Reflections Along The Way

Bhagavad Geeta: Chapter 2, Verses 48-52

In the previous verses, Sri Krishna indicates tips to rise above the three states of material nature. He states how the Vedas (the ritualistic portion) hold no charm for a Self-realized person. He then explains the attitude one needs to have while performing actions.

In the following verses, Sri Krishna continues the elaborate explanation of karma yoga and states

  • how one needs to perform work
  • the results gained when performing work with equanimity
  • why one should cultivate equanimity of mind

Chapter 2, Verse 48

योगस्थः कुरु कर्माणि सङ्गं त्यक्त्वा धनञ्जय ।
सिद्ध्यसिद्ध्योः समो भूत्वा समत्वं योग उच्यते ॥४८॥
yogasthaḥ kuru karmāṇi saṅgaṁ tyaktvā dhanañjaya,
siddhyasiddhyoḥ samo bhūtvā samatvaṁ yoga ucyate. (48)

Be steadfast in the performance of your duty, O Arjuna, abandoning attachment to success or failure. Such equanimity is called Yoga.

Desireless actions can be performed only when one gets completely established in yogaYoga is defined as the evenness of the mind (the mental composure in the face of dualities) in this verse.

There is no time for higher achievements if the mind is occupied with dualities such as sadness and happiness. Losing oneself in happiness makes one liable for sadness. Hence to rise above all the dualities and maintain equanimity is yoga. This equanimity can be maintained when one renounces the attachment to the immediate fruits of the action. Attachment to fruits of action here means false expectations, imaginations, dreams about the fruits of action, anxieties about the results, and fear of failure. By indulging these thoughts, we are losing the present moment to act and achieve.

Chapter 2, Verse 49

दूरेण ह्यवरं कर्म बुद्धियोगाद्धनञ्जय 
बुद्धौ शरणमन्विच्छ कृपणाः फलहेतवः ॥४९॥
dūreṇa hyavaraṁ karma buddhiyogāddhanañjaya,
buddhau śaraṇamanviccha kṛpaṇāḥ phalahetavaḥ. (49)

Seek refuge in divine knowledge and insight, O Arjun, and discard reward-seeking actions that are certainly inferior to works performed with the intellect established in divine knowledge. Wretched are those who seek to enjoy the fruits of their works.

Karma yoga is called buddhi yoga because it changes the attitude of the mind (intellect). When you are living with a steady conviction, with your mind perfectly under control of the discriminative intellect, it is called buddhi yoga.

When you live in the mental zone, you are tossed around by the anxieties of the fruits of the action. These people who live that way are called wretched in this verse because they are thoughtless people who act for the results. In these desire-prompted activities, they accumulate more vāsanās thickening the veil of ignorance in the process, and cannot see the true glory of Self. 

Unselfish work in a spirit of dedication and surrender is the secret method for exhausting vāsanās. The Self can reflect clearly only when the mind is cleaned of all the vāsanās to realize its real nature. 

Chapter 2, Verse 50

बुद्धियुक्तो जहातीह उभे सुकृतदुष्कृते ।
तस्माद्योगाय युज्यस्व योगः कर्मसु कौशलम् ॥५०॥
buddhiyukto jahātīha ubhe sukṛtaduṣkṛte,
tasmādyogāya yujyasva yogaḥ karmasu kauśalam. (50)

One who practices working without attachment (with equanimity) can get rid of both good and bad reactions in this life itself. Therefore, strive for Yoga, which is the art of working skillfully.

Here yoga is defined as the art of working skillfully, removing any doubts that it means inaction. The concept of good and bad is of the mind and the reactions of the merit or demerit are accumulated as vāsanās.

When one works with equanimity without being identified with the emotions of the mind, the mind transcends good/bad or merit/demerit, and no new vāsanās are accumulated. His/her actions are guided by a clear vision of an inspired higher goal.

Chapter 2, Verse 51

कर्मजं बुद्धियुक्ता हि फलं त्यक्त्वा मनीषिणः ।
जन्मबन्धविनिर्मुक्ताः पदं गच्छन्त्यनामयम् ॥५१॥
karmajaṁ buddhiyuktā hi phalaṁ tyaktvā manīṣiṇaḥ,
janmabandhavinirmuktāḥ padaṁ gacchantyanāmayam. (51)

The wise possessing Knowledge, abandoning attachment to the fruits of actions, freed from the cycle of life and death, attain the state beyond all suffering.

Those who understand the art of true living take up all work with an even-mindedness abandoning all the fruits of their actions. This means that they renunciate ego-centric actions which result in the cleansing of the vāsanās. This is possible only when there is a higher goal in life.

When there is no notion of doer-ship while performing an action, then there is no question of enjoyer-ship or suffering. One reaches a state beyond both these dualities.

Chapter 2, Verse 52

यदा ते मोहकलिलं बुद्धिर्व्यतितरिष्यति ।
तदा गन्तासि निर्वेदं श्रोतव्यस्य श्रुतस्य च ॥५२॥
yadā te mohakalilaṁ buddhirvyatitariṣyati,
tadā gantāsi nirvedaṁ śrotavyasya śrutasya ca. (52)

When your intellect crosses the mire of delusion, you shall attain indifference to what has been heard and what is yet to be heard.

Here the indifference to what has been heard and what is yet to be heard should be understood as all sensory experiences like what has been tasted and what is yet to be tasted; what has been smelt and what is yet to be smelt; etc.

When the intellect becomes discriminative with a pure mind because of the practice of karma yoga, it does not relieve its memory of the experiences of the past and does not yearn for experiences for the future through the sense organs. One with this kind of intellect is established in inward purity and is ready for meditation to experience and realize the true nature of the Self.

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