The Mahabharata Home
(Bhagavad Gita Chapter III)
"Arjuna said,--'If devotion, O Janardana, is regarded by thee as superior to work, why then, O Kesava, dost thou engage me in such dreadful work? By equivocal words thou seemest to confound my understanding. Therefore, tell (me) one thing definitely by which I may attain to what is good.'
"The Holy One said,--'It hath already been said by me, O sinless one, that here are, in this world, two kinds of devotion; that of the Sankhyas through knowledge and that of the yogins through work. A man doth not acquire freedom from work from (only) the non-performance of work. Nor doth he acquire final emancipation from only renunciation (of work). No one can abide even for a moment without doing work. 1 That man of deluded soul who, curbing the organs of sense, liveth mentally cherishing the objects of sense, is said to be a dissembler. He however, O Arjuna, who restraining (his) senses by his mind, engageth in devotion (in the form) of work with the organs of work, and is free from attachment, is distinguished (above all). (Therefore), do thou always apply yourself to work, for action is better than inaction. Even the support of thy body cannot be accomplished without work. 2 This world is fettered by all work other than that which is (performed) for Sacrifice. (Therefore), O son of Kunti, perform work for the sake of that, freed from attachment. 3 In olden times, the Lord of Creation, creating men and sacrifice together, said,--flourish by means of this (Sacrifice). Let this (Sacrifice) be to you (all) the dispenser of all objects cherished by you. Rear the gods with this, and let the gods (in return) rear you. Thus fulfilling the mutual interest you will obtain that which is beneficial (to you). 4 Propitiated with sacrifices the gods will bestow on you the pleasures you desire. He who enjoyeth (himself) without giving them what
they have given, is assuredly a thief. The good who eat the remnant of sacrifices are freed from all sins. Those unrighteous ones incur sin who dress food for their own sake.--From food are all creatures; and sacrifice is the outcome of work. 1 Know that work proceeds from the Vedas; Vedas have proceeded from Him who hath no decay. Therefore, the all-pervading Supreme Being is installed in sacrifice. 2 He who conformeth not to this wheel that is thus revolving, that man of sinful life delighting (the indulgence of) his senses, liveth in vain, O Partha. 3 The man, however, that is attached to self only, that is contented with self, and that is pleased in his self,--hath no work (to do). He hath no concern whatever with action nor with any omission here. Nor, amongst all creatures, is there any upon whom his interest dependeth. 4 Therefore, always do work that should be done, without attachment. The man who performeth work without attachment, attaineth to the Supreme. By work alone, Janaka and others, attained the accomplishment of their objects. Having regard also to the observance by men of their duties, it behoveth thee to work. Whatever a great man doth, is also done by vulgar people. Ordinary men follow the ideal set by them (the great). 5 There is nothing whatever for me, O Partha, to do in the three worlds, (since I have) nothing for me which hath not been acquired; still I engage in action. 6 Because if at any time I do not, without sloth, engage in action, men would follow my path, O Partha, on all sides. The worlds would perish if I did not perform work, and I should cause intermixture of castes and ruin these people. As the ignorant work, O Bharata, having attachment to the performer, so should a wise man work without being attached, desiring to make men observant of their duties. A wise man should not cause confusion of understanding amongst ignorant persons, who have attachment to work itself; (on the other hand) he should (himself) acting with devotion engage them to all (kinds of) work. All works are, in every way, done by the qualities of nature. He, whose mind is deluded
by egoism, however, regards himself as the actor. 1 But he, O mighty-armed one, who knoweth the distinction (of self) from qualities and work, is not attached to work, considering that it is his senses alone (and not his self) that engage in their objects. 2 Those who are deluded by the qualities of nature, become attached to the works done by the qualities. A person of perfect knowledge should not bewilder those men of imperfect knowledge. 3 Devoting all work to me, with (thy) mind directed to self, engage in battle, without desire, without affection and with thy (heart's) weakness dispelled. 4 Those men who always follow this opinion of mine with faith and without cavil attain to final emancipation even by work. But they who cavil at and do not follow this opinion of mine, know, that, bereft of all knowledge and without discrimination, they are ruined. Even a wise man acts according to his own nature. All living beings follow (their own) nature. What then would restraint avail? The senses have, as regards the objects of the senses, either affection or aversion fixed. One should not submit to these, for they are obstacles in one's way. 5 One's own duty, even if imperfectly performed, is better than being done by other even if well performed. Death in (performance of) one's own duty is preferable. (The adoption of) the duty of another carries fear (with it).
"Arjuna said, 'Impelled by whom, O son of the Vrishni race, doth a man commit sin, even though unwilling and as if constrained by force'?
"The Holy One said,--'It is desire, it is wrath, born of the attribute of passion; it is all devouring, it is very sinful. Know this to be the foe in this world. 6 As fire is enveloped by smoke, a mirror by dust, the foetus by the womb, so is this enveloped by desire. Knowledge, O son of Kunti, is enveloped by this constant foe of the wise in the form of desire which is insatiable and like a fire. The senses, the mind and the understanding are said to be its abode. With these it deludeth the embodied self, enveloping (his) knowledge. Therefore, restraining (thy) senses first, O bull of Bharata's race, cast off this wicked thing, for it destroyeth knowledge derived from instruction and meditation. 7 It hath been said that the senses are superior (to the body which is inert). Superior to the senses is the mind. Superior to the
mind is the knowledge. But which is superior to knowledge is He. 1 Thus knowing that which is superior to knowledge and restraining (thy) self by self, slay, O mighty-armed one, the enemy in the shape of desire which is difficult to conquer.'"
59:1 Prakritijais Gunas is explained by Sreedhara as qualities born of one's nature such as Ragadveshadi. Sankara thinks that they are the qualities or attributes of primal matter (which enters into the composition of every self) such as Satwa, Rajas, and Tamas.
59:2 "Apply to work", i.e. to work as prescribed in the scriptures. Thus says Sankara. "To morning and evening prayers, etc." says Sreedhara.
59:3 Sacrifices Vishnu's self as declared by the Srutis; work for sacrifice, therefore, is work for Vishnu's sake or gratification. For the sake of that i.e., for sacrifice's, or "Vishnu's sake. So say all the commentators.
59:4 Bhavaya is explained by both Sankara and Sreedhara as Vradhaya or make grow. Perhaps, "rear" is the nearest approach to it in English. K. T. Telang renders it, 'please.' The idea is eminently Indian. The gods are fed by sacrifices, and in return they feed men by sending rain. The Asuras again who warred with the gods warred with sacrifices.
60:1 Parjjanya is explained by both Sankara and Sreedhara as rain. It means also the clouds or the origin of rain.
60:2 The word in the original that is rendered in the Vedas is Brahma. It may mean the Supreme Soul. Of course, in Brahmanic literature, the Vedas are Brahma and Brahma is the Vedas, but still in the second line of 15 there is no necessity of taking Brahma as equivalent to the Vedas, I do not think Telang is accurate in his rendering of this line.
60:3 The wheel referred to is what has been said before, viz., from the Vedas are work, from work is rain, from rain is food, from food are creatures, from creatures again work and so back to the Vedas.
60:4 The sense seems to be, as explained by the commentators, that such a man earns no merit by action, nor sin by inaction or omission. Nor is there anybody from the Supreme Being to the lowest creature on whom he depends for anything.
60:5 The example set by the great is always catching, Itaras, here, is Vulgar and not "other". Kurute which I have rendered as "maketh" is used in the sense of "regardeth." Pramanam, however, may not necessarily mean something else that is set up as an ideal. It may refer to the actions themselves of the great men set up by them as a standard.
60:6 Sreedhara would connect "in the three worlds" with what follows. I follow Sankara and the natural order of words.
61:1 The word rendered "nature" is prakriti. It really implies "primal matter."
61:2 The second line, literally rendered, is "deeming that qualities engage in qualities." The first "qualities" imply the senses, and the second, the objects of the senses. The purport is that one knowing the distinction referred to, never thinks that his soul is the actor, for that which is work is only the result of the senses being applied to their objects.
61:3 Guna-karmashu is explained by Sankara as works of the qualities, or works done by them. Sreedhara explains the compound as "qualities and (their) works."
61:4 Devoting all work to me, i.e., in the belief that all you do is for me or my sake.
61:5 The senses, as regards their diverse objects in the world, are either drawn towards them or repelled by them. These likes and dislikes (in the case of men who, of course, only act according to their nature) stand in the way of their emancipation, if men submit to them.
61:6 Desire, if not gratified, results in wrath. Thus say the commentators.
61:7 Prajahi is explained by both Sankara and Sreedhara as parityaja (cast off).
62:1 He is the Supreme Soul or Being.
Next: Section XXVIII (Bhagavad Gita Chapter IV)