Bhagavadgītā Chapter III

Highlighted Text by Dr. Radhakrishnan

Sanskrit Text, Word Translation and Transliteration by Veeraswamy Krishnaraj


Karma Yoga or the Method of Work

Why then work at all?


अर्जुन उवाच

ज्यायसी चेत्कर्मणस्ते मता बुद्धिर्जनार्दन ।

तत्किं कर्मणि घोरे मां नियोजयसि केशव ॥३- १॥  3.1

arjuna uvāca
jyāyasī cet karmaṇas te matā buddhir janārdana
tat kiṁ karmaṇi ghore māṁ niyojayasi keśava 3.1

arjuna uvāca

jyāyasī1 cet2 karmaṇa3 te4 matā5 buddhi6 janārdana7
tat8 kim9 karmaṇi10 ghore11 mām12 niyojayasi13 keśava14   3.1

arjuna = Arjuna; uvāca = said;  janārdana7= O Janardana; cet2 = if it is; te4 = your; matā5 = sentiment, opinion, view; [that] buddhi6 = Wisdom;  jyāyasī1 = is excellent, is superior;  karmaṇa3 = to action; tat8 = therefore; kim9 = why; [are You]  niyojayasi13 mām12 = getting me involved; ghore11 = in terrible, horrible; karmaṇi10 = action; keśava14   = O Kesava (Krishna)?  3.1 

Arjuna said:

(3.1) If thou deemest that (the path of) understanding is more excellent than (the path of) action, O Janārdana (Kṛṣṇa), why then dost thou urge me to do this savage deed, O Keśava (Kṛṣṇa)?

Arjuna misunderstands the teaching that work for reward is less excellent than work without attachment and desire and believes that Kṛṣṇa is of the view that knowledge without action is better than work and asks, if you think that knowledge is superior to action, why do you ask me to engage in this frightful work? If the Sāṁkhya method of gaining wisdom is superior, then action is an irrelevance.


व्यामिश्रेणेव वाक्येन बुद्धिं मोहयसीव मे ।

तदेकं वद निश्चित्य येन श्रेयोऽहमाप्नुयाम् ॥३- २॥

vyāmiśreṇeva vākyena buddhiṁ mohayasīva me
tad ekaṁ vada niścitya yena śreyoham āpnuyām 3.2

vyāmiśreṇa1A iva1B vākyena2 buddhim3 mohayasi4 iva5 me6
tat7 ekam8 vada9 niścitya10 yena11 śreya12 aham13 āpnuyām14  3.2

mohayasi4 = You are perplexing; me6= my; buddhim3 = understanding, perception; iva5 = as such; vyāmiśreṇa1A iva1B = by confusing; vākyena2 = words. vada9 = Tell, say; niścitya10 = with certainty;  tat7 = that; ekam8 = one;  yena11 = by which [by one of which--knowledge or action];  śreya12 + aham13 + āpnuyām14   =  I13 may gain14  eminence12.  3.2

(3.2) With an apparently confused utterance thou seemest to bewilder my intelligence. Tell (me) then decisively the one thing by which I can attain to the highest good.

iva: confusion is only seeming. It is not the intention of the teacher to confuse Arjuna but yet Arjuna is confused.1

1 paramakāruṇikasya tava mohakatvaṁ nasty eva, tathapi bhrāntyā

mamaiuam bhātītī'vaśabdenoktam. Śrīdhara.

Life is Work; Unconcern for Results is Needful


लोकेऽस्मिन्द्विविधा निष्ठा पुरा प्रोक्ता मयानघ ।

ज्ञानयोगेन सांख्यानां कर्मयोगेन योगिनाम् ॥३- ३॥

śrībhagavān uvāca
lokesmin dvividhā niṣṭhā purā proktā mayānagha
jānayogena sāṅkhyānāṁ karmayogena yoginām 3.3

śrībhagavān uvāca
loke1 asmin2 dvi-vidhā3 niṣṭhā4 purā5 proktā6 mayā7 anagha8
jāna-yogena9 sāṅkhyānām10 karma-yogena11 yoginām12  

śrībhagavān = Sri Bhagavan (Krishna); uvāca = said: anagha8= O Stainless one, O faultless one; dvi-vidhā3 = two kinds of ; niṣṭhā4 = Nishtai, steadfast application;  loke1 asmin2 = in this world; proktā6 = was said;  purā5 = in the past;  mayā7 =  by Me:  jāna-yogena9 = by Jnana Yoga, Yoga of Knowledge; sāṅkhyānām10 = for Sankhya Yogi; karma-yogena11 = Karma Yoga; yoginām12 = for the Karma Yogi. 3.3

The Blessed Lord said:

(3.3) O, blameless One, in this world a two-fold way of life has been taught of yore by Me, the path of knowledge for men of contemplation and that of works for men of action.

The teacher distinguishes, as modem psychologists do, two main types of seekers, introverts whose natural tendency is to explore the inner life of spirit and extroverts whose natural bias is towards work in the outer world. Answering to these, we have the yoga of knowledge, for those whose inner being is bent towards flights of deep spiritual contemplation, and the yoga of action for energetic personalities with love of action. But this distinction is not ultimate, for all men are in different degrees both introverts and extroverts.

For the Gītā, the path of works is a means of liberation quite as efficient as that of knowledge, and these are intended for two classes of people. They are not exclusive but complementary. The path is one whole including different phases. Cp. "Such are the two modes of life, both of which are supported by the Vedas the one is the activistic path; the other that of renunciation.1 The two modes of life are of equal value. The teacher points out that jāna or wisdom is not incompatible with karma or action. S. admits that work is compatible with enlightenment. Work is adopted not as a means to the gaining of wisdom but as an example to the ordinary people. In the work of the en lightened as in that of the teacher of the Gītā, the self-sense and expectation of reward are absent.2

1dvāv imav atha panthānau yasmin vedāh pratiṣṭhitāḥ

pravṛttilakṣaṇo dharmaḥ nivṛttis ca vibhāṣitaḥ. M.B., Śāntiparva, 240, 6.

2Ahhinavagupta quotes this verse.

na kriyārahita Jānam na jānarahitā kriyā

jānarakriyāviniṣpanna acāryaḥ paśupāśahā.--S.B.G., II.11.

न कर्मणामनारम्भान्नैष्कर्म्यं पुरुषोऽश्नुते ।

न च संन्यसनादेव सिद्धिं समधिगच्छति ॥३- ४॥

na karmaṇām anārambhān naiṣkarmyaṁ puruṣośnute
na ca saṁnyasanād eva siddhiṁ samadhigacchati 3.4

na1 karmaṇām2 anārambhāt3 naiṣkarmyam4 puruṣa5 aśnute6
na7 ca8 sannyasanāt9 eva10 siddhim11 samadhigacchati12    3.4

na1 = Neither; [because]  puruṣa5 = man; anārambhāt3 karmaṇām2 = does not initiate3 action2;

 [he] aśnute6 = attains; naiṣkarmyam4 = abandonment of action; na7 ca8 eva10 = nor because; sannyasanāt9 = of renunciation [of action]; [he] samadhi-gacchati12  = attains; siddhim11 = Siddhi, accomplishment, performance, fulfillment, complete attainment (of any object), success.    3.4

(3.4) Not by abstention from work does a man attain freedom from action; nor by mere renunciation does he attain to his perfection.

Naiṣkarmya is the state where one is unaffected by work. The natural law is that we are bound by the results of our actions. Every action has its natural reaction and so is a source of bondage committing the soul to the world of becoming and preventing its union with the Supreme through the transcendence of the world. What is demanded is not renunciation of works, but renunciation of selfish desire.

न हि कश्चित्क्षणमपि जातु तिष्ठत्यकर्मकृत् ।

कार्यते ह्यवशः कर्म सर्वः प्रकृतिजैर्गुणैः ॥३- ५॥

na hi kaścit kṣaṇam api jātu tiṣṭhaty akarmakṛt
kāryate hy avaśaḥ karma sarvaḥ prakṛtijair guṇaiḥ 3.5

na1 hi2 kaścit3 kṣaṇam4 api5 jātu6 tiṣṭhati7 akarma-kṛt8
kāryate9 hi10 avaśaḥ11 karma12 sarvaḥ13 prakṛti-jai14 guṇaiḥ15   3.5

hi2 = Certainly; na1 =no; kaścit3 = one; jātu6 = any time; tiṣṭhati7 = remains; api5 = even; [for] kṣaṇam4 = a moment; akarma-kṛt8 = without performing action. hi10 = Assuredly; sarvaḥ13 = all (of humanity or creatures);  kāryate9 = are made to do; karma12 = action;  [due to] avaśaḥ11 = loss of vasam or control, against their free will; guṇaiḥ15 = by the Gunas prakṛtijair14 = prakṛti + jaiḥ =  born of Prakrti or Nature.  3.5

(3.5) For no one can remain even for a moment without doing work; everyone is made to act helplessly by the impulses born of nature.

So long as we lead embodied lives, we cannot escape from action. Without work life cannot be sustained. 1 Ᾱnandagiri points out that he who knows the self is not moved by the gunas, but he who has not controlled the body and the senses is driven to action by the guṇas,

By implication the view that the released soul ceases to work, as all work is a derogation from the supreme state, a return to ignorance, is rejected. While life remains, action is unavoidable. Thinking is an act; living is an act--and these acts cause many effects. To be free from desire, from the illusion of personal interest, is the true non-action and not the physical abstention from

When it is said that works cease for a man who is liberated, all that is meant is that he has no further personal necessity for works. It does not mean that he flees from action and takes refuge in blissful inaction. He works as God works, without any binding necessity or compelling ignorance and even in performing work, he is not involved. When his egoism is removed, action springs from the depths and is governed by the Supreme secretly seated in his heart. Free from desire and attachment, one with all beings, he acts out of the profoundest depths of his inner being, governed by his immortal, divine, highest self.

1Cp, "The eye cannot choose but see, activity.

We cannot bid the ear be still,

Our bodies feel where'er they be

Against or with our will.''


कर्मेन्द्रियाणि संयम्य य आस्ते मनसा स्मरन् ।

इन्द्रियार्थान्विमूढात्मा मिथ्याचारः स उच्यते ॥३- ६॥

karmendriyāṇi saṁyamya ya āste manasā smaran
indriyārthān vimūḍhātmā mithyācāraḥ sa ucyate 3.6

karma-indriyāṇi1 saṁyamya2 ya3 āste4 manasā5 smaran6
indriya-arthān7 vimūḍha8 ātmā9 mithyā-ācāraḥ10 sa11 ucyate12  3.6  

vimūḍha8 + ātmā9 = Foolish soul, ignoramus; ya3 = who; saṁyamya2 - bringing under control; karma-indriyāṇi1 = Sense organs (hands, feet, eyes, nose, ears);  āste4 = sits;  manasā5 + smaran6= brooding6 in the mind5; indriya-arthān7 = sense objects: sa11 ucyate12 = he11 is called12; mithyā-ācāraḥ10 = deceitful teacher. 3.6

(3.6) He who restrains his organs of action but continues in his mind to brood over the objects of sense, whose nature is deluded is said to be a hypocrite (a man of false conduct).

We may control outwardly our activities but if we do not restrain the desires which impel them, we have failed to grasp the true meaning of restraint.

यस्त्विन्द्रियाणि मनसा नियम्यारभतेऽर्जुन ।

कर्मेन्द्रियैः कर्मयोगमसक्तः स विशिष्यते ॥३- ७॥

yas tv indriyāṇi manasā niyamyārabhaterjuna
karmaindriyaiḥ karmayogam asaktaḥ sa viśiṣyate 3.7

ya1 tu2 indriyāṇi3 manasā4 niyamya5 ārabhate6 arjuna7
karma-indriyaiḥ8 karma-yogam9 asaktaḥ10 sa11 viśiṣyate12  3.7

 arjuna7 = O Arjuna; tu2 = but; ya1 = one who (the enlightened one); niyamya5 = having restrained; indriyāṇi3 = senses; manasā4 = by the mind; ārabhate6 = observes6 karma-yogam9 = Karma Yoga; asaktaḥ10 = (without adherence), unattached; karma-indriyaiḥ8 = to the organs of action (Speech--Larynx, grasp--Hands, ambulation--Feet, evacuation--Anus, procreation-Genitals) ; sa11 viśiṣyate12 = he is superior (to the deceitful teacher).  3.7

(3.7) But he who controls the senses by the mind, O Arjuna, and without attachment engages the organs of action in the path of work, he is superior.

The human will can triumph over the rigidity of law. We should not look upon the things of the world as means to our satisfaction. If we are to recover our lost equanimity, our lost integrity, our lost innocence we must see all things as manifestations of the Real and not as objects to be grasped and possessed. To develop this attitude of non-attachment to things, contemplation is essential. In verse 6 the Lord condemns mere outer renunciation and in this verse commends the true spirit of inward detachment.

The Importance of Sacrifice

नियतं कुरु कर्म त्वं कर्म ज्यायो ह्यकर्मणः ।

शरीरयात्रापि च ते न प्रसिद्ध्येदकर्मणः ॥३- ८॥

niyataṁ kuru karma tvaṁ karma jyāyo hy akarmaṇaḥ
śarīrayātrāpi ca te na prasiddhyed akarmaṇaḥ 3.8

niyatam1 kuru2 karma3 tvam4 karma5 jyāya6 hi7 akarmaṇaḥ8
śarīra9 yātrā10 api11 ca12 te13 na14 prasiddhyet15 akarmaṇaḥ16  3.8 

tvam4 = You; kuru2 = do, perform; niyatam1 = the obligatory; karma3 = actions, as enjoined by religion;  hi7 = for;  karma5 = action; [is]  jyāya6 = better, superior;  [than/to] akarmaṇaḥ8 = inaction; ca12 = and; api11 = even; te13 = your; śarīra9 = bodily; yātrā10 = upkeep;  na14 prasiddhyet15 =  is not possible; akarmaṇaḥ16 = through inaction.  3.8

(3.8) Do thou thy allotted work, for action is better than inaction; even the maintenance of thy physical life cannot be effected without action.

यज्ञार्थात्कर्मणोऽन्यत्र लोकोऽयं कर्मबन्धनः ।

तदर्थं कर्म कौन्तेय मुक्तसङ्गः समाचर ॥३- ९॥

yajārthāt karmaṇonyatra lokoyaṁ karmabandhanaḥ
tadarthaṁ karma kaunteya muktasaṅgaḥ samācara 3.9

yajaarthāt1 karmaṇa2 anyatra3 loka4 ayam5 karma-bandhanaḥ6
7 artham8 karma9 kaunteya10 mukta-saṅgaḥ11 samācara12

anyatra3 = Other than, except for; karmaṇa2 = the work; yajaarthāt1 = performed for God; [in] ayam5 = this;  lokaḥ4 = world; [is] karma-bandhanaḥ6 = bound by action; kaunteya10 = O Kaunteya, son of Kunti, Arjuna;  samācara12 = you observe;  karma9 = actions; tat7 + artham8 = for sake of God, for the sake of Yajna Purusa;  mukta-saṅgaḥ11 = devoid of attachment, freed from connection with actions and Karma.

(3.9) Save work done as and for a sacrifice this world is in bondage to work. Therefore, O son of Kuntī (Arjuna), do thy work as a sacrifice, becoming free from all attachment.

S. equates yaja with Viṣṇu, R. interprets it literally as sacrifice. All work is to be done in a spirit of sacrifice, for the sake of the Divine. Admitting the Mīmāmsā demand that we should perform action for the purpose of sacrifices, the Gītā asks us to do such action without entertaining any hope of reward. In such cases the inevitable action has no binding power. Sacrifice itself is interpreted in a larger sense. We have to sacrifice the lower mind to the higher. The religious duty towards the Vedic gods here becomes service of creation in the name of the Supreme.

सहयज्ञाः प्रजाः सृष्ट्वा पुरोवाच प्रजापतिः ।

अनेन प्रसविष्यध्वमेष वोऽस्त्विष्टकामधुक् ॥३- १०॥

sahayajāḥ prajāḥ sṛṣṭvā purovāca prajāpatiḥ
anena prasaviṣyadhvam eṣa vostv iṣṭakāmadhuk 3.10

saha1 yajāḥ2 prajāḥ3 sṛṣṭvā4 purā5 uvāca6 prajāpatiḥ7
anena8 prasaviṣyadhvam9 eṣaḥ10 vaḥ11 astu12 iṣṭa-kāma-dhuk13 3.10

purā5 = Long time ago; prajāpatiḥ7= the sovereign of beings; sṛṣṭvā4 = having done the creation; [of] prajāḥ3 = people; saha1  = along with; yajāḥ2 = sacrifices; uvāca6 = said; anena8 = by this [sacrifice]; prasaviṣyadhvam9 = carry on procreation. eṣaḥ10 astu12 = Let12 this10 [sacrifice] be; vaḥ11 = your;  iṣṭa-kāma-dhuk13  = Giver of desired objects [desired-objects of desire-yielder] kāma-dhuk is a cow of plenty. 3.10

(3.10) In ancient days the Lord of creatures created men along with sacrifice and said, "By this shall ye bring forth and this shall be unto you that which will yield the milk of your desires.''

Kāmadhuk: is the mythical cow of Indra from which one can get all one desires. By doing one's allotted duty one can be saved.

देवान्भावयतानेन ते देवा भावयन्तु वः ।

परस्परं भावयन्तः श्रेयः परमवाप्स्यथ ॥३- ११॥

devān bhāvayatānena te devā bhāvayantu vaḥ
parasparaṁ bhāvayantaḥ śreyaḥ param avāpsyatha 3.11

devān1 bhāvayata2 anena3 te4 devā5 bhāvayantu6 vaḥ7
parasparam8 bhāvayantaḥ9 śreyaḥ10 param11 avāpsyatha12  3.11

bhāvayata2 = You nourish; devān1 = the gods; anena3 = with this sacrifice.  te4 devā5 = these gods; bhāvayantu6 = nourish; vaḥ7= you.  bhāvayantaḥ9 = nourishing;[ is] parasparam8 = reciprocal.  [By this] avāpsyatha12  = you will attain; param11 = supreme; śreyaḥ10 = Good, emancipation. 3.11

(3.11) By this foster ye the gods and let the gods foster you; thus fostering each other you shall attain to the supreme good.

See M.B., Sāntiparva, 340, 59-62, where the mutual dependence of gods and men is described in similar terms.

इष्टान्भोगान्हि वो देवा दास्यन्ते यज्ञभाविताः ।

तैर्दत्तानप्रदायैभ्यो यो भुङ्क्ते स्तेन एव सः ॥३- १२॥

iṣṭān bhogān hi vo devā dāsyante yajabhāvitāḥ
tair dattān apradāyaibhyo yo bhuṅkte stena eva saḥ 3.12

iṣṭān1 bhogān2 hi3 va4 devā5 dāsyante6 yaja-bhāvitāḥ7
tai8 dattān9 apradāya10 ebhya11 ya12 bhuṅkte13 stena14 eva15 saḥ16  3.12 

yaja-bhāvitāḥ7 = Having been nourished by sacrifices; devā5 = the gods; hi3 = indeed; dāsyante6 = bestow; va4 = upon you; iṣṭān1 = yearned, desired; bhogān2 = enjoyments [wife, children cattle...--Sankara]. saḥ16  = He is; eva15 = indeed; stena14 = a thief, robber; ya12 = who; bhuṅkte13 = enjoys for himself;  dattān9 = things offered; tai8 = by them [by gods]; apradāya10 + ebhya11 =  without giving + to them [ without paying back these debts to the gods, Rishis and Manes--Sankara].  3.12

(3.I2) Fostered by sacrifice the gods will give you the enjoyments you desire. He who enjoys these gifts without giving to them in return is verily a thief. 

यज्ञशिष्टाशिनः सन्तो मुच्यन्ते सर्वकिल्बिषैः ।

भुञ्जते ते त्वघं पापा ये पचन्त्यात्मकारणात् ॥३- १३॥

yajaśiṣṭāśinaḥ santo mucyante sarvakilbiṣaiḥ
bhujate te tv aghaṁ pāpā ye pacanty ātmakāraṇāt 3.13

yaja-śiṣṭa-aśinaḥ1 santa2 mucyante3 sarva-kilbiṣaiḥ4
bhujate5 te6 tu7 agham8 pāpā9 ye10 pacanti11 ātma-kāraṇāt12    3.13

santa2 = The good people; yaja-śiṣṭa-aśinaḥ1 = who eat the remnants of sacrifices [sacrifice-remnants-eaters]; mucyante3 = get liberated; sarva-kilbiṣaiḥ4 = from all sins.  tu7 = But;  pāpāḥ9 = sinners; ye10 = who;  pacanti11 = cook food;  ātma-kāraṇāt12 = for themselves [to nourish their own bodies]-- te6 + they; bhujate5 = eat;  agham8 = sin.  3.13

(3.13) The good people who eat what is left from the sacrifice are released from all sins but those wicked people who prepare food for their own sake-verily they eat sin.

Cp, Manu, III, 76, 118.1 

1Cp, Ṛg Veda: kevalāgho bhavati kevalādi. X, 117, 6.

अन्नाद्भवन्ति भूतानि पर्जन्यादन्नसम्भवः ।

यज्ञाद्भवति पर्जन्यो यज्ञः कर्मसमुद्भवः ॥३- १४॥

annād bhavanti bhūtāni parjanyād annasaṁbhavaḥ
yajād bhavati parjanyo yajaḥ karmasamudbhavaḥ 3.14

annāt1 bhavanti2 bhūtāni3 parjanyāt4 anna-saṁbhavaḥ5
yajāt6 bhavati7 parjanya8 yajaḥ9 karma-samudbhavaḥ10 3.14

annāt1 = From food; bhavanti2 = are born; bhūtāni3 = life-forms.; parjanyāt4 = from rain; anna5A-saṁbhavaḥ5B = the production5B of food5A; yajāt6 = from Yajna or sacrifice; bhavati7 = takes origin; parjanya8 = rain.  yajaḥ9 = Sacrifice;  karma10A-samudbhavaḥ10 = arises from10B actions10A. 3.14

(3.14) From food creatures come into being; from rain is the birth of food; from sacrifice rain comes into being and sacrifice is born of work.

Cp. Manu, III, 76. 

कर्म ब्रह्मोद्भवं विद्धि ब्रह्माक्षरसमुद्भवम् ।

तस्मात्सर्वगतं ब्रह्म नित्यं यज्ञे प्रतिष्ठितम् ॥३- १५॥

karma brahmodbhavaṁ viddhi brahmākṣarasamudbhavam
tasmāt sarvagataṁ brahma nityaṁ yaje pratiṣṭhitam 3.15

karma1 brahma2 udbhavam3 viddhi4 brahma5 akṣara6 samudbhavam7
8 sarva-gatam9 brahma10 nityam11 yaje12 pratiṣṭhitam13  3.15

viddhi4 = Know; karma1 = action; udbhavam3 =  originates from; brahma2 = Veda or Brahma.  brahma5 = Brahma also known as Vedas; [has] akṣara6 = the imperishable [Brahman]; samudbhavam7 = as their origin. tasmāt8 = Therefore; sarva-gatam9 = all-pervasive;  nityam11 = eternal; brahma10 =  imperishable  Parabrahman; pratiṣṭhitam13  = abides steadfastly;  yaje12 = in sacrifice.  3.15

(3.15) Know the origin of karma (of the nature of sacrifices) to be in Brahma (the Veda) and the Brahma springs from the Imperishable. Therefore the Brahma, which comprehends all, ever centers round the sacrifice.

Action is rooted in the Imperishable. But for the action of the Supreme, the world will fall into ruin. The world is a great sacrifice. We read in the Ṛg Veda (X, 90) that the One Purusa was offered as a sacrifice and his limbs were scattered to all the quarters of space. By this great sacrifice, the world's pattern is kept up. Action is a moral as well as a physical necessity for embodied beings.1

Brahma is also taken to be prakṛti as in XIV, 3-4. Nature springs from the Divine and the entire activity of the world is traceable to it.

1Sridhara says: yajamānādi vyāpār-arūpaṁ karma brahma vedaḥ; karma tasmāt pravṛttam.

एवं प्रवर्तितं चक्रं नानुवर्तयतीह यः ।

अघायुरिन्द्रियारामो मोघं पार्थ स जीवति ॥३- १६॥

evaṁ pravartitaṁ cakraṁ nānuvartayatīha yaḥ
aghāyur indriyārāmo moghaṁ pārtha sa jīvati 3.16

evam1 pravartitam2 cakram3 na4 anuvartayati5 iha6 yaḥ7
aghāyu8 indriya-ārāma9 mogham10 pārtha11 sa12 jīvati13  3.16

yaḥ7 = He whosoever; na4 + anuvartayati5 + iha6 = does not follow in this world [does not4 pursue or follow5  in this place6]; cakram3 = the wheel; pravartitam2 = put in motion, allowed to pursue its course; evam1 = thus; aghāyu8 = agham8A + āyu8B = whose life is full of sin [sin8A + whose life8B]; indriya-ārāma9 = who indulges in sense-pleasure [Epicure]; sa12 jīvati13 = he12 lives13;  mogham10 = devoid of purpose, in vain;   pārtha11 = O Arjuna. 3.16

(3.I6) He who does not, in this world, help to turn the wheel thus set in motion, is evil in his nature, sensual in his delight, and he, O Partha (Arjuna), lives in vain.

In these verses the Vedic conception of sacrifice as an interchange between gods and men is set in the larger context of the interdependence of beings in the cosmos. The deeds done in the sacrificial spirit are pleasing to God. God is the enjoyer of all sacrifices.1 yajo vai viṣṇu.2 Sacrifice is the Supreme. It is also the law of life. The individual and the cosmos depend on each other. There is a constant interchange between human life and world life. He who works for himself lives in vain. The world is in progress because of this co-operation between the human and the divine. Only the sacrifice is not to the deities but to the Supreme of whom the deities are varied forms. In IV, 24, it is said that the act and the materials of the sacrifice, the giver and the receiver, the goal and the object of the sacrifice are all Brahman.

1See V, 29. 2 Taittirīya Saṁhitā, I, 7, 4. 

यस्त्वात्मरतिरेव स्यादात्मतृप्तश्च मानवः ।

आत्मन्येव च सन्तुष्टस्तस्य कार्यं न विद्यते ॥३- १७॥

yas tv ātmaratir eva syād ātmatṛptaś ca mānavaḥ
ātmany eva ca santuṣṭas tasya kāryaṁ na vidyate 3.17

ya1 tu2 ātma3A-rati3B eva4 syāt5 ātma6A-tṛpta6B ca7 mānavaḥ8
ātmani9 eva10 ca11 santuṣṭa12 tasya13 kāryam14 na15 vidyate16  3.17 

tu2 = But; mānavaḥ8= [that] man; ya1 = who;  syāt5 = remains [experiences]; ātma3A-rati3B = pleasure3B in Self3A [not an epicure]; eva4 = certainly;  ātma6A-tṛpta6B = one contented6B in the Self6A (and not in epicurean pleasures); ca7 = and;  santuṣṭa12 =  contented; eva10 = only;  ātmani9 = in the Self; ca11 = and; tasya13 = for him; kāryam14 = obligate duty; na15 vidyate16 = does not15  exist16.  3.17

(3.17) But the man whose delight is ill the Self alone, who is content with the Self, who is satisfied with the Self, for him there exists no work that needs to be done.

He is freed from a sense of duty. He works not out of a sense of duty or for the progressive transformation of his being but because his perfected nature issues spontaneously in action.

नैव तस्य कृतेनार्थो नाकृतेनेह कश्चन ।

न चास्य सर्वभूतेषु कश्चिदर्थव्यपाश्रयः ॥३- १८॥

naiva tasya kṛtenārtho nākṛteneha kaścana

na cāsya sarvabhūteṣu kaścid arthavyapāśrayaḥ 3.18

na1 eva2 tasya3 kṛtena4 artha5 na6 akṛtena7 iha8 kaścana9

           na10 ca11 asya12 sarva13A-bhūteṣu13B kaścit14 artha15 vyapāśrayaḥ16  3.18

tasya3 = For that man; na1 artha5 eva2  = there is no1 purpose5 ever2; kṛtena4 = for performance of action;  na6 kaścana9 akṛtena7 iha8  = nor is there6 + any (concern)9 for inaction7 + here, in this world8ca11 + asya12 = moreover11 for him12na10 = nor is there; kaścit14 = any; artha15 = purpose; vyapāśrayaḥ16 = for taking shelter; sarva13A-bhūteṣu13B = in all13A life-forms13B.  3.18

(3.I8) Similarly, in this world he has no interest 'whatever to gain by the actions that he has done and none to be gained by the actions that he has not done. He does not depend on all these beings for any interest of his.

The next verse indicates that, though the liberated man has nothing to gain by action or non-action and is perfectly happy in the possession and enjoyment of Self, there is such a thing as desireless action which he undertakes for the welfare of the world.

तस्मादसक्तः सततं कार्यं कर्म समाचर ।

असक्तो ह्याचरन्कर्म परमाप्नोति पूरुषः ॥३- १९॥

tasmād asaktaḥ satataṁ kāryaṁ karma samācara

asakto hy ācaran karma param āpnoti pūruṣaḥ 3.19

tasmāt1 asaktaḥ2 satatam3 kāryam4 karma5 samācara6

asakta7 hi8 ācaran9 karma10 param11 āpnoti12 pūruṣaḥ13 3.19 

tasmāt1 = Therefore; samācara6 = do properly; satatam3 = constantly, always, ever; kāryam4 karma5 = obligatory work, duty; asaktaḥ2 = unattached; hi8 = indeed.  ācaran9 = By performing; karma10 = duty; asakta7 = unattached [deed as dedication to God]; pūruṣaḥ13 = man; āpnoti12 = attains;  param11 = the Supreme, Paramatman, emancipation. 3.19

(3.I9) Therefore, without attachment, perform always the work that has to be done, for man attains to the highest by doing work without attachment.

Here work done without attachment is marked as superior to work done in a spirit of sacrifice which is itself higher than work done with selfish aims. Even the emancipated souls do work as the occasion arises.1

While this verse says that the man reaches the Supreme, paraṁ, performing actions, without attachment, S. holds that karma helps us to attain purity of mind which leads to salvation. It takes us to perfection indirectly through the attainment of purity of mind.2

1 Cp, Yogavāśiṭha. 'The knower has nothing to gain either by performing or by abstaining from action. Therefore he performs action as it arises." Again, "To me it is just the same whether something is done or not. Why should I insist on not performing action? I perform whatever comes to me.."

jasya nārtha karmatyāgai nārtha karmasamāśrayai

tena sthita yathā yad yat tat tathaiva karoty asau, VI, 199.

mama nāsti ktenārtho nākteneka kaścana

yathā prāptena tiṭhāmi hy akarmai ka āgraha. Ibid.,216.

sattvasuddhidvārea. See also S.B.G., III, 4.

कर्मणैव हि संसिद्धिमास्थिता जनकादयः ।

लोकसंग्रहमेवापि संपश्यन्कर्तुमर्हसि ॥३- २०॥

karmaṇaiva hi saṁsiddhim āsthitā janakādayaḥ
lokasaṁgraham evāpi saṁpaśyan kartum arhasi 3.20

karmaṇā1 eva2 hi3 saṁsiddhim4 āsthitā5 janakādayaḥ6
lokasagraham7 eva8 api9 sampaśyan10 kartum11 arhasi12 3.20

janakādayaḥ6 = Janaka and the like; karmaṇā1 eva2 = through [detached] actions; hi3 = certainly; āsthitā5 = attained [by striving];  saṁsiddhim4 = complete accomplishment or fulfillment, perfection, success; perfect state, beatitude, final emancipation.  [You]  arhasi12 = ought; kartum11 = to perform [duties]; sampaśyan10 eva8 api9  = holding in view; lokasagraham7 = the welfare of the world [holding the world together].  3.20

(3.20) It was even by works that Janaka and others attained to perfection. Thou shouldstdo works alsowith a view to the maintenance of the world.


Janaka was the king of Mithilā and father of Sita, the wife of Rama. Janaka ruled, giving up his personal sense of being the worker. Even S. says that Janaka and others worked lest people at large might go astray, convinced that their senses were engaged in activity, guṇā gueu vartante. Even those who have not known the truth might adopt works for self-purification. II, 10.

lokasaṁgraha: world-maintenance. Lokasaṁgraha stands for the unity of the world, the interconnectedness of society. If the world is not to sink into a condition of physical misery and moral degradation, if the common life is to be decent and dignified, religious ethics must control social action. The aim of religion is to spiritualize society, to establish a brotherhood on earth. We must be inspired by the hope of embodying ideals in earthly institutions. When the Indian world lost its youth, it tended to become other-worldly. In a tired age we adopt the gospel of renunciation and endurance. In an age of hope and energy we emphasize active service in the world and the saving of civilization. Boethius affirms that ''he will never go to heaven who is content to go alone."


यद्यदाचरति श्रेष्ठस्तत्तदेवेतरो जनः ।

स यत्प्रमाणं कुरुते लोकस्तदनुवर्तते ॥३- २१॥

yadyad ācarati śreṣṭhas tattad evetaro janaḥ
sa yat pramāṇaṁ kurute lokas tad anuvartate 3.21

yat1A yat1B ācarati2 śreṣṭha3 tat4 tat5 eva7 itara8 janaḥ9
10 yat11 pramāṇam12 kurute13 loka14 tat15 anuvartate16  3.21

yat1A yat1B  = Whatever and whichever;  śreṣṭha3 = great man, superior person; ācarati2 = does, performs; itara8 = another;  janaḥ9 = person; [imitates];  tat4 tat5 eva7 = that and that [action] alone.  yat11 = Whatever; sa10 = he [ the superior person]; kurute13 = upholds; [as] pramāṇam12 = testimony, [Vedic or secular authority--Sankara];  loka14 = humanity; anuvartate16 = follows tat15 = that.   3.21

 (3.21) Whatsoever a great man does, the same is done by others as well. Whatever standard he sets, the world follows.

Common people imitate the standards set by the elect. Democracy has become confused with disbelief in great men. The Gītā points out that the great men are the pathmakers who blaze the trail that other men follow. The light generally comes through individuals who are in advance of society. They see the light shining on the mountain heights while their fellows sleep in the valley below. They are, in the words of Jesus, the "salt," the "heaven," the "light" of human communities. When they proclaim the splendour of that light, a few recognize it and slowly the many are persuaded to follow them.

न मे पार्थास्ति कर्तव्यं त्रिषु लोकेषु किंचन ।

नानवाप्तमवाप्तव्यं वर्त एव च कर्मणि ॥३- २२॥

na me pārthāsti kartavyaṁ triṣu lokeṣu kiṁcana
nānavāptam avāptavyaṁ varta eva ca karmaṇi 3.22

na1 me2 pārtha3 asti4 kartavyam5 triṣu6 lokeṣu7 kiṁcana8
na9 anavāptam10 avāptavyam11 varte12 eva13 ca14 karmaṇi15

pārtha3 = Arjuna; asti4 = there is; na1 =  no;  kartavyam5 = duty; [Partha, there is no duty for me.]; me2 = for me;  kiṁcana8 = whatsoever; triṣu6 lokeṣu7 = in the three worlds:  na9 anavāptam10 = nothing unobtained;  avāptavyam11 = to be obtained.  [Yet I]  varte12 eva13  = am involved;  ca14 = also; karmaṇi15 = in action. 3.22

(3.22) There is not for me, O Partha (Arjuna), any work in the three worlds which has to be done nor anything to be obtained which has not been obtained; yet I am engaged in work.

Life of God and life of the world are not opposed to each other. 1

1 Cp, M.B. In the name of my lordship, I slave for the whole world, dāsyam aiśvaryavādena jāntināṁ tu karomy aham.

Cp, M.B., III, 313, 17.

tarko'pratiṣṭhaḥ, śrutayo vibhinnā naiko munir yasyavacaḥ pramāṇam

dharmasya tattvaṁ nihitaṁ gUhāyāṁ mahājano yena gataḥ sa panthāḥ

यदि ह्यहं न वर्तेयं जातु कर्मण्यतन्द्रितः ।

मम वर्त्मानुवर्तन्ते मनुष्याः पार्थ सर्वशः ॥३- २३॥

yadi hy ahaṁ na varteyaṁ jātu karmaṇy atandritaḥ
mama vartmānuvartante manuṣyāḥ pārtha sarvaśaḥ 3.23

yadi1 hi2 aham3 na4 varteyam5 jātu6 karmaṇi7 atandritaḥ8
mama9 vartma10 anuvartante11 manuṣyāḥ12 pārtha13 sarvaśaḥ14  3.23

hi2 = For example; yadi1 = if; aham3 = I; na4 = do not; varteyam5 = engage myself;  jātu6 = at any time, perhaps, possibly; karmaṇi7 = in action; atandritaḥ8 = attentively; pārtha13 = O Partha (Arjuna); manuṣyāḥ12 = men; anuvartante11 = follow; mama9 = my; vartma10 = path;  sarvaśaḥ14 = in all ways.  3.23

(3.23) For, if ever I did not engage in work unwearied, O Partha (Arjuna), men in every way follow my path.

उत्सीदेयुरिमे लोका न कुर्यां कर्म चेदहम् ।

संकरस्य च कर्ता स्यामुपहन्यामिमाः प्रजाः ॥३- २४॥

utsīdeyur ime lokā na kuryāṁ karma ced aham
saṁkarasya ca kartā syām upahanyām imāḥ prajāḥ 3.24

utsīdeyu1 ime2 lokā3 na4 kuryām5 karma6 cet7 aham8
saṁkarasya9 ca10 kartā11 syām12 upahanyām13 imāḥ14 prajāḥ15   3.24


ime2 = These; lokā3 = worlds; utsīdeyu1 = will come to ruin; cet7 = if; aham8= I; na4 = do not; kuryām5 = do, perform; karma6 = action; ca10 = and; syām12 = I shall become; kartā11 = the agent; saṁkarasya9 = of miscegenation of castes.  upahanyām13 = I will be destroying; imāḥ14 = these; prajāḥ15  = people.   3.24

(3.24) If I should cease to work, these worlds would fall in ruin and I should be the creator of disordered life and destroy these people.

God, by His incessant activity, preserves the world and prevents it from falling back into non-existence.1

1 Cp. St. Thomas: "As the production of a thing into existence depends on the will of God, so likewise it depends on His Will that things should be preserved; hence if He took away His action from them, all things would be reduced to nothing." Summa Theol. I, IX, 2C.

सक्ताः कर्मण्यविद्वांसो यथा कुर्वन्ति भारत ।

कुर्याद्विद्वांस्तथासक्तश्चिकीर्षुर्लोकसंग्रहम् ॥३- २५॥

saktāḥ karmaṇy avidvāṁso yathā kurvanti bhārata

kuryād vidvāṁs tathāsaktaś cikīrṣur lokasaṁgraham 3.25

saktāḥ1 karmaṇi2 avidvāṁsa3 yathā4 kurvanti5 bhārata6

kuryāt7 vidvān8 tatha9 asakta10 cikīrṣu11 loka-saṁgraham12  3.25

bhārata6 = O Bharata (Arjuna); yathā4 = as; avidvāṁsa3 = the ignoramuses, the unenlightened; kurvanti5 = act; saktāḥ1 = with attachment; karmaṇi2 = to [their] work;  vidvān8 = the enlightened, the learned; kuryāt7 = act; tatha9 = thus;  asakta10 = without adhering or attachment [to fruits of actions]; cikīrṣu11 = wishing to;  loka-saṁgraham12 = hold the world together (maintain world-order --Radhakrishnan).  3.25

(3.25) As the unlearned act from attachment to their work, so should the learned also act, O Bharata (Arjuna), but without any attachment, with the desire to maintain the world-order.

Though the soul which is centered in the light has nothing further to accomplish for itself, it unites itself with the cosmic action, even as the Divine does. Its activity will be inspired by the light and joy of the Supreme.

न बुद्धिभेदं जनयेदज्ञानां कर्मसङ्गिनाम् ।

जोषयेत्सर्वकर्माणि विद्वान्युक्तः समाचरन् ॥३- २६॥

na buddhibhedaṁ janayed ajānāṁ karmasaṁginām

joṣayet sarvakarmāṇi vidvān yuktaḥ samācaran 3.26

na1 buddhi-bhedam2 janayet3 ajānām4 karma-saṁginām5

joṣayet6 sarva7 karmāṇi8 vidvān9 yuktaḥ10 samācaran11   3.26

vidvān9 = The learned and the enlightened; na1+ janayet3 = should not cause; buddhi-bhedam2= confusion in perception or belief; ajānām4 = of the ignoramus; [who] karma-saṁginām5 = performing actions according to Vedic injunctions; [the Vidvan] joṣayet6 = should induce [the ignorant] to perform; sarva7 karmāṇi8 = all actions [as prescribed in Sastras];  [himself] yuktaḥ10 = attached to; samācaran11 = virtuous conduct.

(3.26) Let him (jānin) not unsettle the minds of the ignorant who are attached to action. The enlightened man doing all works in a spirit of yoga, should set others to act (as well).

na buddhibhedaṁ janayet: let him not unsettle the minds. Do not weaken religious devotion of any kind. The elements of duty, sacrifice and love seem to be the foundation of every religion. In the lower forms, they may be barely discernible and may center round certain symbols which are accessories to the principles which they uphold. These symbols are vital to those who believe in them. They become intolerable only if they are imposed on those who cannot accept them and when they are suggested to be absolute and final forms of human thought. The absolute character of theological doctrine is incompatible with the mysterious character of religious truth. Faith is wider than belief. Again, if we know the better and do not adopt it, then we commit a wrong.

When the illiterate bow down to forces of nature, we know that they are bowing to the wrong thing and they are blind to the larger unity of Godhead. And yet they bow to something which is not their little self. Even crude views possess something by which men and women who want to live rightly are helped to do so. Traditional forms charged with historical associations are the vehicles of unspoken convictions, though they may not be well understood. The quality of mind and not the object determines whether the source is religious or not. It is true that everyone should reach the highest level but this can be attained generally by slow steps and not by sudden jumps. Besides, our views of religion are not chosen by us. They are determined by our ancestry, upbringing and general environment. We should not speak contemptuously of them. We must approach the followers of simple faiths with reverence and not heedlessly disturb them, for the simple faiths have practical value and spiritual appeal. Modem anthropologists advise us that we should not, in our anxiety to "uplift" the aborigines, deprive them of their innocent joys, their songs and dances, their feasts and festivals. Whatever we should like to do for them, we should do with love and reverence. We must use their restricted apprehensions as steps to the larger vision.

Adopting the view that we should not throw out dirty water until we get in fresh, the Hindu pantheon has accommodated divinities worshipped by the different groups, those of the sky and the sea, the stream and the grove, the legendary figures of the distant past and the tutelary gods and goddesses of villages. In its anxiety to lose nothing in the march of ages, to harmonize every sincere conviction without renouncing any, it has become an immense

synthesis combining within itself varied elements and motives. It is not surprising that the religion is full of superstitions, dark and primitive.

प्रकृतेः क्रियमाणानि गुणैः कर्माणि सर्वशः ।

अहंकारविमूढात्मा कर्ताहमिति मन्यते ॥३- २७॥

prakṛteḥ kriyamāṇāni guṇaiḥ karmāṇi sarvaśaḥ
ahaṁkāravimūḍhātmā kartāham iti manyate 3.27

prakṛteḥ1 kriyamāṇāni2 guṇaiḥ3 karmāṇi4 sarvaśaḥ5
ahaṁkāra-vimūḍha-ātmā6 kartā7 aham8 iti9 manyate10 

karmāṇi4 = All activities; kriyamāṇāni2 = are performed;  sarvaśaḥ5= in all ways; guṇaiḥ3 = by gunas; prakṛteḥ1 = of the Nature.  ahaṁkāra6A-vimūḍha6B-ātmā6C  = The soul6C deluded6B by Ahamkara6A [egoism]; manyate10 = thinks;  iti9 = thus; kartā7 aham8  = 'I am8 the doer7'.  3.27

(3.27) While all kinds of work are done by the modes of nature, he whose soul is bewildered by the self-sense thinks "I am the doer."

prakrteh: pradhāna of the Saṁkhya.1 It is the power of maya,2 or the power of the Supreme GOd.3

The deluded soul attributes the acts of prakṛti to itself.4

There are different planes of our conscious existence and the self which becomes the ego attributes to itself the agency for actions forgetting the determinism of nature. According to the Gītā, when the ego soul is entirely subject to nature, it does not act freely. Body, life and mind belong to the side of the environment.

 I Prakti, pradhānaṁ, sattvarājastamasāṁ guṇānāṁ sāmyāvasthā. S.

2pradhānasabdena māyāśaktir ucyate. Ᾱnandagiri.

3prakṛteḥ parameśvaryāḥ sattvarajastomaguṇātmakāyāḥ, devātma

saktiṁ svaguṇair nigudhām iti ṣrutti prasiddhāyāḥ śsaktir guṇai kāryakāraṇa saṁghātātmakaiḥ --Nīlakaṇṭha

prakṛtir māyā sattvayajastamoguṇamayi mithyāJānātmikā pāraśvari śaktiḥ. Madhusūdana.

4 anātmany ātmābhimāni. Madhusūdana.

तत्त्ववित्तु महाबाहो गुणकर्मविभागयोः ।

गुणा गुणेषु वर्तन्त इति मत्वा न सज्जते ॥३- २८॥

tattvavit tu mahābāho guṇakarmavibhāgayoḥ
guṇā guṇeṣu vartanta iti matvā na sajjate 3.28

tattva-vit1 tu2 mahābāho3 guṇa-karma-vibhāgayoḥ4
guṇā5 guṇeṣu6 vartante7 iti8 matvā9 na10 sajjate11   3.28

mahābāho3 = O mighty-armed one; tu2 = but; tattva-vit1 = the knower of Tattvas or Truth; [knows] guṇa4A  -karma4B -vibhāgayoḥ4C = about diversity4C in Gunas4A and actions4B; na10 sajjate11 = does not become attached; iti8 + matvā9 = thus thinking; guṇā5 = the Gunas depicted by sense organs [and not by the self]; vartante7 = act; guṇeṣu6 = on the Gunas depicted by objects of the sense organs. 3.28

 (3.28) But he who knows the true character of the two distinctions (of the soul) from the modes of nature and their works, O Mighty-armed (Arjuna), understanding that it is the modes which are acting on the modes, does not get attached.

Prakṛti and its modes represent the limits of human freedom such as the force of heredity and the pressure of environment. The empirical self is the product of works even as the whole cosmic process is the result of the operation of causes.

प्रकृतेर्गुणसंमूढाः सज्जन्ते गुणकर्मसु ।

तानकृत्स्नविदो मन्दान्कृत्स्नविन्न विचालयेत् ॥३- २९॥

prakṛter guṇasaṁmūḍhāḥ sajjante guṇakarmasu
tān akṛtsnavido mandān kṛtsnavin na vicālayet 3.29

prakṛte1 guṇa-saṁmūḍhāḥ2 sajjante3 guṇa-karmasu4
tān5 akṛtsna-vida6 mandān7 kṛtsna-vit8 na9 vicālayet10   3.29

guṇa-saṁmūḍhāḥ2 = The ones who are deluded or fooled by Gunas; prakṛte1 = of Nature; sajjante3 = become attached; guṇa-karmasu4 = to the actions of Gunas. kṛtsna-vit8 = Complete knower; na9 vicālayet10 = should not disturb; akṛtsna-vida6= incomplete knower; [and] tān5 = those (attached to actions); [who are] mandān7 = the slow-witted.  3.29

(3.29) Those who are misled by the modes of nature get attached to the works produced by them. But let no one who knows the whole unsettle the minds of the ignorant who know only a part.

We should not disturb those who act under the impulsion of nature. They should be slowly delivered from the false identification of the self with the ego subject to nature. The true self is the divine, eternally free and self-aware. The false self is the ego which is a part of nature, which reflects the workings of prakṛti, Here the true self, on the Sāṁkhya analysis, is described as inactive, while prakṛti is active and when Puruṣa identifies itself with the activity of prakṛti, the sense of active personality is produced. The Gītā does not support the Sāṁkhya view of the withdrawal of Puruṣa from prakṛti by complete inaction. Discernment does not imply inaction but it involves action done in a way that does not hinder the attainment of release. If we realize that the atman or the true self is the detached witness, serene and impartial, no action binds us, though we engage in the great battle against imperfection and sorrow and work for world solidarity.

मयि सर्वाणि कर्माणि संन्यस्याध्यात्मचेतसा ।

निराशीर्निर्ममो भूत्वा युध्यस्व विगतज्वरः ॥३- ३०॥

mayi sarvāṇi karmāṇi saṁnyasyādhyātmacetasā

nirāśīr nirmamo bhūtvā yudhyasva vigatajvaraḥ 3.30

mayi1 sarvāṇi2 karmāṇi3 saṁnyasya4 ādhyātma-cetasā5

nirāśī6 nirmama7 bhūtvā8 yudhyasva9 vigata-jvaraḥ10   3.30

saṁnyasya4 = Dedicating, surrendering; sarvāṇi2 = all; karmāṇi3 = actions; mayi1= to Me;  ādhyātma-cetasā5  = with mind or consciousness centered on the Self; bhūtvā8 =  becoming; nirāśī6 = free from desires; nirmama7 = without mamakara,  free from ego, not self-centered; vigata-jvaraḥ10  = without the fever [of the soul].  yudhyasva9 = plunge into battle.  3.30

(3.30) Resigning all thy works to Me, with thy consciousness fixed in the Self, being free from desire and egoism, fight, delivered from thy fever.

By self-surrender to the Lord who presides over cosmic existence, and activity, we must engage in work. "Thy will be done" is to be our attitude in all work. We must do the work with the sense that we are the servants of the Lord.1 See XVIII, 59-60 and 66. 

I aha karteśvarāya bhṛtyavat karomīty anayā buddhyā. S

īśvaraperitoham karomīty anayā buddhyā. Nilakaṇṭha.

mayi sarvāṇi karmānī nāha karteti samnyāsya svatantra, parameśvara

eva sarvakartā nāhaṁ kaścid iti niścitya Abhinavagupta.

ये मे मतमिदं नित्यमनुतिष्ठन्ति मानवाः ।

श्रद्धावन्तोऽनसूयन्तो मुच्यन्ते तेऽपि कर्मभिः ॥३- ३१॥

ye me matam idaṁ nityam anutiṣṭhanti mānavāḥ
śraddhāvantonasūyanto mucyante tepi karmabhiḥ 3.31

ye1 me2 matam3 idam4 nityam5 anutiṣṭhanti6 mānavāḥ7
śraddhāvanta8 anasūyanta9 mucyante10 te11 api12 karmabhiḥ13   

ye1 = These; [are] me2 =  My; nityam5 = eternal; matam3 = sentiments, opinions, teachings.  mānavāḥ7 = men; anutiṣṭhanti6 = follow; idam4 = this; śraddhāvanta8 = with faith; anasūyanta9 = without finding faults with Me. te11 + api12 = they also; mucyante10 = become liberated; karmabhiḥ13  = from all Karmas.  3.31

(3.3I) Those men, too, who, full of faith and free from cavil, constantly follow this teaching of Mine are released from (the bondage of) works.

ये त्वेतदभ्यसूयन्तो नानुतिष्ठन्ति मे मतम् ।

सर्वज्ञानविमूढांस्तान्विद्धि नष्टानचेतसः ॥३- ३२॥

ye tv etad abhyasūyanto nānutiṣṭhanti me matam
sarvajānavimūḍhāṁs tān viddhi naṣṭān acetasaḥ 3.32

ye1 tu2 etat3 abhyasūyanta4 na5 anutiṣṭhanti6 me7 matam8
sarva9 jāna10 vimūḍhān11 tān12 viddhi13 naṣṭān14 acetasaḥ15  3.32

tu2 = But; ye1 = they who [are opposed to My teachings]; abhyasūyanta4 = are indignant, angry, jealous; na5 anutiṣṭhanti6  = do not follow; etat3 = this; [and] me7 matam8  = My thought [My teaching]. sarva9 jāna10 vimūḍhān11 = They entertain delusions about all knowledge  [all9-knowledge10-the deluded11].  [You should] viddhi13 = know; tān12 = these; acetasaḥ15 =  ignoramuses;  naṣṭān14 = come to ruin.  3.32

(3.32) But those who slight My teaching and do not follow it, know them to be blind to all wisdom, lost and senseless.

Nature and Duty

सदृशं चेष्टते स्वस्याः प्रकृतेर्ज्ञानवानपि ।

प्रकृतिं यान्ति भूतानि निग्रहः किं करिष्यति ॥३- ३३॥

sadṛśaṁ ceṣṭate svasyāḥ prakṛter jānavān api

prakṛtiṁ yānti bhūtāni nigrahaḥ kiṁ kariṣyati 3.33

sadṛśam1 ceṣṭate2 svasyāḥ3 prakṛte4 jānavān5 api6

prakṛtim7 yānti8 bhūtāni9 nigrahaḥ10 kim11 kariṣyati12    

api6 = Even; jānavān5 = a man of wisdom; ceṣṭate2 = performs actions; sadṛśam1 = according to;  svasyāḥ3 = his own; prakṛte4 = nature. bhūtāni9 = Living beings; yānti8 = follow; prakṛtim7 = nature; kim11 = what; [can]  nigrahaḥ10 = restraint;  kariṣyati12 = do?  3.33

 (3.33) Even the man of knowledge acts in accordance with his own nature. Beings follow their nature. What can repression accomplish?

Prakṛti is the mental equipment with which one is born, as the result of the past acts. 1 This must run its course. S. thinks that even God cannot prevent its operation. Even He ordains that the past deeds produce their natural effects.2 Restraint cannot avail since actions flow inevitably from, the workings of prakṛti and the self is only an impartial witness. This verse seems to suggest the omnipotence of nature over the soul and requires us to act according to our nature, the law of our being. It does not follow that we should indulge in every impulse. It is a call to find out our true being and give expression to it. We cannot, even if we will, suppress it. Violated nature will take its revenge.

I prakṛtir nāma pūrvakṛta dharmādharmādi." saskāro vartamānajanmādāv

abhivyaktaḥ. s.

2 aham api pūrvakarmāpekṣayaiva tān pravartayāmīt bhāvaḥ.-- Nīlakaṇṭha.

इन्द्रियस्येन्द्रियस्यार्थे रागद्वेषौ व्यवस्थितौ ।

तयोर्न वशमागच्छेत्तौ ह्यस्य परिपन्थिनौ ॥३- ३४॥

indriyasyendriyasyārthe rāgadveṣau vyavasthitau
tayor na vaśam āgacchet tau hy asya paripanthinau 3.34

indriyasya1 indriyasya2 arthe3 rāga-dveṣau4 vyavasthitau5
tayo6 na7 vaśam8 āgacchet9 tau10 hi11 asya12 paripanthinau13   3.34

rāga-dveṣau4 = Desire and dislike;vyavasthitau5 = abide, remain hidden; indriyasya1 - indriyasya2 - arthe3 = in the sense2 objects3 of the senses1.  [he] hi11 = certainly;  na7 vaśam8 āgacchet9  = should not7 come9 under control8, [should never get caught up or entangled]; tayo6 = of the two.  tau10 = They; [are] asya12 = his; paripanthinau13 = adversaries causing impediments.   3.34

 (3.34) For (every) sense attachment and aversion are fixed (in regard) to the objects of (that) sense. Let no one come under their sway for they are his (two) waylayers.

Men should act according to buddhi or understanding. If we are victims of our impulses, our life is as aimless and devoid of intelligence as that of the animals. If we do not interfere, attachments and aversions will determine our acts. So long as we act in certain ways because we like them and abstain from others because we dislike them, we will be bound by our actions. But if we overcome these impulses and act from a sense of duty, we are not victims of the play of prakṛti, The exercise of human freedom is conditioned and not cancelled by the necessities of nature.

श्रेयान्स्वधर्मो विगुणः परधर्मात्स्वनुष्ठितात् ।

स्वधर्मे निधनं श्रेयः परधर्मो भयावहः ॥३- ३५॥

śreyān svadharmo viguṇaḥ paradharmāt svanuṣṭhitāt

svadharme nidhanaṁ śreyaḥ paradharmo bhayāvahaḥ 3.35

śreyān1 svadharma2 viguṇaḥ3 para-dharmāt4 svanuṣṭhitāt5

sva-dharme6 nidhanam7 śreyaḥ8 para-dharma9 bhaya-āvahaḥ10   

svadharma2 = One's own duty; viguṇaḥ3 = destitute of merits, deficient, lacking Guna; [is] śreyān1 = more eminent, superior to;  para-dharmāt4  = another's Dharma or duties; svanuṣṭhitāt5 = well-executed. nidhanam7 = Death, destruction; śreyaḥ8 = is superior; [while performing] sva-dharme6 = one's own duty.  para-dharmaḥ9 = Another's duty; [is] bhaya-āvahaḥ10 = full of fear.  3.35

(3.35) Better is one's own law though imperfectly carried out than the law of another carried out perfectly. Better is death in (the fulfilment of) one's own law for to follow another's law is perilous.

There is more happiness in doing one's own work even without excellence than in doing another's duty well. Each one must try to understand his psychophysical make-up and function in accordance with it. It may not be given to all of us to lay the foundations of systems of metaphysics or clothe lofty thoughts in enduring words. We have not all the same gifts, but what is vital is not whether we are endowed with five talents or only one but how faithfully we have employed the trust committed to us. We must play our part, manfully, be it great or small. Goodness denotes perfection of quality. However distasteful one's duty may be, one must be faithful to it even unto death.

The Enemy is Desire and Anger

अर्जुन उवाच

अथ केन प्रयुक्तोऽयं पापं चरति पूरुषः ।

अनिच्छन्नपि वार्ष्णेय बलादिव नियोजितः ॥३- ३६॥

arjuna uvāca

atha kena prayuktoyaṁ pāpaṁ carati pūruṣaḥ
anicchann api vārṣṇeya balād iva niyojitaḥ 3.36

arjuna uvāca

atha1 kena2 prayukta3 ayam4 pāpam5 carati6 pūruṣaḥ7
anicchann8 api9 vārṣṇeya10 balāt11 iva12 niyojitaḥ13   3.36 

arjuna = Arjuna; uvāca = said; vārṣṇeya10 = O Scion of Vrsni; kena2 = by what; atha1 = then; ayam4 this; pūruṣaḥ7= man;  prayukta3 = was urged, propelled, impelled; carati6 = to perpetrate, commit; pāpam5 = sin; api9 = even; anicchann8 = against his wish; iva12 = as if; niyojitaḥ13 = impelled, urged; balāt11 = by force? 3.36

Arjuna said:

(3.36) But by what is a man impelled to commit sin, as if by force, even against his will, O Vārṣṇeya (Kṛṣṇa)?

anicchannapi: even against his will. This is what Arjuna feels, that a man is forced to do things even against his will. But it is not really so. Man tacitly gives his consent as the use of the word kāma or craving by the teacher in the next verse indicates. S. says: what we speak of as the prakṛti or the nature of a person draws him to its course only through attachment and aversion.1

1yā hi puruṣasya sā rāgadveṣapurassaraiva svakārye

puruam pravartayati. S.B.G., III, 34.


काम एष क्रोध एष रजोगुणसमुद्भवः ।

महाशनो महापाप्मा विद्ध्येनमिह वैरिणम् ॥३- ३७॥

śrībhagavān uvāca

kāma eṣa krodha eṣa rajoguṇasamudbhavaḥ
mahāśano mahāpāpmā viddhy enam iha vairiṇam 3.37

śrībhagavān uvāca

kāma1 eṣa2 krodha3 eṣa4 rajoguṇa-samudbhavaḥ5
mahā-aśana6 mahāpāpmā7 viddhi8 enam9 iha10 vairiṇam11 3.37

śrībhagavān = Sri Bhagavan Krishna; uvāca = said; eṣa2 = this; kāma1 = desire; eṣa4 = this;  krodha3 = anger;  rajoguṇa-samudbhavaḥ5  = arising from Rajas Guna; [is] mahā-aśana6 =  great devourer; mahāpāpmā7 = great sinner. viddhi8 = Know; enam9 = this [desire]; [is] vairiṇam11= the enemy; iha10 = here [in this world].  3.37

The Blessed Lord said:

(3.37) This is craving, this is wrath, born of the mode of passion, all devouring and most sinful. Know this to be the enemy here.

धूमेनाव्रियते वह्निर्यथादर्शो मलेन च ।

यथोल्बेनावृतो गर्भस्तथा तेनेदमावृतम् ॥३- ३८॥

dhūmenāvriyate vahnir yathādarśo malena ca

yatholbenāvṛto garbhas tathā tenedam āvṛtam 3.38

dhūmena1 āvriyate2 vahni3 yathā4 ādarśa5 malena6 ca7

yathaḥ8 ulbena9 āvṛta10 garbha11 tathā12 tena13 idam14 āvṛtam15  3.38 

[As] dhūmena1 = smoke;  āvriyate2 = is enveloped; vahni3 = by fire; yathā4 = as; ādarśa5 = mirror;  malena6 = by impurity or dust; ca7 = and;  yathaḥ8 = as; garbha11 = fetus; āvṛta10 = is covered; ulbena9 = by the womb;  tathā12 = so; idam14 =  this [wisdom]; āvṛtam15 = is encompassed or covered; tena13 = by that [desire]. 

 (3.38) As fire is covered by smoke, as a mirror by dust, as an embryo is enveloped by the womb, so is this covered by that (passion).

idam, this: this wisdom. S.

Everything is enveloped by passion. 

आवृतं ज्ञानमेतेन ज्ञानिनो नित्यवैरिणा ।

कामरूपेण कौन्तेय दुष्पूरेणानलेन च ॥३- ३९॥

āvṛtaṁ jānam etena jānino nityavairiṇā

kāmarupeṇa kaunteya duṣpūreṇānalena ca 3.39

āvṛtam1 jānam2 etena3 jānina4 nityavairiṇā5

kāma-rupeṇa6 kaunteya7 duṣpūreṇa8 analena9 ca10   3.39

kaunteya7 = O son of Kunti; jānam2 = wisdom; āvṛtam1 = is covered; etena3 = by this; nitya vairiṇā5  = eternal foe; jānina4 = of the wise; kāma6A-rupeṇa6B = in the form of desire [desire6A + in form of6B]; [which is ] ca10  = also; duṣpūreṇa8 = unsatiated; analena9 = fire = [the all-consuming fire].   

(3.39) Enveloped is wisdom, O Son of Kunti (Arjuna), by this insatiable fire of desire, which is the constant foe of the wise.

Cp. "Desire is never satisfied by the enjoyment of the objects of desire; it grows more and more as does the fire to which fuel is added."1

1 na jātu kāmaḥ kāmānām upabhogena śāyati,

haviṣā kṛṣṇavartmeva bhūyaevābhivardhate. Manu, II, 94.

Cp. Spinoza: "For the things which men, to judge by their actions, deem the highest good are Riches, Fame or Sensual pleasure, Of these the last is followed by satiety and repentance, the other two are never satiated; the more we have, the more we want; while the love of fame compels us to order our lives by the opinions of others. But if a thing is not loved, no quarrels will arise concerning it, no sadness will be felt if it perishes, no envy if another has it, in short no disturbances of the mind. All these spring from the love of that which passes away. But the love of a thing eternal and infinite fills the mind wholly with joy, and is unmingled with sadness. Therefore it is greatly to be desired, and to be sought with all our strength." De Intellectus Emendations. The fundamental social crime is appropriation in any form whatever, class privilege, race discrimination or national egotism, for it involves pain to others. There is no answer to Wordsworth,

"Never to blend our pleasure or our pride

With sorrow of the meanest thing that feels." Hart-Leap Well. 

इन्द्रियाणि मनो बुद्धिरस्याधिष्ठानमुच्यते ।

एतैर्विमोहयत्येष ज्ञानमावृत्य देहिनम् ॥३- ४०॥

indriyāṇi mano buddhir asyādhiṣṭhānam ucyate

etair vimohayaty eṣa jānam āvṛtya dehinam 3.40

indriyāṇi1 mana2 buddhi3 asya4 adhiṣṭhānam5 ucyate6

etai7 vimohayati8 eṣa9 jānam10 āvṛtya11 dehinam12   3.40

indriyāṇi1 = Senses; mana2 = mind; buddhi3 = intellect; ucyate6 = are said to be; asya4 + adhiṣṭhānam5 = seat of desire [desire's4  seat5]. eṣa9 = This one [desire]; vimohayati8 = induces delusion; dehinam12 = in the embodied soul, the jivatma; āvṛtya11 = by covering; jānam10 = knowledge; etai7 = by these [senses etc.  3.40

 (3.40) The senses, the mind and the intelligence are said to be its seat. Veiling wisdom by these, it deludes the embodied (soul).

तस्मात्त्वमिन्द्रियाण्यादौ नियम्य भरतर्षभ ।

पाप्मानं प्रजहि ह्येनं ज्ञानविज्ञाननाशनम् ॥३- ४१॥

tasmāt tvam indriyāṇy ādau niyamya bharatarṣabha
pāpmānaṁ prajahi hy enaṁ jānavijānanāśanam 3.41

tasmāt1 tvam2 indriyāṇi3 ādau4 niyamya5 bharatarṣabha6
pāpmānam7 prajahi8 hi9 enam10 jāna11-vijāna12-nāśanam13  3.41 

tasmāt1 = Therefore; bharatarṣabha6 = O Best of Bharatas; tvam2 = you; ādau4 = at the outset; niyamya5 = should restrain, control; indriyāṇi3 = the senses, sense organs; [and] hi9 = indeed; prajahi8 = must abandon; enam10 = this [desire]; [which is] pāpmānam7 = the great sinner; [and]  jāna11 vijāna12 nāśanam13  = destroyer of knowledge and wisdom [knowledge-wisdom-destroyer].  3.41

(3.41) Therefore, O Best of Bharatas (Arjuna), control thy senses from the beginning and slay this sinful destroyer of wisdom and discrimination.

The wisdom of the Vedanta and the detailed knowledge of the Sāṁkhya may be meant by jāna and vijāna. S. explains jāna as "knowledge of the self and other things acquired from the scriptures and the teachers," and vijāna as "the personal experience, anubhava, of the things so taught.''

For R. jāna relates to ātmasvarūpa or the nature of the self and vijāna to ātmaviveka or discriminatory knowledge of the self. In the translation here given jāna is taken as spiritual wisdom and vijāna as logical knowledge.

Śrīdhara supports both the interpretations.1 

1 jānam ātmaviṣayaṁ, vijānaṁ śāstrīyam yadvā jānam

śāstrācāryopadeśajaṁJ vijānaṁ nididhyāsanajam. Cp. Amarakośa:

mokṣa dhīḥ Jānam anyatra vijānaṁ śilpaśāstrayoḥ .

इन्द्रियाणि पराण्याहुरिन्द्रियेभ्यः परं मनः ।

मनसस्तु परा बुद्धिर्यो बुद्धेः परतस्तु सः ॥३- ४२॥

indriyāṇi parāṇy āhur indriyebhyaḥ paraṁ manaḥ
manasas tu parā buddhir yo buddheḥ paratas tu saḥ 3.42

indriyāṇi1 parāṇi2 āhu3 indriyebhya4 param5 manaḥ6
manasa7 tu8 parā8 buddhi9 ya10 buddheḥ11 parata12 tu13 saḥ14 3.42

āhu3 = It is said; indriyāṇi1 = the sense organs [Ear, Skin, Eyes, Tongue and Nose; Larynx, Hands, Feet, Anus, and Genitals] [are]  parāṇi2 = superior. param5 = Superior, greater than; indriyebhya4 = to the sense organs; [is] manaḥ6 = the mind.  parā8 = Superior, [greater than]; manasa7 = to the mind; tu8 = moreover. however; [is] buddhi9 = intellect; tu13 = However; ya10 = one which; [is]; saḥ14 = That One (the Supreme Self, Atma);  [is]  parata12 = superior;  buddheḥ11