all-pervading Infinite is always present in sacrifice.

16               Arjuna, he who does not follow the wheel of creation thus set going in this world (i.e., does not perform his duties), sinful and sensual, he lives in vain.

17               He, however, who takes delight in the Self alone and is gratified with the Self, and is contented in the Self, has no duty.

18               In this world that great soul has no use whatsoever for things done, nor for things not done; nor has he selfish dependence of any kind on any creature.

19               Therefore, always efficiently do your duty without attachment. Doing work without attachment, man attains the Supreme.

20               It is through action (without attachment) alone that Janaka and other wise men reached perfection. Having an eye to the maintenance of the world order, too, you should take to action.

21               For whatsoever a great man does, that very thing other men also do; whatever standard he sets up, the generality of men follow the same.

22               Arjuna, there is nothing in the three worlds for Me to do, nor is there anything worth unattained by e; yet I continue to work.

23               Should I not engage in action, unwearied, at any time, great harm will come to the world; for, Arjuna, men follow My path in all matters.

24               If I do not perform action, these worlds will perish; nay, I should be the author of confusion of castes and the destruction of these people.

25               Arjuna, as the unwise act with attachment, so should the wise man, seeking maintenance of the world order, act without attachment.

26               A wise man established in me should not unsettle the mind of the ignorant attached to action, but should get them to perform all their duties, duly performing them himself.

27               All actions are being done by the modes of Prakrti (Primordial matter). The fool, whose mind is deluded by egoism, considers himself to be the doer.

28               He, however, who knows the truth about the respective spheres of Gunas (modes of Prakrti) and actions, holding that it is the Gunas (in the shape of the senses, mind, etc.) that move among the Gunas (objects of perception), does not get attached to them Arjuna.

29               Those, who are completely deluded by the Gunas (modes) of Prakrti, remain attached to those Gunas and actions; the man of perfect Knowledge should not unsettle the mind of those insufficiently knowing fools.

30               Therefore, dedicating all actions to Me with your mind fixed on Me, the Self of all, freed from hope and the feeling of meum (mine-ness) and cured of mental fever, fight.

31               Even those men, who, with an uncavilling (i.e., not raising frivolous objections) and devout mind, always follow this doctrine of Mine, are freed from the binding effect of all actions.

32               Those, however, who, finding fault with this doctrine of Mine, do not follow it, know them to be deluded in the matter of all knowledge, senseless and lost.

33               All beings follow their nature; even the wise man behaves in conformity with his nature. What can restraint do?

34               Attraction and repulsion are rooted in all sense-objects. Man should never come under their sway, because these are the two main stumbling-blocks in his way.

35               One’s own duty, though devoid of merit, is preferable to the duty of another well performed. Even death in the performance of one’s own duty brings blessedness; another’s duty is fraught with fear.

36               Arjuna said: Now impelled by what, Krsna, does this man commit sin even voluntarily, as though driven by force?

37               Sri Bhagvan said: It is desire, it is wrath, begotten of the elements of Rajas, insatiable and grossly wicked; know this to be the enemy in this case.

38               As flame is enveloped by smoke, mirror by dirt, and embryo by amnion, so Knowledge is enveloped by it (desire).

39               So, Arjuna, Knowledge is covered by this eternal enemy of the wise, the insatiable fire in the form of desire.

40               The senses, the mind and the intellect are said to be its seat; enveloping Knowledge through these, it (desire) deludes the embodied soul.

41               Therefore, Arjuna, first controlling the senses, kill this wicked desire which obscures Jnana (Knowledge of the Absolute or Nirguna Brahma) and Vijnana (Knowledge of Sakra Brahma or manifest Divinity).

42               The senses are said to be greater than the body; but greater than the senses is the mind. Greater than the mind is the intellect; and what is greater than the intellect is he (the Self).

43               Thus, Arjuna, knowing that which is higher than the intellect and subduing the mind by reason, kill this enemy in the form of Desire, that is hard to overcome.

Thus, in the Upanisad sung by the Lord, the science of Brahma, the scripture on Yoga, the dialogue between Sri Krsna and Arjuna, ends the third chapter entitled “Karmayoga” (The Yoga of Action)