Bhagavad Geeta: Chapter 3, Verses 14-19
In the previous few verses, Shri Krishna explained that it's not possible to remain actionless even for a moment. Actionlessness is a state of Self-abidance. If a person who is not ready tries to abide in Self, it is not possible for even a moment, he will be restless because of his own nature. If he attempts it because of enthusiasm, he may be controlling his organs of action but his mind and senses are going all over the place. He will be deceiving himself by attempting to abide in the state of Self if he is not equipped for it. The best way is to prepare by learning to control the senses and mind by doing the right actions with the right attitude.
Shri Krishna advises that we should be constantly engaged in our duties. Human Beings are created with five-fold duties. These duties are to be performed with a yajña spirit with an attitude of giving up, offering, and detachment. Here yajña doesn’t mean elaborate physical rituals but it means doing every activity with the right attitude and dedication in the heart, as worship of the Lord. The fruits from performing actions are to be offered and shared with others in need. If one is doing action only for selfish reasons with lust for more wealth, then he would be accruing sin.
In the next few verses, Shri Krishna explains the wheel (or the causal chain) of action and describes why the right actions with the right attitude are to be performed to keep this wheel going.
Chapter 3, Verse 14
अन्नाद्भवन्ति भूतानि पर्जन्यादन्नसम्भवः ।
यज्ञाद्भवति पर्जन्यो यज् कर्मसमुद्भवः ॥१४॥
annādbhavanti bhūtāni parjanyādannasambhavaḥ,
yajñādbhavati parjanyo yajñaḥ karmasamudbhavaḥ. (14)
All living beings come forth from food, and food is produced by rain. Rains come from the performance of sacrifice, and sacrifice is born of action.
Out of food are born all living beings. Father places the seed in the mother’s womb. He gets the seed from the food he eats. The child grows in the womb nourished by the food that the mother consumes. Our bodies grow because of the food we consume. Food comes because of the rain. Rain comes because of Yajna. And Yajna is performed through human action. Right actions and even the power to act are gifts from the creator.
Here food doesn’t mean only the food consumed by the mouth, it means food consumed by the mouth, mind, intellect, eyes, etc. (all consumable goods of the world). In farming, the farmer can do everything but crops can't flourish without rain. So even though we sincerely put in all our efforts, there is an unknown entity (rains) without which production can’t happen. Similarly, in societies even though there is everything like raw material, machinery, and people, the unknown entity is the cooperative endeavor. Just like rain is necessary for agriculture, in production there must be that cooperation for consumable goods to be produced. This cooperative nature is there when the community is trained from childhood to sink their differences and to act cooperatively. When the conditions necessary for a fruitful crop (consumable goods) are created through cooperation in the community, the profit is enjoyable by the entire society.
Chapter 3, Verse 15
कर्म ब्रह्मोद्भवं विद्धि ब्रह्माक्षरसमुद्भवम् ।
तस्मात्सर्वगतं ब्रह्म नित्यं यज्ञे प्रतिष्ठितम् ॥१५॥
karma brahmodbhavaṁ viddhi brahmākṣarasamudbhavam,
tasmātsarvagataṁ brahma nityaṁ yajñe pratiṣṭhitam. (15)
The action comes from Brahma (the Creator), and Brahma is manifested from the imperishable. Therefore, the all-pervading Brahman (God-principle) is established eternally in sacrifice.
We cultivate more skills and dynamism by training but the ability to function was already in us the moment we were born. This ability to function is nothing but an expression of the infinite reality. My mother is one and the same even though she is a cook when cooking, a wife when with my father, and a teacher when she is teaching in school. Similarly, the creator is expressing through each one of us in the world. When we all act together in a cooperative spirit, it begins a yajña. It gives us joy in our hearts and the entire environment changes to become more productive.
When a large number of people sink their differences and work together with one single goal for the benefit of others, there we can vividly see the display of the grace of the Lord, the infinite reality. Shri Krishna is urging us to rise above our egos and selfish desires, out of the sheer spirit of love for everyone as we are all part of this wheel of action and so much depends on each one of us for the cosmic order. When we work in that way in a yajña spirit, we as individuals are insignificant but the result is enormous. Because it's not the limited ego functioning but the infinite Lord himself functioning setting the wheel of action is set in motion.
Chapter 3, Verse 16
एवं प्रवर्तितं चक्रं नानुवर्तयतीह यः ।
अघायुरिन्द्रियारामो मोघं पार्थ स जीवति ॥१६॥
evaṁ pravartitaṁ cakraṁ nānuvartayatīha yaḥ,
aghāyurindriyārāmo moghaṁ pārtha sa jīvati. (16)
Thus, those who do not follow the wheel of action that is set in motion are leading sinful lives, rejoicing only in the senses. They indeed live in vain, O Pārtha (son of Pritha).
Whoever is not following/obeying the wheel of action, because of his own selfish desires (these are expressions of his own past inhibitions because of his own past habits) revels in sensuality (indriyārāma) instead of reveling in the Self (ātmarāma). Such individual lives in vain. He could have evolved into god-man but he is instead devolving wasting a lifetime reveling in sensuality. He remains in the finite world instead of reveling in the changeless infinity.
Chapter 3, Verse 17
यस्त्वात्मरतिरेव स्यादात्मतृप्तश्च मानवः ।
आत्मन्येव च सन्तुष्टस्तस्य कार्यं न विद्यते ॥१७॥
yastvātmaratireva syādātmatṛptaśca mānavaḥ,
ātmanyeva ca santuṣṭastasya kāryaṁ na vidyate. (17)
But those who rejoice in the self, who are fully satisfied in the self, who are content in the Self, for them there is nothing more to be done.
Shri Krishna in the above verses described that you are living in vain if you are not performing your obligatory duties in the world outside following the wheel of action. Now a question may come to mind if there are exceptions to this. And he goes on to explain that there is indeed an exception.
Those who are completely content with reveling in the experience of the higher state of Consciousness (Self) have no obligatory duties in the world. A man who has awakened to the higher state of Consciousness has no demands from our world to make his happiness complete. To such an individual there are no obligatory duties. The next verse describes the philosophy behind this statement.
Chapter 3, Verse 18
नैव तस्य कृतेनार् नाकृतेनेह कश्चन ।
न चास्य सर्वभूतेषु कश्चिदर्थव्यपाश्रयः ॥१८॥
naiva tasya kṛtenārtho nākṛteneha kaścana,
na cāsya sarvabhūteṣu kaścidarthavyapāśrayaḥ. (18)
Such people have nothing to gain or lose either by performing or not performing action. Nor do they need to depend on other living beings for any necessity.
We all act for one of these three reasons:
- We want to gain something
- We don’t want to lose the gains
- We feel compelled or pressurized by the circumstances
The man of wisdom is not going to miss anything from the world by not doing his obligatory duties nor is he going to gain anything from the world outside. Nobody and Nothing can pressurize him to act in the world outside. These great masters are in another dimension (realm) of experience.
We need to work to purify our minds to get to that state. Once we reach there, there is no compulsion to work. This does not mean that the person of wisdom doesn’t do anything. They don’t act for joy, they act from joy. He is not bound to any duties. Yet, all the saints and prophets work dynamically for long hours not to gain anything, or for the fear of losing anything. Their work in the world outside is the manifestation of infinite love for all of us.
Chapter 3, Verse 19
तस्मादसक्तः सततं कार्यं कर्म समाचर ।
असक्तो ह्याचरन्कर्म परमाप्नोति पूरुषः ॥१९॥
tasmādasaktaḥ satataṁ kāryaṁ karma samācara,
asakto hyācarankarma paramāpnoti pūruṣaḥ. (19)
Therefore, giving up attachment, perform actions as a duty because by performing action without attachment, one attains the Supreme.
Shri Krishna says to Arjuna that since you are not in that state where you can revel in Self, do your duties as perfectly as you can without attachment (without ego and egocentric desires). By fulfilling your obligatory duties in a spirit of non-attachment, you can evolve in stages. Vāsanās get exhausted when you work without ego and ego-centric desires. When vāsanās are exhausted, the mind becomes relatively quiet and contemplative. Through contemplation, you realize the Self.