3:1: Arjuna said: O Janardana [Krsna: Worshiped by men], O Keshava [Krsna: the Long Haired], if intelligence is better than fruitive action why do You want to engage me in ghastly warfare?
3:2: Due to Your apparently perplexing words, my intelligence is confused; therefore please tell me decisively how I may attain the highest.
It has been explained by the Lord in the first two chapters that material bodies are temporary constructs (of Saguna Brahman) housing the eternal soul (who is of Nirguna Brahman). As the materially encased living entities engage in various material activities they accumulate karma (reactions). These fruitive reactions keep the soul bound to material existence. This is because all actions performed in this dualistic world produce reactions. These reactions must be experienced and hence the living entity is seemingly progressively trapped in an unending cycle of birth, death and rebirth (Samsara).
Sri Krsna further explained to Arjuna that the way to achieve release from Samsara (repeated births and deaths) is to renounce all material reactions. How is this possible since actions always cause reactions? He explains that only by devoting all fruitive reactions to God is it possible to escape the results of ones actions. This renunciation is accomplished by using the intellect. For this reason this system is known as both Buddhi Yoga (Yoga of Mental Control) and Karma Yoga (Yoga of Disciplined Action). Still Arjuna has many questions and so in this chapter Sri Krsna explains the fundamentals of this important yoga system more fully.
3:3: The Glorious One said: As I have previously explained, in this world O sinless one [Arjuna], there are two kinds of determined yogis: the jnana-yogins who seek union through knowledge of the categories of existence [i.e. via Sankhya philosophy] and those who seek unity through renounced actions [i.e. Karma Yoga].
3:4: Neither through action nor by abstinence from action does one achieve the state of naiskarmyam [inaction-in-action], nor by renunciation alone can one attain perfection.
3:5: Because no one, at any time -- even for a moment -- exists without performing some action. Everyone who is born of the qualities of material nature are helplessly forced to act.
This is the essential weakness of both Jnana Yoga and karma Yoga. Even though one might study all areas of physical and spiritual existence and attain all knowledge, even though one might seek to renounce all actions and all subsequent reaction, still once the eternal soul is materially embodied it is impossible to do nothing, to achieve no reactions. Therefore the Lord explains that it is impossible to avoid the accumulation of more karma. Neither knowledge nor right action can alter this essential fact and so neither of these systems alone can deliver the conditioned soul.
3:6: One who seeks to control the sense organs with the mind and yet who ponders sense objects as desirable things is known as a fool and a hypocrite.
3:7: But one who regulates the sensory organs with the intellect, O Arjuna, and who practices karma yoga without attachment is a superior person.
It is foolish to believe that one can successfully renounce a thing while the mind is craving it and yet the mind is always craving. Such renunciation only produces more negative karma and a false sense of pseudo-holiness. True renunciation is to turn away from a thing completely, both mentally and physically. This however is generally easier said than done! Therefore those who seek to appear holy due to the things they do not allow while secretly obsessing and dwelling on those things are certainly hypocrites.
On the other hand, by controlling ones desires and by consciously surrendering all fruitive results to the Lord one is freed because when ones desire is to please the Lord one is no longer seeking to please and serve the self. Even when one fails at this attempts one is successful by the Grace and Mercy of the Lord:
"One who sees Me everywhere and sees everything in Me, from such a one I do not disappear nor is that person ever lost from Me" (Gita 6:30).
This is the secret to successfully practicing Jnana Yoga and karma Yoga: devoting ones knowledge and actions to the Lord in humble service. The Lord will have much to say on this later on.
This is not, as some suppose, a call to apathy nor to a lack of concern but rather to full conscious living service in which every act, every thought, every breath becomes a living sacrifice to God. This is true spiritual living.
3:8: Perform your obligatory actions. Indeed action is better than inaction because even your bodily maintenance would not be possible without action.
There are those who believe it is best to renounce all attachments and responsibilities, to become hermits, ascetics, and to spend ones days absorbed in Self-directed dhyana (meditation) and Tapasya (strict austerities). Sri Krsna however advocates a life affirming Path wherein one actively engages in life to the fullest. Arjuna's duty as a Kshatriya was to engage the enemy in battle. Our duties may include going to work, caring for our families and so many other things. We are encouraged to perform our responsibilities to the very best of our abilities, but to devote the fruitive results of those actions to God, understanding our true natures as His eternal servitors.
3:9: Perform your actions as holy sacrifices, otherwise they will further bind you to this material world O son of Kunti. Be liberated from all attachment!
This idea of sacrifice (yajna) is more important than might appear at first glance. The word Hindu is a slang expression, a nickname used to reference those people living on "the other side of the Indus river": the "Indhus" or Hindus. Hindu-ism is actually a vastly diverse accumulation of ancient and more recent religious beliefs and traditions and developments. The closest thing to an actual name this vast blanket of beliefs has is Santana Dharma or the (Quest for) Eternal Truth. Over the past untold thousands of years the Santana Dharma has evolved (or arguably devolved) from its original glory and global adherence.
The Pure Santana Dharma is the original and true religion. Generally speaking the various Hindu sects all believe that they are the modern version of the original, oldest extant and most authorized dharma (teachings). Call it human nature or religious piety. This belief is common to most Paths. A difference however is that Santana Dharmins does not hold this belief in exclusion to others. Everyone who is Questing for Truth are One in Santana Dharma!
Sri Krsna spoke the Srimad Bhagavad Gita to Arjuna at the dawn of our present age, circa 5561 B.C.E according to standard Indian calculations. Prior to that an elaborate and well defined system of sacrifices formed the heart of much of the religious practices of the world. We see the remnants of these traditions in cultures the world over.
Times change, ages shift and humanity moves on. By circa 5561 B.C.E the Terrans of Bhuloka (Earthlings) had lost much of their natural piety as the ravages of individual and collective Karma took its toll. The Marga (course of events) drove humanity into ever darker times until the One Truth that had once guided all life on earth was eventually forgotten.
Sri Krsna came to the Earth for various reasons, one of these was to restore the essence of the One Truth so humanity would, even in this dark age of Kali Yuga, be able to achieve spiritual release. Sri Krsna affirms this as follows:
The Blessed One said: I instructed this immutable yoga system to the sun god Vivasvan. He taught it to Manu and Manu taught it to Iksvaku.
Thus through disciplic succession the royal sages understood this knowledge, but with the passing of time the great yoga system was lost to this world, O Chastiser of Enemies.
Today that ancient yoga system is declared by Me unto you. Because you are My devotee and friend I will fully reveal this foremost of all mysteries (Bhagavad Gita 4:1-3).
Manu by the way rescued the earth by building an ark, loading animals onto it and thus became the father of all subsequent humans (the parallels to the much later accounts of Noah's Ark are obvious).
This revelation of eternal Truth is the goal of the Srimad Bhagavad Gita, the Glorious Song of God. There are many many scriptures but in this single volume may be found everything needful for spiritual development and liberation. For this reason the Bhagavad Gita is often referred to as "The Bible of India." There is no scripture like the Gita!
In the following verses the Lord references the distant past and explains the role sacrifices once played in the earlier ages. He then candidly reveals that in this age, Kali Age, the system has been simplified due to Lord's mercy for we fallen living entities during this final age. The Grace of the Lord is our only hope.
3:10: Sri Prajapati [the Creator of all living beings, now equated with Lord Brahma] long ago said, "By sacrifice you will propagate. This will be your "milk cow of plenty."
3:11: By this the devas [gods] are supported and by this they will support you. This mutual support is good and by it you will achieve the highest.
3:12: The devas will give you all desired objects when they are nourished by sacrifices, but one who enjoys without making offerings to them is a thief.
Sacrifices are therefore critical! In subsequent verses and chapters the Lord will explain more about how we in Kali Yuga are to perform our sacrifices.
In our fallen condition it is difficult to understand how two seemingly opposite things can be equally true and yet for those emerged in spiritual conscious this is easily understandable.
There is a common belief that all Hindus are polytheists. This belief is based on this poor fund of knowledge. What is called Hinduism is incredibly diverse, however a common understanding of most Hindus is:
Ekam Sat: Vipra Bahudha Vadante:
Truth is one; sages call it by various names.
Of course what this means is a popular subject for debate by the various pundits! Here is one ancient way of understanding this important maxim. As we read in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 3.9.1:
"Then Vidaghdha, son of Shakala, asked him, "How many gods are there, O Yajnavalkya?" Yajnavalkya, ascertaining the number through a group of mantras known as the Nivid, replied, "As many as are mentioned in the Nivid of the gods: three hundred and three, and three thousand and three."
"Very good," said the son of Shakala, "and how many gods are there, Yajnavalkya?"
"Very good, and how many gods are there, Yajnavalkya?"
"Very good, and how many gods are there, Yajnavalkya?"
"Very good, and how many gods are there, Yajnavalkya?"
"Very good, and how many gods are there, Yajnavalkya?"
"One and a half."
"Very good, and how many gods are there, Yajnavalkya?"
"Ek" [which is to say, One].
Way back at the very beginning of Satya Yuga, the first age, Ek Devata: Ek Onkar (the One Source of All), established the various gods or devas as governors (or demigods) to oversee and manage the affairs of Bhuloka, our Earth.
Service is of vital importance because by service to others we serve God and by serving God we are rewarded with release from our karmic indebtedness. Those who seek their own well being, who turn away from others and who fail to show compassion invariably fall deeper and deeper into despair and karmic misery. All beings are called to serve in so many ways according to their natural proclivities. Among animals we see hierarchies clearly. We can also see them among humans and even among the devas. All beings ultimately serve the Ek Devata, the One. Some knowingly, others not. The goal of yoga is the development of intentional, heartfelt submission to the One as conceived.
In the earlier ages humans had direct contact with the devas in various ways. Back then no sane person would ever question God's existence. This peculiar state of affairs only exists in Kali Yuga, our Age of Confusion and Ignorance. The Vedas are filled with the exploits of gods and humanity. Scriptures like the Srimad Bhagavatam share many such accounts. The wonderful English translation and commentary of this and other Scriptures by my Guru Maharaja, His Divine Grace AC Bhaktivedanta Swami, can be read HERE.
3:13: The righteous who eat the remnants of sacrifice are freed from all kinds of trespasses, but those sinful people who cook for their own sake eat only sin.
3:14: Material bodies are beholden to the production of foods. Food grains are produced from rains. Rains come from the performance of sacrifice and sacrifice is born of action.
3:15: Right actions are prescribed in the Vedas. Understand that Lord Brahma -- who is directly manifested from the all-pervading Imperishable One -- has eternally established all sacrificial actions.
It is through the ceaseless performance of actions that the embodied jiva, atman or soul is enslaved by material consciousness and it is through sacrificial actions that the atman is liberated. Karma Yoga therefore is the Way of performing yajna (sacrifices) for the liberation of the Self as described in the Vedas (Holy Scriptures).
It is said that all knowledge comes from Lord Brahma. Originally there was One Veda, One Truth. As the ages passed however the One Truth become too great for the conditioned souls to comprehend and so towards the end of Treta Yuga (the age before ours) the One Veda was quartered. It is explained that from the four mouths of Lord Brahma the Four Vedas were revealed: i.e. the Rg Veda, Atharva Veda, Yajur Veda and Sama Veda. The Bhagavad Gita is the creme of all Vedic knowledge.
3:16: Those who are compelled by these cyclic reactions -- who do not adapt to spiritual consciousness in this life -- are locked onto the wheel of repeated birth and death. They live vain lives of sin; they are never satisfied, O son of Partha.
3:17: However one who delights in the Self, who is satisfied in the Self and is satiated in the Self alone, for such a person there are no obligatory activities.
3:18: Such a person does not perform actions for personal gain nor avoid actions that need to be done, neither relies on the acts of others.
3:19: Therefore always perform your obligatory actions without attachment. By performing such activities without attachment you will attain the Highest.
Although one may seek pleasure through the material senses, any enjoyments gained this way will be short lived. True satisfaction is only attained by focusing on the Self. For this reason one who performs required actions without attachment, through devotion to the One God, is thereby elevated to spiritual consciousness.
The Supreme Lord is present everywhere and exists within the embodied beings as paramatman, the supreme Self. For those who seek to please the Self material desires are nothing. By serving the Self (paramatman) the self (atman) finds true and lasting fulfillment and satisfaction.
3:20: Through action Janaka and others attained perfection. Likewise, for the protection of the world you ought to perform your requisite actions.
Seeradhwaja Janaka was a celebrated solar king of Videha. His capital was at Mithila. He was the father of the glorious Srimati Sita Devi, Divine Consort of Lord Rama. Janaka is celebrated in the Ramayana, the Mahabharata, the Brhadaranyaka Upanishad and other important sastras (scriptures). By studying the examples of such people one can discover how to better serve the Lord.
3:21: Whatever preeminent people do sets the standard which others emulate.
Arjuna is encouraged to perform his duty for so many reasons. One being that his exploits, like those of King Janaka and others, would encourage similar service. Indeed we are reading his conversation with Sri Krsna now and receiving so many blessings from it. By performing devotional service to the Lord blessings abound! Such actions should be performed to glorify the Lord.
3:22: O son of Partha, there are no required actions for Me in all the three worlds, nor do I desire to obtain anything, nonetheless, even I engage in activities.
3:23: If at any time I ceased from engaging in actions, all people would follow My path, O son of Partha.
3:24: If I did not act these worlds would all be ruined. There would be caste confusion and I, the Creator, would destroy all these living entities.
Society works best when everyone performs their prescribed duties. The Varnashram Dharma (the original Caste System) was established to ensure social order, however as our present age of confusion and hypocrisy progressed castes and their proper roles in society were forgotten and abused. In time the Varnashram System ceased to work properly and indeed resulted in many abuses. I discuss this system in some detail in my bhasya on 1:42 of this work.
Every living being in the material world is called upon to serve in diverse ways. Even Ek Devata, the One Divinity beyond all comprehension is engaged in needful activities even though He transcends all authority. Were Sri Krsna, who is the Supreme Person Incarnate, to cease from action all existence would immediately cease. Those who would attain enlightenment should perform their prescribed duties as their service to God without desiring the results of those activities. In this way the living entity achieves Oneness with God who is the Source of all actions.
3:25: Just as the ignorant act out of attachment to fruitive reactions O descendant of Bharata, so too those who are knowledgeable should act without attachment, for the protection of the world.
3:26: Those who are knowledgeable should not cause the intelligence of the ignorant to be disturbed with regards their attachment to actions, but rather should encourage them to yoke their minds [to Me] and thus favorably engage in all activities.
Here is an important point and one of the hallmarks of the Sanatana Dharma. While many religious people focus on condemning those who are more sinful than themselves by pointing fingers and casting judgments, Sri Krsna rejects this hypocritical state of affairs.
Attachment to the illusions of material existence is based on avidyaignorance. Why condemn those who are seeking fulfillment merely because the path they are following is doomed to failure due to avidya (ignorance)? Their failures and the subsequent karma is punishment enough and who among us is without sin? Rather, the Lord advises those with spiritual understanding to encourage those who are overpowered by maya (illusion) to seek higher understanding and freedom. If such conditioned souls can be encouraged to recite the Names of the Lord, to visit the holy mandirs (temples) even occasionally, to take prasada (foods offered first to the Lord), if they will but give some thanks to the Lord for His infinite goodness they will make some progress. Having made some progress more advancement is certain.
Condemnation merely encourages more sin. As Sri Krsna has previously explained:
In this effort there is no loss or reversal. Even the slightest performance of this selfless duty releases one from the greatest fear. (Bhagavad Gita 2:40)
Surely such compassion is preferable to condemnation.
3:27: All types of activities are being performed by the [three] gunas [qualities or aspects] of material nature, yet the living entity who is deluded by false ego thinks him/her self the doer.
All materially bound living entities (souls) are seeking satisfaction, purpose, joy, reason -- however conceived. Some seek satisfaction by the acquisition of wealth, power, authority, fame. Others seek fulfillment or escape through sex, drugs, religion, tradition, art, music, friends, family, politics and so on. There are so many ways to seek that which can never be attained.
These and all other material acquisitions are at best temporary. Once attained more is desired -- more wealth, more power, more conquests -- and even if one is fortunate and feels ones life is truly satisfying, sooner or later inevitable death comes and all is lost as the living entities returns to the seemingly endless cycle birth and death. Where is the satisfaction desired by the eternal soul?
The attempts all fail because they are conditioned or tainted by the material qualities of material nature:
The Three Qualities of Material Nature as discussed previous (2:45):
- Sattva Guna: Goodness, purity, balance, intelligence.
- Raja Guna: Passion, activity, energy.
- Tama Guna: Ignorance, delusion, darkness.
The materially bound living entities are deluded by maya (illusion) and avidya (ignorance) and imagine themselves to be free, but it is only their accumulated karma that drives them on action by action, prison by prison.
3:28: O mighty armed one, those who know the truth understand the relationships between the three gunas [material qualities] and actions and hence their senses are not attached to sense objects.
3:29: Those who are deluded by the qualities of material nature and who are therefore attached to material activities are dull-witted. Their knowledge is incomplete. Such people should not be disturbed by those whose knowledge is complete.
There is an ancient proverb that one should not cast pearls before swine. Such is the teaching here. There is no point in explaining spiritual truths to those who are not ready to receive them. Likewise efforts to convert people from one religion to another are ill advised and often destructive to the individual, the family and the society. As the Lord will tell Arjuna later in this conversation:
Better ones own duty though poorly exercised than another person's even though performed well (3:35:).
It is generally wiser simply to encourage people to do their best with the truth they have than to attempt to force what they are nor ready for. Of course it is always acceptable to assist those who are seeking greater Light!
3:30: Renounce all types of activities unto Me in complete consciousness of Me free from desire or possessiveness. Being thus free, fight [do your duty] without mental pain or anxiety.
Regardless of ones beliefs, culture, religion, political persuasion and so on, anyone can find success, in this life, simply by surrendering the fruit of ones actions to the Supreme Lord according to the Light one has. There is no need to convert to some new religion nor to become something else. Simply surrender to the Lord and He will direct your steps. Do this and your life will be fulfilled.
3:31: Those who practice My eternal doctrine with faith and who are devoid of envy are freed from all karmic reactions.
3:32: But those who are envious, who do not practice My doctrine and whose knowledge is deluded: know them to be ruined and devoid of consciousness.
The doctrine of Sri Krsna is found complete within the pages of Srimad Bhagavad Gita. Those who receive these teachings and apply them are on the Path to Self Realization and spiritual liberation. Those who do not accept these things, who seek satisfaction from the three modes of material nature, who reject the causeless mercy of the Supreme Lord, such people are wasting this rare opportunity of human life and inevitable descend into less conscious lifeforms where they will be further trapped by suffering.
There are those who teach an eternal damnation or eternal punishment of the soul, others believe the living entity may be utterly destroyed. Such teachings are rejected by Sri Krsna as we will see later on. The soul is eternally part and parcel of the Lord and so will eventually return Home to the spiritual realms of consciousness (Nirguna Brahman). More on this later.
3:33: All living entities follow their own natures, even those who have knowledge act according to material nature, so what can repression accomplish?
3:34: Attachment and detachment of the senses for their objects must be regulated. One should not come under the domination of either of these as they are obstacles [to self-realization].
There are those who teach that renunciation is everything however the Lord explains here that renunciation is not enough. The materially bound living entities have taken these present births due to their past choices and actions, for good or ill. All the diverse conditions in which the living entities find themselves are just, as difficult as this sometimes is to accept. All conditions stem from past actions.
This means that this life matters. Its temptations and struggles are opportunities, not punishments. This is partly why one should never another judge another. Those who lives are the most difficult and seemingly the most undesirable may be all the more blessed due to the greater opportunities to burn away negative karma.
Karma (actions) produce karma (reactions). These reactions are under the determinations of Dharma (Divine Justice) and Dharma establishes Marga, the course ones life will take. There is individual, family, social, planetary and even galactic karma, dharma and marga. Those who understand these topics accept their lives as they are and use them to progress in spiritual consciousness. It is in part for this reason that jealousy, greed and deciet are so destructive to spiritual advancement. One should accept what is and seek to establish what should be.
3:35: Better ones own duty though poorly exercised than another person's even though performed well. It is better to die performing ones own duty because fulfilling the duty of someone is filled with dread.
3:36: Arjuna asked: By what is one impelled, even without desiring it, to sin? O descendant of Vrishni; it is as if one were incited by force.
Arjuna has learned much thus far in his conversation with Sri Krsna, but he still has doubts. He knows his duty as a Kshatriya is to fight but he would rather not. He reasons that other people have duties that do not require such adventures. Perhaps he could perform one of those duties instead! Yet he understands his position.
Despite this intellectual understanding Arjuna is prone to sin. Perhaps, he reasons, the Lord might help him understand this tendency, knowing which he will be able to resist sin's influences.
3:37: The Blessed One replied: It is desire and anger: which are born of all-devouring passion. Know this to be the very sinful enemy here in the material world.
3:38: As fire is enveloped by smoke, as a mirror is covered by dust and as an unborn child is enveloped by the womb, so likewise is this [conditioned] jivatman [individual soul] enveloped by desires.
3:39: Thus conditioned the wisdom of the wise is enveloped by the constant enemy perceived as the forms of desire, O son of Kunti [Arjuna], as by an insatiable fire.
As previously discussed jivatman, the living entity, exists in eternal bliss devoid (nir) of any material qualities (gunas) and yet once the soul enters material nature (Saguna Brahman) the soul becomes bound by material consciousness. Once this happens every thought is covered, like dust on a mirror, so that the pure reflection of true reality becomes blurred and the consciousness is uncertain and confused. The Lord here explains that it is the desire for material nature, avidya (ignorance) based passion (rajaguna) of ones true nature that drives the soul into ever greater enslavement.
3:40: The senses, the mind and the intellect are said to be the seat [of all desires]. By these the knowledge of the embodied living entities are covered and deluded.
3:41: Therefore, begin by regulating the senses, O best of the Bharatas, and destroy this inauspiciousness which is the slayer of knowledge and understanding.
3:42: It is said that the senses are great, but superior to the senses is the mind. Superior to the mind is the intellect and the living entity is superior even to the intellect.
3:43: Thus knowing yourself to be superior to the intellect, restrain yourself and destroy the formidable enemy of the forms of desire, O supremely armed one [Arjuna].
This chapter thus concludes as Sri Krsna reiterates the importance of the intellect and the consciousness. Humans are not slaves their desires. Even though the Lord is speaking with Arjuna about the literal battlefield of Kuruksetra it is understood that there is another, inner battle field and war. In this war the living entities must confront the enemies of material consciousness by the mighty weapon of devotion to the Lord and self-restraint in His service. In the next chapter Sri Krsna will reveal even deeper wisdom!
Here Ends Chapter Three.
Of the Gitabhasya of Jagannatha Prakasa
Go to: Chapter Four
Go to: Setting the Stage, the introduction.
Go to: Bhasya Homepage.
Go to: AllFaith.com Homepage.