Reflections Along The Way

Bhagavad Geeta: Chapter 3, Verses 27-33

In the previous verses, Shri Krishna presented to Arjuna the example of Janaka and other kings to inspire and demonstrate that Arjuna doesn’t have to give up his actions for his spiritual pursuit. He also elaborates on how one should perform actions as a leader so as not to confuse the people by setting a good example to his followers.

The following verses explain why you should not confuse people who are working ignorantly with ego and ego-centric desires. You can’t change the standard of life by revolution, it can only be done by evolution which is a slow process. 

Chapter 3, Verse 27

प्रकृतेः क्रियमाणानि गुणैः कर्माणि सर्वशः ।
अहङ्कारविमूढात्मा कर्ताहमितिमन्यते ॥२७॥
prakṛteḥ kriyamāṇāni guṇaiḥ karmāṇi sarvaśaḥ,
ahaṅkāravimūḍhātmā kartāhamiti manyate. (27)

All activities are carried out by the qualities in nature (guṇa). But in ignorance, he whose mind is deluded by ego thinks of himself as the doer.

All actions at physical, mental, and intellectual levels are propelled and guided by our own vāsanās (tendencies).  The egocentric entity in us misunderstands that ‘I’ am doing it due to delusion and lack of knowledge. 

Chapter 3, Verse 28

तत्त्ववित्तु महाबाहो गुणकर्मविभागयोः ।
गुणा गुणेषु वर्तन्त इति मत्वा न सज्जते ॥२८॥
tattvavittu mahābāho guṇakarmavibhāgayoḥ,
guṇā guṇeṣu vartanta iti matvā na sajjate. (28)

O mighty-armed Arjuna, but those who know the Truth distinguish the Self as distinct from guṇas and karmas. They perceive that it is only the guṇas (as senses) that move among the guṇas (as objects of perception), and thus they do not get attached to them.

Those who have a clear insight about guṇas or vāsanās know that vāsanās are expressed as desires at the intellectual level; desires are expressed as mental agitations (thoughts) are expressed at the mental level; and mental agitations express as actions at the physical level.

The wise know that vāsanās prompt all actions and they move along with that without being entangled with it. The vāsanās decide the type of environment one lives in. Generally, people think that the environment around them is unconducive. That is inaccurate, the environment around me is ordered by me. The wise man is an onlooker witnessing the play of guṇās without getting involved. In that way, he remains undisturbed and unbound.

Chapter 3, Verse 29

प्रकृतेर्गुणसम्मूढाः सज्जन्ते गुणकर्मसु ।
तानकृत्स्नविदो मन्दान्कृत्स्नविन्न विचालयेत् ॥२९॥
prakṛterguṇasammūḍhāḥ sajjante guṇakarmasu,
tānakṛtsnavido mandānkṛtsnavinna vicālayet. (29)

Those who are deluded by guṇas (qualities of nature) become attached to the results of their actions. Wise people with knowledge should not unsettle ignorant people without knowledge.

Just as a doctor kindly prescribes treatment to patients for curing their disease even when it causes temporary pain or discomfort for the patient, we are given measured quantities of sorrows to redeem ourselves from the past by exhausting our vāsanās. Those who understand that the guṇas are compelling them to act and don’t attach themselves to the actions rise above them. With faith in himself and the Lord, a wise person lives through his joys and sorrows without involving himself with the guṇas. The people who are attached to the results of action are ignorant. Wise people should not unsettle people without knowledge.

Chapter 3, Verse 30

मयि सर्वाणि कर्माणि सन्न्यस्याध्यात्मचेतसा ।
निराशीर्निर्ममो भूत्वा युध्यस्व विगतज्वरः ॥३०॥
mayi sarvāṇi karmāṇi sannyasyādhyātmacetasā,
nirāśīrnirmamo bhūtvā yudhyasva vigatajvaraḥ. (30)

Performing all actions as an offering unto Me, with mind centered on the Self, free from desire and selfishness, free from mental grief, fight!

This verse is the theme of chapter 3. In the world, everyone is constantly working with an ambition to excel. But despite honest efforts, some can’t achieve. There is a secret to achievement. That is by renouncing all actions in Me, says Shri Krishna. Here ‘Me’ refers to the Supreme Consciousness. When actions are performed with a mind focused on the Self without ownership giving up the notion that I am doing. 

To consistently work with dynamism, everyone needs an altar. We are automatically disciplined when there is a goal. The higher the altar, the greater the inspiration we draw from that higher ideal. We usually fail because that consistent inspiration is not there. It dissipates through three channels – 

  1. Expectations from the future
  2. Regrets of the past and anxieties about the future
  3. The excitement in the present

If these three are conquered and enthusiasm is not dissipated by the past, by the future, or by the present, the results of actions will have to be excellent.

Chapter 3, Verse 31

ये मे मतमिदं नित्यमनुतिष्ठन्ति मानवाः ।
श्रद्धावन्तोऽनसूयन्तो मुच्यन्ते तेऽपि कर्मभिः ॥३१॥
ye me matamidaṁ nityamanutiṣṭhanti mānavāḥ,
śraddhāvanto’nasūyanto mucyante te’pi karmabhiḥ. (31)

Those who constantly practice these teachings of Mine, with faith and without thoughtlessly rejecting, are released from the bondage of karma.

When Shri Krishna says my mata in this verse, it only means it is Shri Krishna’s opinion. It is up to each individual if they want to accept or reject it. Shri Krishna says that those who implicitly obey and live according to his opinions without rejecting them thoughtlessly will be released from the bondage of the past. Because while living in the way that Shri Krishna has been teaching with faith one will go beyond ego (past) and selfish desires (future).

When we work in the world outside without ego and ego-centric desires, we exhaust our vāsanās. Our mind and intellect become integrated. With this pure and alert mind, we contemplate and meditate to realize our true nature which liberates us from all bondage. 

Chapter 3, Verse 32

ये त्वेतदभ्यसूयन्तो नानुतिष्ठन्ति मे मतम् ।
सर्वज्ञानविमूढांस्तान्विद्धि नष्टानचेतसः ॥३२॥
ye tvetadabhyasūyanto nānutiṣṭhanti me matam,
sarvajñānavimūḍhāṁstānviddhi naṣṭānacetasaḥ. (32)

But those who find faults with My teachings and do not practice them, deluded in all knowledge and devoid of discrimination, bring about their own destruction.

In contrast to the previous verse, Shri Krishna talks here about the deluded people who reject his teachings thoughtlessly. Tossed around by past sins, nervous about the future and the excitements of the present, they lose the capacity to discriminate wisely. They are doomed as they lose their chance for ultimate fulfillment. 

Chapter 3, Verse 33

सदृशं चेष्टते स्वस्याः प्रकृतेर्ज्ञानवानपि ।
प्रकृतिं यान्ति भूतानि निग्रहः किं करिष्यति ॥३३॥
sadṛśaṁ ceṣṭate svasyāḥ prakṛterjñānavānapi,
prakṛtiṁ yānti bhūtāni nigrahaḥ kiṁ kariṣyati. (33)

Even wise people act according to their own natures, for all living beings follow their natural tendencies. What will one gain by restraint?

Even though Shri Krishna has told us the formula for success, it is not possible to wake up the next morning and start implementing them. Because our tendencies and the patterns we have developed in the past are so strong. Our likes and dislikes dictate our actions. Our tendencies are not formed magically. All living beings live exactly according to the blueprint from their past. It takes time and conscious effort to change the pattern of thoughts and actions. A lot of willpower, determination, and alertness needs to be there. You cannot force someone to act against their tendencies. Only when people feel the need, they will practice it.

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