In verses 1 and 2, Arjuna expresses the confusion in his mind after Shri Krishna expounds on the Knowledge of Self which can be realized through contemplation but directs Arjuna to practice karma yoga (in Chapter 2).
Shri Krishna explains that there are two paths based on personality. For one with a pure mind and alert intellect, jñāna becomes yoga. For others, karma becomes yoga. A person who is not ready to contemplate cannot be forced to do so because the mind will not have the capacity to be still and focused in order to contemplate. He goes on to explain that one cannot reach a state of ‘Actionlessness’ by giving up work.
Chapter 3, Verse 6
कर्मेन्द्रियाणि संयम्य य आस्ते मनसा स्मरन् ।
इन्द्रियार्थान्विमूढात्मा मिथ्याचारः स उच्यते ॥६॥
karmendriyāṇi saṁyamya ya āste manasā smaran,
indriyārthānvimūḍhātmā mithyācāraḥ sa ucyate. (6)
He who restrains the organs of action, continuing to think of the sense objects in the mind, certainly is deluded and is called a hypocrite.
If one still has rāga-dveśa in his mind and sits for contemplation due to enthusiasm (maybe trying to imitate someone), then he is deluded in his thinking. He is controlling his organs of action, but his mind is all over the place remembering sense objects. Such a person who is engaged in negative emotions in his mind but looks like a meditator from the outside is a hypocrite.
Not only that, he is cheating himself. If one pretends to contemplate without purifying the mind, it is dangerous because mental dissipation creates more impurities than physical wanderings. The unprepared mind will make stronger impressions of the delusory thoughts. In other words, the mind becomes more impure.
Chapter 3, Verse 7
यस्त्विन्द्रियाणि मनसा नियम्यारभतेऽर्जुन ।
कर्मेन्द्रियैः कर्मयोगमसक्तः स विशिष्यते ॥७॥
yastvindriyāṇi manasā niyamyārabhate’rjuna,
karmendriyaiḥ karmayogamasaktaḥ sa viśiṣyate. (7)
But those who control their senses with the mind, O Arjuna, and engage the organs of action in Karma Yoga without attachment, are certainly superior.
The earlier verse was indicative of a person who jumps into contemplation without purifying his mind. Externally, he isn’t performing any actions but internally his mind is filled with agitations.
But, a person who controls the sense organs with the mind and who engages organs of action in karma yoga is superior to the hypocritic person indicated before. A spiritual seeker works selflessly with his mind on a higher ideal. Externally actions are performed by organs of action but internally he is without attachment.
Chapter 3, Verse 8
नियतं कुरु कर्म त्वं कर्म ज्यायो ह्यकर्मणः ।
शरीरयात्रापि च ते न प्रसिद्ध्येदकर्मणः ॥८॥
niyataṁ kuru karma tvaṁ karma jyāyo hyakarmaṇaḥ,
śarīrayātrāpi ca te na prasiddhyedakarmaṇaḥ. (8)
You should constantly perform your duties since action is superior to inaction. By inaction, even the maintenance of your body would not be possible.
Any action that is possible in human life is classified into –
- Work that is noble and helps in your evolution (niyata karma)
- Daily Duties (nitya karma) that one has to do every day such as brushing, cooking, working, exercising, bathing, etc.
- Occasional Duties (naimitika karma) that one has to do occasionally such as hosting guests, helping family when they are in need, defending the country if needed, etc.
- Work that is ignoble and is an insult to your evolution (nishiddha karma)
There is no way anyone can remain without action. The result of any action is a tendency (vāsanā) created, a subtle channel of thinking. If I’m to do my duties and every action creates vāsanās then how am I supposed to exhaust them and perform actions at the same time?
Chapter 3, Verse 9
यज्ञार्थात्कर्मणोऽन्यत्र लोकोऽयं कर्मबन्धनः ।
तदर्थं कर्म कौन्तेय मुक्तसङ्गः समाचर ॥९॥
yajñārthātkarmaṇo’nyatra loko’yaṁ karmabandhanaḥ,
tadarthaṁ karma kaunteya muktasaṅgaḥ samācara. (9)
Work must be done as a (yajna) sacrifice; otherwise, it causes bondage in this world. Therefore, O son of Kunti, perform action perfectly as yajna alone, free form all attachment.
Shri Krishna explains that when we work with selfish desires and ego, vāsanās are created. If we act without ego and egocentric desires in a yajña spirit, we exhaust all our current vāsanās and no new ones are created.
While performing an action, if we do it selflessly, that action itself feels fulfilling and joyful. Such actions purify the mind and free it from all attachments. When there is no more raga-dveśa (likes/dislikes), every action will have perfection in it. This is possible when working selflessly with a higher ideal in the mind.
Chapter 3, Verse 10
सहयज्ञाः प्रजाः सृष्ट्वा पुरोवाच प्रजापतिः ।
अनेन प्रसविष्यध्वमेष वोऽस्त्विष्टकामधुक् ॥१०॥
sahayajñāḥ prajāḥ sṛṣṭvā purovāca prajāpatiḥ,
anena prasaviṣyadhvameṣa vo’stviṣṭakāmadhuk. (10)
In the beginning of creation, the creator (Prajapati) created mankind along with sacrifices (duties), and said, “You shall prosper by this, let this be the milch-cow of your desire – kāmadhuk (mythological cow which yields all your wishes).”
Kāmadhuk or Kāmadhenu is a mythological cow that provides whatever the owner desires. This verse indicates that nothing is impossible for someone who is inspired by an ideal and comes together in a cooperative spirit. This is the power given to all mankind.
After the creator has created the universe, he says to mankind that he could achieve anything he wants and live a prosperous life by performing yajñas. Yajña spirit means all sacrifices (duties) ought to be performed with reverence in a cooperative spirit.
The duties (sacrifices) that we ought to perform are :
- Deva Yajna: Duty towards the cosmic powers without which we don’t exist. By not polluting the air, we worship Vāyu Deva; By not polluting water, we worship Jala Deva; By not cutting down trees, we worship Vana Deva; etc.
- Pithr Yajna: Duty towards our ancestors without whom we are not here. Ensure that the wisdom and knowledge from our ancestors are passed forward to the next generation.
- Brahma (Rishi) Yajna: Duty towards the Rishis (Seers) without whom we wouldn’t have the scriptural wisdom to live a fulfilled life. Study scriptures; Share the scriptural wisdom; etc.
- Manushya Yajna: Duty towards other human beings without whose cooperation we can’t achieve anything. Taking care of others’ requirements when asked; taking care of guests; helping others who are not that well off; etc.
- Bhuta Yajna: Duty towards all the other creatures around us who serve everyone. Taking care of all creatures without causing any harm to them.
Performing these duties to pour out whatever we can do in the service of all, may you all grow and lead a happy life is what the Creator says to mankind. And by saying that Creator implies that I have provided everything you need for prospering. Now, it’s on you how you want to make your life. You can make hell out of heaven or heaven out of hell.
There might be a question in the mind now that we may live very cooperatively and perform all our duties, but we do not have control of phenomenal forces such as earthquakes, tornadoes, storms, etc. Shri Krishna addresses this in the next verse.
Chapter 3, Verse 11
देवान्भावयतानेन ते देवा भावयन्तु वः ।
परस्परं भावयन्तः श्रेयः परमवाप्स्यथ ॥११॥
devānbhāvayatānena te devā bhāvayantu vaḥ,
parasparaṁ bhāvayantaḥ śreyaḥ paramavāpsyatha. (11)
With this, the Devas will be pleased, and may those Devas please you. Thus by cooperation between one other, great prosperity will be achieved for all.
All the suffering is created by us alone. God gave us a beautiful and pleasant world. But disharmony is created because of our ego.
Phenomenal forces are given names in those days as Deities/Devas. We can’t do anything to defend against these forces. When people in the world cherish them by sinking our differences and working cooperatively, these devas will come and cherish us. When our behavior is good, nature is great, calm, and pleasant.
Nature is a reflection of man and his behavior. You invoke nature through the beauty of your own living.
Chapter 3, Verse 12
इष्टान्भोगान्हि वो देवा दास्यन्ते यज्ञभाविताः ।
तैर्दत्तानप्रदायैभ्यो यो भुङ्क्ते स्तेन एव सः ॥१२॥
iṣṭānbhogānhi vo devā dāsyante yajñabhāvitāḥ,
tairdattānapradāyaibhyo yo bhuṅkte stena eva saḥ. (12)
The Devas, nourished by the performance of sacrifice, will grant you all the desired objects. But one who enjoys what is given by them, without making an offering in return, is verily a thief.
When you cherish nature through the beauty of your actions, the Devas (mighty phenomenal forces) will give you whatever you wish. When you get profit from those actions, it’s not yours alone. Nature and you created this together. So, if this profit is not distributed to society equally, then you are a thief.
Chapter 3, Verse 13
यज्ञशिष्टाशिनः सन्तो मुच्यन्ते सर्वकिल्बिषैः ।
भुञ्जते ते त्वघं पापा ये पचन्त्यात्मकारणात् ॥१३॥
yajñaśiṣṭāśinaḥ santo mucyante sarvakilbiṣaiḥ,
bhuñjate te tvaghaṁ pāpā ye pacantyātmakāraṇāt. (13)
The righteous, who eat the remnants of the sacrifices, are freed from all kinds of sin. Others, who cook food (only) for their own sake, verily eat only sin.
When prasāda is given out in a temple, it is distributed equally. It is not seen whether someone gave dakshina or not, whether someone is wealthy or poor. Similarly, the wealth created ought to be distributed. What remains after distribution can be enjoyed without any obligation to others.