Siddharth, 6 Dec 2020

[Summary of Class to Follow]

Audio Chapters of the Bhagavad Gita by Swami Dayanand Saraswati

Verses with translation and commentary from

धृतराष्ट्र उवाच | धर्मक्षेत्रे कुरुक्षेत्रे समवेता युयुत्सवः | मामकाः पाण्डवाश्चैव किमकुर्वत सञ्जय ||1||
dhṛitarāśhtra uvācha dharma-kṣhetre kuru-kṣhetre samavetā yuyutsavaḥ māmakāḥ pāṇḍavāśhchaiva kimakurvata sañjaya
dhṛitarāśhtraḥ uvācha—Dhritarashtra said; dharma-kṣhetre—the land of dharma; kuru-kṣhetre—at Kurukshetra; samavetāḥ—having gathered; yuyutsavaḥ—desiring to fight; māmakāḥ—my sons; pāṇḍavāḥ—the sons of Pandu; cha—and; eva—certainly; kim—what; akurvata—did they do; sañjaya—Sanjay
Dhritarashtra said: O Sanjay, after gathering on the holy field of Kurukshetra, and desiring to fight, what did my sons and the sons of Pandu do?
The two armies had gathered on the battlefield of Kurukshetra, well prepared to fight a war that was inevitable. Still, in this verse, King Dhritarashtra asked Sanjay, what his sons and his brother Pandu’s sons were doing on the battlefield? It was apparent that they would fight, then why did he ask such a question? The blind King Dhritarashtra’s fondness for his own sons had clouded his spiritual wisdom and deviated him from the path of virtue. He had usurped the kingdom of Hastinapur from the rightful heirs; the Pandavas, sons of his brother Pandu. Feeling guilty of the injustice he had done towards his nephews, his conscience worried him about the outcome of this battle. The words dharma kṣhetre, the land of dharma (virtuous conduct) used by Dhritarashtra depict the dilemma he was experiencing. Kurukshetra is described as kurukṣhetraṁ deva yajanam in the Shatapath Brahman, the Vedic textbook detailing rituals. It means “Kurukshetra is the sacrificial arena of the celestial gods.” Hence, it was regarded as the sacred land that nourished dharma. Dhritarashtra feared that the holy land might influence the minds of his sons. If it aroused the faculty of discrimination, they might turn away from killing their cousins and negotiate a truce. A peaceful settlement meant that the Pandavas would continue being a hindrance for them. He felt great displeasure at these possibilities, instead preferred that this war transpires. He was uncertain of the consequences of the war, yet desired to determine the fate of his sons. Therefore, he asked Sanjay about the activities of the two armies on the battleground.
क्लैब्यं मा स्म गम: पार्थ नैतत्त्वय्युपपद्यते | क्षुद्रं हृदयदौर्बल्यं त्यक्त्वोत्तिष्ठ परन्तप || 3||
klaibyaṁ mā sma gamaḥ pārtha naitat tvayyupapadyate kṣhudraṁ hṛidaya-daurbalyaṁ tyaktvottiṣhṭha parantapa
klaibyam—unmanliness; mā sma—do not; gamaḥ—yield to; pārtha—Arjun, the son of Pritha; na—not; etat—this; tvayi—to you; upapadyate—befitting; kṣhudram—petty; hṛidaya—heart; daurbalyam—weakness; tyaktvā—giving up; uttiṣhṭha—arise; param-tapa—conqueror of enemies
O Parth, it does not befit you to yield to this unmanliness. Give up such petty weakness of heart and arise, O vanquisher of enemies.
Successfully treading the path of enlightenment requires high spirits and morale. One needs to be optimistic, enthusiastic, and energetic to overcome the negativities of the material mind, such as sloth, the rut of habit, ignorance, and attachment. Shree Krishna is a skillful teacher, and thus having reprimanded Arjun, He now enhances Arjun’s internal strength to tackle the situation by encouraging him. By addressing Arjun as the son of Pritha (another name for Kunti), Shree Krishna invokes him to remember his mother Kunti. She had worshipped Indra, the chief of the celestial gods, and with his blessings Arjun was born. Hence, he was endowed with extraordinary might and valor, similar to that of Indra. Shree Krishna is reminding him of this, encouraging him not to yield to this impotence, which does not befit his illustrious parentage. Again, He addresses Arjun as Parantapa, or conqueror of enemies, indicating to him to vanquish the enemy that has arisen within him, namely, the desire for dereliction of his dutiful action as a Kshatriya, or warrior class prince. Shree Krishna goes on to explain that the way he is feeling is neither moral duty nor true compassion; rather, it is lamentation and delusion. It has its roots in weakness of mind. If his behavior was truly based on wisdom and mercy, then he would experience neither confusion nor grief.
कार्पण्यदोषोपहतस्वभाव: पृच्छामि त्वां धर्मसम्मूढचेता: | यच्छ्रेय: स्यान्निश्चितं ब्रूहि तन्मे शिष्यस्तेऽहं शाधि मां त्वां प्रपन्नम् || 7||
kārpaṇya-doṣhopahata-svabhāvaḥ pṛichchhāmi tvāṁ dharma-sammūḍha-chetāḥ yach-chhreyaḥ syānniśhchitaṁ brūhi tanme śhiṣhyaste ’haṁ śhādhi māṁ tvāṁ prapannam
kārpaṇya-doṣha—the flaw of cowardice; upahata—besieged; sva-bhāvaḥ—nature; pṛichchhāmi—I am asking; tvām—to you; dharma—duty; sammūḍha—confused; chetāḥ—in heart; yat—what; śhreyaḥ—best; syāt—may be; niśhchitam—decisively; brūhi—tell; tat—that; me—to me; śhiṣhyaḥ—disciple; te—your; aham—I; śhādhi—please instruct; mām—me; tvām—unto you; prapannam—surrendered
I am confused about my duty, and am besieged with anxiety and faintheartedness. I am your disciple, and am surrendered to you. Please instruct me for certain what is best for me.
This is a great moment in the Bhagavad Gita, when for the first time Arjun, who is Shree Krishna’s friend and cousin, requests him to be his Guru. Arjun pleads to Shree Krishna that he has been overpowered by kārpaṇya doṣh, or the flaw of cowardice in behavior, and so he requests the Lord to become his Guru and instruct him about the path of auspiciousness. All the Vedic scriptures declare in unison that it is through the medium of a Spiritual Master that we receive divine knowledge for our eternal welfare: tadvijñānārthaṁ sagurumevābhigachchhet samitpāniḥ śhrotriyaṁ bhramhaniṣhṭham (Muṇḍakopaniṣhad 1.2.12) [v4] “To know the Absolute Truth, approach a Guru who is both a knower of the scriptures and is practically situated on the platform of God-realization.” tasmād guruṁ prapadyeta jijñāsuḥ śhreya uttamam śhābde pare cha niṣhṇātaṁ brahmaṇy upaśhamāśhrayam (Bhāgavatam 11.3.21) [v5] “Seekers of the Truth should surrender themselves to a Spiritual Master who has understood the conclusion of the scriptures and taken complete shelter of God, leaving aside all material considerations.” The Ramayan states: guru binu bhava nidhi tarai na koī, jauṅ biranchi sankara sama hoī. [v6] “Not even the most elevated of spiritual aspirants can cross over the material ocean without the grace of the Guru.” Shree Krishna states this himself in the Bhagavad Gita in verse 4.34: “Learn the truth by approaching a spiritual master. Inquire from him with reverence and render service unto him. Such an enlightened Saint can impart knowledge unto you because he has seen the truth.” To demonstrate the need for accepting a Guru to gain knowledge, Shree Krishna himself took this step. In his youth, he went to the hermitage of Sandipani Muni to learn sixty-four sciences from him. His classmate, Sudama, remarked regarding this: yasya chchhando mayaṁ brahma deha āvapanaṁ vibho śhreyasāṁ tasya guruṣhu vāso ’tyanta viḍambanam (Bhāgavatam 10.80.45) [v7] “O Shree Krishna, the Vedas are like your body, manifested from the knowledge that you possess (hence, what requirement do you have for making a Guru). Yet, you too pretend you need to learn from a Guru; this is only your divine leela (pastime).” Shree Krishna is in fact the first Guru of the world, because he is the Guru of Brahma, the first-born in this material world. He performed this leela for our benefit, to teach by his example that we souls, who are under the influence of Maya, will need a Guru to dispel our ignorance. In this verse, Arjun takes the step of surrendering to Shree Krishna as his disciple, and requests his Guru to enlighten him regarding the proper course of action.
श्रीभगवानुवाच | अशोच्यानन्वशोचस्त्वं प्रज्ञावादांश्च भाषसे | गतासूनगतासूंश्च नानुशोचन्ति पण्डिता: || 11||
śhrī bhagavān uvācha aśhochyān-anvaśhochas-tvaṁ prajñā-vādānśh cha bhāṣhase gatāsūn-agatāsūnśh-cha nānuśhochanti paṇḍitāḥ
śhrī-bhagavān uvācha—the Supreme Lord said; aśhochyān—not worthy of grief; anvaśhochaḥ—are mourning; tvam—you; prajñā-vādān—words of wisdom; cha—and; bhāṣhase—speaking; gata āsūn—the dead; agata asūn—the living; cha—and; na—never; anuśhochanti—lament; paṇḍitāḥ—the wise
The Supreme Lord said: While you speak words of wisdom, you are mourning for that which is not worthy of grief. The wise lament neither for the living nor for the dead.
Starting with this verse, Shree Krishna initiates his discourse with a dramatic opening statement. Arjun is lamenting, for what he feels are very valid reasons. But, rather than commiserating with him, Shree Krishna takes the wind out of his arguments. He says, “Arjun, though you may feel you are speaking words of wisdom, you are actually speaking and acting out of ignorance. No possible reason justifies lamentation. The Pundits—those who are wise—never lament, neither for the living nor for the dead. Hence the grief you visualize in killing your relatives is illusory, and it proves that you are not a Pundit.” One does not need to go far into the Gita to find a wise person above lamentation, for Grandsire Bheeshma himself was the perfect example. He was a sage who had fathomed the mysteries of life and death, and risen above the dualities of circumstances. Serene in any eventuality, he had even consented to taking the side of the wicked, if it served the Lord. He thus demonstrated that those who are surrendered to God simply do their duty in all situations, without being affected by outcomes. Such persons never lament because they accept all circumstances as God’s grace.
मात्रास्पर्शास्तु कौन्तेय शीतोष्णसुखदु: खदा: | आगमापायिनोऽनित्यास्तांस्तितिक्षस्व भारत || 14||
mātrā-sparśhās tu kaunteya śhītoṣhṇa-sukha-duḥkha-dāḥ āgamāpāyino ’nityās tans-titikṣhasva bhārata
mātrā-sparśhāḥ—contact of the senses with the sense objects; tu—indeed; kaunteya—Arjun, the son of Kunti; śhīta—winter; uṣhṇa—summer; sukha—happiness; duḥkha—distress; dāḥ—give; āgama—come; apāyinaḥ—go; anityāḥ—non-permanent; tān—them; titikṣhasva—tolerate; bhārata—descendant of the Bharat
O son of Kunti, the contact between the senses and the sense objects gives rise to fleeting perceptions of happiness and distress. These are non-permanent, and come and go like the winter and summer seasons. O descendent of Bharat, one must learn to tolerate them without being disturbed.
The human body houses five senses—the senses of sight, smell, taste, touch, and hearing—and these, in contact with their objects of perception, give rise to sensations of happiness and distress. None of these sensations is permanent. They come and go like the changing seasons. Although cool water provides pleasure in the summer, the same water gives distress in the winter. Thus, both the perceptions of happiness and distress experienced through the senses are transitory. If we permit ourselves to be affected by them, we will sway like a pendulum from side to side. A person of discrimination should practice to tolerate both the feelings of happiness and distress without being disturbed by them. The technique of Vipassanā, which is the primary technique of self-realization in Buddhism, is based on this principle of tolerance of sense perceptions. Its practice helps eliminate desire, which, as stated in the four noble truths (the truth of suffering, the truth of the origin of suffering, the truth of the cessation of suffering, and the truth of the path leading to the cessation), is the cause of all suffering. This is not surprising considering that Buddhist philosophy is a subset of the vast Vedic philosophy.
सुखदु:खे समे कृत्वा लाभालाभौ जयाजयौ | ततो युद्धाय युज्यस्व नैवं पापमवाप्स्यसि || 38||
sukha-duḥkhe same kṛitvā lābhālābhau jayājayau tato yuddhāya yujyasva naivaṁ pāpam avāpsyasi
sukha—happiness; duḥkhe—in distress; same kṛitvā—treating alike; lābha-alābhau—gain and loss; jaya-ajayau—victory and defeat; tataḥ—thereafter; yuddhāya—for fighting; yujyasva—engage; na—never; evam—thus; pāpam—sin; avāpsyasi—shall incur
Fight for the sake of duty, treating alike happiness and distress, loss and gain, victory and defeat. Fulfilling your responsibility in this way, you will never incur sin.
Having motivated Arjun from the mundane level, Shree Krishna now moves deeper into the science of work. Arjun had expressed his fear that by killing his enemies he would incur sin. Shree Krishna addresses this apprehension. He advises Arjun to do his duty, without attachment to the fruits of his actions. Such an attitude to work will release him from any sinful reactions. When we work with selfish motives, we create karmas, which bring about their subsequent karmic reactions. The Māṭhar Śhruti states: puṇyena puṇya lokaṁ nayati pāpena pāpamubhābhyāmeva manuṣhyalokam [v34] “If you do good deeds, you will go to the celestial abodes; if you do bad deeds, you will go to the nether regions; if you do a mixture of both, you will come back to the planet Earth.” In either case, we get bound by the reactions of our karmas. Thus, mundane good deeds are also binding. They result in material rewards, which add to the stockpile of our karmas and thicken the illusion that there is happiness in the world. However, if we give up selfish motives, then our actions no longer create any karmic reactions. For example, murder is a sin, and the judicial law of every country of the world declares it to be a punishable offence. But if a policeman in the discharge of his duty kills the leader of a gang of bandits, he is not punished for it. If a soldier kills an enemy soldier in battle, he is not punished for it. In fact, he can even be awarded a medal for bravery. The reason for apparent lack of punishment is that these actions are not motivated by any ill-will or personal motive; they are performed as a matter of duty to the country. God’s law is quite similar. If one gives up all selfish motives and works merely for the sake of duty toward the Supreme, such work does not create any karmic reactions. So Shree Krishna advises Arjun to become detached from outcomes and simply focus on doing his duty. When he fights with the attitude of equanimity, treating victory and defeat, pleasure and pain as the same, then despite killing his enemies, he will never incur sin. This subject is also repeated later in the Bhagavad Gita, in verse 5.10: “Just as a lotus leaf is untouched by water, those who dedicate all their actions to God, abandoning all attachment, remain untouched by sin.” Having declared a profound conclusion about work without attachment, Shree Krishna now says that he will explain the science of work in detail, to reveal the logic behind what he has said.
यावानर्थ उदपाने सर्वत: सम्प्लुतोदके | तावान्सर्वेषु वेदेषु ब्राह्मणस्य विजानत: || 46||
yāvān artha udapāne sarvataḥ samplutodake tāvānsarveṣhu vedeṣhu brāhmaṇasya vijānataḥ
yāvān—whatever; arthaḥ—purpose; uda-pāne—a well of water; sarvataḥ—in all respects; sampluta-udake—by a large lake; tāvān—that many; sarveṣhu—in all; vedeṣhu—Vedas; brāhmaṇasya—one who realizes the Absolute Truth; vijānataḥ—who is in complete knowledge
Whatever purpose is served by a small well of water is naturally served in all respects by a large lake. Similarly, one who realizes the Absolute Truth also fulfills the purpose of all the Vedas.
The Vedas contain 100,000 mantras, describing varieties of rituals, practices, prayers, ceremonies, and gems of knowledge. All these are given with only one aim—to help unite the soul with God. vāsudeva-parā vedā vāsudeva-parā makhāḥ vāsudeva-parā yogā vāsudeva-parāḥ kriyāḥ vāsudeva-paraṁ jñānaṁ vāsudeva-paraṁ tapaḥ vāsudeva-paro dharmo vāsudeva-parā gatiḥ (Bhāgavatam 1.2.28-29) [v38] “The goal of all the Vedic mantras, the ritualistic activities, spiritual practices, sacrifices, cultivation of knowledge, and performance of duties, is to help the soul reach the divine feet of God.” However, just as a medicine pill is often sugar-coated to make it more palatable, similarly to attract materially-minded people, the Vedas also give material allurements. The underlying motive is to help the soul gradually get detached from the world and attached to God. Thus, one who is attaching the mind to God is automatically fulfilling the purpose of all the Vedic mantras. Shree Krishna advises Uddhav: ājñāyaivaṁ guṇān doṣhān mayādiṣhṭān api swakān dharmān santyajya yaḥ sarvān māṁ bhajeta sa sattamaḥ (Bhāgavatam 11.11.32)[v39] “The Vedas prescribe varieties of social and ritualistic duties for individuals. But those who grasp their underlying motive, and rejecting all intermediate instructions, wholeheartedly fulfill their duty toward me, I consider them to be the highest devotees.”
कर्मण्येवाधिकारस्ते मा फलेषु कदाचन | मा कर्मफलहेतुर्भूर्मा ते सङ्गोऽस्त्वकर्मणि || 47 ||
karmaṇy-evādhikāras te mā phaleṣhu kadāchana mā karma-phala-hetur bhūr mā te saṅgo ’stvakarmaṇi
karmaṇi—in prescribed duties; eva—only; adhikāraḥ—right; te—your; mā—not; phaleṣhu—in the fruits; kadāchana—at any time; mā—never; karma-phala—results of the activities; hetuḥ—cause; bhūḥ—be; mā—not; te—your; saṅgaḥ—attachment; astu—must be; akarmaṇi—in inaction
You have a right to perform your prescribed duties, but you are not entitled to the fruits of your actions. Never consider yourself to be the cause of the results of your activities, nor be attached to inaction.
This is an extremely popular verse of the Bhagavad Gita, so much so that even most school children in India are familiar with it. It offers deep insight into the proper spirit of work and is often quoted whenever the topic of karm yog is discussed. The verse gives four instructions regarding the science of work: 1) Do your duty, but do not concern yourself with the results. 2) The fruits of your actions are not for your enjoyment. 3) Even while working, give up the pride of doership. 4) Do not be attached to inaction. Do your duty, but do not concern yourself with the results. We have the right to do our duty, but the results are not dependent only upon our efforts. A number of factors come into play in determining the results—our efforts, destiny (our past karmas), the will of God, the efforts of others, the cumulative karmas of the people involved, the place and situation (a matter of luck), etc. Now if we become anxious for results, we will experience anxiety whenever they are not according to our expectations. So Shree Krishna advises Arjun to give up concern for the results and instead focus solely on doing a good job. The fact is that when we are unconcerned about the results, we are able to focus entirely on our efforts, and the result is even better than before. A humorous acronym for this is NATO or Not Attached to Outcome. Consider its application to a simple everyday activity such as playing golf. When people play golf, they are engrossed in the fruits—whether their score is under par, over par, etc. Now if they could merely focus on playing the shots to the best of their ability, they would find it the most enjoyable game of golf they have ever played. Additionally, with their complete focus on the shot being played, their game would be raised to a higher level. The fruits of your actions are not for your enjoyment. To perform actions is an integral part of human nature. Having come into this world, we all have various duties determined by our family situation, social position, occupation, etc. While performing these actions, we must remember that we are not the enjoyers of the results—the results are meant for the pleasure of God. The individual soul is a tiny part of God (verse 15.7), and hence our inherent nature is to serve him through all our actions. dāsa bhūtamidaṁ tasya jagatsthāvara jangamam śhrīmannārāyaṇa swāmī jagatānprabhurīśhwaraḥ (Padma Puran)[v40] “God is the Master of the entire creation; all moving and non-moving beings are his servants.” Material consciousness is characterized by the following manner of thoughts, “I am the proprietor of all that I possess. It is all meant for my enjoyment. I have the right to enhance my possessions and maximize my enjoyment.” The reverse of this is Spiritual consciousness, which is characterized by thoughts such as, “God is the owner and enjoyer of this entire world. I am merely his selfless servant. I must use all that I have in the service of God.” Accordingly, Shree Krishna instructs Arjun not to think of himself as the enjoyer of the fruits of his actions. Even while working, give up the pride of doership. Shree Krishna wants Arjun to give up kartritwābhimān, or the ego of being the doer. He instructs Arjun never to chase after preconceived motives attached to his actions nor consider himself as the cause of the results of his actions. However, when we perform actions, then why should we not consider ourselves as the doers of those actions? The reason is that our senses, mind, and intellect are inert; God energizes them with his power and puts them at our disposal. As a result, only with the help of the power we receive from him, are we able to work. For example, the tongs in the kitchen are inactive by themselves, but they get energized by someone’s hand, and then they perform even difficult tasks, such as lifting burning coal, etc. Now if we say that the tongs are the doers of actions, it will be inaccurate. If the hand did not energize them, what would they be able to do? They would merely lie inert on the table. Similarly, if God did not supply our body-mind-soul mechanism with the power to perform actions, we could have done nothing. Thus, we must give up the ego of doing, remembering that God is the only source of the power by which we perform all our actions. All the above thoughts are very nicely summarized in the following popular Sanskrit verse: yatkṛitaṁ yatkariṣhyāmi tatsarvaṁ na mayā kṛitam tvayā kṛitaṁ tu phalabhuk tvameva madhusūdana [v41] “Whatever I have achieved and whatever I wish to achieve, I am not the doer of these. O Madhusudan, you are the real doer, and you alone are the enjoyer of their results.” Do not be attached to inaction. Although the nature of the living being is to work, often situations arise where work seems burdensome and confusing. In such cases, instead of running away from it, we must understand and implement the proper science of work, as explained by Shree Krishna to Arjun. However, it is highly inappropriate if we consider work as laborious and burdensome, and resort to inaction. Becoming attached to inaction is never the solution and is clearly condemned by Shree Krishna.
योगस्थ: कुरु कर्माणि सङ्गं त्यक्त्वा धनञ्जय | सिद्ध्यसिद्ध्यो: समो भूत्वा समत्वं योग उच्यते || 48||
yoga-sthaḥ kuru karmāṇi saṅgaṁ tyaktvā dhanañjaya siddhy-asiddhyoḥ samo bhūtvā samatvaṁ yoga uchyate
yoga-sthaḥ—being steadfast in yog; kuru—perform; karmāṇi—duties; saṅgam—attachment; tyaktvā—having abandoned; dhanañjaya—Arjun; siddhi-asiddhyoḥ—in success and failure; samaḥ—equipoised; bhūtvā—becoming; samatvam—equanimity; yogaḥ—Yog; uchyate—is called
Be steadfast in the performance of your duty, O Arjun, abandoning attachment to success and failure. Such equanimity is called Yog.
The equanimity that enables us to accept all circumstances with serenity is so praiseworthy that Shree Krishna calls it Yog, or union with the Supreme. This equipoise comes from implementing the knowledge of the previous verse. When we understand that the effort is in our hands, not the results, we then concern ourselves only with doing our duty. The results are for the pleasure of God, and so we dedicate them to him. Now, if the results are not to our expectations, we calmly accept them as the will of God. In this way, we are able to accept fame and infamy, success and failure, pleasure and pain, as God’s will, and when we learn to embrace both equally, we develop the equanimity that Shree Krishna talks about. The verse is a very practical solution to the vicissitudes of life. If we are sailing in the ocean in a boat, it is natural to expect the waves of the ocean to shake the boat. If we get disturbed each time a wave rocks the boat, our miseries would be endless. And if we do not expect the waves to arise, we would be expecting the ocean to become something other than its natural self. Waves are an inseparable phenomenon of the ocean. Similarly, as we wade through the ocean of life, it throws up all kinds of waves that are beyond our control. If we keep struggling to eliminate negative situations, we will be unable to avoid unhappiness. But if we can learn to accept everything that comes our way, without sacrificing our best efforts, we will have surrendered to the will of God, and that will be true Yog.
बुद्धियुक्तो जहातीह उभे सुकृतदुष्कृते | तस्माद्योगाय युज्यस्व योग: कर्मसु कौशलम् || 50||
buddhi-yukto jahātīha ubhe sukṛita-duṣhkṛite tasmād yogāya yujyasva yogaḥ karmasu kauśhalam
buddhi-yuktaḥ—endowed with wisdom; jahāti—get rid of; iha—in this life; ubhe—both; sukṛita-duṣhkṛite—good and bad deeds; tasmāt—therefore; yogāya—for Yog; yujyasva—strive for; yogaḥ—yog is; karmasu kauśhalam—the art of working skillfully
One who prudently practices the science of work without attachment can get rid of both good and bad reactions in this life itself. Therefore, strive for Yog, which is the art of working skillfully (in proper consciousness).
Upon hearing the science of karm-yog, people often wonder that if they give up attachment to results, will their performance go down? Shree Krishna explains that working without personal motivation does not reduce the quality of our work; instead we become even more skillful than before. Consider the example of a sincere surgeon who cuts people with his knife while operating upon them. He performs his duty with equanimity, and is undisturbed irrespective of whether the patient survives or dies. This is because he is merely doing his duty unselfishly, to the best of his ability, and is not attached to the results. Hence, even if the patient dies while being operated upon, the surgeon does not feel guilty of murder. However, if the same surgeon’s only child needs to be operated, he does not have the courage to do so. Because of attachment to the results, he fears he will not be able to perform the operation skillfully, and so he seeks the help of another surgeon. This shows that attachment to results does not make us more skillful; rather, the attachment affects our performance adversely. Instead, if we work without attachment, we can do so at our maximum skill level, without feeling nervous, jittery, scared, tense, or excited. Likewise, Arjun’s personal example also illustrates the point that giving up attachment to the fruits does not adversely affect performance. Before hearing the Bhagavad Gita, he intended to engage in war with the desire of winning a kingdom. After hearing the Bhagavad Gita from Shree Krishna, he was fighting because it was his duty to God, and Shree Krishna would be pleased by it. He was still a warrior; however, his internal motivation had changed. The fact that he did his duty without attachment did not make him any less competent than before. In fact, he fought with greater inspiration because his work was directly in service of God.
यदा संहरते चायं कूर्मोऽङ्गानीव सर्वश: | इन्द्रियाणीन्द्रियार्थेभ्यस्तस्य प्रज्ञा प्रतिष्ठिता || 58||
yadā sanharate chāyaṁ kūrmo ’ṅgānīva sarvaśhaḥ indriyāṇīndriyārthebhyas tasya prajñā pratiṣhṭhitā
yadā—when; sanharate—withdraw; cha—and; ayam—this; kūrmaḥ—tortoise; aṅgāni—limbs; iva—as; sarvaśhaḥ—fully; indriyāṇi—senses; indriya-arthebhyaḥ—from the sense objects; tasya—his; prajñā—divine wisdom; pratiṣhṭhitā—fixed in
One who is able to withdraw the senses from their objects, just as a tortoise withdraws its limbs into its shell, is established in divine wisdom.
Attempting to quench the cravings of the senses by supplying them with their desired objects is like trying to dowse a fire by pouring clarified butter on it. The fire may be smothered for a moment, but then it flares up with redoubled intensity. Hence, the Śhrīmad Bhāgavatam states that desires never go away when they are fulfilled; they only come back more strongly: na jātu kāmaḥ kāmānām upabhogena śhānyati haviṣhā kṛiṣhṇa-vartmeva bhūya evābhivardhate (9.19.14) [v49] “Fulfilling the desires of the senses does not extinguish them, just as offering oblations of butter in the fire does not extinguish it; instead, it makes the fire blaze even stronger.” These desires can be compared to an itch in the body. The itch is troublesome and creates an irresistible urge to scratch. But scratching does not solve the problem. For a few moments, there is relief, and then the itch returns with greater force. Instead, if someone can tolerate the itch for some time, it begins losing its sting, and dies down slowly. That is the secret for getting peace from the itch. The same logic applies to desires as well. The mind and senses throw up myriad desires for happiness, but as long as we are in the game of fulfilling them, happiness remains illusory, like the mirage. But when we learn to discard all these desires, to find happiness in God, the mind and senses make peace with us. So an enlightened sage intelligently masters the senses and the mind. The illustration used in this verse is that of the turtle. Whenever it encounters danger, the turtle protects itself by drawing its limbs and head inside its shell. After the danger passes, the turtle again extracts its limbs and head and continues on its way. The enlightened soul possesses similar control over the mind and senses and can retract and extract them according to the needs of the situation.
शुचौ देशे प्रतिष्ठाप्य स्थिरमासनमात्मन: | नात्युच्छ्रितं नातिनीचं चैलाजिनकुशोत्तरम् || 11||
śhuchau deśhe pratiṣhṭhāpya sthiram āsanam ātmanaḥ nātyuchchhritaṁ nāti-nīchaṁ chailājina-kuśhottaram
śhuchau—in a clean; deśhe—place; pratiṣhṭhāpya—having established; sthiram—steadfast; āsanam—seat; ātmanaḥ—his own; na—not; ati—too; uchchhritam—high; na—not; ati—too; nīcham—low; chaila—cloth; ajina—a deerskin; kuśha—kuśh grass; uttaram—one over the other
To practice Yog, one should make an āsan (seat) in a sanctified place, by placing kuśh grass, deer skin, and a cloth, one over the other. The āsan should be neither too high nor too low.
Shree Krishna explains in this verse the external practice for sādhanā. Śhuchau deśhe means a pure or sanctified place. In the initial stages, the external environment does impact the mind. In later stages of sādhanā, one is able to achieve internal purity even in dirty and unclean places. But for neophytes, clean surroundings help in keeping the mind clean as well. A mat of kuśh grass provides temperature insulation from the ground, akin to the yoga mats of today. The deer skin atop it deters poisonous pests like snakes and scorpions from approaching while one is absorbed in meditation. If the āsan is too high, there is the risk of falling off; if the āsan is too low, there is danger of disturbance from insects on the ground. Some instructions regarding external seating given in this verse may be somewhat anachronous to modern times, in which case the spirit of the instruction is to be absorbed in the thought of God, while the instructions for the internal practice remain the same.
तत्रैकाग्रं मन: कृत्वा यतचित्तेन्द्रियक्रिय: | उपविश्यासने युञ्ज्याद्योगमात्मविशुद्धये || 12||
tatraikāgraṁ manaḥ kṛitvā yata-chittendriya-kriyaḥ upaviśhyāsane yuñjyād yogam ātma-viśhuddhaye
tatra—there; eka-agram—one-pointed; manaḥ—mind; kṛitvā—having made; yata-chitta—controlling the mind; indriya—senses; kriyaḥ—activities; upaviśhya—being seated; āsane—on the seat; yuñjyāt yogam—should strive to practice yog; ātma viśhuddhaye—for purification of the mind;
Seated firmly on it, the yogi should strive to purify the mind by focusing it in meditation with one pointed concentration, controlling all thoughts and activities.
Having described the seating for meditation, Shree Krishna next describes the posture of the body that is best for concentrating the mind. In sādhanā, there is a tendency to become lazy and doze off to sleep. This happens because the material mind does not initially get as much bliss in contemplation on God as it does while relishing sense objects. This creates the possibility for the mind to become languid when focused on God. Hence, you do not find people dozing off half-way through their meal, but you do see people falling asleep during meditation and the chanting of God’s names. To avoid this, Shree Krishna gives the instruction to sit erect. The Brahma Sūtra also states three aphorisms regarding the posture for meditation: āsīnaḥ saṁbhavāt (4.1.7)[v5] “To do sādhanā, seat yourself properly.” achalatvaṁ chāpekṣhya (4.1.9)[v6] “Ensure that you sit erect and still.” dhyānāchcha (4.1.8)[v7] “Seated in this manner, focus the mind in meditation.” There are a number of meditative āsans described in the Hath Yoga Pradeepika, such as padmasan, ardha padmasan, dhyanveer asan, siddhasan, and sukhasan. We may adopt any āsan in which we can comfortably sit, without moving, during the period of the meditation. Maharshi Patañjali states: sthira sukhamāsanam (Patañjali Yog Sūtra 2.46)[v8] “To practice meditation, sit motionless in any posture that you are comfortable in.” Some people are unable to sit on the floor due to knee problems, etc. They should not feel discouraged, for they can even practice meditation while sitting on a chair, provided they fulfill the condition of sitting motionless and erect. In this verse, Shree Krishna states that the eyes should be made to focus on the tip of the nose, and prevented from wandering. As a variation, the eyes can also be kept closed. Both these techniques will be helpful in blocking out worldly distractions. The external seat and posture do need to be appropriate, but meditation is truly a journey within us. Through meditation, we can reach deep within and cleanse the mind of endless lifetimes of dross. By learning to hold the mind in concentration, we can work upon it to harness its latent potential. The practice of meditation helps organize our personality, awaken our inner consciousness, and expand our self-awareness. The spiritual benefits of meditation are described later, in the purport on verse 6.15. Some of the side benefits are: It reins the unbridled mind, and harnesses the thought energy to attain difficult goals. It helps maintain mental balance in the midst of adverse circumstances. It aids in the development of a strong resolve that is necessary for success in life. It enables one to eliminate bad sanskārs and habits, and cultivate good qualities. The best kind of meditation is one where the mind is focused upon God. This is clarified in the next two verses.
समं कायशिरोग्रीवं धारयन्नचलं स्थिर: | सम्प्रेक्ष्य नासिकाग्रं स्वं दिशश्चानवलोकयन् || 13||
samaṁ kāya-śhiro-grīvaṁ dhārayann achalaṁ sthiraḥ samprekṣhya nāsikāgraṁ svaṁ diśhaśh chānavalokayan
samam—straight; kāya—body; śhiraḥ—head; grīvam—neck; dhārayan—holding; achalam—unmoving; sthiraḥ—still; samprekṣhya—gazing; nāsika-agram—at the tip of the nose; svam—own; diśhaḥ—directions; cha—and; anavalokayan—not looking
He must hold the body, neck, and head firmly in a straight line, and gaze at the tip of the nose, without allowing the eyes to wander.
[See 6.12]
यत: प्रवृत्तिर्भूतानां येन सर्वमिदं ततम् | स्वकर्मणा तमभ्यर्च्य सिद्धिं विन्दति मानव: || 46||
yataḥ pravṛittir bhūtānāṁ yena sarvam idaṁ tatam sva-karmaṇā tam abhyarchya siddhiṁ vindati mānavaḥ
yataḥ—from whom; pravṛittiḥ—have come into being; bhūtānām—of all living entities; yena—by whom; sarvam—all; idam—this; tatam—pervaded; sva-karmaṇā—by one’s natural occupation; tam—him; abhyarchya—by worshipping; siddhim—perfection; vindati—attains; mānavaḥ—a person
By performing one’s natural occupation, one worships the Creator from whom all living entities have come into being, and by whom the whole universe is pervaded. By such performance of work, a person easily attains perfection.
No soul is superfluous in God’s creation. His divine plan is for the gradual perfection of all living beings. We all fit into his scheme like tiny cogs in the giant wheel. And he does not expect more from us than the competence he has given to us. Therefore, if we can simply perform our swa-dharma in accordance with our nature and position in life, we will participate in his divine plan for our purification. When done in devotional consciousness our work itself becomes a form of worship. A powerful story illustrating that no duty is ugly or impure, and it is only the consciousness with which we do it that determines its worth, was told to Yudhishthir by Sage Markandeya, in the Vana Parva of the Mahabharat. The story goes that a young sanyāsī went into the forest, where he meditated and performed austerities for a long time. A few years went by, and one day a crow’s droppings fell upon him from the tree above. He looked angrily at the bird, and it fell dead on the ground. The sanyāsī realized he had developed mystical powers as a result of his austerities. He became filled with pride. Shortly thereafter, he went to a house to beg for alms. The housewife came to the door, and requested him to wait a while, since she was nursing her sick husband. This angered the monk and he glanced angrily at her, thinking, “You wretched woman, how dare you make me wait! You do not know my powers.” Reading his mind, the woman replied, “Do not look at me with such anger. I am not a crow to be burnt by your glance.” The monk was shocked, and asked how she knew about the incident? The housewife said she did not practice any austerities, but did her duties with devotion and dedication. By virtue of it, she had been illumined and was able to read his mind. She then asked him to meet a righteous butcher who lived in the town of Mithila, and said that he would answer his questions on dharma. The sanyāsī overcame his initial hesitation of speaking to a lowly butcher, and went to Mithila. The righteous butcher then explained to him that we all have our respective swa-dharma, based upon our past karmas and competence. But if we discharge our natural duty, renouncing the desire for personal gain and rising above the fleeting happiness and misery coming our way, we will purify ourselves and graduate to the next class of dharma. In this manner, by doing the prescribed duties and not running away from them, the soul gradually evolves from its present gross consciousness to divine consciousness. The lecture the butcher delivered is known as the Vyadha Gita of the Mahabharat. This message is particularly applicable to Arjun because he wanted to run away from his dharma, thinking it is painful and miserable. In this verse, Shree Krishna instructs him that by doing his prescribed duty in proper consciousness he will be worshipping the Supreme, and will easily attain perfection.

सत्त्वं रजस्तम इति गुणा: प्रकृतिसम्भवा: | निबध्नन्ति महाबाहो देहे देहिनमव्ययम् || 5||
sattvaṁ rajas tama iti guṇāḥ prakṛiti-sambhavāḥ nibadhnanti mahā-bāho dehe dehinam avyayam
sattvam—mode of goodness; rajaḥ—mode of passion; tamaḥ—mode of ignorance; iti—thus; guṇāḥ—modes; prakṛiti—material nature; sambhavāḥ—consists of; nibadhnanti—bind; mahā-bāho—mighty-armed one; dehe—in the body; dehinam—the embodied soul; avyayam—eternal
O mighty-armed Arjun, the material energy consists of three guṇas (modes)—sattva (goodness), rajas (passion), and tamas (ignorance). These modes bind the eternal soul to the perishable body.
Having explained that all life-forms are born from puruṣh and prakṛiti, Shree Krishna now explains in the next fourteen verses how prakṛiti binds the soul. Although it is divine, its identification with the body ties it to material nature. The material energy possess three guṇas—goodness, passion, and ignorance. Hence the body, mind, and intellect that are made from prakṛiti also possess these three modes. Consider the example of three-color printing. If any one of the colors is released in excess by the machine on the paper, then the picture acquires a hue of that color. Similarly, prakṛiti has the ink of the three colors. Based upon one’s internal thoughts, the external circumstances, past sanskārs, and other factors, one or the other of these modes becomes dominant for that person. And the mode that predominates creates its corresponding shade upon that person’s personality. Hence, the soul is swayed by the influence of these dominating modes. Shree Krishna now describes the impact of these modes upon the living being.
सत्त्वं रजस्तम इति गुणा: प्रकृतिसम्भवा: | निबध्नन्ति महाबाहो देहे देहिनमव्ययम् || 5||
sattvaṁ rajas tama iti guṇāḥ prakṛiti-sambhavāḥ nibadhnanti mahā-bāho dehe dehinam avyayam
sattvam—mode of goodness; rajaḥ—mode of passion; tamaḥ—mode of ignorance; iti—thus; guṇāḥ—modes; prakṛiti—material nature; sambhavāḥ—consists of; nibadhnanti—bind; mahā-bāho—mighty-armed one; dehe—in the body; dehinam—the embodied soul; avyayam—eternal
O mighty-armed Arjun, the material energy consists of three guṇas (modes)—sattva (goodness), rajas (passion), and tamas (ignorance). These modes bind the eternal soul to the perishable body.
Having explained that all life-forms are born from puruṣh and prakṛiti, Shree Krishna now explains in the next fourteen verses how prakṛiti binds the soul. Although it is divine, its identification with the body ties it to material nature. The material energy possess three guṇas—goodness, passion, and ignorance. Hence the body, mind, and intellect that are made from prakṛiti also possess these three modes. Consider the example of three-color printing. If any one of the colors is released in excess by the machine on the paper, then the picture acquires a hue of that color. Similarly, prakṛiti has the ink of the three colors. Based upon one’s internal thoughts, the external circumstances, past sanskārs, and other factors, one or the other of these modes becomes dominant for that person. And the mode that predominates creates its corresponding shade upon that person’s personality. Hence, the soul is swayed by the influence of these dominating modes. Shree Krishna now describes the impact of these modes upon the living being.
रजो रागात्मकं विद्धि तृष्णासङ्गसमुद्भवम् | तन्निबध्नाति कौन्तेय कर्मसङ्गेन देहिनम् || 7||
rajo rāgātmakaṁ viddhi tṛiṣhṇā-saṅga-samudbhavam tan nibadhnāti kaunteya karma-saṅgena dehinam
rajaḥ—mode of passion; rāga-ātmakam—of the nature of passion; viddhi—know; tṛiṣhṇā—desires; saṅga—association; samudbhavam—arises from; tat—that; nibadhnāti—binds; kaunteya—Arjun, the son of Kunti; karma-saṅgena—through attachment to fruitive actions; dehinam—the embodied soul
O Arjun, rajo guṇa is of the nature of passion. It arises from worldly desires and affections, and binds the soul through attachment to fruitive actions.
Shree Krishna now explains the working of rajo guṇa, and how it binds the soul to material existence. The Patañjali Yog Darśhan describes material activity as the primary manifestation of rajo guṇa. Here, Shree Krishna describes its principal manifestation as attachment and desire. The mode of passion fuels the lust for sensual enjoyment. It inflames desires for mental and physical pleasures. It also promotes attachment to worldly things. Persons influenced by rajo guṇa get engrossed in worldly pursuits of status, prestige, career, family, and home. They look on these as sources of pleasure and are motivated to undertake intense activity for the sake of these. In this way, the mode of passion increases desires, and these desires further fuel an increase of the mode of passion. They both nourish each other and trap the soul in worldly life. The way to break out of this is to engage in karm yog, i.e. to begin offering the results of one’s activities to God. This creates detachment from the world, and pacifies the effect of rajo guṇa.
तमस्त्वज्ञानजं विद्धि मोहनं सर्वदेहिनाम् | प्रमादालस्यनिद्राभिस्तन्निबध्नाति भारत || 8||
tamas tv ajñāna-jaṁ viddhi mohanaṁ sarva-dehinām pramādālasya-nidrābhis tan nibadhnāti bhārata
tamaḥ—mode of ignorance; tu—but; ajñāna-jam—born of ignorance; viddhi—know; mohanam—illusion; sarva-dehinām—for all the embodied souls; pramāda—negligence; ālasya—laziness; nidrābhiḥ—and sleep; tat—that; nibadhnāti—binds; bhārata—Arjun, the son of Bharat
O Arjun, tamo guṇa, which is born of ignorance, is the cause of illusion for the embodied souls. It deludes all living beings through negligence, laziness, and sleep.
Tamo guṇa is the antithesis of sattva guṇa. Persons influenced by it get pleasure through sleep, laziness, intoxication, violence, and gambling. They lose their discrimination of what is right and what is wrong, and do not hesitate in resorting to immoral behavior for fulfilling their self-will. Doing their duty becomes burdensome to them and they neglect it, becoming more inclined to sloth and sleep. In this way, the mode of ignorance leads the soul deeper into the darkness of ignorance. It becomes totally oblivious of its spiritual identity, its goal in life, and the opportunity for progress that the human form provides.
सत्त्वं सुखे सञ्जयति रज: कर्मणि भारत | ज्ञानमावृत्य तु तम: प्रमादे सञ्जयत्युत || 9||
sattvaṁ sukhe sañjayati rajaḥ karmaṇi bhārata jñānam āvṛitya tu tamaḥ pramāde sañjayaty uta
sattvam—mode of goodness; sukhe—to happiness; sañjayati—binds; rajaḥ—mode of passion; karmaṇi—toward actions; bhārata—Arjun, the son of Bharat; jñānam—wisdom; āvṛitya—clouds; tu—but; tamaḥ—mode of ignorance; pramāde—to delusion; sañjayati—binds; uta—indeed
Sattva binds one to material happiness; rajas conditions the soul toward actions; and tamas clouds wisdom and binds one to delusion.
In the mode of goodness, the miseries of material existence reduce, and worldly desires become subdued. This gives rise to a feeling of contentment with one’s condition. This is a good thing, but it can have a negative side too. For instance, those who experience pain in the world and are disturbed by the desires in their mind feel impelled to look for a solution to their problems, and this impetus sometimes brings them to the spiritual path. However, those in goodness can easily become complacent and feel no urge to progress to the transcendental platform. Also, sattva guṇa illumines the intellect with knowledge. If this is not accompanied by spiritual wisdom, then knowledge results in pride and that pride comes in the way of devotion to God. This is often seen in the case of scientists, academicians, scholars, etc. The mode of goodness usually predominates in them, since they spend their time and energy cultivating knowledge. And yet, the knowledge they possess often makes them proud, and they begin to feel that there can be no truth beyond the grasp of their intellect. Thus, they find it difficult to develop faith toward either the scriptures or the God-realized Saints. In the mode of passion, the souls are impelled toward intense activity. Their attachment to the world and preference for pleasure, prestige, wealth, and bodily comforts, propels them to work hard in the world for achieving these goals, which they consider to be the most important in life. Rajo guṇa increases the attraction between man and woman, and generates kām (lust). To satiate that lust, man and woman enter into the relationship of marriage and have a home. The upkeep of the home creates the need for wealth, so they begin to work hard for economic development. They engage in intense activity, but each action creates karmas, which further bind them in material existence. The mode of ignorance clouds the intellect of the living being. The desire for happiness now manifests in perverse manners. For example, everyone knows that cigarette smoking is injurious to health. Every cigarette pack carries a warning to that extent issued by the government authorities. Cigarette smokers read this, and yet do not refrain from smoking. This happens because the intellect loses its discriminative power and does not hesitate to inflict self-injury to get the pleasure of smoking. As someone jokingly said, “A cigarette is a pipe with a fire at one end and a fool at the other.” That is the influence of tamo guṇa, which binds the soul in the darkness of ignorance.
सत्त्वात्सञ्जायते ज्ञानं रजसो लोभ एव च | प्रमादमोहौ तमसो भवतोऽज्ञानमेव च || 17||
sattvāt sañjāyate jñānaṁ rajaso lobha eva cha pramāda-mohau tamaso bhavato ’jñānam eva cha
sattvāt—from the mode of goodness; sañjāyate—arises; jñānam—knowledge; rajasaḥ—from the mode of passion; lobhaḥ—greed; eva—indeed; cha—and; pramāda—negligence; mohau—delusion; tamasaḥ—from the mode of ignorance; bhavataḥ—arise; ajñānam—ignorance; eva—indeed; cha—and
From the mode of goodness arises knowledge, from the mode of passion arises greed, and from the mode of ignorance arise negligence and delusion.
Having mentioned the variation in the results that accrue from the three guṇas, Shree Krishna now gives the reason for this. Sattva guṇa gives rise to wisdom, which confers the ability to discriminate between right and wrong. It also pacifies the desires of the senses for gratification, and creates a concurrent feeling of happiness and contentment. People influenced by it are inclined toward intellectual pursuits and virtuous ideas. Thus, the mode of goodness promotes wise actions. Rajo guṇa inflames the senses, and puts the mind out of control, sending it into a spin of ambitious desires. The living being is trapped by it and over-endeavors for wealth and pleasures that are meaningless from the perspective of the soul. Tamo guṇa covers the living being with inertia and nescience. Shrouded in ignorance, a person performs wicked and impious deeds and bears consequent results.

यदा यदा हि धर्मस्य ग्लानिर्भवति भारत | अभ्युत्थानमधर्मस्य तदात्मानं सृजाम्यहम् || 7||
yadā yadā hi dharmasya glānir bhavati bhārata abhyutthānam adharmasya tadātmānaṁ sṛijāmyaham
yadā yadā—whenever; hi—certainly; dharmasya—of righteousness; glāniḥ—decline; bhavati—is; bhārata—Arjun, descendant of Bharat; abhyutthānam—increase; adharmasya—of unrighteousness; tadā—at that time; ātmānam—self; sṛijāmi—manifest; aham—I
Whenever there is a decline in righteousness and an increase in unrighteousness, O Arjun, at that time I manifest myself on earth.
Dharma is verily the prescribed actions that are conducive to our spiritual growth and progress; the reverse of this is adharma (unrighteousness). When unrighteousness prevails, the creator and administrator of the world intervenes by descending and reestablishing dharma. Such a descension of God is called an Avatār. The word “Avatar” has been adopted from Sanskrit into English and is commonly used for people’s images on the media screen. In this text, we will be using it in its original Sanskrit connotation, to refer to the divine descension of God. Twenty four such descensions have been listed in the Śhrīmad Bhāgavatam. However, the Vedic scriptures state that there are innumerable descensions of God: janma-karmābhidhānāni santi me ’ṅga sahasraśhaḥ na śhakyante ’nusankhyātum anantatvān mayāpi hi (Bhāgavatam 10.51.36)[v5] “Nobody can count the infinite Avatars of God since the beginning of eternity.” These Avatars are classified in four categories, as stated below: 1. Āveśhāvatār—when God manifests his special powers in an individual soul and acts through him. The sage Narad is an example of Āveśhāvatār. The Buddha is also an example of Āveśhāvatār. 2. Prābhavāvatār—these are the descensions of God in the personal form, where he displays some of his divine powers. Prābhavāvatārs are also of two kinds: a) Where God reveals himself only for a few moments, completes his work, and then departs. Hansavatar is an example of this, where God manifested before the Kumaras, answered their question, and left. b) Where the Avatar remains on the earth for many years. Ved Vyas, who wrote the eighteen Puranas and the Mahabharat, and divided the Vedas into four parts, is an example of such an Avatar. 3. Vaibhavatār—when God descends in his divine form, and manifests more of his divine powers. Matsyavatar, Kurmavatar, Varahavatar are all examples of Vaibhavatārs. 4. Parāvasthāvatār—when God manifests all his divine powers in his personal divine form. Shree Krishna, Shree Ram, and Nrisinghavatar are all Parāvasthāvatār. This classification does not imply that any one Avatār is bigger than the other. Ved Vyas, who is himself an Avatār, clearly states this: sarve pūrṇāḥ śhāśhvatāśhcha dehāstasya paramātmanaḥ (Padma Purāṇ)[v6] “All the descensions of God are replete with all divine powers; they are all perfect and complete.” Hence, we should not differentiate one Avatar as bigger and another as smaller. However, in each descension, God manifests his powers based on the objectives he wishes to accomplish during that particular descension. The remaining powers reside latently within the Avatar. Hence, the above classifications were created.
परित्राणाय साधूनां विनाशाय च दुष्कृताम् | धर्मसंस्थापनार्थाय सम्भवामि युगे युगे || 8||
paritrāṇāya sādhūnāṁ vināśhāya cha duṣhkṛitām dharma-sansthāpanārthāya sambhavāmi yuge yuge
paritrāṇāya—to protect; sādhūnām—the righteous; vināśhāya—to annihilate; cha—and; duṣhkṛitām—the wicked; dharma—the eternal religion; sansthāpana-arthāya—to reestablish; sambhavāmi—I appear; yuge yuge—age after age
To protect the righteous, to annihilate the wicked, and to reestablish the principles of dharma I appear on this earth, age after age.
Having stated in the last verse that God descends in the world, he now states the three reasons for doing so: 1) To annihilate the wicked. 2) To protect the pious. 3) To establish dharma. However, if we closely study these three points, none of the three reasons seem very convincing: To protect the righteous. God is seated in the hearts of his devotees, and always protects them from within. There is no need to take an Avatar for this purpose. To annihilate the wicked. God is all-powerful, and can kill the wicked merely by wishing it. Why should he have to take an Avatar to accomplish this? To establish dharma. Dharma is eternally described in the Vedas. God can reestablish it through a Saint; he does not need to descend himself, in his personal form, to accomplish this. How then do we make sense of the reasons that have been stated in this verse? Let’s delve a little deeper to grasp the import of what Shree Krishna is stating. The biggest dharma that the soul can engage in is devotion to God. That is what God strengthens by taking an Avatār. When God descends in the world, he reveals his divine forms, names, virtues, pastimes, abodes, and associates. This provides the souls with an easy basis for devotion. Since the mind needs a form to focus upon and to connect with, the formless aspect of God is very difficult to worship. On the other hand, devotion to the personal form of God is easy for people to comprehend, simple to perform, and sweet to engage in. Thus, since the descension of Lord Krishna 5,000 years ago, billions of souls have made his divine leelas (pastimes) as the basis of their devotion, and purified their minds with ease and joy. Similarly, the Ramayan has provided the souls with a popular basis for devotion for innumerable centuries. When the TV show, Ramayan, first began airing on Indian national television on Sunday mornings, all the streets of India would become empty. The pastimes of Lord Ram held such fascination for the people that they would be glued to their television sets to see the leelas on the screen. This reveals how Lord Ram’s descension provided the basis for devotion to billions of souls in history. The Ramayan says: rām eka tāpasa tiya tārī, nāma koṭi khala kumati sudhārī [v7] “In his descension period, Lord Ram helped only one Ahalya (Sage Gautam’s wife, whom Lord Ram released from the body of stone). However, since then, by chanting the divine name “Ram,” billions of fallen souls have elevated themselves.” So a deeper understanding of this verse is: To establish dharma: God descends to establish the dharma of devotion by providing souls with his names, forms, pastimes, virtues, abodes, and associates, with the help of which they may engage in bhakti and purify their minds. To kill the wicked: Along with God, to help facilitate his divine pastimes, some liberated Saints descend and pretend to be miscreants. For example, Ravan and Kumbhakarna were Jaya and Vijaya who descended from the divine abode of God. They pretended to be demons and opposed and fought with Ram. They could not have been killed by anyone else, since they were divine personalities. So, God slayed such demons as a part of his leelas. And having killed them, he sent them to his divine abode, since that was where they came from in the first place. To protect the righteous: Many souls had become sufficiently elevated in their sādhanā (spiritual practice) to qualify to meet God face-to-face. When Shree Krishna descended in the world, these eligible souls got their first opportunity to participate in God’s divine pastimes. For example, some gopīs (cowherd women of Vrindavan, where Shree Krishna manifested his pastimes) were liberated souls who had descended from the divine abode to assist in Shree Krishna’s leelas. Other gopīs were materially bound souls who got their first chance to meet and serve God, and participate in his leelas. So when Shree Krishna descended in the world, such qualified souls got the opportunity to perfect their devotion by directly participating in the pastimes of God. This is the deeper meaning of the verse. However, it is not wrong if someone wishes to cognize the verse more literally or metaphorically.
ब्रह्मार्पणं ब्रह्म हविर्ब्रह्माग्नौ ब्रह्मणा हुतम् | ब्रह्मैव तेन गन्तव्यं ब्रह्मकर्मसमाधिना || 24||
brahmārpaṇaṁ brahma havir brahmāgnau brahmaṇā hutam brahmaiva tena gantavyaṁ brahma-karma-samādhinā
brahma—Brahman; arpaṇam—the ladle and other offerings; brahma—Brahman; haviḥ—the oblation; brahma—Brahman; agnau—in the sacrificial fire; brahmaṇā—by that person; hutam—offered; brahma—Brahman; eva—certainly; tena—by that; gantavyam—to be attained; brahma—Brahman; karma—offering; samādhinā—those completely absorbed in God-consciousness
For those who are completely absorbed in God-consciousness, the oblation is Brahman, the ladle with which it is offered is Brahman, the act of offering is Brahman, and the sacrificial fire is also Brahman. Such persons, who view everything as God, easily attain him.
Factually, the objects of the world are made from Maya, the material energy of God. Energy is both one with its energetic and also different from it. For example, light is the energy of fire. It can be considered as different from the fire, because it exists outside it. But it can also be reckoned as a part of the fire itself. Hence, when the rays of the sun enter the room through a window, people say, “The sun has come.” Here, they are bundling the sunrays with the sun. The energy is both distinct from the energetic and yet a part of it. The soul too is the energy of God—it is a spiritual energy, called jīva śhakti. Shree Krishna states this in verses 7.4 and 7.5. Chaitanya Mahaprabhu stated: jīva-tattva śhakti, kṛiṣhṇa-tattva śhaktimān gītā-viṣhṇupurāṇādi tāhāte pramāṇa (Chaitanya Charitāmṛit, Ādi Leela, 7.117)[v19] “Lord Krishna is the energetic and the soul is his energy. This has been stated in Bhagavad Gita, Viṣhṇu Purāṇ, etc.” Thus, the soul is also simultaneously one with and different from God. Hence, those whose minds are fully absorbed in God-consciousness see the whole world in its unity with God as non-different from him. The Śhrīmad Bhāgavatam states: sarva-bhūteṣhu yaḥ paśhyed bhagavad-bhāvam ātmanaḥ bhūtāni bhagavatyātmanyeṣha bhāgavatottamaḥ (11.2.45)[v20] “One who sees God everywhere and in all beings is the highest spiritualist.” For such advanced spiritualists whose minds are completely absorbed in God-consciousness, the person making the sacrifice, the object of the sacrifice, the instruments of the sacrifice, the sacrificial fire, and the act of sacrifice, are all perceived as non-different from God. Having explained the spirit in which sacrifice is to be done, Lord Krishna now relates the different kinds of sacrifice people perform in this world for purification.

सर्वधर्मान्परित्यज्य मामेकं शरणं व्रज | अहं त्वां सर्वपापेभ्यो मोक्षयिष्यामि मा शुच: || 66||
sarva-dharmān parityajya mām ekaṁ śharaṇaṁ vraja ahaṁ tvāṁ sarva-pāpebhyo mokṣhayiṣhyāmi mā śhuchaḥ
sarva-dharmān—all varieties of dharmas; parityajya—abandoning; mām—unto me; ekam—only; śharaṇam—take refuge; vraja—take; aham—I; tvām—you; sarva—all; pāpebhyaḥ—from sinful reactions; mokṣhayiṣhyāmi—shall liberate; mā—do not; śhuchaḥ—fear
Abandon all varieties of dharmas and simply surrender unto me alone. I shall liberate you from all sinful reactions; do not fear.
All along, Shree Krishna had been asking Arjun to do two things simultaneously—engage his mind in devotion, and engage his body in fulfilling his material duty as a warrior. He thus wanted Arjun not to give up his Kshatriya dharma, but to do devotion alongside with it. This is the principle of karm yog. Now, Shree Krishna reverses this teaching by saying that here is no need to fulfill even material dharma. Arjun can renounce all material duties and simply surrender to God. This is the principle of karm sanyās. Here, one may question that if we give up all our material dharmas will we not incur sin? Shree Krishna tells Arjun not to fear; he will absolve him from all sins, and liberate him from material existence. To comprehend this instruction of Shree Krishna, we need to understand the term dharma. It comes from the root word dhṛi, which means dhāraṇ karane yogya, or “responsibilities, duties, thoughts, and actions that are appropriate for us.” There are actually two kinds of dharmas—material dharma and spiritual dharma. These two kinds of dharma are based upon two different understandings of the “self.” When we identify ourselves as the body, then our dharma is determined in accordance with our bodily designations, obligations, duties, and norms. Hence, serving the bodily parents, fulfilling the responsibilities to society, nation, etc. are all bodily dharma. This is also called apara dharma or material dharma. This includes the dharma as a Brahmin, Kshatriya, etc. However, when we identify ourselves as the soul, we have no material designations of varṇa (social class) and āśhram (status in life). The soul’s Father, Mother, Friend, Beloved, and resting place are all God. Hence our one and only dharma becomes loving devotional service to God. This is also called para dharma or spiritual dharma. If one leaves the material dharma it is considered a sin due to dereliction of duty. But if one leaves material dharma and takes the shelter of spiritual dharma, it is not a sin. The Śhrīmad Bhāgavatam states: devarṣhi-bhūtāpta-nṛiṇāṁ pitṝīṇāṁ na kiṅkaro nāyam ṛiṇī cha rājan sarvātmanā yaḥ śharaṇaṁ śharaṇyaṁ gato mukundaṁ parihṛitya kartam (11.5.41)[v37] This verse explains that for those who do not surrender to God, there are five debts—to the celestial gods, to the sages, to the ancestors, to other humans, and to other living beings. The varṇāśhram system includes various procedures for releasing ourselves from these five kinds of debts. However, when we surrender to God, we are automatically released from all these debts, just as by watering the roots of a tree, all its branches, twigs, leaves, flowers, and fruit automatically get watered. Similarly, by fulfilling our duty to God, we automatically fulfill our duty to everyone. Hence, there is no sin in renouncing material dharma if we are properly situated in spiritual dharma. In fact, the ultimate goal is to engage completely and wholeheartedly in spiritual dharma. The Śhrīmad Bhāgavatam states: ājñāyaivaṁ guṇān doṣhān mayādiṣhṭān api svakān dharmān santyajya yaḥ sarvān māṁ bhajeta sa tu sattamaḥ (11.11.32) [v38] “I have given innumerable instructions regarding the performance of bodily dharma in the Vedas. But those who realize the shortcomings in these, and renounce all prescribed duties, to simply engage in my devotional service, I consider them to be the best sādhaks.” In the Ramayan, we read how Lakshman renounced all material duties to accompany Lord Ram in the forest. He said: guru pitu mātu na jānahu kāhū, kahahu subhāū nātha patiyāū more sabahiñ eka tuma swāmī, dinabhandhu ura antarayamī [v39] “O Lord, please believe me, I do not know any teacher, father, mother, etc. As far as I am concerned, you, the savior of the fallen and the knower of the heart, are my Master and my everything.” Similarly, Prahlad said: mātā nāsti pitā na ’sti na ’sti me swajano janaḥ [v40] “I do not know any mother, father, or relative (God is everything to me).” In the Bhagavad Gita, Shree Krishna gave Arjun sequentially higher instructions. Initially, he instructed Arjun to do karm, i.e. his material dharma as a warrior (verse 2.31). But material dharma does not result in God-realization; it leads to the celestial abodes, and once the pious merits are depleted one has to come back. Hence, Shree Krishna next instructed Arjun to do karm yog, i.e. his material dharma with the body and spiritual dharma with the mind. He asked Arjun to fight the war with the body and remember God with the mind (verse 8.7). This instruction of karm yog forms the major portion of the Bhagavad Gita. Now in the very end, Shree Krishna instructs Arjun to practice karm sanyās, i.e. renounce all material dharma and simply adopt spiritual dharma, which is love for God. He should thus fight, not because it is his duty as a warrior, but because God wants him to do so. But why did Shree Krishna not give this instruction to Arjun earlier? Why did he seem to clearly extol just the reverse in verse 5.2 when he stated karm yog superior as to karm sanyās? Lord Krishna clearly explains this in the next verse.

श्रेयान्द्रव्यमयाद्यज्ञाज्ज्ञानयज्ञ: परन्तप | सर्वं कर्माखिलं पार्थ ज्ञाने परिसमाप्यते || 33||
śhreyān dravya-mayād yajñāj jñāna-yajñaḥ parantapa sarvaṁ karmākhilaṁ pārtha jñāne parisamāpyate
śhreyān—superior; dravya-mayāt—of material possessions; yajñāt—than the sacrifice; jñāna-yajñaḥ—sacrifice performed in knowledge; parantapa—subduer of enemies, Arjun; sarvam—all; karma—works; akhilam—all; pārtha—Arjun, the son of Pritha; jñāne—in knowledge; parisamāpyate—culminate
O subduer of enemies, sacrifice performed in knowledge is superior to any mechanical material sacrifice. After all, O Parth, all sacrifices of work culminate in knowledge.
Shree Krishna now puts the previously described sacrifices in proper perspective. He tells Arjun that it is good to do physical acts of devotion, but not good enough. Ritualistic ceremonies, fasts, mantra chants, holy pilgrimages, are all fine, but if they are not performed with knowledge, they remain mere physical activities. Such mechanical activities are better than not doing anything at all, but they are not sufficient to purify the mind. Many people chant God’s name on rosary beads, sit in recitations of the scriptures, visit holy places, and perform worship ceremonies, with the belief that the physical act itself is sufficient for liberating them from material bondage. However, Saint Kabir rejects this idea very eloquently: mālā pherata yuga phirā, phirā na mana kā pher, kar kā manakā ḍāri ke, manakā manakā pher [v27] “O spiritual aspirant, you have been rotating the chanting beads for many ages, but the mischief of the mind has not ceased. Now put those beads down, and rotate the beads of the mind.” Jagadguru Shree Kripaluji Maharaj says: bandhan aur mokṣha kā, kāraṇ manahi bakhān yate kauniu bhakti karu, karu man te haridhyān (Bhakti Shatak verse 19)[v28] “The cause of bondage and liberation is the mind. Whatever form of devotion you do, engage your mind in meditating upon God.” Devotional sentiments are nourished by the cultivation of knowledge. For example, let us say that it is your birthday party, and people are coming and handing you gifts. Someone comes and gives you a ragged bag. You look at it disdainfully, thinking it is insignificant in comparison to the other wonderful gifts you have received. That person requests you to look inside the bag. You open it and find a stack of one hundred notes of $100 denomination. You immediately hug the bag to your chest, and say, “This is the best gift I have received.” Knowledge of its contents developed love for the object. Similarly, cultivating knowledge of God and our relationship with him nurtures devotional sentiments. Hence, Shree Krishna explains to Arjun that sacrifices performed in knowledge are superior to the sacrifice of material things. He now explains the process of acquiring knowledge.
अधर्मं धर्ममिति या मन्यते तमसावृता | सर्वार्थान्विपरीतांश्च बुद्धि: सा पार्थ तामसी || 32||
adharmaṁ dharmam iti yā manyate tamasāvṛitā sarvārthān viparītānśh cha buddhiḥ sā pārtha tāmasī
adharmam—irreligion; dharmam—religion; iti—thus; yā—which; manyate—imagines; tamasa-āvṛitā—shrouded in darkness; sarva-arthān—all things; viparītān—opposite; cha—and; buddhiḥ—intellect; sā—that; pārtha—Arjun, the son of Pritha; tāmasī—of the nature of ignorance
That intellect which is shrouded in darkness, imagining irreligion to be religion, and perceiving untruth to be the truth, is of the nature of ignorance.
The tāmasic intellect is without the illumination of sublime knowledge. Hence, it misconstrues adharma to be dharma. For example, a drunk is attached to the inebriation that drinking alcohol provides. Hence, his poor intellect, covered with the fog of darkness, cannot even perceive the sheer ruin that he brings onto himself, and he does not even mind selling his property to get his next bottle. In the tāmasic intellect, the faculty of judgment and the ability for logical reasoning become lost.
सर्वभूतानि कौन्तेय प्रकृतिं यान्ति मामिकाम् | कल्पक्षये पुनस्तानि कल्पादौ विसृजाम्यहम् || 7||
sarva-bhūtāni kaunteya prakṛitiṁ yānti māmikām kalpa-kṣhaye punas tāni kalpādau visṛijāmyaham
sarva-bhūtāni—all living beings; kaunteya—Arjun, the son of Kunti; prakṛitim—primordial material energy; yānti—merge; māmikām—My; kalpa-kṣhaye—at the end of a kalpa; punaḥ—again; tāni—them; kalpa-ādau—at the beginning of a kalpa; visṛijāmi—manifest; aham—I
At the end of one kalp, all living beings merge into My primordial material energy. At the beginning of the next creation, O son of Kunti, I manifest them again.
Shree Krishna explained in the last two verses that all living beings dwell in Him. This statement may bring up the following question: “When mahāpralaya (the great annihilation) takes place and the entire world is wound up, then where do all the living beings go?” The answer to this question is being given in this verse. In the previous chapter, verses 8.16 to 8.19, Shree Krishna explained how creation, maintenance, and annihilation follow a repetitive cycle. Here, the word kalpa-kṣhaya means “the end of Brahma’s lifespan.” On the completion of Brahma’s life of 100 years, which is equal to 311 trillion 40 billion earth years, the entire cosmic manifestation dissolves and goes into an unmanifest state. The pañch mahābhūta merge into the pañch tanmātrās; the pañch tanmātrās merge into ahankār; ahankār merges into mahān; mahān merges into prakṛiti, the primordial form of the material energy; and prakṛiti goes and rests in the divine body of the Supreme Lord, Maha Vishnu. At that time, all the souls within the material creation also go and rest in the body of God, in a state of suspended animation. Their gross and subtle bodies merge back into the source, Maya. However, the causal body still remains. (The three kinds of bodies have been described in detail in the commentary to verse 2.28) After dissolution, when God creates the world again, the material energy unwinds in the reverse sequence prakṛiti—mahān—ahankār—pañch tanmātrā—pañch mahābhūta. Then, the souls that were lying in a state of suspended animation with only causal bodies are again placed in the world. In accordance with their causal bodies, they again receive subtle and gross bodies, and the various life forms are created in the universe. These life forms vary in nature amongst the different planes of existence. In some planetary systems, fire is the dominant element in the body, just as in the earth plane, the dominant bodily elements are earth and water. Hence, the bodies vary in their subtleness and the functions they can perform. Shree Krishna thus calls them myriad life forms.
प्रकृतिं स्वामवष्टभ्य विसृजामि पुन: पुन: | भूतग्राममिमं कृत्स्नमवशं प्रकृतेर्वशात् || 8||
prakṛitiṁ svām avaṣhṭabhya visṛijāmi punaḥ punaḥ bhūta-grāmam imaṁ kṛitsnam avaśhaṁ prakṛiter vaśhāt
prakṛitim—the material energy; svām—My own; avaṣhṭabhya—presiding over; visṛijāmi—generate; punaḥ punaḥ—again and again; bhūta-grāmam—myriad forms; imam—these; kṛitsnam—all; avaśham—beyond their control; prakṛiteḥ—nature; vaśhāt—force
Presiding over My material energy, I generate these myriad forms again and again, in accordance with the force of their natures.
[Refer to 9.7]
सर्वभूतस्थितं यो मां भजत्येकत्वमास्थित: | सर्वथा वर्तमानोऽपि स योगी मयि वर्तते || 31||
sarva-bhūta-sthitaṁ yo māṁ bhajatyekatvam āsthitaḥ sarvathā vartamāno ’pi sa yogī mayi vartate
sarva-bhūta-sthitam—situated in all beings; yaḥ—who; mām—me; bhajati—worships; ekatvam—in unity; āsthitaḥ—established; sarvathā—in all kinds of; varta-mānaḥ—remain; api—although; saḥ—he; yogī—a yogi; mayi—in me; vartate—dwells
The yogi who is established in union with me, and worships me as the Supreme Soul residing in all beings, dwells only in me, though engaged in all kinds of activities.
God is all-pervading in the world. He is also seated in everyone’s heart as the Supreme Soul. In verse 18.61, Shree Krishna states: “I am situated in the hearts of all living beings.” Thus, within the body of each living being, there are two personalities—the soul and the Supreme Soul. Those in material consciousness see everyone as the body, and make distinctions on the basis of caste, creed, sex, age, social status, etc. Those in superior consciousness see everyone as the soul. Thus in verse 5.18, Shree Krishna states: “The learned, with the eyes of divine knowledge, see with equal vision a Brahmin, a cow, an elephant, a dog, and a dog-eater.” The elevated yogis in even higher consciousness see God seated as the Supreme Soul in everyone. They also perceive the world, but they are unconcerned about it. They are like the hansas, the swans who can drink the milk and leave out the water from a mixture of milk and water. The most elevated yogis are called paramahansas. They only see God, and have no perception of the world. This was the level of realization of Shukadev, the son of Ved Vyas, as stated in the Śhrīmad Bhāgavatam: yaṁ pravrajantam anupetam apeta kṛityaṁ dvaipāyano viraha-kātara ājuhāva putreti tan-mayatayā taravo ’bhinedustaṁ sarva-bhūta-hṛidayaṁ munim ānato ’smi (1.2.2)[v24] When Shukadev entered the renounced order of sanyās, walking away from home in his childhood itself, he was at such an elevated level that he had no perception of the world. He did not even notice the beautiful women bathing in the nude in a lake, while he happened to pass by there. All that he perceived was God; all that he heard was God; all that he thought was God. In this verse, Shree Krishna is talking about the perfected yogis who are in the third and fourth stages of the above levels of realization.

दिवि सूर्यसहस्रस्य भवेद्युगपदुत्थिता | यदि भा: सदृशी सा स्याद्भासस्तस्य महात्मन: || 12||
divi sūrya-sahasrasya bhaved yugapad utthitā yadi bhāḥ sadṛiśhī sā syād bhāsas tasya mahātmanaḥ
divi—in the sky; sūrya—suns; sahasrasya—thousand; bhavet—were; yugapat—simultaneously; utthitā—rising; yadi—if; bhāḥ—splendor; sadṛiśhī—like; sā—that; syāt—would be; bhāsaḥ—splendor; tasya—of them; mahā-ātmanaḥ—the great personality
If a thousand suns were to blaze forth together in the sky, they would not match the splendor of that great form.
Sanjay now describes the effulgence of the universal form. To give an idea of its dazzling radiance, he compares it to thousands of suns blazing simultaneously in the midday sky. Actually, God’s effulgence is unlimited; it cannot be quantified in terms of the effulgence of the sun. However, narrators often describe the unknown by extrapolating from the known. The simile of a thousand suns expressed Sanjay’s perception that the splendor of the cosmic form had no parallels.
श्रीभगवानुवाच | कालोऽस्मि लोकक्षयकृत्प्रवृद्धो लोकान्समाहर्तुमिह प्रवृत्त: | ऋतेऽपि त्वां न भविष्यन्ति सर्वे येऽवस्थिता: प्रत्यनीकेषु योधा: || 32||
śhrī-bhagavān uvācha kālo ’smi loka-kṣhaya-kṛit pravṛiddho lokān samāhartum iha pravṛittaḥ ṛite ’pi tvāṁ na bhaviṣhyanti sarve ye ’vasthitāḥ pratyanīkeṣhu yodhāḥ
śhrī-bhagavān uvācha—the Supreme Lord said; kālaḥ—time; asmi—I am; loka-kṣhaya-kṛit—the source of destruction of the worlds; pravṛiddhaḥ—mighty; lokān—the worlds; samāhartum—annihilation; iha—this world; pravṛittaḥ—participation; ṛite—without; api—even; tvām—you; na bhaviṣhyanti—shall cease to exist; sarve—all; ye—who; avasthitāḥ—arrayed; prati-anīkeṣhu—in the opposing army; yodhāḥ—the warriors
The Supreme Lord said: I am mighty Time, the source of destruction that comes forth to annihilate the worlds. Even without your participation, the warriors arrayed in the opposing army shall cease to exist.
In response to Arjun’s question regarding who he is, Shree Krishna reveals his nature as all-powerful Time, the destroyer of the universe. The word kāla is derived from kalayati, which is synonymous with gaṇayati, meaning “to take count of.” All events in nature get buried in time. When Oppenheimer, who was a part of the first atom bomb project, witnessed the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, he quoted this verse of Shree Krishna in the following manner: “Time…I am the destroyer of all the worlds.” Time counts and controls the lifespan of all beings. It will determine when the great personalities like Bheeshma, Dronacharya, and Karn will meet their end. It will destroy the enemy army arrayed on the battlefield even without Arjun’s participating in the fight, because the Lord wants it to happen as a part of his grand scheme for the world. If the warriors are already as good as dead, then why should Arjun fight? Shree Krishna explains this in the next verse.

नियतं कुरु कर्म त्वं कर्म ज्यायो ह्यकर्मण: | शरीरयात्रापि च ते न प्रसिद्ध्येदकर्मण: || 8||
niyataṁ kuru karma tvaṁ karma jyāyo hyakarmaṇaḥ śharīra-yātrāpi cha te na prasiddhyed akarmaṇaḥ
niyatam—constantly; kuru—perform; karma—Vedic duties; tvam—you; karma—action; jyāyaḥ—superior; hi—certainly; akarmaṇaḥ—than inaction; śharīra—bodily; yātrā—maintenance; api—even; cha—and; te—your; na prasiddhyet—would not be possible; akarmaṇaḥ—inaction
You should thus perform your prescribed Vedic duties, since action is superior to inaction. By ceasing activity, even your bodily maintenance will not be possible.
Until the mind and intellect reach a state where they are absorbed in God-consciousness, physical work performed in an attitude of duty is very beneficial for one’s internal purification. Hence, the Vedas prescribe duties for humans, to help them discipline their mind and senses. In fact, laziness is described as one of the biggest pitfalls on the spiritual path: ālasya hi manuṣhyāṇāṁ śharīrastho mahān ripuḥ nāstyudyamasamo bandhūḥ kṛitvā yaṁ nāvasīdati [v4] “Laziness is the greatest enemy of humans, and is especially pernicious since it resides in their own body. Work is their most trustworthy friend, and is a guarantee against downfall.” Even the basic bodily activities like eating, bathing, and maintaining proper health require work. These obligatory actions are called nitya karm. To neglect these basic maintenance activities is not a sign of progress, but an indication of slothfulness, leading to emaciation and weakness of both body and mind. On the other hand, a cared for and nourished body is a positive adjunct on the road to spirituality. Thus, the state of inertia does not lend itself either to material or spiritual achievement. For the progress of our own soul, we should embrace the duties that help elevate and purify our mind and intellect.
यज्ञार्थात्कर्मणोऽन्यत्र लोकोऽयं कर्मबन्धन: | तदर्थं कर्म कौन्तेय मुक्तसङ्ग: समाचर || 9||
yajñārthāt karmaṇo ’nyatra loko ’yaṁ karma-bandhanaḥ tad-arthaṁ karma kaunteya mukta-saṅgaḥ samāchara
yajña-arthāt—for the sake of sacrifice; karmaṇaḥ—than action; anyatra—else; lokaḥ—material world; ayam—this; karma-bandhanaḥ—bondage through one’s work; tat—that; artham—for the sake of; karma—action; kaunteya—Arjun, the son of Kunti; mukta-saṅgaḥ—free from attachment; samāchara—perform properly
Work must be done as a yajña (sacrifice) to the Supreme Lord; otherwise, work causes bondage in this material world. Therefore, O son of Kunti, perform your prescribed duties, without being attached to the results, for the satisfaction of God.
A knife in the hands of a robber is a weapon for intimidation or committing murder, but in the hands of a surgeon is an invaluable instrument used for saving people’s lives. The knife in itself is neither murderous nor benedictory—its effect is determined by how it is used. As Shakespeare said: “For there is nothing good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” Similarly, work in itself is neither good nor bad. Depending upon the state of the mind, it can be either binding or elevating. Work done for the enjoyment of one’s senses and the gratification of one’s pride is the cause of bondage in the material world, while work performed as yajña (sacrifice) for the pleasure of the Supreme Lord liberates one from the bonds of Maya and attracts divine grace. Since it is our nature to perform actions, we are forced to work in one of the two modes. We cannot remain without working for even a moment as our mind cannot remain still. If we do not perform actions as a sacrifice to God, we will be forced to work to gratify our mind and senses. Instead, when we perform work as a sacrifice, we then look upon the whole world and everything in it as belonging to God, and therefore, meant for utilization in his service. A beautiful ideal for this was established by King Raghu, the ancestor of Lord Ram. Raghu performed the Viśhwajit sacrifice, which requires donating all of one’s possessions in charity. sa viśhwajitam ājahre yajñaṁ sarvasva dakṣhiṇam ādānaṁ hi visargāya satāṁ vārimuchām iva (Raghuvanśh 4.86)[v5] “Raghu performed the Viśhwajit yajña with the thought that just as clouds gather water from the Earth, not for their enjoyment, but to shower it back upon the Earth, similarly, all he possessed as a king had been gathered from the public in taxes, not for his pleasure, but for the pleasure of God. So he decided to use his wealth to please God by serving his citizens with it.” After the yajña, Raghu donated all his possessions to his citizens. Then, donning the rags of a beggar and holding an earthen pot, he went out to beg for his meal. While resting under a tree, he heard a group of people discussing, “Our king is so benevolent. He has given away everything in charity.” Raghu was pained on hearing his praise and spoke out, “What are you discussing?” They answered, “We are praising our king. There is nobody in the world as charitable as him.” Raghu retorted, “Do not ever say that again. Raghu has given nothing.” They said, “What kind of person are you who are criticizing our king? Everyone knows that Raghu has donated everything he owned.” Raghu replied, “Go and ask your king that when he came into this world did he possess anything? He was born empty-handed, is it not? Then what was his that he has given away?” This is the spirit of karm yog, in which we see the whole world as belonging to God, and hence meant for the satisfaction of God. We then perform our duties not for gratifying our mind and senses, but for the pleasure of God. Lord Vishnu instructed the Prachetas in this fashion: gṛiheṣhv āviśhatāṁ chāpi puṁsāṁ kuśhala-karmaṇām mad-vārtā-yāta-yāmānāṁ na bandhāya gṛihā matāḥ (Bhāgavatam 4.30.19)[v6] “The perfect karm yogis, even while fulfilling their household duties, perform all their works as yajña to me, knowing me to be the Enjoyer of all activities. They spend whatever free time they have in hearing and chanting my glories. Such people, though living in the world, never get bound by their actions.”
सहयज्ञा: प्रजा: सृष्ट्वा पुरोवाच प्रजापति: | अनेन प्रसविष्यध्वमेष वोऽस्त्विष्टकामधुक् || 10||
saha-yajñāḥ prajāḥ sṛiṣhṭvā purovācha prajāpatiḥ anena prasaviṣhyadhvam eṣha vo ’stviṣhṭa-kāma-dhuk
saha—along with; yajñāḥ—sacrifices; prajāḥ—humankind; sṛiṣhṭvā—created; purā—in beginning; uvācha—said; prajā-patiḥ—Brahma; anena—by this; prasaviṣhyadhvam—increase prosperity; eṣhaḥ—these; vaḥ—your; astu—shall be; iṣhṭa-kāma-dhuk—bestower of all wishes
In the beginning of creation, Brahma created humankind along with duties, and said, “Prosper in the performance of these yajñas (sacrifices), for they shall bestow upon you all you wish to achieve.”
All the elements of nature are integral parts of the system of God’s creation. All the parts of the system naturally draw from and give back to the whole. The sun lends stability to the earth and provides heat and light necessary for life to exist. Earth creates food from its soil for our nourishment and also holds essential minerals in its womb for a civilized lifestyle. The air moves the life force in our body and enables transmission of sound energy. We humans too are an integral part of the entire system of God’s creation. The air that we breathe, the Earth that we walk upon, the water that we drink, and the light that illumines our day, are all gifts of creation to us. While we partake of these gifts to sustain our lives, we also have our duties toward the integral system. Shree Krishna says that we are obligated to participate with the creative force of nature by performing our prescribed duties in the service of God. That is the yajña he expects from us. Consider the example of a hand. It is an integral part of the body. It receives its nourishment—blood, oxygen, nutrients, etc.—from the body, and in turn, it performs necessary functions for the body. If the hand looks on this service as burdensome, and decides to get severed from the body, it cannot sustain itself for even a few minutes. It is in the performance of its yajña toward the body that the self-interest of the hand is also fulfilled. Similarly, we individual souls are tiny parts of the Supreme Soul and we all have our role to play in the grand scheme of things. When we perform our yajña toward him, our self-interest is naturally satiated. Generally, the term yajña refers to fire sacrifice. In the Bhagavad Gita, yajña includes all the prescribed actions laid down in the scriptures, when they are done as an offering to the Supreme.
देवान्भावयतानेन ते देवा भावयन्तु व: | परस्परं भावयन्त: श्रेय: परमवाप्स्यथ || 11||
devān bhāvayatānena te devā bhāvayantu vaḥ parasparaṁ bhāvayantaḥ śhreyaḥ param avāpsyatha
devān—celestial gods; bhāvayatā—will be pleased; anena—by these (sacrifices); te—those; devāḥ—celestial gods; bhāvayantu—will be pleased; vaḥ—you; parasparam—one another; bhāvayantaḥ—pleasing one another; śhreyaḥ—prosperity; param—the supreme; avāpsyatha—shall achieve
By your sacrifices the celestial gods will be pleased, and by cooperation between humans and the celestial gods, prosperity will reign for all.
The celestial gods, or devatās, are in-charge of the administration of the universe. The Supreme Lord does his work of managing the universe through them. These devatās live within this material universe, in the higher planes of existence, called swarg, or the celestial abodes. The devatās are not God; they are souls like us. They occupy specific posts in the affairs of running the world. Consider the Federal government of a country. There is a Secretary of State, a Secretary of the Treasury, a Secretary of Defense, Attorney General, and so on. These are posts, and chosen people occupy those posts for a limited tenure. At the end of the tenure, the government changes and all the post-holders change too. Similarly, in administering the affairs of the world, there are posts such as Agni Dev (the god of fire), Vāyu Dev (the god of the wind), Varuṇa Dev (the god of the ocean), Indra Dev (the king of the celestial gods), etc. Souls selected by virtue of their deeds in past lives occupy these seats for a fixed number of ages, and administer the affairs of the universe. These are the devatās (celestial gods). The Vedas mention various ceremonies and processes for the satisfaction of the celestial gods, and in turn these devatās bestow material prosperity. However, when we perform our yajña for the satisfaction of the Supreme Lord, the celestial gods are automatically appeased, just as when we water the root of a tree, the water inevitably reaches its flowers, fruits, leaves, branches, and twigs. The Skandh Purāṇ states: archite deva deveśhe śhaṅkha chakra gadādhare architāḥ sarve devāḥ syur yataḥ sarva gato hariḥ [v7] “By worshipping the Supreme Lord Shree Vishnu, we automatically worship all the celestial gods, since they all derive their power from him.” Thus, the performance of yajña is naturally pleasing to the devatās, who then create prosperity for living beings by favorably adjusting the elements of material nature.
इष्टान्भोगान्हि वो देवा दास्यन्ते यज्ञभाविता: | तैर्दत्तानप्रदायैभ्यो यो भुङ्क्ते स्तेन एव स: || 12||
iṣhṭān bhogān hi vo devā dāsyante yajña-bhāvitāḥ tair dattān apradāyaibhyo yo bhuṅkte stena eva saḥ
iṣhṭān—desired; bhogān—necessities of life; hi—certainly; vaḥ—unto you; devāḥ—the celestial gods; dāsyante—will grant; yajña-bhāvitāḥ—satisfied by sacrifice; taiḥ—by them; dattān—things granted; apradāya—without offering; ebhyaḥ—to them; yaḥ—who; bhuṅkte—enjoys; stenaḥ—thieves; eva—verily; saḥ—they
The celestial gods, being satisfied by the performance of sacrifice, will grant you all the desired necessities of life. But those who enjoy what is given to them, without making offerings in return, are verily thieves.
As administrators of various processes of the universe, the devatās provide us with rain, wind, crops, vegetation, minerals, fertile soil, etc. We human beings are indebted to them for all that we receive from them. The devatās perform their duty, and expect us to perform our duty in the proper consciousness too. Since these celestial gods are all servants of the Supreme Lord, they become pleased when someone performs a sacrifice for him, and in turn assist such a soul by creating favorable material conditions. Thus, it is said that when we strongly resolve to serve God, the universe begins to cooperate with us. However, if we begin looking upon the gifts of nature, not as means of serving the Lord but as objects of our own enjoyment, Shree Krishna calls it a thieving mentality. Often people ask the question, “I lead a virtuous life; I do not harm anyone, nor do I steal anything. But I do not believe in worshipping God, nor do I believe in him. Am I doing anything wrong?” This question is answered in the above verse. Such persons may not be doing anything wrong in the eyes of humans, but they are thieves in the eyes of God. Let us say, we walk into someone’s house, and without recognizing the owner, we sit on the sofa, eat from the refrigerator, and use the restroom. We may claim that we are not doing anything wrong, but we will be considered thieves in the eyes of the law, because the house does not belong to us. Similarly, the world that we live in was made by God, and everything in it belongs to him. If we utilize his creation for our pleasure, without acknowledging his dominion over it, from the divine perspective we are certainly committing theft. The famous king in Indian history, Chandragupta, asked Chanakya Pundit, his Guru, “According to the Vedic scriptures, what is the position of the king vis-à-vis his subjects?” Chanakya Pundit replied, “The king is the servant of the subjects and nothing else. His God-given duty is to help the citizens of his kingdom progress in their journey toward God-realization.” Whether one is a king, a businessperson, a farmer, or a worker, each person, as an integral member of God’s world, is expected to do his or her duty as a service to the Supreme.
यज्ञशिष्टाशिन: सन्तो मुच्यन्ते सर्वकिल्बिषै: | भुञ्जते ते त्वघं पापा ये पचन्त्यात्मकारणात् || 13||
yajña-śhiṣhṭāśhinaḥ santo muchyante sarva-kilbiṣhaiḥ bhuñjate te tvaghaṁ pāpā ye pachantyātma-kāraṇāt
yajña-śhiṣhṭa—of remnants of food offered in sacrifice; aśhinaḥ—eaters; santaḥ—saintly persons; muchyante—are released; sarva—all kinds of; kilbiṣhaiḥ—from sins; bhuñjate—enjoy; te—they; tu—but; agham—sins; pāpāḥ—sinners; ye—who; pachanti—cook (food); ātma-kāraṇāt—for their own sake
The spiritually-minded, who eat food that is first offered in sacrifice, are released from all kinds of sin. Others, who cook food for their own enjoyment, verily eat only sin.
In the Vedic tradition, food is cooked with the consciousness that the meal is for the pleasure of God. A portion of the food items is then put in a plate and a verbal or mental prayer is made for the Lord to come and eat it. After the offering, the food in the plate is considered prasād (grace of God). All the food in the plate and the pots is then accepted as God’s grace and eaten in that consciousness. Other religious traditions follow similar customs. Christianity has the sacrament of the Eucharist, where bread and wine are consecrated and then partaken. Shree Krishna states in this verse that eating prasād (food that is first offered as sacrifice to God) releases one from sin, while those who eat food without offering commit sin. The question may arise whether we can offer non-vegetarian items to God and then accept the remnants as his prasād. The answer to this question is that the Vedas prescribe a vegetarian diet for humans, which includes grains, pulses and beans, vegetables, fruits, dairy products, etc. Apart from the Vedic culture, many spiritually evolved souls in the history of all cultures around the world also rejected a non-vegetarian diet that makes the stomach a graveyard for animals. Even though many of them were born in meat-eating families, they gravitated to a vegetarian lifestyle as they advanced on the path of spirituality. Here are quotations from some famous thinkers and personalities advocating vegetarianism: “To avoid causing terror to living beings, let the disciple refrain from eating meat… the food of the wise is that which is consumed by the sādhus; it does not consist of meat.” The Buddha. “If you declare that you are naturally designed for such a diet, then first kill for yourself what you want to eat. Do it, however, only through your own resources, unaided by cleaver or cudgel or any kind of ax.” The Roman Plutarch, in the essay, “On Eating Flesh.” “As long as men massacre animals, they will kill each other. Indeed, he who sows the seeds of murder and pain cannot reap joy and love.” Pythagoras “Truly man is the king of beasts, for his brutality exceeds them. We live by the death of others. We are burial places! I have since an early age abjured the use of meat…” Leonardo da Vinci. “Nonviolence leads to the highest ethics, which is the goal of all evolution. Until we stop harming all living beings, we are all savages.” Thomas Edison. “Flesh-eating is simply immoral, as it involves the performance of an act which is contrary to moral feeling—killing.” Leo Tolstoy. “It may indeed be doubted whether butchers’ meat is anywhere a necessary of life… Decency nowhere requires that any man should eat butchers’ meat.” Adam Smith. “I look my age. It is the other people who look older than they are. What can you expect from people who eat corpses?” George Bernard Shaw. “A dead cow or sheep lying in a pasture is recognized as carrion. The same sort of carcass dressed and hung up in a butcher’s stall passes as food!” J. H. Kellogg. “It is my view that the vegetarian manner of living, by its purely physical effect on the human temperament, would most beneficially influence the lot of mankind.” Albert Einstein “I do feel that spiritual progress does demand at some stage that we should cease to kill our fellow creatures for the satisfaction of our bodily wants.” Mahatma Gandhi In this verse, Shree Krishna goes further and says that even vegetation contains life, and if we eat it for our own sense enjoyment, we get bound in the karmic reactions of destroying life. The word used in the verse is ātma-kāraṇāt, meaning “for one’s individual pleasure.” However, if we eat food as remnants of yajña offered to God then the consciousness changes. We then look upon our body as the property of God, which has been put under our care for his service. And we partake of permitted food, as his grace, with the intention that it will nourish the body. In this sentiment, the entire process is consecrated to the Divine. Bharat Muni states: vasusato kratu dakṣhau kāla kāmau dṛitiḥ kuruḥ pururavā madravāśhcha viśhwadevāḥ prakīrtitāḥ [v8] “Violence is caused unknowingly to living entities in the process of cooking, by the use of the pestle, fire, grinding instruments, water pot, and broom. Those who cook food for themselves become implicated in the sin. But yajña nullifies the sinful reactions.”
अन्नाद्भवन्ति भूतानि पर्जन्यादन्नसम्भव: | यज्ञाद्भवति पर्जन्यो यज्ञ: कर्मसमुद्भव: || 14||
annād bhavanti bhūtāni parjanyād anna-sambhavaḥ yajñād bhavati parjanyo yajñaḥ karma-samudbhavaḥ
annāt—from food; bhavanti—subsist; bhūtāni—living beings; parjanyāt—from rains; anna—of food grains; sambhavaḥ—production; yajñāt—from the performance of sacrifice; bhavati—becomes possible; parjanyaḥ—rain; yajñaḥ—performance of sacrifice; karma—prescribed duties; samudbhavaḥ—born of
All living beings subsist on food, and food is produced by rains. Rains come from the performance of sacrifice, and sacrifice is produced by the performance of prescribed duties.
Here, Lord Krishna is describing the cycle of nature. Rain begets grains. Grains are eaten and transformed into blood. From blood, semen is created. Semen is the seed from which the human body is created. Human beings perform yajñas, and these propitiate the celestial gods, who then cause rains, and so the cycle continues.
कर्म ब्रह्मोद्भवं विद्धि ब्रह्माक्षरसमुद्भवम् | तस्मात्सर्वगतं ब्रह्म नित्यं यज्ञे प्रतिष्ठितम् || 15||
karma brahmodbhavaṁ viddhi brahmākṣhara-samudbhavam tasmāt sarva-gataṁ brahma nityaṁ yajñe pratiṣhṭhitam
karma—duties; brahma—in the Vedas; udbhavam—manifested; viddhi—you should know; brahma—The Vedas; akṣhara—from the Imperishable (God); samudbhavam—directly manifested; tasmāt—therefore; sarva-gatam—all-pervading; brahma—The Lord; nityam—eternally; yajñe—in sacrifice; pratiṣhṭhitam—established
The duties for human beings are described in the Vedas, and the Vedas are manifested by God himself. Therefore, the all-pervading Lord is eternally present in acts of sacrifice.
The Vedas emanated from the breath of God: asya mahato bhūtasya niḥśhvasitametadyadṛigvedo yajurvedaḥ sāmavedo ’thavaṅgirasaḥ (Bṛihadāraṇyak Upaniṣhad 4.5.11) [v9] “The four Vedas—Ṛig Veda, Yajur Veda, Sāma Veda, Atharva Veda—all emanated from the breath of the Supreme Divine Personality.” In these eternal Vedas, the duties of humans have been laid down by God himself. These duties have been planned in such a way that through their performance materially engrossed persons may gradually learn to control their desires and slowly elevate themselves from the mode of ignorance to the mode of passion, and from the mode of passion to the mode of goodness. These duties are enjoined to be dedicated to him as yajña. Hence, duties consecrated as sacrifice to God verily become godly, of the nature of God, and non-different from him. The Tantra Sār states yajña to be the Supreme Divine Lord himself: yajño yajña pumāṁśh chaiva yajñaśho yajña yajñabhāvanaḥ yajñabhuk cheti pañchātmā yajñeṣhvijyo hariḥ svayaṁ [v10] In the Bhāgavatam (11.19.39), Shree Krishna declares to Uddhav: yajño ’haṁ bhagavattamaḥ [v11]“I, the Son of Vasudev, am Yajña.” The Vedas state: yajño vai viṣhṇuḥ [v12] “Yajña is indeed Lord Vishnu himself.” Reiterating this principle, Shree Krishna says in this verse that God is eternally present in the act of sacrifice.
एवं प्रवर्तितं चक्रं नानुवर्तयतीह य: | अघायुरिन्द्रियारामो मोघं पार्थ स जीवति || 16||
evaṁ pravartitaṁ chakraṁ nānuvartayatīha yaḥ aghāyur indriyārāmo moghaṁ pārtha sa jīvati
evam—thus; pravartitam—set into motion; chakram—cycle; na—not; anuvartayati—follow; iha—in this life; yaḥ—who; agha-āyuḥ—sinful living; indriya-ārāmaḥ—for the delight of their senses; mogham—vainly; pārtha—Arjun, the son of Pritha; saḥ—they; jīvati—live
O Parth, those who do not accept their responsibility in the cycle of sacrifice established by the Vedas are sinful. They live only for the delight of their senses; indeed their lives are in vain.
Chakra, or cycle, means an ordered series of events. The cycle from grains to rains has been described in verse 3.14. All members of this universal wheel of action perform their duties and contribute to its smooth rotation. Since we also partake of the fruits of this natural cycle, we too must do our bounden duty in the chain. We humans are the only ones in this chain who have been bestowed with the ability to choose our actions by our own free will. We can thus either contribute to the harmony of the cycle or bring about discord in the smooth running of this cosmic mechanism. When the majority of the people of human society accept their responsibility to live as integral parts of the universal system, material prosperity abounds and spiritual growth is engendered. Such periods become golden eras in the social and cultural history of humankind. Conversely, when a major section of humankind begins to violate the universal system and rejects its responsibility as an integral part of the cosmic system, then material nature begins to punish, and peace and prosperity become scarce. The wheel of nature has been set up by God for disciplining, training, and elevating all living beings of varying levels of consciousness. Shree Krishna explains to Arjun that those who do not perform the yajña enjoined of them become slaves of their senses and lead a sinful existence. Thus, they live in vain. But persons conforming to the divine law become pure at heart and free from material contamination.
कर्मण्यकर्म य: पश्येदकर्मणि च कर्म य: | स बुद्धिमान्मनुष्येषु स युक्त: कृत्स्नकर्मकृत् || 18||
karmaṇyakarma yaḥ paśhyed akarmaṇi cha karma yaḥ sa buddhimān manuṣhyeṣhu sa yuktaḥ kṛitsna-karma-kṛit
karmaṇi—action; akarma—in inaction; yaḥ—who; paśhyet—see; akarmaṇi—inaction; cha—also; karma—action; yaḥ—who; saḥ—they; buddhi-mān—wise; manuṣhyeṣhu—amongst humans; saḥ—they; yuktaḥ—yogis; kṛitsna-karma-kṛit—performers all kinds of actions
Those who see action in inaction and inaction in action are truly wise amongst humans. Although performing all kinds of actions, they are yogis and masters of all their actions.
Action in inaction. There is one kind of inaction where persons look upon their social duties as burdensome, and renounce them out of indolence. They give up actions physically, but their mind continues to contemplate upon the objects of the senses. Such persons may appear to be inactive, but their lethargic idleness is actually sinful action. When Arjun suggested that he wishes to shy away from his duty of fighting the war, Shree Krishna explained to him that it would be a sin, and he would go to the hellish regions for such inaction. Inaction in action. There is another kind of inaction performed by karm yogis. They execute their social duties without attachment to results, dedicating the fruits of their actions to God. Although engaged in all kinds of activities, they are not entangled in karmic reactions, since they have no motive for personal enjoyment. There were many great kings in Indian history—Dhruv, Prahlad, Yudhisthir, Prithu, and Ambarish—who discharged their kingly duties to the best of their abilities, and yet because their minds were not entangled in material desires, their actions were termed Akarm, or inaction. Another name for akarm is karm yog, which has been discussed in detail in the previous two chapters as well.
यत्र योगेश्वर: कृष्णो यत्र पार्थो धनुर्धर: | तत्र श्रीर्विजयो भूतिध्रुवा नीतिर्मतिर्मम || 78||
yatra yogeśhvaraḥ kṛiṣhṇo yatra pārtho dhanur-dharaḥ tatra śhrīr vijayo bhūtir dhruvā nītir matir mama
yatra—wherever; yoga-īśhvaraḥ—Shree Krishna, the Lord of Yog; kṛiṣhṇaḥ—Shree Krishna; yatra—wherever; pārthaḥ—Arjun, the son of Pritha; dhanuḥ-dharaḥ—the supreme archer; tatra—there; śhrīḥ—opulence; vijayaḥ—victory; bhūtiḥ—prosperity; dhruvā—unending; nītiḥ—righteousness; matiḥ mama—my opinion
Wherever there is Shree Krishna, the Lord of all Yog, and wherever there is Arjun, the supreme archer, there will also certainly be unending opulence, victory, prosperity, and righteousness. Of this, I am certain.
The Bhagavad Gita concludes with this verse delivering a deep pronouncement. Dhritarashtra was apprehensive of the outcome of the war. Sanjay informs him that material calculations of the relative strengths and numbers of the two armies are irrelevant. There can be only one verdict in this war—victory will always be on the side of God and his pure devotee, and so will goodness, supremacy, and abundance. God is the independent, self-sustaining sovereign of the world, and the most worthy object of adoration, and worship. na tatsamaśh chābhyadhikaśhcha dṛiśhyate (Śhwetaśhvatar Upaniṣhad 6.8) [v44] “There is no one equal to him; there is no one greater than him.” He merely needs a proper medium to manifest his incomparable glory. The soul who surrenders to him provides such a vehicle for the glory of God to shine forth. Thus, wherever the Supreme Lord and his pure devotee are present, the light of the Absolute Truth will always vanquish the darkness of falsehood. There can be no other outcome.

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