arjuna uvaca
jyayasi cet karmanas te
mata buddhir janardana
tat kim karmani ghore mam
niyojayasi kesava

Arjun said

How come you, hey Keshava (Krishna)
Want me to follow the karma yoga
When in your thinking (as is comprehended by me)
Gyan yoga is the superior path ||3:1||

vyamisreneva vakyena
buddhim mohayasiva me
tad ekam vada niscitya
yena sreyo 'ham apnuyam

My judgment is getting clouded
When I hear you speak of these mixed words
So, tell me that one path
Which can lead me to that higher plane ||3:2||

The second chapter of Gita ends and Krishna has given the message of the purest knowledge possible, that of sankhya yoga. Krishna asks a question that most of us would have in this situation. And that is why should any one do any karma when knowing is enough to reach the ultimate. That is what many spiritual teachers have been saying. J. Krishnamurthy has been saying this far many years. All you have to do is know it. Let the conditioning go away. There is no need for any methodology or technology. There are many examples like this and they are not wrong. Arjuna is asking these questions not only because of what Krishna has said but also because of what his knowing has been so far. His teachers must have talked about the importance of gyan yoga before. Arjuna must have had preconceived notions about this sankhya yoga. And so do we. We all are pundits and only want our teachers and Guru to agree with us. I attended a Gita symposium recently and it was so interesting. There were such high level of intellectual discussions on all the topics from ksetra to kshetragya and what not. But, what was lacking in my opinion was the serenity and peace that surrounds one’s personality when something as divine and significant as Gita descends in his life. There may not be as many questions and there may not be as many intellectual discussions. But there certainly is the understanding.

Arjuna has not got it so far. He is into intellectual discussion at this time. Gita would have ended if Arjuna had got it by now. Krishna has given the best of the best in the second chapter. But Arjuna has more questions. We should be happy that he did not get it so soon. We should be happy that Arjuna is asking questions for us. Arjuna did not get it in two chapters; most of us do not get it even after reading all the eighteen chapters. Arjuna has not got it, but he is on the right track. He continues to be curious; he wants to know. He is open and receptive. And that is what we need to do. We need to look into that direction and open our minds and hearts. Let Krishnarjunsamvad (the dialogue between Krishna and Arjuna) penetrate our hearts and then let it travel to our minds. And this should be allowed without any interruptions, interpretations or filters.

If Brahmanirvana (2:72) is possible by knowing, why should Arjuna fight? The ultimate is what we have always aspired for, at least in the eastern part of the world. Brahma is the ultimate expression of the whole (purna) and nirvana is the ultimate expression of shunya (emptiness). Both destinations can be reached through sankhya yoga. Then why should Arjuna fight? This is such a logical question. And we have many examples for this. Buddha reached the ultimate and it happened when he was not doing anything. He had done many techniques. He had spent years in the search. He was tired and sitting under this big Banyan tree. And it happened. Then he preached what he learnt for several years. The same is the story of many others. They did not practice or teach what Krishna is asking Arjuna to do.

There is always the possibility that Arjuna is asking this question because he does not want to fight. Is Arjuna really interested in the ultimate or is this question or logic being used only to reinforce his own stand that he should not fight? It is really hard to know what Arjuna had been thinking but it is important to consider this for our own sake. We take a stand and then bring our scriptures to support the stand. We have a tendency to fit the Gita to our interests rather than grow our being to Gita’s level. It is like fitting a size 32” chest shirt on a 40” chest body.

The second question is still more interesting. Krishna has been as categorical in his expression as any one can possibly be. But Arjuna is asking him to be yet more specific. Arjuna likes what Krishna has to say, but his preconceived knowledge is debating and comparing all what he has heard. So, when Arjuna says that Krishna should be more specific and say that one thing for Arjuna, this is more reflective of Arjuna’s understanding than about what Krishna has to say. It happens many times with all of us. You are in a class of physics and the teacher is talking about properties of light. And you do not get it. You may or may not ask the question, but you wish you had a better explanation. And that is what Arjuna is doing. He is asking for a better explanation. Krishna will continue and we shall be there to get the answers. (

Karma yoga or Karta yoga (3:3-3:5)

sri-bhagavan uvaca
loke 'smin dvi-vidha nistha
pura prokta mayanagha
jnana-yogena sankhyanam
karma-yogena yoginam
na karmanam anarambhan
naiskarmyam puruso 'snute
na ca sannyasanad eva
siddhim samadhigacchati

Shri Bhagavan speaks

O sinless one (Arjuna)
Once upon a time in the past
I have told these two paths of devotion
One the path of gyan yoga for the meditative
The other the path of karma yoga for the rest ||3:3||

No person gets to the state of non-working (nishkarma)
Simply by not performing of karma
Neither does any one get to the centering (siddhi)
By merely giving up (tyag) of any karma ||3:4)
(nishkarma = absence of doer-ship)

Never is it possible in any domain of time
For even an instant in the realm of life
That one does not do any karma
For he is forced to act (do karma)
By the attributes (gunas) of nature (prakriti) ||3:5||
(The momentum continues)

When Krishna first spoke to Arjuna in 2nd chapter, he was blunt and straightforward. Some feel that Krishna was sarcastic and even rude. Krishna almost called Arjuna a coward (klaivam). Here in the beginning of his words to Arjuna, Krishna is complementing Arjuna; Krishna calls him the sinless one (anadh, nishpaap). Arjuna is one with a clean conscience. It is such a huge complement for Arjuna to be called Mr. Clean by someone like Krishna. This name of Mr. Clean was bestowed upon Rajiv Gandhi when he first became the Prime Minsinter of India. How long a Mr. Clean image last in politics? But a complementary name of Mr. clean by Krishna is quite different. And Arjuna deserves this completely. Arjuna’s questions are now coming from his heart. He really wants to know. Arjuna is no more a pundit now that he was in the first chapter. He is getting close to surrendering himself to the greatness of Krishna. But questions arise in his mind. And questions arise in our minds too.

Krishna agrees with Arjuna that there are two paths, the path of gyan yoga for the meditative type and the path of karma yoga for the rest. The difference is, however, more like two different roads to the same destination rather than like two cars going in different directions. The destination is the same. The scenery may vary, but one still has to drive to get there. A gyani also has to do karma; he may be doing different karmas than one who is a karma yogi. This is what is so revolutionary in what Krishna has to say. Everyone who is born has to do karma. There is no escape from this basic truth.

What do we want from our life? We want success, we want happiness and we want prosperity. Once we get these then we start longing for the ultimate. We start looking for nishkarma and we start looking for samaadhi (becoming centered). Krishna talked about the state of sthitapragya and Brahmanirvana in the second chapter. He also talked about the nishkam karma as well. And Arjuna has asked the question. The question is why do karma if you can get there by gyan yoga.

Arjuna believes that gyan yoga implies no karma. Krishna clarifies it immediately. Krishna says that it is simply not possible. A man is condemned to do karma or you can also say it that man is blessed to do karma. Why does man have to do karma? What is the driving force? What is the science behind it? Krishna says it is the three attributes (gunas) of the nature. It is not God, it is not Krishna and it is not me; it is the gunas (attributes) of nature. There is a momentum from within. The momentum comes from our samskaras. There is more to come on this topic as we go along.

We need to realize one important factor here. Arjuna’s emphasis is on karma (doing). We all have a similar emphasis. We all want to do good karma or say the right karma. And we always debate about what is that right karma. Was it right (for the USA) to bomb Afghanistan or is it right to support Pakistan. Some find the right thing to do in the Ten Commandments while others find it in their holy book. Arjuna is asking the same question to Krishna. He is asking Krishna to tell him what that one thing he should do is. Krishna is not evading the question, but he knows that right and wrong are but relative. Krishna is more concerned about the intentions. Why do you want to do what you do? What is you interests and what are your intentions. What is in it for you? What is your state of being? Arjuna has to arise and fight, but he has to fight with sum-bhava. Arjuna has to fight but he has to fight without focusing on the results.

Krishna’s emphasis is on the karta (the doer). The question for Krishna is not what karma to do, but what is the state of being of the person who has to do the karma. Gyan yoga is perfect for someone like Buddha or someone like Mahavira. Arjuna being an extrovert and a soldier at heart and in reality may do better on the path of karma yoga. A soldier has to kill, but is he killing with anger and hatred or is he killing without any of these. Krishna is not talking about a cold blooded killer; he is talking about a cool headed person.

And that is why Krishna clarifies some misconceptions that existed in those times (and they persist even today). There is a belief that God can be realized by renunciation of karma. All you have to do is to leave your house and start begging. Krishna simply says that it is not so. No one gets to nishkarma (non-doer status) by quitting. Nishkarma is a state of being and one can get there even while he is in the middle of all the chaos of Manhattan in New York or of Connaught circle in Delhi. No one gets enlightened by begging like Buddha or walking naked like Mahavira. There are many nudists in several colonies in the world. Many of them do not even know about Mahavira. Being a Buddha or a Mahavira is a change in the fundamentals. When you become a Buddha, you may not even beg.

So Krishna makes sure Arjuna understands this. Arjuna wants to quit doing his karma. The karma of a soldier is to fight. Arjuna does not want to fight, and he believes that by doing so he might reach somewhere higher. Krishna wants Arjuna to get it now and that is that getting some where higher is not to be achieved by mere quitting of what Arjuna should be doing anyway.

Giving up of Karma will not take Arjuna anywhere and the same applies to all of us. Krishna’s emphasis is on transformation Arjuna’s being. Krishna is not going to give eight or Ten Commandments to Arjuna. He is not going to talk about right, wrong, good or bad. Krishna is going to talk more about transformation of our being. He is going to focus our doer ship status. That is why I feel that we should perhaps call Krishn’s karma yoga “karta yoga.” After all that is where Krishna’s focus is.

Who is the master? (3:6-3:7)

karmendriyani samyamya
ya aste manasa smaran
indriyarthan vimudhatma
mithyacarah sa ucyate

He who controls his sense organs
But enjoys the thoughts that wander around
Is an ignorant one (vimudhatma)
He is simply fooling himself and
He deserves to be called a hypocrite (mithyacharah) ||3:6||

yas tv indriyani manasa
niyamyarabhate 'rjuna
karmendriyaih karma-yogam
asaktah sa visisyate

But, hey Arjuna
The one whose mind has centered
And can control the longing
Of the sense organs at will (by mana)
Uses the sense organs as a master
And is destined to excel ||3:7||

Krishna is so methodical. He talks about ‘what karma yoga is not’ before he delves into the intricacies of karma. Now he is talking about the source of any karma, the desires and the sense organs. Freud talks about suppression, but Krishna talked about it 5000 years before him. Krishna is against any kind of suppression. I must point out here that when Krishna talks against suppression, he does not mean to encourage expression. This is a common mistake. We believe that if Mr. X is talking against something then he is always in favor of the opposite. The famous words are, “either you are with us or you are against us.” When Krishna says that it is hypocrisy to suppress anger, it does not mean that he is for expression of anger. I am driving on the highway and I find a driver ahead of me who is driving at 30 mph. He is blocking the road. I am unable to overtake him. Anger arises inside me. What do I do? This is what is now being called a road rage. Krishna is saying that suppression is hypocrisy. I understand that he must mean that I should express my anger. I take out my gun and shoot in the air. This has been happening in California. This is not what Krishna is talking about.

Krishna is saying that there is something better. This part is important to understand. Institunalized religions have been talking about suppressing as the means to becoming religious. Our Saints and Mahatmas have been teaching us to live simple. Krishna is not against simple living, but he is also not against luxurious living. In spite of this clear message from Krishna, we in India judge our Mahatmas by how poorly they live. How can anyone who travels in a car be a Mahatma? We judge our Saints by how they live. Krishna as mentioned in our last column puts his emphasis on who we are rather than what we appear.

Krishna has used some harsh words here for such people. He may have meant these words for Arjuna, but has used it so smartly. He must have been a great psychologist. Why did he talk about ‘what karma yoga is not’ to start with? I feel that he must have been clearing the misconceptions that existed in those times. Arjuna’s thinking reflects the best of the social beliefs of those times. They perhaps continue today as well, and it is more common that we all think it is. I have a good friend who lives in New Jersey. He loves Krishna and has home Gita meetings regularly at home. He is a very smart productive individual. He always talks about going and settling in an Ashram. Then he can spend more time in satsang. This is all so nice and there are many others who are like him. There is nothing wrong in what he wants to do, but is he doing it because he wants to get away from his usual life. Only he can answer this question.

Let us get back to the harsh words Krishna has for people who suppress their sense organs and believe that by suppressing their desires they will reach somewhere. As I said before, Krishna is not for expression of all desires of the sense organs, but he is against the fact that it is a path to the ultimate. Krishna calls such people ignorant (mudha) and goes on to call them hypocrites. Suppression can simply lead to perversion and no other place. Suppression, can however, be useful in maintaining a social order, but nothing more than that. And that can be important. That is the reason why we have law and order. There are speed limits on roads. Someone wants to drive on the road after drinking (alcohol). Krishna is not for that at all.

Krishna is talking of reaching a higher level. Awareness is the key. The desires arise out of the indriyas (sense organs). They may or may not be expressed. We have to be aware of the arising of the desires and the suppression as well. We have to be aware of what is happening at the next level. Krishna has discussed these levels in 3:42 in more detail. The next level is the wishing mind (mun). This level is more important to Krishna. You are fasting. The fasting is for Janmashtami and you think of getting some brownie points from Krishna for this fasting. There is a gain. There is a purpose. You will get this amazing meal in the evening. What is happening to you at the next level? Are you thinking of food all day? Are you thinking of what you will get in the evening? Are you wondering if Krishna will get you a promotion? What is happening at the level of your wishing mind is important to Krishna. The indriyas draw you close to food many a times. You are suppressing it by telling your sense organs (indriyas) that it is all for gaining something higher.

Moreover, you are now higher and holier than thou. You are a revered one now. Now you can preach sermons. Many of our sadhus and saints fall in this category and Krishna is not being polite or gentle to this group of people. These must be the harshest words Krishna might have used in his times. But, to me he is not condemning. He is just stating the truth. The outer is not so important; what is going on inside is more important.

How do we do that? Krishna gives some clues here and there is more to come. If the control is in the hands of the desires and the indriyas, this is the only outcome and suppression is the only means. We all live at this level. And who knows more about this that the consumerism of today. The whole advertising industry flourishes because we live at this level. Indriyas have certain ways and they will always act that way. They are so predictable. Krishna says to Arjuna to pass the control to the next level, the mun. Later on he talks about passing the control to higher level, the level of buddhi (intellect). But, for now this will do. Let mun control the indriyas and then the situation is different. We have talked about it before. You are the boss and then there is mid level management. The secretaries have an important job, but they cannot run your company. Mid level management have to control them and then you have to guide the mid level management. Similarly, indriyas (sense organs) have important role, but the mid level management (mun or the wishing mind) has to control their direction and the guidance has to come from the intellect (buddhi). Suppression is not Krishna’s way. The control has to be reversed and until that happens there will always be chaos.

Niyatam kuru karma tvam (3:8)

niyatam kuru karma tvam
karma jyayo hy akarmanah
sarira-yatrapi ca te
na prasiddhyed akarmanah

Hence, do your obligatory (niyatam) karma
Because doing karma is better
Than not doing any karma
Moreover, by not doing any karma
You would not be able to
Sustain even your physical body itself. ||3:8||

Krishna talks about the entity and powers of mun. Rama had mun and Ravana has mun as well. They both have powerful mun. What is the differentiating feature? What makes them so far apart? A powerful mun is needed, but also needed is the features of nishkam karma as pointed out by Krishna in the previous shloka. And that is what creates the difference.

Krishna has already emphasized the importance of karma. Everyone born has to do karma even to survive. Then he talks about the power of mun and role of nishkam karma with that. Then comes the most important of all, and that is what karma should be performed. This is what all of us want to know.

Krishna says that it is better to do karma than do no karma. Even sustenance of life is not possible without doing of karma. One has to eat, brush his teeth and take shower. These are all but some type of karma. So far we can understand. It is so clear.

Then Krishna says that one should do a karma that is suitable for him. We all should follow what our aptitude is. But, it is not so clear in what word he uses. Krishna uses the word ‘niyatam.,’ and there is no real English translation for this word. There have been different English words that have been used for this. We shall explore some of them.

But, before that, let us understand one thing. Krishna is talking to Arjuna. Arjuna does not want to finht for one reason or the other. Krishna is telling him to do his niyatam karma. We all know what it should be. We all know it because we know the whole story. It would not have been that clear at the point and time when it happened to Arjuna. Moreover, we are all so wise when it comes to advising someone else. The problem arises when our own neck is on the line. So, we ought to ask this uestion to ourselves. What is our niyatam karma? This should be our question, and not what Vajpayee or George Bush should be doing.

Chinmayananda calls niyatam as bounden duty while some others call it obligatory duty. But who decides what is the bounden or the obligatory duty for me. If it is me, then my desires and personal interests will influence that decision. The bounden duty of any individual will depend on his upbringing and for a nation will depend upon the national interest. If it is combined by dropping of desires, then there is a chance of getting to the neutrality. Gita press Gorakhpur translates niyatam as the duties prescribed by shashtras. And then the problem is which shashtra is to be followed. Of course here it implies Vedas and Upanishads. But, is it so easy to thread through the shashtras that we have. What happens commonly is that we use the shahtras to suit our interests. Yes all these explanations are good and plausible, but the state of the individual is the most important factor.

Another translation of niyatam is related to destiny or say fate. The fatalists believe that everything is predetermined and one simply follows the path. The only problem in tis view is that the individual’s role becomes limited. Osho has explained fate as being partly controlled by us as individuals. He believes that we ll have several cross roads and we have the choice to make selection as to which road to take. Once the road is chosen, the fate of that road follows and that part is kind of predetermined. I finished my surgical training in Patmna and had the choice of going into practice in Patna or go to England to do FRCS. I chose to come to England. That blocks my progress in India. Now I will have to find the good and bad of England. Although this is a simple example, it conveys some meaning of this theory.

One other explanation is that the niyatam karma depends upon the varna and the swadharma. This is closer to what I think is the closest as far my views. Varna should be considered a horizontal categorization rather than the classic vertical caste system that prevails today. Swadharma implies to what ones aptitude is. We will explore this at a later stage when the topic comes back again. In fact varna has been discussed in one of our prior columns, “In defence of varna system.”

There is one other way of looking at the niyatam karma. When we are born there are many possibilities. A child grows with numerous possibilities. But as he chooses different paths his other possibilities start closing. If he goes to medical education, engineering and law options close on him. I am a doctor. I could have become an engineer or a lawyer. And that would have been my other possibilities. Was it my niyatam to become a doctor? I am not sure about that.

As I have been traveling the path of a doctor, many other events have been going on in my life. I have been studying Gita and many other books. A lot of adhana has been going on as well. We have talked about sankalp before and how it is a powerful tool for strengthening of mun (mind). Saadhana is a tool to strengthen the inner being. Saadhana is the technique for traveling close to the atma (center, the soul).

As we get close to the center, new doors start opening up. Nature reveals new dimensions. And then we can see or experience the flow of energy coming out from inside. This flow can also be seen in some people when their act is totally spontaneous. Look at a Veena player or a sitar layer when he is lost in music. The person is no more there. Only the music remains. A dancer at his or her best is a phenomenon to watch. There are no more calculations and there is no more the desire to perform.

I have been to Louvre museum in Paris. There are artists sitting outside drawing portraits there. You go and sit. He looks at you and his hands are moving. In the end there is this beautiful portrait. It seems so effortless. It is as if he is just letting his hands flow. To me this flow is the niyatam karma.

I mentioned earlier that I am a doctor but could have been a lawyer or an engineer. But could I have been a singer or a painter. That flow is not there in y being. That is not my niyatam. At best I could play tabla or dholak and that also not very well. But, there is a flow in that direction. If I pursued that, there was a possibility. However, I do find Gita flowing through me. What I write is just sharing the flow with others. I like to be involved in many public platforms. Is it because I want to be famous or is it the expression of the flow of that energy. Only I will know that. It is so individual. If I can flow with the inner flow, this is my niyatam. I am not worried about what will happen if I die. I am just enjoying the sharing today. This to me is my niyatam karma.

There is a flow in all of us. In the legend of Bagger Vance (filmed by Robert Redford), which many believe is based on Gita, the word used is the authentic swing. Every one has an authentic swing in Golf. I started playing golf 3 years ago. I can understand it, but am still trying to find that authentic swing. Arjuna’s authentic swing is to be in the battlefield. Even if he quits at this stage, he will return the moment an arrow hits his dear brothers, because the brothers are closer and dearer to him than the ones he is worried about at this stage. Krishna knows this very well. And that is why he wants Arjuna to know his inner being himself. Saadhana is the way and that is what Krishna will talk about sooner or later. Saadhana does not always mean going to do meditation in the forest. Krishna’s saadhanas happen in the middle of our lives as we are and where we are. That is Krishna’s beauty and is so well outlined in Bhagavadita.

yagya and the fire element

Yagyarthaatmkarmanonyatra lokoyam karmabandhanaha
Tadartham karmam kaunteya muktasangaha samachara

Any karma that is not done for yagya
Becomes a binding O Kaunteya (son of Kunti)
Hence, do your karma without
Any attachment and surrendered to Parmatma
(Yagya = karma performed in surrender to Parmatma) ||3:9||

Krishna has already touched on the importance of doing karma (an act). Everyone is destined to do karma. Life is incompatible without karma. Then he talked about what karma to do and how we can get in touch with our inner flow and find out what is our type of karma (niyatam). Now he is touching the aspect of why. Why do we do any karma? What is the driving force? Who do we work for? And he brings in the concept of yagya.

We understand several eastern terms to an extent even though there is no exact translation in English. We have an idea what yoga is and we all have some idea of what meditation is. But yagya is one such terminology that we have not really grasped very well. Not only there is no such word in English, we also do not see its practical applications in life. Recently I had my sister come to USA. She has been here for a few days. She has been fasting for occasions like Teej, Raakhi and Janmashtami and doing things the way they are done in India. These practices, that are so common in India, looked so alien in the USA. My children had a new experience. Sooner or later those practices will remain in text books. Yagya has gone out of the door even in India. We see the rituals of fire and Swaha, but we miss the whole point. We have translated the word Yagya as sacrifice. And there cannot be any better way to kill the meaning of yagya than to translate it to sacrifice. And then you can make it worse by saying the key word, human sacrifice.

So, what is yagya? Krishna says that karma performed as yagya is not a binding. Karma performed in surrender to Parmatma comes closest. Yet, it does not convey the full meaning. Let us try to understand it. In surrender, the individual who surrenders is somehow still there. In yagay, the individual is gone. He is not only purified, he is also evaporated. And that is one reason why fire is what the purifying agent is. We see a physical fire when we burn wood or gas. There is another fire inside us. No I am not talking about the ATP cycle. That is energy too. Every element and individual has a fire lement. There is fire in love and there is fire in hate. If you take the gross element and surrender it to the fire element, then a yagya is performed. It is easy for us to physically see when we throw havan samagri in fire and say say Swaha. The material burns and there is fragrance coming out of it. It is so obvious. But, we do not see how karma can be a yagya.

How can we throw our karma to the fire of Parmatma? We want to hold on to our karma. We want the credit and we want to see the results. I have worked so hard all my life. I have a catalogue my head. The accounting system is there. How can I let it go? Krishna is not only asking us to let it go. He wants to see all the documents burn in his fire. We know that fire is used to purify gold. But, gold is still there in the end. If we knew that gold will be gone, we will not put the gold in fire. Krishna does not want any remains. This is not easy. But who says life is easy.

And that is not because Krishna says so. Krishna is saying this because Krishna knows so. He knows that yagya is a methodology for attaining excellence beyond the possibilities of an individual himself. And in addition there are no imprints left. There is no baggage to carry.

We started with questions like why do we work, who do we work for and what is the driving force. In yagya technology the answers will be something like this. We work because we have to work. There is no alternative. We work for Parmatma; in fact only Parmatma remains. There is karma (an act) and there is the Parmatma. What is gone in the flames of Yagya is the doership. There is no one to claim the result. And as for what is the driving foce. It is the fire within. We talked about the inner core and its flow. The flow is that of the water element. Once we know the flow, we understand our individual karma and niyatam. There is also an inner fire and knowing this we know the ultimate driving force. Mahavira talks about tapa. Tapa is also a concept in other eastern concepts. Austerity is the translation. This tapa represents the fire element, but is conceptually different from the yagya. Let me attempt to express the concept of yagya:


There is always something to offer (havan)
Havan has to be offered to something that has a flame (agni)
And everything has a fire element that can be a flame
A flame that can burn and purify

Yagya is surrendering,
Yagya is dissolving,
Yagya is purifying by burning
Surrendered in the invisible flame
It is an art and
It is a science
Yagya is a technology
It is a methodology
It applies to the highest, the Brahma
And to many others apart from the Brahma.

Sahayagya Prajah Shrustva (3:10-3:11)

Sahayagya prajah shrushtva
Purovaachaha Prajapatih
Anena prasavishyadhvamesha

Prajapati Brahma caused creation
Of the praja (all creatures) by this
Surrendered karma of yagya
And said at the time
That this yagya methodology shall
Help you procreate and prosper in life. ||3:10||

Devan bhavayatanena
Tey Deva bhavayantu vah
Parasparam bhavayantaha
Shreyaha paramavaapsyatha

You shall use this yagya methodology
To help the prosperity of the Devas
And Devas in turn will help in
Your prosperity by the same methods
Thus by mutual surrendered karma
Both shall achieve the ultimate well-being. ||3:11||
(Devas = good souls become devas)

This is a significant statement by Krishna. So far he has been telling Arjuna how and why he should act (do karma). No, he is talking how the Supreme Being works. He is now talking about the working of the very creation.

The Prajapati is synonymous with creator, but that is not the right translation. Creator is what we like to conceive as a person who sits, plans and executes. Krishna is saying that the creator acts like performing a yagya. We talked about yagya in our last column. The technology of yagya implies that there be no attachment, there be no desire and in the end there is no baggage to carry.

This baggage part must be understood clearly. We live and in our life perform many acts. I have a neighbor and there have been issues with my neighbor. Next time there is a dispute, I bring up a whole list that I have been gathering in support of points. All this support material may be useful in the court, but they are no healthy for my being. They are bound to bring tension and stress to my physical being. They may in turn be cause of several illnesses in my life too. This is what I mean when I talk about the baggage. By the end of our life, our baggage becomes really heavy. We should thank the system whereby we do not remember our pat life when we are born again. Because if we did, we will be all born with psychological problems. The disputes will become everlasting.

The creator, the Prajapati cannot afford to have this baggage. There is no room for him to forget events; he just does not store it. Creation is not an effort for him. We can try to understand creation as being his second nature. Praja (creation) just spontaneously flows out of the Prajapati; it is his inner property. It is his inner flow and represents the inner flame. He is not proud of his creation because it is so effortless. There is nothing to be proud about. There is no ego to build around. There is no one to offer any medallion. His presence is associated with the creation.

Why does Krishna bring in the subject of the Prajapati? Krishna wants Arjuna to know that there is possibility of actions without desires and attachment and that anything higher and sublime acts by this methodology. Desire can be a drive to action, but has limitations and also has inherent problems. Once the desires are dropped, other doors open and then it is obvious that there exists superior paths. And that is how the divine works.

The working of the divine is out of its nature. It is spontaneous and is just a flow. If the divine can work and produce something as miraculous as the creation we see, why we can not be able to work without the drive of the desires. This is what Krishna is trying to point out to Arjuna. This was not only a difficulty with Arjuna. We all have this difficulty. We live for certain desires; we plan our life with a goal. How can we comprehend that there could be anything else that can drive us to any work?

Krishna goes on to talk about the Devas. There is so much confusion with this word Devas. This has bothered our respected Chinmayananda as well. Why do we have so many Devas. There have been many attempts to unify this Devas and trying to project as one God. As far as I see we do not have this one God system. Why do we have to match the one God concept of other institutions?

Prajapati is one aspect of the ultimate and is similar yet not the same as creator. Praja (the creation) or the creation includes the corporeal and the incorporeal beings. We exist as corporeal beings and the Devas exist as incorporeal beings. They are still part of the creation. In the journey from life to life, some of us are born again immediately after we die. There is no delay. Some are born with delay and exist as incorporeal beings. They could be good souls or could be bad souls. The good souls usually have to be invited to come and be with us or help us. Sometimes they come and help any good cause. Therefore, if we take up any good cause, we are not alone. Similarly a bad soul is also looking out for outlets and its strengths are available to any bad act. Therefore a bad person is also not alone. There must be several such incorporeal bodies hovering around a Hitler or a Bind Laden.

Krishna is only talking about Devas here. There is no reason to not believe the existence of Devas. There is no other scientific explanation to the cycle of life after life. Krishna is talking about a better world. How can we help the Devas to prosper? If Devas prosper they will inturn assure prosperity of the good guys here. There is then the possibility of heaven on earth. There is no other way. If the world is full of Duryodhana, Hitler, Stalin and the like, then there is no possibility of a better world. Yagya is the way for this mutual prosperity.

Gift of life: Devas and us (3:12-3:13)

istan bhogan hi vo deva
dasyante yajna-bhavitah
tair dattan apradayaibhyo
yo bhunkte stena eva sah

You do surrendered karma (yagya) for the devas
The Devas are happy and
They bestow upon you
Whatever you would have desired
Without even asking for those things
And now that you have got what
You could have desired
Share it, share it, and share it
Because if you don’t
You are in fact
Kind of stealing it in real sense. ||3:12||

yajna-sistasinah santo
mucyante sarva-kilbisaih
bhunjate te tv agham papa
ye pacanty atma-karanat

What you got is a gift
What you have shared is shared
What is left is for you
Enjoy it, enjoy it and enjoy it
If you instead cook only for yourself
From what you got in gift
Just to fulfill your desires
It is kind of a sin by itself. ||3:13||

When Krishna talks about Devas, he is not talking about a belief, concept or a philosophy. Krishna knows the existence of these entities. The ancient scriptures like the Vedas talk about devas as if they walk with us. We discussed about these devas as being the good souls in transition. There is no need to understand them as one god and /or as demigods. The demigod concept about devas has been powerfully described by Prabhupad as being lower than the Godhead. I do not see a hierarchical system here.

It is interesting that Krishna does not talk about the pretas. Pretas are the bad souls and Krishna here is definitely not interested in bringing them in the picture. They perhaps have been working in the Mahabharata war any way. They usually do not need an invitation. They are ready to hover around any bad action being contemplated or being enacted upon. There are stories of how to get rid of them rather than how to invite trouble.

Coming back to the shlokas, Krishna makes some more categorical remarks. These are not suggestions; these are statements of truth. Krishna says that a man gets what he wants by not asking for it. Devas give it if they are happy. What you get from them without asking is a gift to you. This is a law of nature. The divine gives freely to those who do not ask or hanker.

It is not only true in getting something from devas, it is also so true with what happens in our real world. A businessman friend of mine always says, “All business is relationship.” There is more importance of chemistry than the deal itself. Success of a business depends more upon who is running it than on what the concept of business is. Dale Carnegie has written a book entitled, “How to win friends and influence people.” He has made several points, and none of them revolve around asking or telling. Direct asking and telling actually is a hindrance in the progress of any one’s life.

Krishna then talks about what a gift is. Life is a gift itself. I did not remember of asking for it. Whatever we get in our life is a gift as per Krishna. And sharing of this is what Krishna would like us to do. Sharing is the way to happiness and prosperity. Krishna’s formula is something like this. We act by the yagya methodology. Our actions are surrendered to Parmatma. There is no desire and there are no expectations. Results are bound to happen and do happen. There was no desire or expectation and therefore what ever you got is a gift. It is not your right and in reality it is not your possession. Then, the obvious next phase is that you ought to share.

The reason we do not want to share our results is that we are possessive. We think it is ours. I worked hard. I made money because I deserved it. It is my right. I am not responsible for the ones who do not have anything. They deserve what they have. It is their fault. Krishna is not telling me to throw my money away. But, he does have problems with my thought process. This whole concept of this is mine is the problem and it starts with the I-ness. I am the one who is working for myself. Krishna will advise me to see the bigger picture and realize that the work is all for Parmatma. And when I work for Parmatma, it becomes a yagya.

Nothing changes on the outside, but much changes in the inside. A different realization sets in and life then has a different quality and fragrance in it. Krishna is not against enjoyment, he not against being wealthy and prosperous. He actually wants Arjuna and all of us to be happy and prosperous and is giving us the ultimate technology, the technology of yagya whereby devas give us even without asking for it. And then comes the sharing part.

Krishna has a unique definition of thieves. He calls us thief not for stealing something, but for not sharing the gift that we got. What we got was without our asking for it. Now that we have got it, it becomes ours in our thinking. Krishna says that it is given to you for sharing. If you hoard it, you may not get any more. This is so true for happiness. You got good news. Your son just passed his boards with honors. You are over the moon and want everyone to know about it. You throw a party. Several people come and have a good time. This increases your happiness rather than decrease it. Sharing is an effective way of increasing happiness.

And in the next shloka, Krishna defines sin (papa). Our priests have defined sinning many ways. But, Krishna has a simple and interesting definition here. Devas have given us without asking for it. We offer them first with thanks and gratitude, then share it and then consume what is left. If I cook only for myself, and what I can consume, then it is a sin in Krishna’s eyes. Again, it is ‘me and mine’ attitude that Krishna has problems with. We calculate in our mathematical terms and find it a loosing proposition. I got 100 dollars and I do not care if I got it as a gift or not. Now, if I give 10 dollars back to where I got from and share 89 dollars with others then what am I left with. What is the reassurance that I will have that last one-dollar with me.

Krishna’s arithmetic is different. The flow from the Devas continues and there is no feeling of being deprived. But, it is not that simple. The arithmetic is similar to what happens in the sharing of happiness and may not be translated strictly to dollar terms. But, such a person is never poor at heart. A rich person is not always a happy person. He is also not always fully content and he is not always rich at heart. In Krishna’s model, the person can be rich or poor, but, he is always happy, he is always content and is always rich in his heart.

The flow chart of life (3:14-3:18)

annad bhavanti bhutani
parjanyad anna-sambhavah
yajnad bhavati parjanyo
yajnah karma-samudbhavah

All creatures come from anna (food)
Anna comes from rain (water)
Rain is directly related to yagya
Yagya is the result of karma (nishkam karma) ||3:14||

karma brahmodbhavam viddhi
tasmat sarva-gatam brahma
nityam yajne pratisthitam

Know that all karma is born
From the Brahma (Vedas)
And all the Vedas emanate from
The imperishable Parmatma itself
Thus the Parmatma by default
Is established in every yagya as well. ||3:15||

evam pravartitam cakram
nanuvartayatiha yah
aghayur indriyaramo
mogham partha sa jivati

Hey partha, this is the flow
And you should flow with the current
For if you don’t
And decide to live only for yourself
You shall suffer the consequences
And your life will be wasted
Your living will prove to be one in vain. ||3:16||

yas tv atma-ratir eva syad
atma-trptas ca manavah
atmany eva ca santustas
tasya karyam na vidyate

But a person who walks (ramana) with the self (atma)
Who is happy with his self (atma)
And is content and satisfied with his own self
Has no duty to comply. ||3:17||

naiva tasya krtenartho
nakrteneha kascana
na casya sarva-bhutesu
kascid artha-vyapasrayah

He is not interested in doing any karma
He is not interested in not doing any karma
He has absolutely no attachment to any one
He is happy and content with himself
(karma still flow out of him) ||3:18||

Krishna here is drawing a flow chart and that flow chart starts at the level of food (anna) well especially by the ones who trivialize the material things should understand this. There is connectivity between the basic needs and events and the ultimate. This flow chart also testifies to the fact that we are not little islands. We are all interdependent. Whatever we do has wider implications than we normally conceive.

Krishna says that we are all related. The smallest thing like grains are important and so is the big planet. There is this concept in the west of fighting and winning. Patients are fighting a disease; a scientist is fighting the forces of nature and so on. The whole concept of winning and loosing is based on the theory that man is separate from the rest of the universe. Krishna sees the universe in a different way. Food grains make the man. There is a deep relationship here. There is nothing to fight about. It is like right had and left hand fighting with each other. Once the person recognizes that they are both his hands, it will look foolish to him as well. Nature according to Krishna has to be understood, the flows of nature have to be charted and life lived with the flow. We went rafting recently on the Kennebec River. The whole thrill of rafting is to maneuver the raft with the flow. If you fall down, try to work with the flow and not fight and hope that someone pulls you over in the raft. There is no place for a fight with the water or the falls.

So the flow starts with the food and food sustains our being. All creatures (bhutani) need food. Grains depict the food here. The production of grain is directly related to rain. So far it is simple to understand. We know that rain comes from evaporation of water from water reservoirs be it ocean or be it a small stream. What is Krishna saying here seems rather impractical. Krishna says that the rain comes from yagya. What does he mean?

How can yagya be related to rain? There is though a deeper relationship here. Krishna is saying that there is a relation between how we live and what resources become available to us. The cosmos is sensitive to our way of life and our needs. We have discussed that our birth and death is not in our control. The beginning and the end are not in our control. But we think the middle (our life) is in our hands. We take complete control of our life and suddenly at the time of death everything seems to be slipping away. Krishna is saying that if we live with the yagya methodology (surrendered life) then the cosmos or the universe will take care of our needs. Man is related closely to food (materialism) on the one hand and to the Brahma (cosmic energy) on the other. It is all a harmonious relationship.

Krishna is talking about a harmonious living and says that Arjuna should know the flow and live in harmony with the flow. But, most of us do not know the flow and are always fighting with the flow. We do not have to go far to find out how we live. I am a doctor. I have a wife and two children. I am so proud of all this. I have more than enough to be happy. But, I look at my neighbor. He has a plane and he knows how to fly. This makes me feel unhappy. I have all the reasons in the world to be happy but dig out a reason to be unhappy. There is no cure for this kind of situation. But, in real life this is how we live. We find reasons to be unhappy. And that is what Krishna is talking about in the shloka 16. It is so easy to waste our life in these little quibbles.

Krishna here is pointing out some smarter way of living to Arjuna. ‘Know the flow and live with the flow’ is his message. Make life a harmonious event. And then life becomes a celebration. There is no need for such a person to act, but he works any way. The work will flow out of him. Arjuna will also shoot arrows, but his inner being will have a different quality if he listens to and understands the words of Krishna. Such a person has no enjoyment or attachment to working or not working. He is content with his being and his relationship with the beings of the universe. He is not going to be a lazy bum. On the contrary he will be a blissful active happy being ready for any eventuality with full alertness and proper orientation.

These shlokas of Gita are difficult to comprehend intellectually alone. I will suggest trying to bring some of these into practice and also take part in some centering techniques. There are many methods of meditation available. A meditative man, in my view, will understand these shlokas better. We shall, however, continue with our columns on the songs of Krishna.

Why do any karma? (3:18-3:20)

naiva tasya krtenartho
nakrteneha kascana
na casya sarva-bhutesu
kascid artha-vyapasrayah

He is not interested in doing any karma
He is not interested in not doing any karma
He has absolutely no attachment to any one
He is happy and content with himself
(karma still flow out of him) ||3:18||

tasmad asaktah satatam
karyam karma samacara
asakto hy acaran karma
param apnoti purusah

Therefore, you ought to continue doing karma
Continue to work without any attachment
This is the path to the ultimate, the Parmatma
(The ultimate, the Parmatma can be reached
Through Karma yoga this way) ||3:19||

karmanaiva hi samsiddhim
asthita janakadayah
loka-sangraham evapi
sampasyan kartum arhasi

Other, the likes of Janaka
Reached the ultimate this way
By performing of non-attached karma
And you ought to do the same
This also is in the interest of
How the world can be sustained. ||3:20||

I have a close friend in New Jersey whose father died recently. He went to India for the final rites (antyeshti) and is back to his home in New Jersey. I was talking with him about various things. He is wondering what we all continue working for. Why do we do what we do? What is the purpose? We are all going to die and all this effort, all this politics and all this ‘I am right and he is wrong’; is it all worth it. When death becomes a reality, all these questions are bound to appear. All these questions and few more were there when my father died as well. Krishna is addressing these questions here in verses 18 through 20.

Arjun has the same realization. He has been struck by the impending death of his friends and relatives. Is the winning worth the fight? Is there any value in it? Is it worth becoming a Prince if there is no one to relish it? And Arjuna comes to the conclusion that it is not worth it. Arjuna comes to the same conclusion as my friend, I and many of us come to. My father kept working all his life. And now he is not here. What was he running around about? Whether these questions come or not, one thing is certain. We all continue working any way. Krishna says that we do not have a choice. Living life is synonymous with karma. There is no reprieve even for a moment. Beating of heart and breathing is also working (kriya). There is difference in these involuntary works (kriya) and the ones we decide (karma). But, all the same, we all have to do karma.

So, what should be the inner status of our being? How should we approach any karma? We can continue to complain about what we do and keep doing the same karma. We can also become sad about what we do. We can continue to be depressed and spend whole of our life like that. We can love and enjoy our work. This to many is the formula for success. Enjoy your work is every employer’s slogan. It is the center point of many seminars that teach how to be happy, effective and successful.

Krishna has a different perspective for karma. He knows that karma will flow out of us when we are centered. When Buddha was not centered and he had questions, he went to the jungle. He wandered from one place to another until he found his center under a Banyon tree in Bodh Gaya, Bihar. What did he do after that? He came back to the main stream, to the city and the villages of Bihar. He started sharing what he had found. He did not have to do anything. He now has no attachment to preaching or not preaching. Preaching is flowing out of him effortlessly. This is the kind of work Krishna is talking about. I was learning to drive. I was so careful about not hitting the curb and sometimes ended up hitting it up anyway. I was so fixated on not hitting it that I could not avoid it. Now driving has become a second nature. The same curb does not even enter the mind. This is not an exact example but comes closest of what I can express.

Let karma flow out of you and it will. No effort is needed. There is no need to be anxious or tense about it. Results will also happen and success will follow. There is no need to be attached or detached from the karma or the result. This is the core message of Krishna. Krishna giving an example of Janaka is recognition of Janaka. But it also means the end result that he expects Arjun and us to get to if we understand what he is saying. There is a possibility of calling his teaching in verse 18 a negative teaching. But he follows that with the example of Janaka. Janaka was a King and a successful king. He is the King of all Kings. And that is what Krishna expects Arjun to understand. Nishkam karma is not a concept or belief; it is applicable in our real life. This is the key that we all need to understand and will continue to try to understand in the next column.

Leaders have to lead the way (3:21)

yad yad acarati sresthas
tat tad evetaro janah
sa yat pramanam kurute
lokas tad anuvartate

The leaders have to lead the way
Others are there to follow
He sets the standards by his deeds
Others follow by example. ||3:21||

Soon after Krishna talks about nishkam karma, he talks about leadership. This is significant. Many of us believe that when there is no desire, there is no drive and when there is no drive, there is no karma. Krishna makes sure that Arjun understands this part. It is not only important for Arjun to act for himself; he has to act in the interest of the larger contemporary community and for the community that is yet to come.

Leadership is also part of karma yoga. It is an integral part of karma yoga. Most of the time karma yoga is referred to as karma without desires or karma without expecting of results. We have tried to address this issue before. Here, Krishna explains the relationship of nishkam karma and leadership.

Most of the world population (janah) follows trends or others who they perceive as role models. They love to imitate. And, this starts at an early age. It was true for me when I was growing up as well. I went to Oshos’s meditation camp in Mt. Abu once. Majority of the people were wearing a mala and saffron robe. It was so easy for me to wear the same dress code there. I felt part of the crowd. I came back to the dorms of my medical college in Patna. I continued to wear the saffron color, but here it was not easy. The uneasiness was more inside me than it was in the eyes of the beholder. But as you can imagine, people around also did not feel comfortable with one of them being different.

Who else knows this better than the advertising agencies of today? Look at the the advertisements for soft drinks or that of cigarette companies. They use the cool looking guys that appeal to the young minds. They just want to get the cigarettes in the hand of the young children. And the children just want to look cool. We talk about parenting. A parent does not need to try to influence children. There is no need to discipline them. When we were growing up, parents were important. They were respected and the children by and large listened to them. The children today are told and brought up differently. I feel sometimes guilty if I brought up my children properly. What kind of psychological impact they would have had form my actions and so on.

But, the truth is that they are going to be influenced anyway. The question remains as to who will influence them. It could be the Coke in the hands of Salman Khan or a mala in the hands of his father. If it is not the mother, it could be Aishwaraya Roy. If it is not the Gita, it could be Stephen King. The young children are ready to be influenced and so they will find something or someone to follow. If they do not celebrate Diwali or Durga puja they will celebrate St. Valentine’s Day. If Krishna janmashtami is not on the cards there is always the father’s and the mother’s day

In a world which is willing to follow and in a world where a leader is always important, what should be the role of leaders like Arjun. Krishna is saying to Arjun that he has a responsibility for the community. Arjun may not be knowing that he was a leader.(shrestha purush). But, he will be an example for others to live by. If Arjun did not live up to their expectations, Duryodhana would have been the one they would have followed. Duryodhana would have been the icon for success instead. However bad he would have been, he would have dictated the terms.

Anasakti and leadership are related. First Krishna asks Arjun to become anasakta (non-attached) and then he wants him to show the way. Anasakti provides the means to success and success is what makes a leader. And who would you like to be followed, a successful Arjun or a successful Duryodhana. Arjun was popular and was already becoming an icon of his time. He was at the peak of his popularity. Whatever step he would have taken would have been important to those people. Even now there are people who feel shakes by the logic of Arjun. Gandhi almost denies the existence of Mahabharata war as is written. Arjun has to be careful in whatever he does. He had a following and must have had a fan club. Let me emphasize again. Leadership is part of karma-yoga. Arjun has to careful about what step he takes not only for himself and his family, but for the entire world family of his times and the times to come. So much responsibility lies on his shoulders or has been put on his shoulders by Krishna. A newspaper like India Post has to be careful as well, because it has a following too.

The Vision (3:22-24)

Na me parthasti kartavyam
trisu lokesu kincana
nanavaptam avaptavyam
varta eva ca karmani

Me, o Partha
Have no need to perform any duty
In any three space domains (lokas)
(Three lokas = mritya loka, pitri loka and deva loka)
I have nothing left to attain
Yet, I continue to do non-attached karma
(For I have to lead the way
They will all follow me,
and pay attention to what I do) ||3:22||

yadi hy aham na varteyam
jatu karmany atandritah
mama vartmanuvartante
manusyah partha sarvasah

Because, hey partha (Arjuna)
If I am not careful
And decide not to do karma
This will lead to big losses
For, most people will follow my path
And not do their karma
(And without any karma
How shall the world progress) ||3:23||

utsideyur ime loka
na kuryam karma ced aham
sankarasya ca karta syam
upahanyam imah prajah

And if I stop doing my karma
(You will stop as well)
Others will stop doing their karma as well
And this will lead to an unprecedented stagnation
Which in turn will cause much confusion
Leading ultimately to confusion of varna system
And destruction of the complete progeny (praja) ||3:24||

Krishna says that he has nothing left to attain. He does not need anything. We discussed before that this does not mean that Krishna has everything and this does not mean that he has attained everything. That is not possible. So, what is he talking about? We need to understand the basics of needs and wants.

What we want is not a fixed. It is always a moving target. I want a car. I get the car of my dreams. I clean it and maintain it very well. All the newness lasts but for a few days. I am already looking at newer models. This is the nature of wants. What Krishna is saying can only happen if we understand this basic truth about Wants and desires. Then the desire drops and when the want and desire drop by themselves, there is nothing more to attain. Osho had 99 Rolls Royce. Many people called him names at that time. He is greedy. He is materialistic. Then, one day he lost 98 of these cars. The same people thought of him as ‘poor Osho.’ But, was there any qualitative change inside of Osho. Those who know him know that there was none.

Want, Get, and want, get is a vicious circle. Satisfaction does not come in this equation. Such a person is never content with himself. A person who is centered within himself is always satisfied and has no needs or wants.

There are two circles above. The first shows how want to get is a vicious circle. Satisfaction does not come in this pathway. Once you get centered, there is nothing but satisfaction. There is nothing more for this person to attain or get. Yet, Krishna says that such a person will always work (do karma). He works out of compassion for the rest of the world. I have always mentioned about an inner drive, but when one reaches to the level of Krishna there is no need or presence of any drive. The drive now is out of compassion for the rest of the population. Krishna is doing karma so that others who are bound to follow him as their role model do karma in their lives.

He knows that his not doing karma will lead to unprecedented stagnation. And that is why Rama continues to work and so do many others who have reached that place.

Krishna also mentions the word of the praja (population) to come. It is interesting to see his vision. We have visions. We want to make our company successful. Every hospital I have worked has a vision statement. But, look at the vision of Krishna. He feels responsible for the people who were there and for people to come ever after. How can a vision be any greater. It is not only a visions in the ordinary sense that we talk about. It has been 5000 years since Krishna had this vision. There is a possibility that we may be able to understand his vision and compassion now. His vision also has an element of antardarshan. It is not a mental exercise. He can visualize the future. Darshan means visual encounter. He can virtually see what might happen if he decided not to do karma. He is also saying to Arjun to do karma because Krishna can see that Arjun will also have a big following. He can see what Arjun is going to become after the war.

Let us start to try to develop this kind of visions in our lives. Let us pay attention to what Krishna is saying here and in the rest of the Gita. This is book for ultimate success. Arjun reached his peak with the help of Krishna’s words and we can get there as well. Let us make that our vision.

The acts of a gyani (3:25)

Saktah karmanyavidvanso
yatha kurvanti Bharata
shchikirshu lokasangraha

So every one should do karma
While ignorant work with attachment
And for fulfillment of personal desires
The wise should work with non-attachment
And for the welfare of the world at large ||3:25||

This shloka is an important one especially for those who talk of not doing certain karma. Krishna is not making any distinction in types of karma. He is not talking about good karma or bad karma. Krishna is not interested in Arjuna doing the right or the wrong karma. Arjuna is really interested in knowing what is the right karma for him to do in the situation he is in. We are all interested in knowing the right from wrong. I have many friends who say that all religions teach us to do good karma. They have really missed the point Krishna is making here. He is saying in essence that there is no right or wrong karma; there is only right and wrong person. He does not really say right and wrong either; he divides us people in agyani (ignorant) and gyani (the one who knows, or the one who is awakened). He is showing the path of becoming a gyani to Arjun and to all of us.

Krishna says that Arjun should do karma in the same way that others around him are doing. He wants Arjun to fight with the same strength and vigor that Duryodhana or Karna are going to do. There is really no difference in the karma itself as it appears on the outside. Bhim is going to kill and so is Bhishma. Arjun will end up killing as well. There is absolutely no difference in the karma as seen from outside. The difference is to be evident on the inside.

The agyani (ignorant) works for a certain desire. His driving force is his desires, his dreams and his ambitions. He wants a big house and he builds a big house. He wants to be powerful and he runs for public office. He wants to be a famous writer and he starts writing books. Krishna says that a gyani should also work in the same way on the outside as an agyani. Rama is spending his 12 years of vanavas in jungles. Sita has been abducted. Rama starts to cry. Rama cries again when his brother Laxman has been shot with the special weapon of shakti. Hanuman has gone away to get the medicine and it is talking him long. Rama is crying. It baffles many to see Rama behave like any other human being. He is a gyani by any definition. Rama came before Krishna but he knows the same thing that Krishna is talking about here. He is doing the same act on the outside as many others will do if their wife was abducted or if their brother sustained a lethal injury.

So, what is the difference. The agyani does a certain karma for himself. Even if he builds a temple, he is doing it for gaining some brownie points. Mother Teresa did great service. She sacrificed her whole life to service of a segment of population in India that many people did not care about. But, she had her desires, motives and expectations too. Krishna is not talking about this kind of service. Krishna says that a gyani does all karma without any attachment or detachment. Krishna uses the word anasakti or non-attachment. The non-attachment is one of Krishna’s key concepts. He is instructing Arjun to act and fight like everyone else but be non-attached all the time.

What then is the reason for Arjun or us to do anything at all. Why should Arjun fight if he does not have to win and become the ruler? Why should he go through all this and how? Krishna says that he should do this for the welfare of the world at large. Here it becomes a little tricky. I have mentioned it before. Desire is the driving force for most of us who are agyani (ignorant). When desires drop, there is another driving force and I have called it the inner innate driving force. There comes a point when there is no driving force at all. That is where Krishna is. Krishna knows it all. He is telling Arjun to do his karma for the welfare of others. When I talked about service of others as Mother Theresa did, we are talking about ‘thinking of others’ welfare.’ But a gyani does not really need even this much motivation. Krishna has to say this because we like Arjun are not there yet. So he gives a reason to do something. This does not mean that good of the world does not happen. When Rama killed Ravana, it was good for the whole of mankind. But, Rama did not need this to be the reason to kill Ravana. We use this explanation but that does not mean that Rama was motivated by this. Rama, Krishna or Buddha do not need any motivation. It is hard for us to comprehend this and therefore Krishna uses this word here to help us get closer to the truth.

The next question is how? How do we act out so that our actions appear similar to every one else. Krishna is telling Arjun to act in the same way as others on the outside. At the same time Krishna wants a change in the inner reality of Arjun. This is only possible if the whole life becomes a drama for Arjun and us. When my son was growing us I used to watch cartoons with him. Our favorite cartoon was Ben and Jerry at that time. I used to play video games with him (until he became better than me). I used to see him play with little cars. The glow in his eyes revealed to me that those little toy cars were much more to him than just toys. Was there any point in me telling him that the little car was just a toy. It was a drama for me to play with him. But, once I joined in, I enjoyed it as well.

Krishna can see us playing with toys. He knows that it was stupid to have a Mahabharata war. As we shall see in the next shloka, Krishna is not for changing the framework of existence. Everybody has to grow in life and they will grow at their pace. Arjun was ready for that at the time and Krishna was there for him. Are you ready? Am I ready? Let us ask this question with our inner self today on this new years column. This simple question might change our whole life not just for this year but for years to come.

Message to a Gyani (3:26)

Na buddhibhedm janayed
agyanam karmasanginam
joshayet sarvakarmani
vidvan yuktah samacharan

The wise should never confuse a person
Who is sincerely doing karma
With his attachments and desires.
But, he, the centered wise one
Should always do his karma well
And without attachment
And encourage others to
Engage in similar karma all the way ||3:26||

Krishna does not classify karma into good or bad. He does not talk about right action and wrong action. Krishna does not give out any commandments. He simply is telling Arjuna to become a Gyani and then explains to him that a Gyani has to act in the same way as others act. There is no desire to drive the Gyani to do any karma. His motive is welfare of others. And this motivation also will drop and what will remain is pure compassion. Krishna’s whole emphasis is that a Gyani needs to be in the real world with real people and doing karma similar to them. Krishna does not want the Gyani to become, “holier than thou personality.”

This is so much in contrast to what we find in many of our current saints and preachers. Their whole existence depends on them being or becoming different than the crowd. Some mahatma does not eat salt, while another one does not walk after dusk. There is nothing wrong in what they are doing, but if the whole act is to make sure they can be different than others, then there is a problem. Krishna’s emphasis is on the inner quality and he wants Arjuna to be transformed into a different being yet stay the same person.

This shloka is directed to Arjuna after he becomes a Gyani. This is a unique shloka. It is easy to understand that Arjuna needed Krishna’s direction and advice. It is hard to understand that Buddha, Ramakrishna or Maharshi Raman need any advice from Krishna. What can be their problem? Krishna is concerned about what message they are going to give to the rest of the world. Krishna here is the Teacher of all teachers. He wants to make sure that Arjuna does not confuse the rest of the population with his new found knowing of a gyani.

Let us try to understand this. I was brought up in a village. I had a world of my own at that time. Every one in the village was a bhaiya, didi, chacha or some one that close. Many worked hard whereas there were several who were bums. There was intense politics too. There were fights and there were lawsuits. Now, I am out of the village. I have seen the world. I know that many of these people were and are poor from any standards. Their fights were and are mostly for petty reasons. They waste their lifetime saving on the lawsuits and sometimes they lose some family members to these fights. I go back to my village and see some of these people struggle to make 100 rupees. It was a good sum when I was growing up in the village. It is still a good sum for many there. It is only two dollars for me now.

If I go to the village and try to preach them that the value of 100 rupees is only two dollars and it is not worth much, what effect it will have. If I try to tell them that George Bush is trying to attack Iraq and you should learn about that, what will they understand? These are not really good examples, yet convey the nonsense value of what I will be telling a crowd that has different set of concerns and issues. My newfound knowledge and scope is meaningless to them. It will be far better if some of them could go to college, get educated and then see for themselves the futility of the pettiness in their lives.

There is something to learn from Krishna’s life. Krishna was born in a jail. The doors of the jail opened the moment he was born. This is a miracle and might have happened in that time and moment. But, this is also so significant because here came a birth that was free from the birth.

When a person is physically in jail, he does want to get out. He tries to behave so that he can get out of jail earlier than his term. Some try to escape out. Nobody has to tell a prisoner about the advantages of freedom. Just imagine that the prisoner did not know that he is in jail. He would not know what life is like outside jail. There is no reason for him to venture to get out of the jail. Why should he risk his life?

This is happening to all of us. We are in some sort of a jail except that we do not know about it. J Krishnamurti calls it conditioning. Arjuna is captive of his own emotions and so are most of us. A person like Krishna is never in jail. It is no wonder that the door of the jail opens as soon as he is born. It has a great symbolic value for all of us.

The Gunas (3:27)

prakrteh kriyamanani
gunaih karmani sarvasah
kartaham iti manyate

In reality, however
All karmas in all its forms are
The products of the laws or call it attributes (gunas)
That arises out of nature (prakriti).
But the ignorant truly are convinced
Because of the effect of their ego (ahankar)
They are the doer of it all. ||3:27||

I have discussed before about what drives us to do any karma. Desire is the usual driving force and it is sometimes difficult to understand why any one will work if he had no desires. Desire, ambition and will power are considered important ingredients for success. This is what we teach our kids and try to practice ourselves. The eastern thinkers including Krishna have emphasized the importance of dropping of desires. Any many progressive thinkers of today think that the eastern thinking is negative and non-practical approach for modern success.

I have often alluded to the existence of an inner innate driving force which continues to drive a person after the desires drop. As long as the desires are there, the person feels that the desires are the driving force. Soon we will learn that desires have never been the driving force at all. And that is what Krishna is telling us here. Desires appear to be the driving force, but they are not the real driving force at all. There are other forces behind desires and they are the Gunas of nature (nature’s forces or laws of nature).

Krishna is now talking about the bottom line. What makes us do any karma? Krishna has a very scientific answer in these shlokas. Let us try to understand some of the forces and properties of nature that we are familiar with first and then we can address the current shloka. There are three states of matter, solid, liquid and gas. Water is liquid and so is hydrochloric acid. Water is soothing and we can splash our face with water to give us feeling of freshness. Hydrochloric acid will instead burn the face. That does not make water good and HCL bad. They are just different properties of nature. A stone will sink in water and a piece of wood will float. This has to do with different specific gravity of water, stone and wood. The wood may think that it is floating because it wants to float and a stone may think that it sinks because it wants to sink, but the fact remains that they sink or float because of different properties or forces (gunas) of nature. The problem arises when the stone starts wanting to float by its will power. It is not going to happen, but there will be much pain because the stone wants to float; and it can’t float. It can take the help of wood and be on top of the wood and float if it really uses the knowledge of properties of nature. The stone instead may make problems worse by saying that god is making him sink or the great Satan is having a plot in his sinking. We know that the stone sinks and the wood floats. That is their swadharma (we will touch it later). This knowing allows us to have sum-bhava about this whole affair. There is no question of attachment to the stone sinking or detachment to stone not floating. The stone may have attachment to sinking and detachment to floating. But, if the stone were to have knowledge of the laws of nature (Gunas), it would not have this problem. It will attain to sum-bhava. All the stone has to do is to drop its ego that it attaches to itself.

This is not very far from what happens to Mr. Stone and Mr. Wood. Krishna is saying that the gunas (laws of nature) are the underlying factors for karma done by anybody anywhere. Mr. Stone thinks that he got where he got because of his desires and so does Mr. Wood. Arjun is hypnotized by his love (mohit) to his friends and relatives. Arjun is such a nice person. How can Arjun kill his relatives? How can this Arjun kill his teachers? Arjun has an image of himself and so do all of us. We are captives of our own images. Where does this come from? Krishna says that it comes from the subtle existence of the ego system. We get a name and then slowly and slowly we create an image of ourselves. There are some other forces working in the background. We do not see those forces (gunas or laws of nature), but all the same, they do exist. We have to recognize first our ego system and then look at the gunas which work like any other law of nature. Krishna is going to expand on these gunas in the coming shlokas which will help us really understand how to get to sum-bhava and also to nishkam karma. These gunas (laws of nature) are an important part of Gita and let us understand it together not just by intellectual thinking but also by looking at our daily lives as we go along. Just start paying attention to the driving forces for whatever you do every day for the next few days and that will help you and me understand this basic science of gunas. The ultimate goal of Krishna, however, is to take Arjun to beyond the Gunas (Gunateet). We shall tag along.

Prakrter Guna-sammudhah (3:28-29)

tattva-vit tu maha-baho
guna gunesu vartanta
iti matva na sajjate

But hey mahabaho (Arjuna)
Those steady ones that truly understand
The divisions of Karma and that of Gunas (attributes)
Gunas abide in gunas
Understanding thus, the wise ones
Remain always unattached.
(Let it be, let it be, let it be
What is happening, is happening, is happening
Let it be, let it be, let it be)||3:28||

prakrter guna-sammudhah
sajjante guna-karmasu
tan akrtsna-vido mandan
krtsna-vin na vicalayet

People are working
They are under the influence of
The gunas of the prakriti
(They do not know it)
They are attached,
They should not be disturbed
By the ones who know it fully
They should not be confused
By the ones who have reached the center
(They (the ignorant) have miles to go) ||3:29||

Krishna has talked about karma before and he started addressing the root cause of karma, the gunas from the verse we discussed in our previous column (3:27). Krishna says that once the understanding that gunas determine the karma and that guna abide in guna itself sets in, a person becomes non-attached. How is that possible? Let us try to understand it here.

Why do I do what I do? Why for example do I sit and write columns on the shlokas of gita? One reason is that I want to be known as an expert on Gita. The other reason may be is that I want to make money by publishing books on Gita. All these are desires and desires are the driving forces we are all familiar with. Once we can get past the desires we can start understanding what Krishna is talking about. There are certain forces in nature that are unique to different individuals and they are a combination of three gunas. We will discuss these three gunas later when Krishna starts talking about them. There is a possibility that the proportion of these three gunas in me is such that it drives me to write the columns. Desires simply act as masks and hide the truth from being seen. The covering is not so much of the desires as it is of the ego or our identity. The I-ness is what prevents us from seeing the real truth. But, once the truth is apparent, it is hard not to see it. Once I am able to see the fact that what I do is really being done through me by the nature, then where is the I-ness and where is the attachment? It is no more my work and it is no more my credit. Knowing the truth does not become a barrier for me as far as writing is considered, it becomes a blessing instead. And further progress in real term is then allowed by the same nature. I am not a poor me who has no power, I am instead a blessed me who has all the powers of nature available to me.

Now I have known my true nature. I also have learned that I am not the center. I am unattached. In the process I have also learned that my friend Rajamohan has not got it. He works hard. He has achieved a lot. He is rich and famous. But, he feels that he is the doer. He feels proud of his achievements. I know that he does not know the real truth. I go to him and say that he is totally wrong. His achievements are not his achievements. He should try to understand the processes of nature. I end up confusing my friend. He trusts me and believes somewhat in what I am saying. But he has not got the real truth. Now, he does not know what to do.

This is what Krishna is warning Arjun not to do. It is good that Arjun gets what Krishna is talking about. But, he should not confuse Bhim, Nakul and others. The desire pathway is working for them. It will be wrong to try to give them the knowledge for which they are not ready yet. Bhim and Nakul respect Arjun and Krishna and will listen to them. But they are not ready to get the final truth. And there is not much time either. This shloka also gives the answer to many who think that Krishna should have given the lesson of Gita to every one in his time. It is like giving a real car to a child to drive. He is happy with a toy car. For him that is as real as a BMW for an adult. There is no point confusing this little child by saying that his toy car is not real. He is not ready for the real car yet and he will loose his interest in his toy car as well. His life will not have the energy that it needs.

Arjun is coming to a point where he is going to really get what Krishna is talking about. Krishna is simultaneously preparing him for how he should deal with the new treasures that he is going to get. A gyani has responsibilities as well. He has got this treasure. Now he wants to share. He is in a state of abundance. It wants to overflow. Krishna wants to make sure that Arjun develops the restraints of a gyani since it is so compelling and natural to share these new revelations.

Sraddhavanto Anasuyanto (3:30-3:32)

mayi sarvani karmani
nirasir nirmamo bhutva
yudhyasva vigata-jvarah

Therefore, hey Arjuna
Be centered in your Atma
Be completely unattached
Become free of emotional fevers
And surrender all your karma to Me (Parmatma)
Without worrying about the results
Get ready to fight the war at hand. ||3:30||

ye me matam idam nityam
anutisthanti manavah
sraddhavanto 'nasuyanto
mucyante te 'pi karmabhih

He trusts in me completely
There is no question of any doubts
In what I have said thus far
This person becomes free,
Free from all bondage of karma. ||3:31||

ye tv etad abhyasuyanto
nanutisthanti me matam
sarva-jnana-vimudhams tan
viddhi nastan acetasah

But the population that
Finds fault with me
And what my views are
Consider them ignorant
And intoxicated with their
So called knowledge
Consider them lost and
Unaware of what they are doing. ||3:32||

Many people start becoming uncomfortable from her on. Krishna is talking about surrendering and surrendering many of us do not want to think about. We all want to be in control. Thinking positive is okay. Praying to God is also doable. But, loosing my entity, wait a minute. And this ‘wait a minute’ approach is not compatible with surrendering.

I work in an office dominated by female workers, mostly secretaries. When one of them is moody or say emotional, I commonly hear the use of a word ‘hormonal.’ This hormonal word implies that the fault is not with the individual but with the hormonal levels of the body inside at that time and moment. The same person when she achieves something wonderful is happy but never says that she or some one else is hormonal. Hormonal is an interesting concept. It can be used to put the blame on if things are not going right, but it is never used when a credit is due.

Krishna is saying that natural forces determine everything we do. He is saying that to Arjun. Arjun was one of the best intellectual and warrior of his times. This concept of Gunas must have hurt his pride. He had an image of himself (we discussed in Ch 2). He must have been proud of himself. Here comes Krishna and takes it all away from him. Krishna says that whatever Arjuna might have done or is going to do is rooted in the forces of nature, the Gunas. Arjun must have felt very small. Krishna’s concept of Gunas is very different from the concept of Hormonal above. It is total. Krishna says, “Guna guneshu vartante.”

Here in these shlokas Krishna gives Arjun and all of us a chance to unburden. We all carry a baggage. The baggage is of our images which are rooted in the ego we have developed about ourselves and our surroundings. Once Arjun realizes that Krishna may be right, what does he do with his baggage? There is no point in carrying the baggage. Yet, he needs a place to park the baggage. Krishna says that he is willing and prepared to take the baggage off. Krishna is willing to relieve Arjun and us of our unnecessary baggage.

This point is worth mulling over. Many of us feel and many of our Mahatmas make us believe that we have to sacrifice when we surrender. We feel as if we are going to loose something. There is a sense of an impending loss when we talk of trust and surrender. Prabhupad compares this to the relationship of an army officer to a soldier. Arjun has to obey orders. The reality is far from this. Krishna has never behaved like a commander. He is a friend and he keeps that relationship intact all the time. As a friend he is willing to help Arjun. Arjun has a lot of baggage. And so do we. We may not realize it, but all the same the baggage is there. We treat our baggage like a treasure. Krishna can see the reality that the contents of our baggage are garbage.

This is where the difficulty is. If I feel that what I have is a treasure then giving up is difficult. Once I know that it is garbage, it is hard for me to keep. Krishna is not talking of taking away our treasures. He wants us to get to the treasure land. He knows that we will never reach to that land if we continue to carry out garbage.

Krishna suggests Arjun to become centered and once he is centered he can see the reality. He can then see that his emotional outburst and his desire not to fight are arising out of one of the forces of nature. He can then see clearly that he has been dominated by his love to close ones and that he is unable to see the bigger picture of what will happen to the value system, Dharma. That insight will reveal to him of what he has been carrying all these years. And then who wants to be in that situation. This insight, this clear vision is what gives birth to shradha (unquestioned trust). And this shradha is a treasure that is so human. When it arises inside you and me, let us nourish it, let us allow it to grow and let us nurture it to bear fruits.

There are people who do not have a clear vision and they will remain deprived. They want to hold on to their garbage and what can we or Krishna do about it. Krishna is for ultimate freedom. He would not disturb this individual until he gets his own clear vision. For now, let us try to develop this clarity and follow Arjun to the land of treasures. Surrendering is a self energizing quality and it has nothing to do with who you surrender to. Krishna being there for Arjun then and for us today makes the surrendering easy. Once surrendered, it is possible to realize that surrendering is complete in itself. There is no need of the other. This topic will come again in Gita and we will continue on.

Swadharma (3:33-3:35)

sadrsam cestate svasyah
prakrter jnanavan api
prakrtim yanti bhutani
nigrahah kim karisyati

Everyone gets to his own innate nature
That is his inherent potential
That is his swadharma
The wise one also tries to
Do karma according to his swadharma
How can anyone’s opinion
Or renouncing (nigrahah) anything
Make a difference in this situation? ||3:33||

raga-dvesau vyavasthitau
tayor na vasam agacchet
tau hy asya paripanthinau

The indriyas have potential energy
There is always a momentum
One should know of the ragas and dweshas
That resides in every indriyas
Ready to hijack the person as a whole
And take him away from the
Path that leads to the center
(raga = attachments, dwesha = aversion, jealosy). ||3:34||

sreyan sva-dharmo vigunah
para-dharmat svanusthitat
sva-dharme nidhanam sreyah
para-dharmo bhayavahah

Know and follow your swadharma
That is your aptitude
It is always better to die
Following your own dharma

Following someone else’s path
And someone else’s dharma
Is against the very personal nature of our being
This is against the very aptitude (swadharma)
And can potentially lead to fear inside.
(Fear of the unknown and
The fear of being against one’s nature) ||3:35||

Krishna has discussed the role of karma in detail so far. Karma (doing) is rooted in the gunas (forces of nature). Krishna pauses for a minute and talks about shradha (trust) and then continues on to swadharma. Swadharma is one of the core concepts of Gita. There is no good English word for swadharma. Authenticity comes close. In terms of a game of golf, everyone has an authentic swing. That is his true nature and all he has to do is to unveil his authenticity. Fire burns. It can be useful in cooking or heating the house. But, fire can also burn the house. The swadharma of fire is to burn.

It is easy to understand the swadharma when it applies to fire or water. We know and call theses as properties of fire or properties of water. It becomes harder when we apply these principles to human beings. Let us go back to our old example of rock and wood. This time the wood and rock are flying on an airplane. The plane is up there and a bag of rock and a bag of wood are thrown down from the plane. They will both fall because of the effects of the gravity. There may be some influence of the speed of the plane and the speed of air outside. The rock or wood do not have any decision making in how they fall.

Things are different if it is a story of Mr. Wood and Mr. Rock. Mr. Rock may decide not to jump. Mr. Wood may be excited in jumping from the plane. He will plan his jump carefully. He will do a free fall initially and then open his parachute and be thrilled by the whole experience.

What is the difference? The difference between rock and Mr. Rock or wood and Mr. Wood is huge and this is because Mr. Wood and Mr. Rock have three extras that wood and rock do not have. Those three extras are mun (wishing mind), buddhi (intellect) and ahankar (ego). The mun wants to jump in the case of Mr. Wood. The intellect does the planning and the ego gives the feeling of achievement. They all have a role in Mr. Rock and Mr. Wood’s actions.

The forces of nature are applicable to all of us. The modifiers are the three extras (mun, buddhi and ahankar). The net result is the whole individual. Krishna says that this individual has an innate nature and has an authenticity. Krishna divides the whole humanity in four classes based on the karma of these individuals. There are just four possibilities. Krishna did not emphasize division of people on his or her color. He did not divide people based on where they come from and he did not even divide people on the basis of their sexes. Krishna divides people based on the quality of their karma which in turn is rooted in the gunas

Let us try from and example. Let us say that Mr. Wood is a doctor. His duty (swadharma) is to treat patients. Mr. Wood may be making money in the process. But, his primary intention and whole energy is directed in taking care of sick people. Now, his modifiers (mind, intellect and ego) want him to become a businessman. Mr. Rock now starts looking at how he can make money from his skills. He has a needle and he can re-use this needle on twenty patients. He saves twenty dollars. Who is going to notice it and who cares about ethics? Now, Mr. Rock is neither a good doctor nor is he a good businessman. A smart businessman will never put his reputation at stake. He might cut production cost of the needle and he may charge two dollars for each needle, but he will not compromise on quality of product. A doctor at heart will never compromise the quality of care for his patient. Mr. Rock has already exposed his twenty patients to the risk of serious illnesses by sharing of the needle.

This is what Krishna is talking about here. It is better to sharpen the authentic properties of ourselves that Krishna calls swadharma than trying to emulate someone that we are not meant to be. The big question is as to how we find out our real potentials. How do I know what my swadharma is? Arjun was a soldier and he was one of the best of his times. We shall try to understand the concept of swadharma more as we go along.

The question (3:36-3:40)

arjuna uvaca
atha kena prayukto 'yam
papam carati purusah
anicchann api varsneya
balad iva niyojitah

Arjuna says
Hey Krishna: what then
Compels an individual to,
(Not wanting to do anything bad
As if forced by unknown energy)
Commit any sinful deeds. ||3:36

sri-bhagavan uvaca
kama esa krodha esa
mahasano maha-papma
viddhy enam iha vairinam

Bhagavan speaks
Of the three basic attributes (gunas)
(Similar to the three basic forces of nature)
Rajoguna is the one, which imparts motion
And is the origin of Kaama, the basic source
For anger and/or other desires,
This kaama is the one that
You have to know and master
Because this basic kaama
Is the real root cause of all problems.
And can be seen as a foe for all human kind. ||3:37||

dhumenavriyate vahnir
yathadarso malena ca
yatholbenavrto garbhas
tatha tenedam avrtam

As the fire is enveloped by smoke,
A mirror is covered by dust and
A membrane covers an embryo
Similar is the situation for an ignorant
Where the wisdom is clouded by
The energy of kaama (anger or desires). ||3:38||

avrtam jnanam etena
jnanino nitya-vairina
kama-rupena kaunteya
duspurenanalena ca

Fire burns and burns
It gets fiery and fierier
As you put food to the fire
(Ghee, butter or wood)
The fire is ever hungry
Its appetite never to be satisfied

Similar is the nature of
The energy of kaama
You must recognize
O son of Kunti
Kaama can never be fulfilled
And that by nature
Is the problem of this basic source kaama
(the source of all the anger, jealousy and other desires). ||3:39||

indriyani mano buddhir
asyadhisthanam ucyate
etair vimohayaty esa
jnanam avrtya dehinam

This basic source of greed, desire and anger
That we call Kaama
Has a home in
The indriya, mun (wishing mind) and intellect (buddhi)
And that is what it uses to cover the wisdom
That we so much need and like
But this kaama keeps us busy
At the level of deep desires (moha) ||3:40||

Arjun asks the question, the most fundamental one that man has been trying to find an answer to ever since the existence of mankind. Why did Adam eat the forbidden fruit from the garden of Eden? Was he influenced by peer pressure (Eve) or did it have to do something with the serpent? Did Satan play a role or was it because of the advertisement against eating the fruit? Man has been asking this question for a long time. Saints and intellectuals have been trying to answer it in many ways as well. Arjun’s question is, “why do we do some things against our own wishes as if being forced by an outside force.” This happens to many of us.

Why do we start smoking? Why do we continue smoking? We all now know that smoking causes lung cancer among many other diseases. Let us explore some common answers before we come to Krishna’s approach. Peer pressure is one factor. I go to a party. All my friends are smoking and they offer me a cigarette. I want to conform and take that cigarette. I light it up. The slippery slope has started. It sounds so convincing. My smoking started because of peer pressure. I am also convinced about this and think of me as a poor me. I have no say in the matter.

I then go to a cinema. The hero is smoking. He looks really smart and is even able to twirl the smoke coming out of his mouth. He sings a song. I then go to watch a cricket match and there I see bill boards with a camel in the desert. I want the Camel brand. It is all because of the advertisers. I have no role in the decision I make. I do it all because of the ads. It may be easy to see this with respect to smoking, but the advertisement agencies have known it for a long time. They play this trick all the time. It may be an ad for soap or a detergent.

Peer pressure and advertisements are factors that we can see. The influences appear to be obvious. Are there other possibilities? Could it be from unseen forces? Could it be the forces of Satan? It is always easy to blame the Satan. It would not have worked with Arjun. He would have then questioned the efficacy of God against Satan. But, none the less, the question remains. Is there possibility of unseen forces? Could the incorporeal world influence our actions? It is possible to imagine that these forces or souls hover around us and may want to see certain acts fulfilled by our bodies since they do not have any physical form of their own.

These are some of the classic answers to this most fundamental question. Krishna does not talk about these. His approach is fundamental. He must have known of these factors and to him they are secondary factors that work from the outside. Krishna believes that there has to be an internal factor. Some energy has to be inside us. And this is what Krishna is talking about here. We have learned about the karma and the gunas that are the cause of karma. We also learned briefly about the extras or modifiers and called it mun (wishing mind), buddhi (intellect) and the ahankar (ego). Krishna is now talking about the forces of kama. Kama is an interesting concept. It is the energy source of all desires and includes the manifested forms of anger, jealousy or greed. It is pure energy at the level of the astral body. It starts differentiating at the level of the ethereal body. The vibrations can be felt here at the level of the ethereal body level. It gets manifested at the level of the physical body. The kama energy also needs a home and it finds its home in the mun (wishing mind) and the indriyas (the sense organs) to form a mun-indriya-kamana complex. Buddhi, the intellect always has a role in whatever we do. We have discussed some of this briefly in the column on ‘desire pathway’ before and we shall continue our discussion further in the next column.

The power of kama (lust) (3:41-3:43)

tasmat tvam indriyany adau
niyamya bharatarsabha
papmanam prajahi hy enam

So, Arjuna
You first be the master
Of the sense organs (indriyas) and then
Know the mechanism
By which the kaama works
That is the way to win over
The kaama energy, which is
The enemy of all kind of real knowing
(by simply covering and hiding the real) ||3:41||

indriyani parany ahur
indriyebhyah param manah
manasas tu para buddhir
yo buddheh paratas tu sah

The outermost and the closest we know
Is the physical body that we see,
Beyond that are the sense organs (indriyas),
Still further and beyond is the intellect
And the furthest in one sense
And closest in another is
The center that we call Atma (soul or self)
(That we have yet to really perceive) ||3:42||

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CHAPTER 03 - Why do any karma? (3:18-3:20) PDF Print E-mail
Gita - Gita Articles by Krishna Bhatta
Article Index
Karma yoga or Karta yoga (3:3-3:5)
Who is the master? (3:6-3:7)
Niyatam kuru karma tvam (3:8)
yagya and the fire element
Sahayagya Prajah Shrustva (3:10)
Gift of life: Devas and us (3:12-3:13)
The flow chart of life (3:14-3:18)
Why do any karma? (3:18-3:20)
Leaders have to lead the way (3:21)
The Vision (3:22-24)
The acts of a gyani (3:25)
Message to a Gyani (3:26)
The Gunas (3:27)
Prakrter Guna-sammudhah (3:28-29)
Sraddhavanto Anasuyanto (3:30-3:32)
Swadharma (3:33-3:35)
The question (3:36-3:40)
The power of kama (lust) (3:41-3:43)
All Pages

Why do any karma? (3:18-3:20)

naiva tasya krtenartho
nakrteneha kascana
na casya sarva-bhutesu
kascid artha-vyapasrayah

He is not interested in doing any karma
He is not interested in not doing any karma
He has absolutely no attachment to any one
He is happy and content with himself
(karma still flow out of him) ||3:18||

tasmad asaktah satatam
karyam karma samacara
asakto hy acaran karma
param apnoti purusah

Therefore, you ought to continue doing karma
Continue to work without any attachment
This is the path to the ultimate, the Parmatma
(The ultimate, the Parmatma can be reached
Through Karma yoga this way) ||3:19||

karmanaiva hi samsiddhim
asthita janakadayah
loka-sangraham evapi
sampasyan kartum arhasi

Other, the likes of Janaka
Reached the ultimate this way
By performing of non-attached karma
And you ought to do the same
This also is in the interest of
How the world can be sustained. ||3:20||

I have a close friend in New Jersey whose father died recently. He went to India for the final rites (antyeshti) and is back to his home in New Jersey. I was talking with him about various things. He is wondering what we all continue working for. Why do we do what we do? What is the purpose? We are all going to die and all this effort, all this politics and all this ‘I am right and he is wrong’; is it all worth it. When death becomes a reality, all these questions are bound to appear. All these questions and few more were there when my father died as well. Krishna is addressing these questions here in verses 18 through 20.

Arjun has the same realization. He has been struck by the impending death of his friends and relatives. Is the winning worth the fight? Is there any value in it? Is it worth becoming a Prince if there is no one to relish it? And Arjuna comes to the conclusion that it is not worth it. Arjuna comes to the same conclusion as my friend, I and many of us come to. My father kept working all his life. And now he is not here. What was he running around about? Whether these questions come or not, one thing is certain. We all continue working any way. Krishna says that we do not have a choice. Living life is synonymous with karma. There is no reprieve even for a moment. Beating of heart and breathing is also working (kriya). There is difference in these involuntary works (kriya) and the ones we decide (karma). But, all the same, we all have to do karma.

So, what should be the inner status of our being? How should we approach any karma? We can continue to complain about what we do and keep doing the same karma. We can also become sad about what we do. We can continue to be depressed and spend whole of our life like that. We can love and enjoy our work. This to many is the formula for success. Enjoy your work is every employer’s slogan. It is the center point of many seminars that teach how to be happy, effective and successful.

Krishna has a different perspective for karma. He knows that karma will flow out of us when we are centered. When Buddha was not centered and he had questions, he went to the jungle. He wandered from one place to another until he found his center under a Banyon tree in Bodh Gaya, Bihar. What did he do after that? He came back to the main stream, to the city and the villages of Bihar. He started sharing what he had found. He did not have to do anything. He now has no attachment to preaching or not preaching. Preaching is flowing out of him effortlessly. This is the kind of work Krishna is talking about. I was learning to drive. I was so careful about not hitting the curb and sometimes ended up hitting it up anyway. I was so fixated on not hitting it that I could not avoid it. Now driving has become a second nature. The same curb does not even enter the mind. This is not an exact example but comes closest of what I can express.

Let karma flow out of you and it will. No effort is needed. There is no need to be anxious or tense about it. Results will also happen and success will follow. There is no need to be attached or detached from the karma or the result. This is the core message of Krishna. Krishna giving an example of Janaka is recognition of Janaka. But it also means the end result that he expects Arjun and us to get to if we understand what he is saying. There is a possibility of calling his teaching in verse 18 a negative teaching. But he follows that with the example of Janaka. Janaka was a King and a successful king. He is the King of all Kings. And that is what Krishna expects Arjun to understand. Nishkam karma is not a concept or belief; it is applicable in our real life. This is the key that we all need to understand and will continue to try to understand in the next column.


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