Bhagavan Krishna explains the essence of Karma Yoga in these ten verses. The path of Yoga is to practiced with a single minded purpose and resoluteness. Bhagavan Krishna explains in the verse 2.47 to Arjuna thus – “You have the right to perform your prescribed activities but never to the fruits of those actions. You should never consider yourself to be the cause of the results of your activities, and nor should there be any attachment to not doing your duty. You have a right to perform your prescribed activities but never to the fruits of those actions. Never consider yourself to be the cause of the results of your activities, and nor should there be any attachment to not doing your duty.”
Men of small knowledge are very much attached to the flowery words of the Vedas, which recommend various fruitive activities for elevation to heavenly planets, and the resultant good birth, power, and so forth.
All actions performed from the platform of spiritual intelligence are not binding and the mind is preserved in a perfectly equipoised state which can be compared to a state of a blissful state (Sat Cit Ananda).
2.41 Shloka 2.41
व्यवसायात्मिका बुद्धिरेकेह कुरुनन्दन।
बहुशाखा ह्यनन्ताश्च बुद्धयोऽव्यवसायिनाम्।।2.41।।
Vyavasayatmika buddhir ekeha kuru-nandana |
Bahu-sakha hy anantas ca buddhayo ‘vyavasayinam ||
Meaning: Those who are on this path of Yoga with a focused mind are resolute, and their aim is one. O’ beloved child of the Kurus, the intelligence of those who are full of material desires is has unlimited diverse branches.
The Caitanya-caritamrta states:
‘sraddha’-sabde visvasa kahe sudrdha niscaya |
krsne bhakti kaile sarva-karma krta haya ||
Meaning: Faith means unflinching trust in something sublime. When one performs actions while constantly meditating on Bhagavan, he need not endeavour for good results in his activities. All activities performed in that spirit are not subject to dualities of good and bad. The highest perfection is renunciation of the material pursuits of life. This state is achieved by constant meditation of Bhagavan.
A person acting based on the knowledge –“Vasudevah sarvam iti sa mahatma sudurlabhah” – realises the Self (Atma). There is a huge difference between the mentality of one who is involved in actions seeking fruitive rewards and the mentality of one who is spiritually evolved who is engaged in selfless actions not seeking rewards and is devoted to Lord Krishna which brings great happiness. It is single pointed because its aim is solely for the service and devotion of the omnipotent, omniscient, Supreme Lord Krishna, the controller and dispenser of all rewards and the sole destination of all those seeking liberation.
Thus Lord Krishna uses the word ‘vyavasa’ or resolute, to emphasise that the purpose for actions must be resolute. One should perform actions with the thought that it is for the ultimate satisfaction of Lord Krishna, thinking that their action will please Him and not for any other reason. This resolute intelligence gives one the realisation that they will be liberated by the Lords grace, from the samsara of birth and death.
Those of fragmented intelligence who have not perceived reality and whose endless desires for fame, wealth, power, etc. and who by their actions are dictated by procuring and accumulation, work and reward. Their intelligence is fragmented into endless directions each unique unto itself and of diverse types all leading to misery. These things can only be perceived by direct experience.
2.42 Shloka 2.42
यामिमां पुष्पितां वाचं प्रवदन्त्यविपश्िचतः।
वेदवादरताः पार्थ नान्यदस्तीति वादिनः।।2.42।।
Yam imam puspitam vacam pravadanty avipascitah |
Veda-vada-ratah partha nanyad astiti vadinah ||2.42||
Meaning: Men of small knowledge are very much attached to the flowery words of the Vedas, which recommend various fruitive activities for elevation to heavenly planets, and the resultant good birth, power, and so forth.
Some scholars who have studied the Vedas so fastidiously fail to possess the resolute intelligence. This is because their lack of comprehending the essence of the Vedic scriptures and consequently they have misunderstood the true essence of the Vedas. Lord Krishna emphasises this with the word ‘avipascitah’ meaning the ‘ignorant who are not knowledgeable’ are attracted to flowery descriptions in the Vedas, even as a beautiful flowery creeper may be attractive although it is poisonous. But these living entities are ignorant and not actual scholars of Vedanta because they are only devoted to those parts of the Vedas that help them secure material opulence in this life and the next.
People in general are not very intelligent, and due to their ignorance they are most attached to the fruitive activities recommended in the karma-kanda portions of the Vedas. But all these pleasures are transient as ‘kshine punye martya lokam visanti’ – after they exhaust their positive karmas, they return to the mortal world.
2.43 Shloka 2.43
कामात्मानः स्वर्गपरा जन्मकर्मफलप्रदाम्।
क्रियाविशेषबहुलां भोगैश्वर्यगतिं प्रति।।2.43।।
Kamatmanah svarga-para janma-karma-phala-pradam |
Kriya-visesa-bahulam bhogaisvarya-gatim prati ||2.43||
Meaning: Being desirous of sense gratification and opulent life, they say that there is nothing more than this.
So all their activities in this life are enacted solely for the sake of accruing benefits in order to reside in the heavenly spheres where they can enjoy and enjoy for a seemingly unlimited time span. But when their merit expires after enjoying the delights of heaven in various wonderful ways to their hearts content they will again take birth on earth in a rich and learned family who also are following the flowery phrases of the Vedas and they will again follow this path and in the end transmigrate to the heavenly planets once again to enact the process. By being born into situations of opulence and prosperity allows one ample means and facility to perform the various prescribed rituals to obtain the maximum result. Thus, they transmigrate from body to body, again and again, continuously revolving like a waterwheel. In special situations Indra, the ruler of the Devas sometimes appoints one of them as a Gandharva celestial musician or as an Aspara celestial damsel among the Devas for the duration of time their merit warrants.
2.44 Shloka 2.44
व्यवसायात्मिका बुद्धिः समाधौ न विधीयते।।2.44।।
Bhogaisvarya-prasaktanam tayapahrta-cetasam |
Vyavasayatmika buddhih samadhau na vidhiyate ||2.44||
Meaning: In the minds of those who are too attached to sense enjoyment and material opulence, and who are bewildered by such things, the resolute determination of devotional service to the Supreme Lord does not take place.
Samadhi means having a ‘fixed mind’. Samadhi is never possible for persons interested in material sense enjoyment, nor for those who are bewildered by such temporary things. They are more or less condemned by the process of material energy.
The actions of those who are not resolute are not in conformity with the Vedic scriptures; but those who are resolute possessing spiritual intelligence never act contrary to the Vedic scriptures.
Those who revel only in the words of the Vedas are known as Vedavad-ratah. However, some have a poor comprehension of these and they speak only of revelling in the pleasures derived from actions. Those who are influenced by such words, doctrines and philosophies which are contrary to the Vedic scriptures, consider that the fulfilment of desired objects is the purpose of life. Enjoying whatever pleasures they have managed to manipulate for themselves they are repeatedly born again and again cast down into the material existence or depending upon the method of how they acquired their material opulence even hurled down to be born again in the material world. For these persons spiritual intelligence and comprehensive discrimination does not manifest itself in the form of an equanimity.
The essence and the objective of the Vedic scriptures is knowledge of the Ultimate, which is the Supreme Lord, who is very pleased by those who are devoted to Him. The instructions and injunctions within the Vedic scriptures should be known to be applicable solely to the Supreme Lord and no other. It is the knowledge of the Supreme Lord that is to be sought and understood. This is what is to be achieved by all living entities to make their life in this world purposeful.
2.45 Shloka 2.45
त्रैगुण्यविषया वेदा निस्त्रैगुण्यो भवार्जुन ।
निर्द्वन्द्वो नित्यसत्त्वस्थो निर्योगक्षेम आत्मवान्।।2.45।।
Trai-gunya-visaya veda nistrai-gunyo bhavarjuna |
Nirdvandvo nitya-sattva-stho niryoga-ksema atmavan ||2.45||
Meaning: The Vedas mainly deal with the subject of the three modes of material nature. Rise above these modes, O’ Arjuna. Be transcendental to all of them. Be free from all dualities and from all anxieties of acquisition and preservation, and be established in the Self.
If there was no material goal to pursue what would people strive for? They would lose interest and faith in spiritual knowledge and ritualistic practices and thus they would lose both chances bequeathed to them. So it is justly so that the Vedic scriptures deal with the three modes of material nature as they explain the rituals that bring benefits for all those subject to the influence of these modes.
All material activities involve actions and reactions in the three modes of material nature. They are meant for fruitive results, which cause bondage in the material world. The Vedas deal mostly with fruitive activities to gradually elevate the doer from the field of sense gratification to a position on the transcendental plane. Bhagavan Shri Krishna advises Arjuna to raise himself above the three gunas to the transcendental position by attaining a mental state of equipoise.
It is quite possible that one may become indifferent to the heavenly delights but the basic requirements for human existence such as food, clothing and shelter which are also actual modifications of the three modes of material nature and are impossible to ignore. It’s hard to become indifferent to that.
Lord Krishna explains one has to be free from dualities like praise and blame, heat and cold, pleasure and pain. Being free from them means being unattached to them. How can this be done? By enduring them and becoming established in pure spiritual consciousness. Its characteristic is patience and endurance uninfluenced by passion or covered by ignorance. One should always be tempered by patience. As anyone without patience is easily overpowered by passion and ignorance and becomes uncontrolled and fearful in situations involving the three modes of material nature. So we should overcome the hindrances of passion and ignorance and maintain a balanced state of equilibrium.
One may wonder how they can may maintain themselves in the material nature. To this Lord Krishna reiterates niryoga-kshema i.e. become free from the desire of acquisition and preservation. When Lord Krishna speaks about being free from gain and preservation, this does not mean to deny the things one needs to survive and flourish but relates only to curb the desire or obsession for acquisition of possessions.
But how then would one sustain their lives? By being ‘Atmavan’ meaning firmly established in spiritual consciousness of the Soul. The essence is to understand that the Supreme Lord as the fulfiller and bestower of all desires. So one should only seek His refuge and accept His shelter. Never fear nor seek any other form of succour from any other source for the Supreme Lord will provide all sustenance and maintenance to those who understanding Him fully surrender unto Him.
Continuous remembrance of the Supreme Lord Krishna is ever present within. The full acceptance of the Supreme Lord within one’s own-self effectively to realisation of the Ultimate Truth.
2.46 Shloka 2.46
यावानर्थ उदपाने सर्वतः संप्लुतोदके।
तावान्सर्वेषु वेदेषु ब्राह्मणस्य विजानतः।।2.46।।
Yavan artha udapane sarvatah samplutodake |
Tavan sarvesu vedesu brahmanasya vijanatah ||2.46||
Meaning: All purposes that are served by a well of water is better served by a vast lake. Similarly, all the purposes of the Vedas are realised to he who knows the Ultimate Truth (Supreme Brahman).
Whatever benefit is for a person seated in the knowledge of Brahman, the same benefit is available to one who is knowledgeable in Vedic scriptures; however, for the one who has realised the Ultimate Truth, all the meanings of the Vedic scriptures are revealed to him by Bhagavan.
During the course of universal dissolution, whatever rewards are ordained by the Bhagavan Shri Krishna, who is full of all attributes, independent from any support and transcendental to time; the same fruits are available for one who has knowledge of the confidential meanings in the Vedic scriptures.
2.47 Shloka 2.47
कर्मण्येवाधिकारस्ते मा फलेषु कदाचन।
मा कर्मफलहेतुर्भूर्मा ते सङ्गोऽस्त्वकर्मणि।।2.47।।
Karmany evadhikaras te ma phalesu kadacana |
Ma karma-phala-hetur bhur ma te sango ‘stv akarmani ||2.47||
Meaning: You have a right to perform your prescribed activities but never to the fruits of those actions. Never consider yourself to be the cause of the results of your activities, and nor should there be any attachment to not doing your duty.
This is one of the more popular Shlokas in the Bhagavad Gita in which Karma Yoga is encapsulated. Prescribed duties refer to activities performed while one is in the modes of material nature. And inaction means not performing one’s prescribed duties. Bhagavan Krishna advises Arjuna to perform his prescribed duties without being attached to the results (Nishkama Karma). One who is attached to the result of his work is also the cause of the action. Thus he is the enjoyer or sufferer of the result of such actions.
As far as prescribed duties are concerned, they can be classified into routine work, emergency work and desired activities. Routine work, in terms of the scriptural injunctions, is done without desire for results. As one has to do it, obligatory work is action in the mode of goodness. One who performs actions without desirous of the rewards develops equipoise and does not get attached to the fruits of their actions. It is also important to understand that it is not that the person will not receive the rewards thereof. To the contrary they will certainly receive rewards as well but the difference is they do not let reward be the reason for the motivation of their activities. We must perform all of our actions without being motivated by the fruit. Everyone has his proprietary right to perform prescribed duties, but they should act without attachment to the result; such dispassionate obligatory duties doubtlessly lead one to the path of liberation.
Arjuna was therefore advised by the Lord to fight as a matter of duty without attachment to the result. His non-participation in the battle is also another form of attachment. Such attachment never leads one to the path of salvation. Any attachment, positive or negative, is cause for bondage. Hence, there should be attachment for doing nothing as Inaction is sinful.
The question may arise that if one is seeking liberation from the material existence should not one acquire firmness in spiritual knowledge and ignore all forms of actions. To this Lord Krishna instructs that everyone has the right to perform actions in order to purify ones existence and advance in spiritual knowledge. But one should not cultivate the mind to think that with the right to perform actions one is entitled to receive rewards. This mentality is destructive to spiritual advancement because then one will get attachment to the actions and then subsequently to the rewards. So Lord Krishna emphasises never be attached to the rewards of actions or even consider the rewards because this attachment will keep up locked in the material existence.
Therefore, fighting as a matter of duty was the only auspicious path of salvation for Arjuna.
2.48 Shloka 2.48
योगस्थः कुरु कर्माणि सङ्गं त्यक्त्वा धनञ्जय।
सिद्ध्यसिद्ध्योः समो भूत्वा समत्वं योग उच्यते।।2.48।।
Yoga-sthah kuru karmani sangam tyaktva dhananjaya |
Siddhy-asiddhyoh samo bhutva samatvam yoga ucyate ||2.48||
Meaning: O’ Dhananjaya, be steadfast in yoga, perform your duties giving up any attachment and be equipoised in both success and failure. This equanimity is known as the science of uniting the individual consciousness with the Supreme Consciousness.
Shri Krishna tells Arjuna that he should act in Yoga. Yoga means to concentrate the mind by controlling the ever-disturbing senses by focusing on the Supreme. As Bhagavan Himself is telling Arjuna to fight, Arjuna has nothing to do with the results of the fight. Loss or victory is Krishna’s concern; Arjuna is simply advised to act according to the diktat of Krishna.
What should one do? Lord Krishna states here to remain balanced and in equipoise. Discard the attachment, be in a state of equipoise in both victory and defeat and perform your duties. Yoga is explained by Lord Krishna Himself as being in the state of equanimity.
2.49 Shloka 2.49
दूरेण ह्यवरं कर्म बुद्धियोगाद्धनञ्जय।
बुद्धौ शरणमन्विच्छ कृपणाः फलहेतवः।।2.49।।
Durena hy avaram karma buddhi-yogad dhananjaya |
Buddhau saranam anviccha krpanah phala-hetavah ||2.49||
Meaning: O Dhananjaya, with spiritual intelligence, rid yourself of all fruitive activities which are certainly abominable, and surrender fully to that consciousness. Those who want to enjoy the fruits of their work are misers.
One performing actions with the thought of receiving rewards may get the desired results. This appears to be positive but it is repeatedly denounced. Why? Because actions performed for selfish motives are inferior to actions performed with selfless motives. Selfless motives are balanced in equanimity. Equanimity possesses a determinate consciousness. Because of this reality, one should seek the shelter of evenness of mind in equanimity. Arjuna had acquired so many riches before naturally following his duty, so why should he try to avoid his duty worrying about success or failure. Those motivated to perform activities craving only to get a reward for their actions are inferior and wretched.
One who has actually come to understand this and performs actions while constantly meditating on the Lord is said to be in Yoga. As already explained, buddhi-yoga means transcendental loving service to the Lord. Such devotional service is the right course of action for the living entity. Only misers desire to enjoy the fruit of their own work just to be further entangled in material bondage.
All activities performed with the desire of fruitive results are abominable because they continually bind the performer to the cycle of birth and death. One should therefore never desire to be the cause of work and everything should be done in the spirit of offering to Bhagavan Krishna.
Misers do not know how to utilise the riches which they acquire by good fortune or by hard labour. Like the misers, unfortunate persons do not employ their human energy in the service of the Lord. Phala-hetavah are those who sole motivation is dictated by the prospect of reward. It should be understood that such living entities are ‘kripanah’ or ‘misers’ or ‘pitiable’ as acting in this way they are trapped in the material existence, hence unable to attain spiritual knowledge.
For all living entities the Supreme Lord is the only refuge. When this realisation finally dawns upon the intellect of a living entity whether they are ignorant, wise or liberated they surrender unto the Supreme Lord without reservation. Those who live in delusion consider themselves the same as the Supreme Lord who is distinctly different due to His inconceivable potencies and transcendental attributes.
2.50 Shloka 2.50
बुद्धियुक्तो जहातीह उभे सुकृतदुष्कृते।
तस्माद्योगाय युज्यस्व योगः कर्मसु कौशलम्।।2.50।।
Buddhi-yukto jahatiha ubhe sukrta-duskrte |
Tasmad yogaya yujyasva yogah karmasu kausalam ||2.50||
Meaning: One endowed with spiritual intelligence can get rid of both positive and negative reactions even in this very life. Therefore, be engaged in Yoga, O Arjuna, which is the art of all work.
Since time immemorial each living entity has accumulated the various reactions of good and bad work. As such, he is ignorant of his real purpose of life. One’s ignorance can be removed by the instruction of the Bhagavad-gita which teaches one to surrender unto Lord Shri Krishna in all respects and become liberated from the eternal bondage of action and reaction, birth after birth. Arjuna is therefore advised to be in Yoga (be equipoised and act with a spirit of surrender), the purifying process of resultant action.
Those whose activities are inherently protected under the secure guidance of spiritual intelligence are released from the bondage of continuous rebirth in the material existence. Hence one should remain steadfast in spiritual intelligence. Although cultivating spiritual intelligence indeed takes enormous effort to achieve, once attained it is not difficult to maintain. All actions performed from the platform of spiritual intelligence are not binding and the mind is preserved in a perfectly equipoised state which can be compared to a state of a blissful state (Sat Cit Ananda).
जय श्री कृष्णा – Jai Shri Krishna!
Hari Om Tat Sat