Path Of Actions
Arjuna Is Confused
At this stage Arjuna asks why, if Shri Krishna was against actions he was asking hi m to fight. (3:3)
Jnanayoga And Karmayoga – Both Have Common Goal
Shri Krishna said, “While I was telling you about the Buddhiyoga, naturally I also told you about Sankhya philosophy. But both have been only expounded by me from time immemorial. Through the practice of Jnyanayoga (the Yoga of Knowledge) of the Sankhyas a seeker attains Self-realisation and becomes one with me immediately. Karmayoga (Yoga of Action) is a slow-speed path in which a seeker diligently practices actions according to Swadharma and attains liberation at an appropriate time. (Saint Dnyaneshwar compares these two aspects to a fruit on a tree which a bird (Jnanayogi i.e. a follower of Jnanayoga) can fly and eat directly while a human being (Karmayogi i.e. a follower of Karmayoga) has to laboriously climb the tree, branch after branch, to get at it. Both paths, though outwardly different, lead to the same result. But which path to follow depends upon the capability of the seeker. (3:33-44).
Importance Of Actions
Abandoning action is not non-action : If without doing the prescribed actions first one says that “I am abandoning actions like a Siddha”, then that will not at all constitute non-action for him. Because it is foolish to think that non-action is the same thing as not doing the duties that have fallen to one’s lot. (3:45- 46). As long as one is in his body and has desires, actions cannot be abandoned; certain natural duties (like earning livelihood, preparation of food, having progeny etc.) have perforce to be performed.
But the actions become non-actions when one is ceaselessly content. Therefore one who wants to achieve non-action should never give up the prescribed actions. (3:47- 50)
It is Maya which controls the material universe. (See the note at the end of Ch 2). Therefore, to say that ‘I shall do this and not do that’ is ignorance. Even if one stops doing one’s duties, the organs have to continue with their own natural duties. (3:53- 54). Then what is it that one is giving up? (3:58) Therefore, a person under the control of nature or Maya cannot give up actions. (3:63).
Some may try to attain the state of non-action by giving up prescribed duties and by controlling the tendencies of their senses. But as long as thoughts about actions continue to occupy their minds they cannot be said to have achieved non-action even though outwardly they may hypocritically pretend to have abandoned actions. Such natives must be without doubt considered to be engrossed in sense-objects. (3:64- 66).
A Desireless Person
In this context listen to the characteristics of a desireless person. (3:67). Such a person though outwardly he may behave like others, is internally steady, always absorbed in the meditation on the Supreme Self. Since he is in control of his sense-organs he is not afraid of sense-objects and nor does he avoid his duties. While he lets his action-organs do their task he is not affected by the resultant feelings. He is not influenced by delusion or by lust. Since outwardly he behaves like others, one cannot know his inner state. Such a person may be considered as liberated. Such a liberated person should be specifically called a yogi. Therefore Arjuna, be such a yogi and let your mind be quiet and free, and let the action organs do their duties. (3:68- 76).
Performing Prescribed Duties Is A Ceaseless Yajna
One cannot abandon worldly duties. Then why should one indulge in doing prohibited actions? Actions performed with desireless attitude leads to liberation. Actions performed by a person according to his caste as per the directions laid down for the four caste system lead to his liberation. (3:77- 78).
Performance of the duties as laid down by Swadharma is equivalent to performing a ceaseless Yajna and does not allow sins to enter the mind. One who leaves Swadharma and prefers improper actions gets bound to the worldly birth and death cycles. (3:81-82).
Shri Krishna then told Arjuna the following old legend:
When Brahmadev created this world, he created at the same time both humans and the code of behaviour or actions (Dharma) for them. But the code was subtle and men could not understand it. So they asked Brahmadev,
“On what basis do we exist here?” (3:86-87).
Act as per the code Brahmadeo replied, “I have already set the code of actions depending upon your caste. Let your actions be guided by it and your wishes will be fulfilled with ease. Do not trouble your body by performing Vratas (observance of austerities like fast sometimes with rituals) and penances. Do not go far away for pilgrimage. Do not observe yoga and similar techniques, penance with desire or mantra and tantra techniques. Do not worship other deities. Perform the natural yajna of doing actions as per the code (Dharma) and the actions will become successful. If you worship the deities by performing actions as per the code then the deities will be pleased and give you the desired objects and will sustain you. You will enjoy the good things of life and be happy.” (3:88-95).
When you worship the deities by doing actions as prescribed by Swadharma, the deities will be pleased with you and there will develop a mutual love between both of you. (3:96-97).
Violators of code shall be punished And Brahmadeo also warned that, “But if any person, after thus gaining wealth becomes lusty and behaves by the tendencies of the sense objects and will not use the wealth given to him by the deities to worship God, will not give offerings to Fire and donate food, will not show devotion to the Guru, will not welcome the guests and will not satisfy his community, such a person will face many calamities, lose his wealth and will not be able to enjoy it. (3:103-108). He who forsakes his code loses his liberty. Fate punishes him considering him a thief and snatches everything from him. (3:111-112). Even if he asks for mercy he is not set free up till the end of time. (3:115). Therefore one should always be alert and follow one’s code.” (3:118).
Utilisation of Wealth Brahmadeo further said, “He who, with desireless mind spends his wealth for the duties prescribed by Swadharma, worships his Guru, well-wishers and Fire, and after performing Shraddha of forefathers (ritual of offering of food etc. to the dead forefathers) and other yajna rituals through the hands of brahmins, partakes of the remaining food along with his family, gets his sins washed and becomes free of all blemishes. (3:119-123). Therefore wealth earned by actions according to Swadharma should be spent according to Swadharma and whatever remains should be enjoyed with satisfaction. (3:124-125).”
Food a form of Brahman Shri Krishna continued, “But those sinners who, by considering themselves to be only the body and not the soul, do not see the sense-objects as anything other than means of enjoyment and who instead of considering the earned wealth as the material for yajna, use it selfishly for their own pleasures, (for example) prepare tasty food and consume it themselves, actually consume sin. (3:125-129).
All wealth is a means of yajna in the form of Swadharma-based actions and should thus be offered to God. Instead, these fools prepare various types of food for themselves. The food which fulfils a yajna is no ordinary thing. It is actually a form of Brahman because life of all creatures depends upon it. (3:130-133).
Creatures grow by food, food grows by rain, rain falls because of yajna and yajna is performed by actions which are prescribed in the Vedas which have originated from the indestructible Brahman. Therefore the Brahman pervades all the living and non-living objects. Thus, the basis of the yajna performed by actions are the immortal Vedas. Thus, Vedas permanently reside in the prescribed actions. Thus I have told you in short the background of the yajna as part of Swadharma. (3:134-138).
Therefore, a proud arrogant person who does not behave properly as per Swadharma and instead by evil deeds spends time in physical pleasures is a sinner and burden to this earth.
His life and works being fruitless are wasted. (3:139-141). Duties accompany the body at birth. Duties naturally come with the body i.e. as soon as a person is born, therefore why should one avoid proper actions? Those who avoid the duties even after attaining the human body are ignorant. (3:141-144).
But he who is always engrossed in the Self does not get bound by the actions even while going about doing his duty because he is satiated with the knowledge of the Self and with that he has finished the duties of this lifetime. Therefore he does not get loaded by his actions. (3:146-147).
Just as the means of satisfaction become irrelevant when one becomes satisfied, the desireless actions according to Swadharma are relevant only until one attains the knowledge of the Self. (3:148-149)
Therefore Arjuna, you should control your organs, leave selfish desires, and follow what is prescribed by Swadharma. Those who follow Swadharma with desireless attitude attain Brahman in this world. (3:150-151).
Actions As An Example To Others
There is another advantage gained by performing prescribed actions. When we do our duties, others note and follow and thereby they are saved from pitfalls. Particularly those who have attained Self-realisation and reached a perfectly desireless state should perform duties for the guidance of others even after Self-realisation. (3:153-155). If a man of knowledge does not teach others by his actions then how will the ignorant understand and take to good path? It is natural for ordinary people to emulate the actions of the big, thinking them to be the prescribed actions. Therefore one should not abandon one’s duties. Especially the saints and similar persons must perform their duties. (3:157-159).
Even God has to set example by actions Why talk of others? Even I follow this path of actions. I do so not because I am in difficulty or desire something. You are aware that there is nobody in this world who has reached more perfection than I have. (3:160-162). I carry out prescribed duties in such a way that people get the impression that I do them out of some desire. But I do the duties only because all creatures are dependent on me and they should not behave wantonly. (3:164-165).
If I were to remain engrossed in the Self after reaching perfection, how would people cope up with life? If people emulate me in that condition the entire world will stop functioning. Therefore particularly a capable person who has attained knowledge should not abandon actions. (3:166-168). A desireless person must attend to actions with the same readiness as one with desire but without posing as somebody special. I am telling this to you repeatedly because it is essential that society be protected in every way and one should never show that he is different from the others. (3:169-171).
Jnanayoga Not To Be Told To The Unfit
Never sing even by mistake, praises of the path of non-action to a person who is fit only for path of action. Such a person should be told the importance of proper actions and guided towards performance of good actions by setting him an example by own behaviour. If one performs actions for protecting the society such actions do not bind him against liberation. In this way even persons of knowledge perform good deeds with desireless and dispassionate attitude for serving people. (3:173-176)
One should not also tell about this profound spiritual path to an ignorant person who, ignoring the fact that all actions are caused by Maya (or nature_ thinks, because of the ego and narrow thinking, that he is the doer. (3:178-179). Maya, the creator of all actions is absent in a person who has realised Self. Such persons give up the I-am-the-body ego, understand the unique relation between the attributes and actions and remain in the body with uninvolved attitude. Therefore even by remaining in the body, the actions do not touch them. (3:181-183). A person who is under the influence of the attributes and acts under the control of Maya is alone affected by actions. Because organs, with the help of the attributes behave according to their own nature but he claims the credit for their actions. (3:184-185).
Therefore Arjuna, you perform all the prescribed actions and make their offering to me but concentrate your attention on the Self. Do not harbour an ego like “This is the action, I am its doer and I am going to do it.” Do not go after this body, shed all desires and enjoy or endure whatever comes to your lot. (3:186-188). Those who accept with respect this firm opinion of mine and behave according to it with faith will be free from the binding of their actions.(3:192-193).
A wise person should never pamper the organs. (3:202). When the body is controlled by others why should one accumulate the fruits of actions for it. (3:205). Ordinarily, mind experiences pleasure when the organs are provided with the sense-objects. But just as the company of a robber is safe for a short time, only up to the village boundary, the lust residing in the organs leads them to depravity. (3:210-211, 213). The desire for sense-pleasures causes anger and destroys the intellect. Desire and anger are both extremely dangerous; therefore shed their company. Do not let the nectar of experience of the Self be spoilt by even the thought of desire and anger. (3:215-218).
Importance Of Dharma
It is advantageous to practice one’s own Dharma, however difficult, rather than that of others even if the latter may appear attractive. (3:219-220). Would one demolish one’s own thatched hut by comparing it to the white mansions of others? (3:223). Similarly, even if one’s Dharma is painful and difficult to practice, it is that which makes his afterlife happy. (3:225). Therefore by taking into account his own benefit, one should not do actions which may befit others but not to himself. Even if one has to sacrifice one’s life while practising Swadharma it is good because it will establish one’s greatness in both the worlds. (3: 228-229).
At this point Arjuna asked, “Who are responsible for making even persons of Knowledge distort their thinking and go astray?” He also asked other questions broadly in the same vein. (3:232-238).
Desire And Anger Obstruct Liberation
Shri Krishna replied, “Desire and anger dwelling in a person’s mind are the two merciless culprits who are responsible for it. They keep people away from Knowledge and Devotion. (3:240-241). They rule the whole world by means of delusion etc. They are generated from the Rajas (action) attribute in the mind and are the root of the demoniacal endowment. They thrive on ignorance of the mind and are the source of the demoniacal actions. Though they arise from the Rajas attribute, they are favourites of the Tamas attribute which is the main constituent of indiscrimination and delusion. (3:243-244). They operate through hope and delusion. (3:246-247). Desire and anger are closely connected with ego and delusion. Because of them, falsehood and hypocrisy have prevailed over truth and by destroying peace and through the importance given to Maya, minds of even saints have been polluted. (3:249-251). They destroy the sense of discrimination, of dispassion and control over senses. They destroy happiness by destroying Knowledge and instil the three forms of torture (personal, external and elemental) in the hearts of people. After birth they are attached to the physical body and reside in the mind and therefore cannot be discovered even by Brahmadev. They destroy the personality of even a person of Knowledge and nobody can control them. (3:253-256). Pure Knowledge is always associated with desire and anger and is veiled by them. (3:262). Therefore one should first conquer them before attaining Knowledge. It is however very difficult to do so because more one tries more it helps them to strengthen their hold and because of this even Hathayogis are defeated. There is only one method of bringing them under control. (3:264-267).
Losing Desire And Anger Leads To Self-Realization
Their original residence is in the sense-organs from where impetus for action originates. Therefore it is necessary to exercise control on the sense-organs which will restrict your mind from the pleasure-seeking tendency. This will free your intellect and thus they will lose their support. (3:268-269). Once a person loses anger and desire, the person will realise Brahman in whose bliss he will enjoy. This is the secret between a Guru and his disciple and it is also the union of the Self and the Brahman in which he remains stable perpetually. (3:271-272).