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#Gita Chapter 03 (English translation)

November 28, 2017

Acknowledgements, Translation Notes, and Vocabulary Notes

 

 

Chapter 3

 

YOGA OF ACTION–KARMA YOGA

 

Arjuna speaks:

Janardana (Sri Krishna), if you think that knowledge is superior to action, why are you asking me to engage in this horrible action? II3.1II

 

Your teaching confuses me. Tell me for certain one path (knowledge or action) by which I can attain eternal bliss. II3.2II

 

Sri Krishna Bhagavan speaks:

Anagha (the sinless one, Arjuna), as I have said before, there are two paths in this world–the Yoga of Knowledge (of Supreme Consciousness) for those who seek to be established in the Supreme and the Yoga of Action for the yogis (who need action to purify their minds and prepare themselves for knowledge). II3.3II

 

No man can attain freedom from activity without action, nor can he reach perfection by refusing to act. II3.4II

 

No man can remain without action, even for a moment. For all creatures are compelled to work by their gunas (temperaments)–sattva (purity), rajas (passion for action), and tamas (inertia)–born of their prakriti (material cause, Nature). II3.5II

 

He is a hypocrite who controls his organs of action (tongue, hands, feet, genitals, and anus) and then sits with his mind roaming among sense-objects. II3.6II

 

One the other hand, Arjuna, he excels who engages in action, controlling his organs of action (see 3.6) and remaining unattached. II3.7II

 

Perform your obligatory duties because action is superior to inaction. Even the maintenance of your body is not possible if you remain inactive. II3.8II

 

Man becomes bound by (desire-prompted) action in this world. Instead, Kaunteya (Arjuna), perform action free from attachment, as selfless-effort (yagna--by dedicating your actions to the Lord). II3.9II

 

In the days of yore, the creator of beings (Prajapati) said: "Procreate in selfless-effort. This selfless-effort will be the cow which yields all your desires (Kamadhenu)." II3.10II

 

"(With selfless-effort) nourish the shining ones (the gods). And they in turn will nourish you. Nourishing one another, you will attain the highest." II3.11II

 

"Pleased with your efforts, the gods will bestow desired objects upon you." But he who enjoys without giving in return is a thief, indeed. II3.12II

 

Those who share in selfless-effort are free from sin. But, those who cook only for themselves, feed on sin alone. II3.13II

(Note: In Hindu tradition, selfless-effort is of five kinds--Pancha Mahaa Yagna--in the form of offerings made to the gods, ancestors, humans, animals and plants, and holy men.)

 

Beings are born from food. Food comes from rain. Rain comes from selfless-effort. And selfless-effort is the noblest action. II3.14II

 

All action comes from the imperishable Brahman (Supreme Consciousness). This Supreme Consciousness is permanently established in all action done in the spirit of selfless-effort. II3.15II

 

He leads a sinful life who rejoices in the gratification of his senses instead of turning the wheel of selfless-effort. II3.16II

 

He who rejoices in the Self and is content in the Self, there remains nothing more for him to accomplish. II3.17II

 

 

 

 

He is not concerned with action or inaction. Nor is he dependent on anything to serve any purpose. II3.18II

 

Therefore, perform your dutiful action without attachment--by which you attain the Supreme. II3.19II

 

King Janaka and others attained liberation through action. You should act for the welfare of the world. II3.20II

 

Others imitate the conduct of a great man. They follow the standards he upholds. II3.21II

 

There is nothing in the three worlds that I need to do, Arjuna, nor anything for me to gain. Yet, I continue to act. II3.22II

 

Partha, if at any time I do not continue to act vigilantly, men will follow My path. II3.23II

 

If I did not engage in action, people will also be inactive. This will cause varna samkara (chaos due to people not following the code of morals governing their own order and stage in life). I will have destroyed these beings. II3.24II

 

Bhaarata (Arjuna), just as unenlightened people act with attachment to their work, the enlightened person should act only for the welfare of the world, without attachment. II3.25II

 

The enlightened man should not create disturbance in the minds of ignorant men who are attached to their work. He should perform those very activities of the ignorant while remaining balanced in his actions. II3.26II

 

All actions are done by the gunas (temperaments–see 3.5). Yet the one deluded by the ego thinks: “I am the doer”. II3.27II

 

He who knows the truth about the classification of the gunas and their respective functions, Mahaabaaho (Arjuna), understands that the gunas (in the form of the senses organs) move amidst the gunas (as sense-objects). Knowing this, he is not attached. II3.28II

 

Those deluded by the gunas are attached to the activities of the gunas. The wise man should not disturb the mind of such a foolish man. II3.29II

 

Surrender all your actions in Me. Fight, with your mind free from hope and ownership of the action, and devoid of (mental) excitement. II3.30II

(Note: See Vocabulary Notes for the context of the word "Me".)

 

 

Those who practice My teaching, firm in faith and without doubting, they too are freed from actions. II3.31II

 

Those who find fault and do not practice My teaching are ignorant, devoid of discrimination, and blind. They seek their own destruction. II3.32II

 

Even the wise man acts according to his nature. In fact, all creatures act according to their natures. Then, what can restraint do? II3.33II

 

Attraction and aversion for objects abide in the senses. Do not come under the sway of these (attraction and aversion) for they are your foes. II3.34II

 

Doing your own duty, even if it is flawed, is far superior to performing the duty of another effectively. It is better to die doing your own duty. The duty of another only produces danger. II3.35II

 

Arjuna speaks:

What is it that drives man to commit sin even against his wish, as if compelled by force, Vaarshneya (Sri Krishna)? II3.36II

 

Sri Krishna Bhagavan speaks:

This desire, this anger, they are born of rajas (the guna that propels you to action). Desire devours and corrupts everything. It is man’s greatest enemy. II3.37II

 

Just as fire is shrouded by smoke, a mirror by dust, and a foetus by the womb, so too the universe is enveloped by desire. II3.38II

 

Kaunteya (Arjuna), wisdom is enveloped by desire, this constant enemy of the wise. Desire is an insatiable fire. II3.39II

 

The sense organs, the mind, and the intellect are the abodes of desire. With the help of these, desire deludes the embodied being by veiling knowledge. II3.40II

 

Therefore, first control your senses, Bharatarshaba (the best of the Bharata clan, Arjuna). Then kill this sinful thing called desire, which is the destroyer of knowledge and wisdom. II3.41II

 

The sense organs are superior to the gross body. The mind is superior to the sense organs. The intellect is superior to the mind. Beyond the intellect is That (Self). II3.42II

 

Understanding the Self to be superior to the intellect, being fully established in spiritual absorption with the help of your own purified mind, banish this enemy of desire which is difficult to subdue. II3.43II

 

Concluding verse:

Om! Such is the Truth in the Bhagavad Gita and the Upanishads. This is the knowledge of Supreme Consciousness. It is a scripture of union; a dialogue between Sri Krishna (the teacher) and Arjuna (the student). The third discourse ends, titled “Yoga of Action–Karma Yoga”.

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