SRIMAD BHAGAVAD GITA – PART 14 Chapter 3, Verses 31 to 43 – KARMA YOGA

Bhagavan Krishna, through these final verses of Chapter 3, explains the powerful influence of Kama or lust. In these verses, Lord Krishna explains the priority of the faculties humans possess starting from the physical body to the senses to the mind to the intellect to the Atma.  The senses are superior to the physical body because if the senses are agitated they will transfer this agitation to the physical body and knowledge will not arise in the mind. The mind is superior to the senses and can stop them but if the mind is intent on sense gratification then knowledge will not arise.

Now in conclusion Lord Krishna establishes the fact that one should try to their utmost to destroy the powerful enemy known as Kama or lust. Knowing that Kama is the mightiest enemy, one must destroy it by withdrawing the senses, keeping the mind steady and the intellect resolute in Sattva Guna (the mode of goodness).

Thus ends the Third Chapter of the Srimad Bhagavad Gita covering the Karma-yoga, or the Discharge of One’s Prescribed Duty as an offering to Bhagavan Krishna, and conquer lust through constant contemplation of the Lord.

3.31     Shloka 3.31

ये मे मतमिदं नित्यमनुतिष्ठन्ति मानवाः।
श्रद्धावन्तोऽनसूयन्तो मुच्यन्ते तेऽपि कर्मभिः।।3.31।।

Ye me matam idam nityam anutisthanti manavah       |
Sraddhavanto ‘nasuyanto mucyante te ‘pi karmabhih ||3.31||
Meaning: One who executes his duties according to My injunctions and who follows this teaching faithfully, without envy, becomes free from the bondage arising from their actions.

Bhagavan Krishna explains that it is important that one should execute the prescribed duties with complete faith, without harbouring any envy, and dedicate the fruits of such actions to the Supreme Being.  Such a person is assured to be liberated from the bondage of this Samsara.

3.32     Shloka 3.32

ये त्वेतदभ्यसूयन्तो नानुतिष्ठन्ति मे मतम्।
सर्वज्ञानविमूढांस्तान्विद्धि नष्टानचेतसः।।3.32।।

Ye tv etad abhyasuyanto nanutisthanti me matam  |
Sarva-jnana-vimudhams tan viddhi nastan acetasah ||3.32||
Meaning: But those who, out of envy disregard these teachings and do not practice them regularly, are deluded and bereft of all knowledge. They are deviated from the purpose of human existence and devoid of spiritual consciousness, and are doomed to ignorance and bondage.

Those who perform prescribed Vedic activities while renouncing the results of their actions gradually gain spiritual knowledge and attain Moksha.

In this verse, Bhagavan Krishna points out that those persons who disrespect, ignore and refuse to follow the injunctions of scriptures, are fools bereft of spiritual knowledge and in such a state of ignorance all their activities are fruitless and they are hopelessly entangled in the cycle of birth and death, ad infinitum.

Spiritual intelligence is what determines the light of knowledge in the material existence. In the absence of spiritual knowledge, darkness and ignorance prevails, and knowledge becomes flawed resulting in permanent entanglement in this Samsara.

3.33     Shloka 3.33

सदृशं चेष्टते स्वस्याः प्रकृतेर्ज्ञानवानपि।
प्रकृतिं यान्ति भूतानि निग्रहः किं करिष्यति।।3.33।।

Sadrsam cestate svasyah prakrter jnanavan api  |
Prakrtim yanti bhutani nigrahah kim karisyati ||3.33||
Meaning: Even a knowledge person acts according to his own nature as all living entities are controlled by their own nature. What can repression accomplish?

If it is so beneficial to follow the teachings of the Bhagavad-Gita, then why is not everyone following them? As an answer to this question, Bhagavan Krishna explains that a person acts according to their own nature as determined by Samskaras or impressions from past lifetimes, and because of the influence of prakriti or material nature interacting with the three Gunas, or the modes of Sattva (goodness, constructive, harmonious), Rajas (passion, active, confused), and Tamas (darkness, destructive, chaotic).

Even persons of wisdom in Vedic knowledge are hostage to their own nature. So what to say of the ignorant? The purport is that although it may be possible for such persons to abandon desires and attachment, the necessary purity of mind does not manifest to evoke feelings of dedication to the Supreme Lord Krishna.

With the overpowering influence of these deep rooted habits how can the words of the Vedic scriptures impose restraint on such a person? One is helplessly carried away by the forceful current of past life actions and impressions.

The objects of the senses are perceived through the sense organs. For e.g. hearing is perceived by the ears through sound, seeing is perceived by the eyes through sight, smelling is perceived by the nose through smells and so on. For each of the senses, one has affection and the desire to enjoy through them. But the same senses operate depending upon attraction or aversion to the sense objects. For sense objects that are pleasing one has attraction for pleasure and for sense objects that are displeasing one has aversion to displeasure. All these habits are conditioned from ancient predilections of past life reminisces. Such dualities of attraction and aversion obstructs one who would want to succeed in jnana yoga by subjugating their sense. These dualities which can be understood as different degrees of love and hate, hold a person in an iron grip and forcefully drive them to commit actions that are in conformance with the attributes of one of the three gunas of goodness, passion or sloth to which one’s nature adheres to from past life impressions. Thus, one is being constantly diverted from the real purpose of human existence, that of atma tattva or realisation of the soul and their precious human life is wasted in pursuing sense objects.

3.34     Shloka 3.34

इन्द्रियस्येन्द्रियस्यार्थे रागद्वेषौ व्यवस्थितौ।
तयोर्न वशमागच्छेत्तौ ह्यस्य परिपन्थिनौ।।3.34।।

Indriyasyendriyasyarthe raga-dvesau vyavasthitau   |
Tayor na vasam agacchet tau hy asya paripanthinau ||3.34||
Meaning: Attraction and repulsion for sense objects are felt by embodied beings, but one should not fall under the control of senses and sense objects because they are stumbling blocks to the path of self-realisation.

The senses are constantly being drawn by the force of attraction and aversion. Although Bhagavan Krishna is emphasising that the effect of restraining the senses has a temporary effect only still, by exercising restraint regularly, it opens up the possibility of slowly dampening the desires and may eventually develop a lasting effect. Of course, past life impressions have a deep rooted influence on all living entities, even in the case of Brahma and others, but there is still the possibility to modify the impact by practising restraint in a regulated manner.

If everyone must act according to their nature and no living being is void of their nature then the purpose of teaching the Vedic scriptures by the spiritual master could be deemed futile and unnecessary. To emphasise this point Bhagavan Krishna repeats the word ‘indriyasya’ twice to underline all the senses.

One who is fortunate to hear through the ears the holy words of the Vedic scriptures from the spiritual master should never come under the influence of attraction and aversion because they are two great obstacles on the path of Moksha. These two, Raga and Dvesha, act as obstacles and deviates them to the false path of desires, attachment and enjoyment of sense objects.

The spiritual master teaching the Vedic scriptures rescues an aspirant from being under the influence of the dualities of attraction and aversion and guides them in the right path of offering one’s actions as yagna or worship to the Supreme Lord which is the best and surest way to attain liberation. So learning the Vedic scriptures from the spiritual master is never futile and is highly beneficial and essential.

Lord Krishna confirms that a person who embarks upon the path of jnana yoga or the cultivation of spiritual wisdom should not fall again under the influence of dualities of raga and dvesha as they undermine all efforts. The dualities of love and hate, attraction and aversion are a person’s most potent enemies and they completely frustrate one’s attempts for higher understanding.

3.35     Shloka 3.35

श्रेयान्स्वधर्मो विगुणः परधर्मात्स्वनुष्ठितात्।
स्वधर्मे निधनं श्रेयः परधर्मो भयावहः।।3.35।।

Sreyan sva-dharmo vigunah para-dharmat sv-anusthitat     |
Sva-dharme nidhanam sreyah para-dharmo bhayavahah ||3.35||
Meaning: It is far better to discharge one’s prescribed duties, even though they may be faulty, than another’s duties perfectly. Destruction in the course of performing one’s own duty is better than engaging in another’s duties, as performing duties of others is fraught with danger.

In this verse, Lord Krishna is emphasising the fact that one should perform the duties one is designated or assigned to do. Arjuna was a Royal Prince educated, trained and having the might to uphold and protect dharma. Although war enacts terrible suffering it was necessary and appropriate for Arjuna, as a Kshatriya, to engage in it.

It should not be presumed that a person abstaining from their prescribed duty and take up an ascetic life is a superior choice. What is the purpose of a warrior if not to fight on the battlefield to protect and defend Dharma.

The essence of Karma Yoga is to perform one’s prescribed duties with commitment and dedication, and with a spirit of renunciation of results.  The path of karma yoga is performed by one most easily as it naturally befits the person skills who is performing it.  Bhagavan Krishna emphasises that performing one’s duty, even if badly, is far superior to perform another one’s duty with perfection as it is fraught with danger.

3.36     Shloka 3.36

अर्जुन उवाच
अथ केन प्रयुक्तोऽयं पापं चरति पूरुषः।
अनिच्छन्नपि वार्ष्णेय बलादिव नियोजितः।।3.36।।

Arjuna Uvaca
Atha kena prayukto ‘yam apam carati purusah |
Anicchann api varsneya balad iva niyojitah ||3.36||
Meaning: Arjuna said: O descendant of Vrsni, by what is one impelled to sinful acts, even unwillingly, as if engaged by force?

A living entity, as part and parcel of the Supreme, is originally spiritual, pure, and free from all material contamination. Therefore, by nature it is not subjected to the sins of the material world. But when it comes into contact with the material nature, it acts in many sinful ways without hesitation, and sometimes even against its will.

As such, Arjuna’s question to Bhagavan Krishna is very pertinent and he seeks to know the reason for a person to do sinful acts against it’s will. When a living entity despite fighting with itself to not sin, ends up in sinful acts as if impelled by a force not within its control.

There are numerous reasons why a person may be compelled to engage in sinful activities. The word ‘atha’ denotes what factors with which one is influenced to act in sin. Arjuna is keen to understand the underlying reasons or forces that strongly provokes someone to to act in an unrighteous manner even when the person knows that its not in his best interest to act that way.

Arjuna beseeches Krishna to tell him the reasons so that if he could understand the causes, it would be possible for him to develop strategies to counter it.

3.37     Shloka 3.37

श्री भगवानुवाच
काम एष क्रोध एष रजोगुणसमुद्भवः।
महाशनो महापाप्मा विद्ध्येनमिह वैरिणम्।।3.37।।

Sri-Bhagavan Uvaca
Kama esa krodha esa rajo-guna-samudbhavah |
Mahasano maha-papma viddhy enam iha vairinam ||3.37||
Meaning: Bhagavan said: It is lust which when unsated turns into anger, arising from the mode of passion; Know this lust to be insatiable, extremely sinful which is all-devouring and the greatest enemy in this world.

Bhagavan Krishna, in this verse, explicitly confirms the root cause and great impeller of sins to be “Kama” or “Lust” which is known to forcefully compel one’s senses to race impetuously towards sense objects. When lust is impeded and desires are frustrated it turns into anger, hence “Krodha” or anger is also a form of Kama as they both arise out of Rajo Guna or the mode of passion.

This suggests that to control lust one has to increase one’s Sattva guna or the mode of goodness.  The effects of Rajas can be decreased with conscious focus on Sattva that can lead to a decreased level of desires. By controlling desires one can control lust and by controlling lust one can controls anger. Thus, one should note that both lust and anger are interconnected but by controlling lust one can control anger. But Kama is extremely difficult to control once it has been stimulated because it is insatiable. It does not get sated even after enjoying all forms of wealth and pleasure.  The desires increase much like a fire when oil is poured on it. It rages out of control rapidly and when it is impeded it explodes into anger destroying everything in its path like a devastating forest fire.

Bhagavan Krishna says that Kama and Krodha are the greatest enemies and the forces that impel one to perform sinful acts.

3.38     Shloka 3.38

धूमेनाव्रियते वह्निर्यथाऽऽदर्शो मलेन च।
यथोल्बेनावृतो गर्भस्तथा तेनेदमावृतम्।।3.38।।

Dhumenavriyate vahnir yathadarso malena ca  |
Yatholbenavrto garbhas tatha tenedam avrtam ||3.38||
Meaning: As fire is covered by smoke, as a mirror is covered by dust, or as the embryo is covered by the womb, similarly, the knowledge is covered by this lust.

Bhagavan gives three examples of layers that act as barriers to knowledge and represents the degrees of covering of the living entity by which the pure consciousness is obscured. This covering is nothing but lust under different forms like smoke enveloping the fire, dust on the mirror, and the womb encasing the embryo.

When lust is compared to smoke, it is understood that the fire of the living spark can be perceived. In other words, when the living entity performs his duties though not consistently, he may be likened to the fire covered by smoke. Although fire is necessary for smoke, there is no overt manifestation of fire in that early stage.

The dust on the mirror refers to the need for a cleansing process of the mirror of the mind which can be achieved by meditation and chanting of Lord’s Namas.  The embryo encased by the womb is an analogy that illustrates the helplessness of the child and its total dependence for everything. This stage of living condition can be compared to that of inanimate objects that they are devoid of all consciousness.

It is clear from Bhagavan Krishna’s examples that that everyone is afflicted by Kama to some degree in this world.  When the senses are excited, Kama or lust manifests itself explosively completely covering the Atma, which is why Kama is such a formidable adversary. Kama covers the Atma in a thick envelope rendering it difficult to be perceived.

3.39     Shloka 3.39

आवृतं ज्ञानमेतेन ज्ञानिनो नित्यवैरिणा।
कामरूपेण कौन्तेय दुष्पूरेणानलेन च।।3.39।।

Avrtam jnanam etena jnanino nitya-vairina  |
Kama-rupena kaunteya duspurenanalena ca ||3.39||
Meaning: Thus, a man’s pure consciousness is covered by his eternal enemy in the form of lust, which is never satisfied and which burns like fire.

Lust is never sated just as fire is never extinguished by a constant supply of fuel.  Therefore, this lust is the symbol of ignorance by which the living entity is kept within the material world. While one enjoys sense gratification, it may be that there is some feeling of happiness, but actually that so-called feeling of happiness is the ultimate enemy of the sense enjoyer.

One on the path of jnana yoga knows from the scriptures that moksha or liberation from the cycle of birth and death can never manifest itself until first attaining atma-tattva or soul realisation.

The word ‘Kama-rupena’ means in the form of lust and the word ‘duspurena’ means ‘it is never satisfied’. The word ‘analena’ means ‘like a fire’ which denotes the burning fire of Kama which is never satisfied and is insatiable. When the object of its desires has been acquired and the senses fully gratified then at once Kama wants more and looks for something new. It is never satisfied.

It is said that Kama covers the Atma as smoke covers fire, as dust prevents one from seeing a reflection in the mirror.  This Kama prevents one from perceiving their Atma and keeps a person imprisoned in material existence just as a womb envelops the embryo and keeps it dependent.

Therefore, Kama or lust is an eternal adversary, and to achieve self-realisation one has to overcome lust.

3.40     Shloka 3.40

इन्द्रियाणि मनो बुद्धिरस्याधिष्ठानमुच्यते।
एतैर्विमोहयत्येष ज्ञानमावृत्य देहिनम्।।3.40।।

Indriyani mano buddhir asyadhisthanam ucyate  |
Eetair vimohayaty esa jnanam avrtya dehinam ||3.40||
Meaning: The senses, the mind and the intelligence are the sitting places of this lust, which veils the real knowledge of the living entity and bewilders him.

Mind is the centre of all the activities of the senses, and thus the mind is the reservoir of all ideas of sense gratification; and, as a result, the mind and the senses become the repositories of lust. Next, the intellect becomes ingrained with such lustful propensities.  Lust filled intellect influences the spirit soul to acquire the false ego and identify itself with matter, and thus with the mind and senses. The spirit soul becomes addicted to enjoying the material senses and mistakes this as true happiness.

This false identification of the soul is explained in the Srimad-Bhagavatam:

Yasyatma-buddhih kunape tri-dhatuke
Sva-dhih kalatradisu bhauma idyadhih
Yat-tirtha-buddhih salite na karhicij
Janesv abhijnesu sa eva gokharah [S.B. 10.84.13]
Meaning: A human being who identifies this body made of three elements with his self, who considers the by-products of the body to be his kinsmen, who considers the land of birth as worship able, and who goes to the place of pilgrimage simply to take a bath rather than meet men of transcendental knowledge there, is no better than a cow or an ass.

The senses becoming excited and agitates the mind and the mind becoming engrossed and envelops the intellect with this Kama. By revealing where Kama or lust covertly resides, Bhagavan Krishna is giving knowledge and guidance to control it.

The senses, the mind and the intellect which controls the discriminatory faculty, is where Kama or lust covertly resides and exercises its dominion over the Atma or Soul. Through Kama, the senses, the mind and the intellect become addicted to craving for sense objects. Kama seizes hold of the embodied beings and beguiles them by clouding their intellect and then Kama covers and envelops the Atma or Soul.

3.41     Shloka 3.41

तस्मात्त्वमिन्द्रियाण्यादौ नियम्य भरतर्षभ।
पाप्मानं प्रजहि ह्येनं ज्ञानविज्ञाननाशनम्।।3.41।।

Tasmat tvam indriyany adau niyamya bharatarsabha  |
Papmanam prajahi hy enam jnana-vijnana-nasanam ||3.41||
Meaning: Therefore, O Arjuna, best of the Bharatas, in the very beginning curb this great symbol of sin [lust] by regulating the senses, and slay this destroyer of knowledge and self-realization.

Bhagavan Krishna advises Arjuna to regulate the senses from the very beginning so that he could curb the greatest sinful enemy i.e. lust, which destroys the urge for spiritual progress, and specifically, the yearning for knowledge of the Self. 

‘Jnanam’ refers to knowledge of the Self or in other words, knowledge that the Soul is distinct and not the body.  ‘Vijnanam’ refers to specific knowledge of the spirit soul and knowledge of one’s constitutional position and its relationship to the Supreme Soul.

It is explained thus in the Srimad-Bhagavatam:
Jnanam parama-guhyam me yad-vijnana-samanvitam
Sarahasyam tad-angam ca grhana gaditam Maya || [S.B. 2.9.31]
Meaning: The Knowledge of the Self and of the Supreme Self is very confidential and mysterious, being veiled by Maya.  It has to be realized in conjunction with devotional service and the necessary process is being explained by Me. You may take it up carefully.

The Supreme Lord Krishna is the maintainer and energiser of everything in Creation.  Srimad Bhagavad-Gita gives us that knowledge, specifically knowledge of the Self. The living entities are part of the Lord, and therefore they are simply meant to serve the Lord.

But Kama envelops the mind and the intellect and is an obstacle to achieve Atma tattva or Soul realisation; but even after the Atma tattva is achieved, Kama is so powerful that it is able to influence even the jnanis.  We see this in many Puranic stories where the even the like of great Sage Vishwamitra is afflicted by Kama. Kama is never sated and thus vigilance is required at all times before moksha or complete release from the material existence is attained.

Now Lord Krishna explains how to restrain Kama or lust which is so terrible and destructive to the development of a human being and which is the root of all evils because it obscures true knowledge.

The teachings of the spiritual master leads to inner wisdom that arises from meditation and reflection on the Supreme Lord. One must, therefore, withdraw the senses away from the sense objects from the very beginning and should remain resolute with a steady mind.

Bhagavan Krishna emphasises the need to vanquish this great enemy known as Kama, which is so terrible, that destroys both Jnana (Knowledge of Self) and Vijnana (Knowledge of the Supreme).

3.42     Shloka 3.42

इन्द्रियाणि पराण्याहुरिन्द्रियेभ्यः परं मनः।
मनसस्तु परा बुद्धिर्यो बुद्धेः परतस्तु सः।।3.42।।

Indriyani parany ahur indriyebhyah param manah  |
Manasas tu para buddhir yo buddheh paratas tu sah ||3.42||
Meaning: The working senses are superior to dull matter; mind is higher than the senses; intelligence is still higher than the mind; and he [the soul] is even higher than the intelligence.

The senses are the outlets for the activities of lust. Lust resides within the body, but it manifests itself through the senses. Therefore, the senses are superior to the body as a whole. But the mind is superior to the senses as it is active even when the body may be silent and at rest—as it does during dreaming. But, above the mind there is the determination of the intelligence, and above the intelligence is the soul. These outlets are suspended when there is superior consciousness. Therefore, when the soul is directly engaged with the Supreme, naturally all other subordinates, namely, the intelligence, mind and the senses, will be automatically engaged in the Supreme.

In the Katha Upanishad (1.3.10), it says:

इिन्द्रयेभ्यः परा ह्यथार् अथभ्यश्च परंमनः।
मनसस्तुपरा बुद्धबुर्द्धेरात्मा महान्परः॥

Indriyebhyaḥ para hy artha, arthebhyash ca param manaḥ |
Manasas ca para buddhir buddher atma mahan paraḥ  || (1.3.10)
Meaning: Beyond the senses are the rudiments of objects, beyond these rudiments is the mind, beyond the mind is the intellect, and beyond the intellect is the great Self.

Therefore, if the mind is directly engaged in the service of the Lord constantly, then there is no chance of the senses becoming engaged in other ways.

Lord Krishna explains the priority of the faculties humans possess starting from the physical body to the senses to the mind to the intellect to the Atma. The senses are superior to the physical body because if the senses are agitated they will transfer this agitation to the physical body and knowledge will not arise in the mind. The mind is superior to the senses and can stop them but if the mind is intent on sense gratification then knowledge will not arise. The intellect is superior to the senses and the mind but if the senses are passive and the mind is not agitated; then if the intellect decides contrary and is inclined to enjoy, it will overrule the senses and the mind and directs them both to pursue pleasure. So knowledge will not arise there as well but when the senses are withdrawn from the sense objects this impulse subsides. So what is more powerful than the intellect? We see that it is Kama or lust that is greater. When Kama takes over, the mind becomes clouded and the intellect is obscured by it.  The intellect reflects and contemplates actions that will gratify the senses veiling the true Knowlegde of the Atma. So, Kama is the greatest enemy of the human being because it obscures knowledge of the eternal soul.

The five senses are the main impediments to spiritual development and are arranged in a hostile formation against it. As long as the senses are primarily occupied in the pursuit of pleasure and delight in sense objects, the realisation of the Atma will never manifest.

What happens if all three aspects – the senses, the mind and the intellect were tranquil and passive? The unwavering answer is that Kama or lust which arises from desires, covertly resides deep within the heart and is always craving for sense gratification. This Kama is so powerful that it will assert its mastery over all of them and has a domineering effect by driving them to pursue actions and seek sense gratification, thereby obscuring the light of knowledge and the realisation of the Atma.

However, that which is the most powerful with its domain in the spiritual marvel is the Atma and is designated by the pronoun ‘sah’.

3.43     Shloka 3.43

एवं बुद्धेः परं बुद्ध्वा संस्तभ्यात्मानमात्मना।
जहि शत्रुं महाबाहो कामरूपं दुरासदम्।।3.43।।

Evam buddheh param buddhva samstabhyatmanam atmana |
Jahi satrum maha-baho Kama-rupam durasadam ||3.43||
Meaning: Thus knowing the individual consciousness to be superior to the intelligence, O’ the mighty armed one, steady the mind by self-realisation and conquer this insatiable and formidable enemy known as lust.

In the immature stage of material existence, philosophical speculations and artificial attempts to control the senses by the so-called practice of yogic postures can never help a man toward spiritual life. One must be engaged in continuous contemplation of the Lord while performing one’s prescribed duties to gain spiritual intelligence.  However, that in itself is not a guarantee in attaining self- realisation as the powerful effect of lust needs to be firmly uprooted to gain Atma tattva.

Now in conclusion Lord Krishna establishes the fact that one should try to their utmost to destroy the powerful enemy known as Kama or lust. Knowing that Kama is the mightiest enemy, one must destroy it by withdrawing the senses, keeping the mind steady and the intellect resolute in Sattva Guna (the mode of goodness). It is important to slay this enemy Kama which will attack the mind and senses in various ways causing one to fall into delusion before one becomes powerless to resist. Kama is extremely difficult to overpower and is tenacious and formidable, yet if one dedicates all actions to Lord Krishna with their mind fixed on Him they can overcome it.

So the knowledge of Vedic wisdom and meditation on the Supreme Lord are combined as panacea to neutralise Kama from its location in the senses, mind and intellect and then destroy the great enemy.  This path of selfless action unattached without conception of rewards should be practiced according to one’s capacity and knowledge as a means of gradually achieving renunciation.

So it should understood that Kama or lust is able to dominate even the intellect and thus is antagonistic to jnana yoga or the cultivation of Vedic spiritual knowledge. So one must, with firm resolve, restrain the senses right from the very beginning and keeping the mind resolutely established in the Atma, and destroy this powerful enemy known as Kama by firmly uprooting it.

Thus ends the Third Chapter of the Srimad Bhagavad Gita covering the Karma-yoga, or the Discharge of One’s Prescribed Duty as an offering to Bhagavan Krishna, and conquer lust through constant contemplation of the Lord.

जय श्री कृष्णा – Jai Shri Krishna!

Hari Om Tat Sat

SRIMAD BHAGAVAD GITA – PART 12; Chapter 3, Verses 11 to 20 – KARMA YOGA

Bhagavan Krishna, through these next ten verses, explains the importance of performing actions without desire or attachment to the results. In these verses, Lord Krishna explains the importance of performing yajna for the purification of the body, mind and intellect. By performing yajnas and offering the food as oblation, one’s food is sanctified, and by eating sanctified food, one’s very existence becomes purified; by the purification of existence, the mind becomes sanctified, and when mind is sanctified, one can contemplate on the path of liberation, and all these collectively lead to purification of the Soul (Atma), thus paving the way for liberation.

3.11      Shloka 3.11

देवान्भावयतानेन ते देवा भावयन्तु वः।
परस्परं भावयन्तः श्रेयः परमवाप्स्यथ।।3.11।।

Devan bhavayatanena te deva bhavayantu vah |
Parasparam bhavayantah sreyah param avapsyatha ||3.11||
Meaning:
The Devas, being pleased by the sacrifices, will also please you; thus nourishing one another, there will reign general prosperity for all.

The Devas are empowered administrators, supplying air, light, water and all other benedictions for maintaining the body and soul of every living entity. Their pleasures and displeasures are dependent on the performance of yajnas by the human being. Some of the yajnas are meant to satisfy the Ishta (chosen) Devas; but even in so doing, Lord Vishnu is worshiped in all yajnas as the ultimate benefactor.

In the Bhagavad-Gita, Bhagavan Shri Krishna say that He is the beneficiary of all kinds of yajnas: bhoktaram yajna-tapasam.  In Chapter 9 Verse 24 Shri Krishna says, ‘aham hi sarva-yajnanam bhokta ca prabhur eva ca – I am the enjoyer of all sacrifices and the Ultimate Lord’.

In the Vishnu Sahasranamam (Shloka 105), the importance of Yajna is explained:

Yajnabhrit Yajnakrit Yajni Yajnabhuk Yajnasadhanah      |
Yajnaantakrit Yajnaguhyam Annam Annaada Eve Ca ||105|| 

Meaning:  He bears the full brunt of the responsibility of taking the Yajna to its successful completion. As the creator, He also created Yajna as a means for devotees to reach Him. He is the Master of all the Yajnas and it is for Him that all the sacrifices are performed. It is He who consumes and enjoys the offerings made in the Yajnas. He is the One Who is sought through the Yajnas. He provides not only the inspiration to perform Yajnas but also the resources to perform the Yajnas. He is the One Who concludes the Yajnas fruitfully and He is the hidden underlying spirit of the noblest of Yajnas. He is eaten by all beings in His form as food and He is the Enjoyer of those who enjoy Him.

When these Yajnas are perfectly performed, there is no scarcity of supplies required for sustenance. Performance of yajnas has many benefits and they ultimately lead to liberation from bondage. By performance of yajnas, all activities become purified, as it is stated in the Vedas:

Ahara-suddhau sattva-suddhih sattva-suddhau |
Dhruva smrtih smrti-lambhe sarva-granthinam vipra-moksah ||
Meaning:
By performing yajnas, one’s food is sanctified, and by partaking the sanctified food, one’s very existence becomes purified; by the purification of existence, the mind is sanctified, and when the mind is sanctified, one becomes ready to contemplate the path of liberation, and all these collectively lead to purification of the Soul (Atma), thus paving the way for liberation.

3.12      Shloka 3.12

इष्टान्भोगान्हि वो देवा दास्यन्ते यज्ञभाविताः।
तैर्दत्तानप्रदायैभ्यो यो भुङ्क्ते स्तेन एव सः।।3.12।।
Istan bhogan hi vo deva dasyante yajna-bhavitah  |

Tair dattan apradayaibhyo yo bhunkte stena eva sah ||3.12||
Meaning: As Devas are entrusted with providing the various necessities of life, they being satisfied by the performance of yajnas [sacrifice], bestow all necessities to man. But he who enjoys these gifts, without offering them to the Devas, is certainly a thief.

One should understand that all the necessities of life that the human society requires are supplied by the Devas who act as agents of the Lord. Take, for example, all the eatables of human society. These eatables include grains, fruits, vegetables, milk, etc., none of which can be manufactured by men. None of the essential things such as heat, light, water, air, etc., which are necessary for sustenance of life—none of them can be manufactured by humans. Without the Supreme Lord, there can be no Sunlight, Moonlight, rainfall, breeze, etc., without which nothing can thrive. Obviously, our life is dependent on the supplies from the Lord.

We should make proper use of all the resources to keep ourselves fit and healthy for the purpose of self-realization, leading to the Ultimate goal of life i.e., liberation from the material struggle for existence. This aim of life is attained by performance of yajnas. If we forget the purpose of human life and simply take supplies from the agents of the Lord for sense gratification and become more and more entangled in material existence, we become thieves, and therefore we are punished by the laws of material nature. A society of thieves can never be happy because they have no aim in life. The gross materialist thieves have no ultimate goal of life. They are simply directed to sense gratification; nor do they have knowledge of how to perform yajnas.

The words yagna-bhavitah means honoured by worship. The worship of pleasing the Devas in whom Bhagavan Krishna resides as the inner-soul or Atma, will confer prosperity and abundance on those who perform the yajnas.

But if one should try to enjoy the gifts granted by them without first offering them back, such a person is a thief – ‘Stena eva sah’ means ‘such a person is certainly a thief’.

3.13      Shloka 3.13

यज्ञशिष्टाशिनः सन्तो मुच्यन्ते सर्वकिल्बिषैः।
भुञ्जते ते त्वघं पापा ये पचन्त्यात्मकारणात्।।3.13।।
Yajna-sistasinah santo mucyante sarva-kilbisaih |
Bhunjate te tv agham papa ye pacanty atma-karanat ||3.13||

Meaning: The devotees of the Lord are released from all kinds of sins because they eat food which is first offered to the Devas to propitiate them. Others, who prepare food for their own consumption, those sinners eat only sin.

The devotees of the Supreme Lord are called santas or virtuous. Such devotees always perform yajnas through different modes of devotional service, such as Sravanam (listening to Lord’s glory), kirtanam (singing kirtans of the Lord), smaranam (contemplating on Him), arcanam (offering mantras), etc., and while performing these forms of yajnas, they always keep themselves aloof from all kinds of contamination of sinful association in the material world. They partake in the food only after offering it to the Devas. Therefore, those that eat food after it has been offered in yagna are faultless.

Those who prepare food from funds honestly acquired with the sole objective of worshipping the Supreme Lord Krishna who resides as the inner-soul within themselves as well as within all the Devas and every living entity; and those who only partake of such duly consecrated food become absolved of all sins accumulated over time.

But those sinful victims who do not first offer to the Supreme Lord what was gifted to them and instead prepare and eat it appropriating it for themselves eat only sin. The word ‘agham’ means ‘sin’ denoting the grave consequences for such wilful actions.

It should be clearly understood that the observance of yagna is essential for one’s spiritual advancement and liberation from the material world.

3.14      Shloka 3.14

अन्नाद्भवन्ति भूतानि पर्जन्यादन्नसम्भवः।
यज्ञाद्भवति पर्जन्यो यज्ञः कर्मसमुद्भवः।।3.14।।

Annad bhavanti bhutani parjanyad anna-sambhavah |
Yajnad bhavati parjanyo yajnah karma-samudbhavah ||3.14||
Meaning:
All living bodies subsist on food grains, which are produced from rain. Rains are produced by performance of yajna [sacrifice], and yajna is born of prescribed duties.

Production of food is dependent on rain and rain is dependent on yagna which is dependent upon the activities performed by the Brahmins as prescribed in the Vedas. It has been presented in another way: the oblations offered into the fire ascend to the sun, from the sun comes clouds and rain, from rainfall food is grown and from food beings come into existence.

The Supreme Lord, who is known as the ‘yajna-purushah’, or the personal beneficiary of all sacrifices, is the master of all Devas. When Lord Vishnu is worshipped, all other Devas are also automatically worshiped. So, food offered to Lord Vishnu and then taken by us enables us to counteract all reactions of past material infections, which are impediments to the progress towards self-realization.

3.15      Shloka 3.15

कर्म ब्रह्मोद्भवं विद्धि ब्रह्माक्षरसमुद्भवम्।
तस्मात्सर्वगतं ब्रह्म नित्यं यज्ञे प्रतिष्ठितम्।।3.15।।

Karma brahmodbhavam viddhi brahmaksara-samudbhavam |
Tasmat sarva-gatam brahma nityam yajne pratisthitam ||3.15||
Meaning:  
Activities are prescribed in the Vedas, and the Vedas are directly manifested from the Supreme Lord. Consequently, all-pervading Absolute Truth is eternally situated in performing sacrifice unto the Supreme Lord.

It should be known that actions have its origins in the Brahman i.e. the Vedas. Lord Krishna by stating Brahman wants to emphasise that the all-pervading substratum of all existence is revealed in the Vedas.  Transforming from the mantras into actions as prescribed by the Vedas, one performs yajnas for the forces of nature, sun, moon, clouds and rain etc. for food. Although nature is seen as a force of action, it is actually supported fully by the underlying energy of the Supreme Brahman.

The words ‘sarva-gatam’ means all-pervading or indestructible. The soul is known to be indestructible and all pervading. Through the auspices of the soul the physical body through the manifestations of nature partakes food and gains strength becoming fit for performing actions authorised by the Vedas. The word ‘udbhavan’ means ‘originate from’ and is used to illustrate that this fitness comes from the source that is nature. Therefore, the all-pervading and indestructible atma or soul utilises a physical body which is its substratum, in the same way as the material nature, to perform sacrifices eternally unto the Supreme Lord.

3.16      Shloka 3.16

एवं प्रवर्तितं चक्रं नानुवर्तयतीह यः।
अघायुरिन्द्रियारामो मोघं पार्थ स जीवति।।3.16।।

Evam pravartitam cakram nanuvartayatiha yah |
Aghayur indriyaramo mogham partha sa jivati ||3.16||
Meaning:
My dear Arjuna, a man who does not follow the prescribed duties in the scriptures certainly leads a life of sin wasting their life in pursuit of material gains and are trapped in sense gratification.

The word ‘agha-ayuh’ means ‘full of sin’, and this can be due to someone living a life perpetuated by sin. Food eaten that was not first sanctified by being consecrated in yagna or offering of worship beforehand ignites rajas or passions in one and incites tamas or darkness of intellect. A person in whom these dispositions are prominent becomes hostile to achieving an even rudimentary level of spiritual illumination, let alone self-realisation of the soul. Such a person only pursues actions to pleasure or gratify their senses.

Blessed with the gift of a human body, that is suitable for offering divine worship in yagna, one must nourish it with sanctified food duly consecrated, thus fulfilling the purpose of existence. If one errs and fails to honour and respect this eternal cycle given in the Vedic injunctions, then any hope of spiritual realisation will not be fulfilled and all their efforts are destined to fail thereby rendering the entire life to go to waste.

So, from this it can be understood that performing yagna as prescribed in the Vedic scriptures are essential.

3.17      Shloka 3.17

यस्त्वात्मरतिरेव स्यादात्मतृप्तश्च मानवः।
आत्मन्येव च सन्तुष्टस्तस्य कार्यं न विद्यते।।3.17।।

Yas tv atma-ratir eva syad atma-trptas ca manavah |
Atmany eva ca santustas tasya karyam na vidyate ||3.17||
Meaning:
One who is, however, remains satisfied within the Self, who is illumined in the Self, who rejoices in and is satisfied with the Self, fully satiated—for him there is no duty.

In this verse ‘trupti’ means ‘satisfied’ by how things come on their own accord, and the word ‘santustah’ means ‘fully content’. The delight which arises from being satisfied is complete contentment. One who has attained atma-tattva is no longer delighted by external events, and such a person is self-satisfied internally. The one who finds self-realisation is content and nothing else can be a cause of joy for them.  Their satisfaction and contentment is based solely on their realisation of their eternal soul within and the glories of the Supreme Lord.

For the one who has attained such a state, there are no prescribed duties as such a person is self-satisfied. In this world only human beings have the potential to achieve atma- tattva. The word ‘manavah’ means mankind and it’s only humans who can strive for self-realisation.

Lord Krishna has explained that those who possess endless desire for the enjoyment of sense objects must offer the food they eat in yagna or worship to purify themselves to perform prescribed Vedic activities.  As such a person makes spiritual advancement, they make progress and eventually can achieve Atma-tattva or soul realisation.  They are then freed from all material desires and become faultless even by not performing prescribed Vedic actions. For such a self-realised soul who has already attained the goal of human existence, no ordinances of the Vedic scripture are required of them.

3.18      Shloka 3.18

नैव तस्य कृतेनार्थो नाकृतेनेह कश्चन।
न चास्य सर्वभूतेषु कश्िचदर्थव्यपाश्रयः।।3.18।।

Naiva tasya krtenartho nakrteneha kascana |
Na casya sarva-bhutesu kascid artha-vyapasrayah ||3.18||
Meaning: 
A self-realized man has no purpose to gain from fulfilling his prescribed duties, neither any sin is incurred for non-performance of duties. Nor has he any need to depend on any other living being.

A self-realized man is no longer obliged to perform any prescribed duty, save and except activities in the service of the Lord. For one situated is atma-tattva or soul realisation, there are no demerits accruing for not performing the prescribed actions. One who is in rapt meditation on the soul within, as in a state of Samadhi, there are no dangers of incurring any demerits.

Lord Krishna has declared previously that the performer of yagna prospers and flourishes but now confirms that the knower of atma-tattva has no necessity for performing any action; nor is there any fault or defect in the omission of any such action. Such a person is perfectly equipoised and is indifferent to everything except the eternal soul which is the only medium to the Supreme Lord. Thus, completely satisfied from within, such a person has no dependence on any living being because such a person has no desire for anything from any being.

3.19      Shloka 3.19

तस्मादसक्तः सततं कार्यं कर्म समाचर।
असक्तो ह्याचरन्कर्म परमाप्नोति पूरुषः।।3.19।।

Tasmad asaktah satatam karyam karma samacara |
Asakto hy acaran karma param apnoti purusah ||3.19||
Meaning:  
Therefore, without being attached to the fruits of activities, one should act constantly as a matter of duty; for by working without attachment, one attains the Supreme.

For all those who have not achieved atma-tattva (as was Arjuna at this point), performance of prescribed actions is mandatory. Therefore, desireless, unattached action is necessary for those who are yet to realise the Self.

A person who has not attained atma-tattva or self-realisation must perform activities without desire and remain unattached to the results for spiritual advancement. This illustrates that aspirants for Moksha who are not qualified to tread the path of jnana yoga can pursue the highest goal of Moksha through Karma Yoga.

3.20      Shloka 3.20

कर्मणैव हि संसिद्धिमास्थिता जनकादयः।
लोकसंग्रहमेवापि संपश्यन्कर्तुमर्हसि।।3.20।।

Karmanaiva hi samsiddhim asthita janakadayah |
Loka-sangraham evapi sampasyan kartum arhasi ||3.20||
Meaning:  
Even kings like Janaka and others attained complete perfection by performing prescribed duties. Therefore, you should perform your work for the sake of the benefit and welfare of the world.

Lord Krishna emphasises Karma by giving examples of men who attained atma-tattva while performing actions. It also infers that by performing prescribed actions in an unattached manner one can gain wisdom. It is important to note that even after attaining moksha (liberation) these men continued to perform activities, primarily for the benefit and welfare of the people and to inspire others.

One could argue that if a person has attained atma-tattva and is free from rebirth (i.e. liberated), what is the necessity for such a person to perform any activity. Lord Krishna anticipating this says that one should consider the welfare of the people in general and perform prescribed actions to protect and to inspire them. This is important for the maintenance of the world and the preservation of creation. That is why one should still perform prescribed activities even though such actions have no further impact for the one who is a realised Soul.

जय श्री कृष्णा – Jai Shri Krishna!

Hari Om Tat Sat

SRIMAD BHAGAVAD GITA – PART 11 Chapter 3, Verses 1 to 10 – KARMA YOGA

Bhagavan Shri Krishna, in Chapter 2, explained briefly about both Karma Yoga and Jnana Yoga. He elucidated the superiority of a person situated in spiritual transcendence (Jnana Yoga).  Understandably, Arjuna is confused and therefore begins Chapter 3 with a question asking Bhagavan to explain which of the two paths will accrue the greatest benefit for him.  Also, why is He encouraging him to fight if he thought spiritual knowledge was better than work seeking rewards.

Krishna then explains ‘karma-yoga’, is a way for reaction-free righteous work and it is a necessary first step.  When work is performed as a yagna (sacrificial offering) to the Bhagavan, it frees the person from bondage of karmic reaction and leads to purification of mind and the person gains spiritual intelligence. He also explains that everyone must engage in some sort of activity in this material world and even to maintain the body one has to work. But as actions can either bind one to this world if performed without the spirit of sacrifice and hence for liberation one has to perform actions and offer it to Shri Krishna (Sarvam Shri Krishnarpanam Astu).

By performing actions with a spirit of sacrifice to the Supreme, without selfish motives, one can be liberated from the law of karma (action and reaction) and attain transcendental knowledge of the self and the Supreme.

Krishna explains that Arjuna should fight, for avoiding sinful reactions and doing one’s duties is better than attempting to escape reactions though renouncing work (Sanyaasa).

Chapter three firmly establishes the Karma Yoga is a necessary first step for all Grihastas. The performance of prescribed duties is obligatory for everyone.  In this Chapter Bhagavan Shri Krishna categorically and comprehensively explains how it is the duty of each and every member of society to carry out their functions and responsibilities in their respective stage of life.

In these first 10 verses, Bhagavan explains that actions performed without attachment and with a spirit of sacrifice does not cause bondage and frees one from karmic reactions, thus freeing one from the repeated cycles of rebirth. 

When one is able to:

  • control the senses and the mind,
  • offers the work as a yajna to the Lord
  • contemplates on the Lord constantly,
  • performs actions diligently without attachment to the results/rewards

such a person becomes pure and attains spiritual intelligence leading up to Self-realisation and liberation.

3.1       Shloka 3.1

अर्जुन उवाच
ज्यायसी चेत्कर्मणस्ते मता बुद्धिर्जनार्दन।
तत्किं कर्मणि घोरे मां नियोजयसि केशव।।3.1।।

Arjuna Uvaca
Jyayasi cet karmanas te mata buddhir Janardana |
Tat kim karmani ghore mam niyojayasi Kesava ||3.1||
Meaning:  Arjuna said: O’ Janardhana, If spiritual intelligence is considered by you to be better than desirous actions, why are you urging me to engage in this ghastly warfare, O’Keshava?

In this verse, Arjuna is expresses his confusion arising from the instruction on the two different paths (Karma and Jnana Yoga while Bhakti was fleetingly mentioned but fully explained in Chapter 7) explained by Shri Krishna in Chapter 2. He is seeking clarity on the most suitable path for him as he was instructed on the merits of both Karma (action) and Jnana (spiritual intelligence).  In verse 2.39, Arjuna was instructed that he had the right to perform actions but not be desirous of the fruits of action. This was further emphasised in 2.47 and 2.48 where he was instructed not to be attached to fruits of actions as well as not to resort to inaction.  He was advised to perform duties with diligence and accept the fruits as God’s grace with equanimity.

He was further instructed on how to train the mind to attain a state of equanimity in 2.53. The rest of the Chapter 2 explains the process to develop spirituality and the superiority of spiritual knowledge which leads to the realisation of the ultimate truth.

Despite the elaborate instructions on spiritual intelligence, Arjuna was still being instructed to rise up and fight. These seemingly contradictory instructions caused confusion in Arjuna’s mind and he was keen to have the Supreme Lord Keshava to dispel his doubts.

3.2       Shloka 3.2

व्यामिश्रेणेव वाक्येन बुद्धिं मोहयसीव मे।
तदेकं वद निश्िचत्य येन श्रेयोऽहमाप्नुयाम्।।3.2।।

Vyamisreneva vakyena buddhim mohayasiva me        |
Tad ekam vada niscitya yena sreyo ‘ham apnuyam ||3.2||
Meaning: My intelligence is bewildered by your equivocal instructions. Therefore, please tell me decisively the path by which I may obtain the greatest benefit.

Arjuna was bewildered with the two set of instructions one explaining the benefits of the Karma Yoga (the path of duty and righteous actions) and another explaining the superiority of Jnana Yoga (the path of spiritual intelligence). Bhagavan did not specify which of these paths are suitable for Arjuna and whether he was qualified for that yet.

Arjuna is seeking a definitive instruction from Shri Krishna as he is confounded by these seemingly conflicting instructions.  It was well explained that jnana yoga or the cultivation of spiritual knowledge is the means to accomplish self-realisation of the soul. So Arjuna is seeking clarity on why he is being directed to take up arms and fulfil his duty as a Kshatriya. Arjuna now wants a single, unequivocal instruction to determine for certain exactly what course he should embark to achieve the highest good.

3.3       Shloka 3.3

श्री भगवानुवाच
लोकेऽस्मिन्द्विविधा निष्ठा पुरा प्रोक्ता मयानघ।
ज्ञानयोगेन सांख्यानां कर्मयोगेन योगिनाम्।।3.3।।

Sri Bhagavan Uvaca
Loke ‘smin dvi-vidha nistha pura prokta mayanagha  |
Jnana-yogena sankhyanam karma-yogena yoginam  ||3.3||
Meaning: Bhagavan Shri Krishna said: O’ sinless one, I had explained this earlier that in this world, there are two kinds of faith. Some yogis are inclined to understand Him by empirical, philosophical and mental contemplation while other yogis seek to realise the ultimate truth through the path of righteous action.

Lord Krishna’s reply begins with O’ sinless one, implying that Arjuna is fit to be instructed. Lord Krishna states that in this world these are the two paths aspirants can take which lead to moksha or liberation. But they both depend upon qualification of the person, as jnana yoga is suitable for some while karma yoga is suitable for others.  Bhagavan explains that Sankhya-yoga is the analytical study of the nature of spirit and matter, and is the subject matter for persons who are inclined to contemplate and understand things by philosophical thinking and experiential knowledge.  This method promotes spiritual knowledge and hence known as jnana yoga.

Men of action, although some may be possessing spiritual knowledge, because of the predominance of their worldly activities are known as karma yogis. 

The word ‘nishta’ means unflinching faith and with proper guidance of a Guru such persons attain liberation.

There is a distinction to be found in this verse, and Bhagavan says that there are yogis who have also cultivated knowledge while performing their activities and realised the soul by sheer dint of their desireless actions. Their minds becoming pure when they perform their actions meditating on the Supreme Lord within their heart without desire for rewards.  Only when the mind has become purified and is completely free from all desires by performing karma yoga without any desire for reward does one become qualified.

Lord Krishna is telling Arjuna that he has not clearly understood what has been previously spoken by Him. He clarifies to Arjuna that, in this world abounding in diversity, there are two paths for two types of humans. Not all humans in this world are born with the ambition for moksha or liberation. Neither are all humans able to embark upon the path of knowledge directly. But all of them must engage in actions at all times and they cannot stop these but must perform them without attachment to fruits. Performing actions in this way humans erase their inauspicious qualities lurking in their minds and hearts, and the senses give up their turbulence and become calm and peaceful.

3.4       Shloka 3.4

कर्मणामनारम्भान्नैष्कर्म्यं पुरुषोऽश्नुते।
संन्यसनादेव सिद्धिं समधिगच्छति।।3.4।।

Na karmanam anarambhan naiskarmyam puruso ‘snute     |
Na ca sannyasanad eva siddhim samadhigacchati            ||3.4||
Meaning: A person can never achieve freedom from reaction by merely abstaining from performing prescribed duties. Nor can one attain perfection by simply renouncing them.

A question arises, if the absence of desire for reward is the means for Moksha,  why not give up actions altogether giving no opportunity for the fruits to manifest? In this verse, Bhagavan clarifies by saying ‘na ca sannyasanad eva’ meaning ‘not just by renunciation’. So, it should be understood that not by mere absence of desires or even the absence of actions can liberation be achieved.

If one can attain Moksha merely by abstention of actions or abandonment of all actions, then liberation would be possible for all inanimate things. So, neither by the failing to perform duties nor by renouncing all actions can Moksha be achieved. It can only be achieved by one who is completely free from all desires. Actions when performed as an offering to the Supreme Lord with no desire or expectation for any reward (Nishkaama Karma) leads to perfection. The renounced order of life can be taken up after getting purified by discharging the prescribed form of duties.

As an analogy, when the rain water drops from the cloud, it is pure and uncontaminated, but as soon as it hits the ground it becomes muddy and discoloured. Similarly, we are pure original souls with a pure spirit when we are born, and a part of the Supreme Soul of Shri Krishna. But due to the conditioned life that is engaged in material pursuits, the living entities struggle through life and get contaminated. So, to purify ourselves we have to perform our prescribed duties diligently without any desire for the rewards and develop an attitude of equanimity. This will result in gradually purifying our mind and soul. Without this purification process, it is not possible to attain success merely by renunciation (Sanyaasa).  Only one with a pure heart, free from desire and attachment is known as one situated in spiritual knowledge.  Therefore, even when one is engaged in activities the mind should be fixated on Him and not waver.

3.5       Shloka 3.5

हि कश्िचत्क्षणमपि जातु तिष्ठत्यकर्मकृत्।
कार्यते ह्यवशः कर्म सर्वः प्रकृतिजैर्गुणैः     ।।3.5।।

Na hi kascit ksanam api jatu tisthaty akarma-krt   |
Karyate hy avasah karma sarvah prakrti-jair gunaih ||3.5
Meaning: No one can refrain without engaging in activity at any time, even for a moment; all men are helplessly compelled to act according to the attributes endowed by material nature (Gunas).

No living being in the material existence can remain inactive even for a moment without initiating or pursuing some activity or another.  If one should steadfastly determines to perform absolutely nothing, still one would be compelled by the qualities of the three Gunas, namely Sattva (goodness), rajas (passion) and tamas (indolent), all from prakriti, material nature.

It is the nature of the soul to be always active. Without the presence of the spirit soul, the material body cannot move. As such, the spirit soul has to be engaged in good work, otherwise it will be engaged in occupations dictated by the senses.

Thus, by adhering to Karma yoga, the yoga of actions without desires, one’s accumulated sins will gradually dissolve and mastery over the Gunas and prakriti is achieved and the mind becomes pure and one attains spiritual knowledge or jnana yoga. Otherwise as Lord Krishna states anyone attempting to pursue jnana yoga in lieu of this is a charlatan and all their attempts is merely a charade.

3.6       Shloka 3.6

कर्मेन्द्रियाणि संयम्य आस्ते मनसा स्मरन्।
इन्द्रियार्थान्विमूढात्मा मिथ्याचारः उच्यते।।3.6।।

Karmendriyani samyamya ya aste manasa smaran  |
Indriyarthan vimudhatma mithyacarah sa ucyate ||3.6||
Meaning: One who restrains the senses and organs of action, but whose mind dwells on sense objects, certainly deludes himself and is called a pretender.

He who makes a show of being a yogi, while actually searching for the objects of sense gratification, must be called a charlatan, even though he may sometimes speak of philosophy. Such knowledge has no value because such a person’s mind is always impure, and therefore the yogic meditation acquires no merit whatsoever.  A person acting in such a manner is only deceiving himself and surely will never succeed in realising the eternal soul.

One who is able to restrain the body from sense objects, may still find their mind wandering towards sense objects. The mind cannot be free from attachment to sense objects unless there is perfection in karma yoga.  It is not possible to gain spiritual knowledge without first gaining mastery over the senses and control over the mind.

3.7       Shloka 3.7

यस्त्विन्द्रियाणि मनसा नियम्यारभतेऽर्जुन।
कर्मेन्द्रियैः कर्मयोगमसक्तः विशिष्यते।।3.7।।

Yas tv indriyani manasa niyamyarabhate ’rjuna  |
Karmendriyaih karma-yogam asaktah sa visisyate ||3.7||
Meaning: But anyone who controls the senses with the mind and engages in performing actions without attachment to the results is far superior.

Lord Krishna previously spoke of the pretensions of the pretenders renouncing all actions with great effort by forcefully subjugating the desires of the mind. Now to show the predominant role of the mind in influencing our thoughts, he uses the word ‘manasa’. Karma yoga, the yoga of actions, is about performing actions without attachment or desires. By diverting the senses from sense objects by controlling the mind one begins the process of contemplation of the self which when unattached to the desire for anything,  gradually leads one towards self realisation. So, the discipline of karma yoga, the practice of selfless actions, is essential for spiritual development.

3.8       Shloka 3.8

नियतं कुरु कर्म त्वं कर्म ज्यायो ह्यकर्मणः।
शरीरयात्रापि ते प्रसिद्ध्येदकर्मणः।।3.8।।

Niyatam kuru karma tvam karma jyayo hy akarmanah |
Sarira-yatrapi ca te na prasiddhyed akarmanah        ||3.8||
Meaning: Perform your prescribed duty, for action is better than inaction. A man cannot even maintain his physical body without work.

One should note that by the use of ‘tvam’ Lord Krishna is asserting that Arjuna should be detached from his actions and perform his duty. Action is superior to inaction because by performing righteous actions one expends ‘prarabdha karma’. Realistically not performing actions is also not practical because without actions one is not able even to maintain the physical body.

3.9       Shloka 3.9

यज्ञार्थात्कर्मणोऽन्यत्र लोकोऽयं कर्मबन्धनः।
तदर्थं कर्म कौन्तेय मुक्तसंगः समाचर।।3.9।।

Yajnarthat karmano ‘nyatra loko ‘yam karma-bandhanah |
Tad-artham karma kaunteya mukta-sangah samacara  ||3.9||
Meaning: This whole world is bound by actions except for actions that are offered as a yajna (sacrifice) to the Supreme Lord. Therefore, O’ Son of Kunti, perform your prescribed duties for His satisfaction, and that way you will always remain unattached from karmic reactions and remain free from bondage.

Since, one has to work even for the maintenance of the body, the prescribed duties have to be fulfilled. Yajna means Lord Vishnu, and also sacrificial performances. All sacrificial performances also are meant for the satisfaction of Lord Vishnu – ‘yajno vai Vishnuh’.  Any other work done in this material world will be a cause of bondage, for both good and evil work have their reactions, and any reaction binds the performer. Therefore, one has to have a spirit of sacrifice while performing actions and renounce the fruits of their actions.

Lord Krishna uses the word sanga which means attachment will be there when the action is undertaken for self-service but as an offering to the Supreme Lord one is free from such bondage.  The Supreme Lord recognising such devotion, will mitigate all the sins and the merits from such offered actions which bind one to receiving punishment or rewards that result in an unending cycle of rebirth and death, and grant salvation.

3.10     Shloka 3.10

सहयज्ञाः प्रजाः सृष्ट्वा पुरोवाच प्रजापतिः।
अनेन प्रसविष्यध्वमेष वोऽस्त्विष्टकामधुक्।।3.10।।

Saha-yajnah prajah srstva purovaca prajapatih |
Anena prasavisyadhvam esa vo ‘stv ista-kama-dhuk ||3.10||
Meaning:  In the beginning of Creation, Prajapati (Brahma) after producing all beings by performing a sacrifice for Lord Vishnu, blessed them by saying, ‘May you evolve and prosper by this yajna [sacrifice] and let it bestow upon you all desirable things.’

All living entities within the material creation are conditioned by material nature because of their forgetfulness of their relationship to the Supreme.  The Lord says ‘Vedais ca sarvair aham eva vedyah’ meaning that the purpose of the Vedas is to understand Him.

In the Srimad-Bhagavatam, Sukadeva Gosvami describes the Lord as pati in so many ways:
Sriyah-patir yajna-patih praja-patir dhiyam patir loka-patir dhara-patih
Patir gatis candhaka-vrsni-satvatam prasidatam me bhagavan satam patih (Srimad Bhagavatam 2.4.20)
Meaning: May the Lord, who is the consort of Lakshmi, who is the object of all Yajns for all devotees, the protector of all and glory of all the Kings like Andhaka and Vṛṣṇi of the Yadu dynasty, the leader of all living entities, the controller of all intelligence, the proprietor of all planets, spiritual and material, and the supreme incarnation on the earth (the Supreme all in all), be merciful upon me.

In Srimad-Bhagavatam a special reference is made to the Sankirtana-yajna:
Krishna-varnam tvisakrsnam sangopangastra-parsadam  |
Yajnaih sankirtana-prayair yajanti hi su-medhasah ||BG 11.5.32||
Meaning: In this age of Kali, people who are endowed with sufficient intelligence will worship the Lord, who is accompanied by His associates, by performance of sankirtana-yajna.

In this age of Kali, but the Sankirtana-yajna is easy and sublime for all purposes.

जय श्री कृष्णा – Jai Shri Krishna!

Hari Om Tat Sat