|Yoga of Action |
1. O Janardana, if, according to Thee, discriminative insight is superior to action, why dost
Thou enjoin on me this terrible action (of engagement in war)?
2. By seemingly conflicting words, Thou art confusing my understanding. Speak to me only
about that which will definitely lead to my highest good.
The Blessed Lord said:
3. In times of yore a twofold spiritual path was taught by me, O sinless one - that of
knowledge for Samkhyas (who are pure contemplatives), and that of action for Yogis (who
combine detached work with devotion).
4. By non-performance of action a man does not gain the state of spiritual passivity (or the
state of egoless actionlessness called Naishkarmya). By mere external abandonment
(Samnyasa), he does not attain to perfection.
5. No man can ever remain even for a moment without performing any action. The
impulses of nature deprive him of freedom in this respect and compel him to act.
6. He who restrains the organs of action but continues to brood in his mind over the
objects of sensual desire (enjoyed through them) - such a deluded person is called a
7. But he who, controlling all sense organs (by the power of his will) and becoming non-
attached, lives a life of communion through dedicated action such a person excels.
8. Perform your prescribed duties. For, action is superior to inaction. If you are totally
inactive, even the survival of the body would become impossible.
9. O son of Kunti! In this world all actions, unless they are done as an offering to God (or
as Yajna), become causes of bondage. Therefore, work for the sake of God without personal
10. In the beginning Prajapati, having created men together with Yajna (selfless work
dedicated to God or Vedic sacrifice) as their duty, declared: "By this shall you multiply. May
this be to you the Cow of Plenty yielding all your wants!"
11. "You cherish the Devas with Yajna, and may the Devas in turn bless you (with rain and
other desired gifts)! Thus, mutually cherishing, you shall attain the highest good.
12. Worshipped by sacrifices, the Devas will give you the desired objects of enjoyment.
They are verily thieves who enjoy their gifts without giving their share in return.
13. Those persons who eat what is left after sacrifice, are released from all sin. But those
who cook food for the self alone (without sharing it with others), such degraded men eat
14. From food (i.e., from reproductive power sustained by food) creatures are born. Food is
produced by rain. Rain is born of sacrifice, and sacrifice originates from action.
15. Works of sacrifice have their authority in the Veda. Veda has been revealed by the
Supreme Being. Therefore the all-comprehending Veda is established in sacrifice (that is,
has performance of sacrifice as its fundamental teaching).
16. Vain is the life" of that sinful and sense-indulgent person who fails to fulfil his
obligations in this cycle of mutual inter-dependence and service (which the law of sacrifice
17. But whoever delights in the Self (Spirit) alone, and is content and satisfied in the Self,
for such a person there is no obligatory duty to discharge.
18. He has no object to gain here in this world by action. Nor does he lose anything by
abstaining from action. For him, there is no dependence on any created being for any
object of his.
19. Therefore perform action always without attachment. For, by working without
attachment a man attains the Supreme.
20. Men like Janaka verily attained to perfection by work alone. You ought to work for the
good of the world (having their example in view).
21. Whatever the noblest persons do, the ordinary man imitates. The standard they set, the
ordinary men follow.
22. In all the three worlds there is nothing, O son of Pritha, that is binding on Me as duty.
Neither is there anything that I have to gain, nor anything that I cannot gain. Still I am
always engaged in work.
23. O son of Pritha! If I did not ever continue in action unwearied, men all around would
have followed My way.
24. If I were not to work, all these worlds would have perished. I would have been the
cause of confusion among men and of their ultimate destruction.
25. O scion of the Bharata race! Just as ignorant men do action out of attachment, so let
enlightened ones perform the same unattached, with the good of the world in view.
26. An enlightened man should not cause confusion in the minds of ignorant people (by his
conduct), Himself working with equanimity, he should make them interested in all
27. Everywhere the dispositions (powers) of Nature perform all works. But deluded by
egoism, man thinks, 'I am the doer.'
28. But those who know the truth that the dispositions of Nature and the actions which
spring from them are distinct from the Self, do not get attached, understanding that it is not
the Self, but the dispositions of Nature as organs that settle on the respective objects which
too are products of the same dispositions.
29. Men, deluded by the dispositions of Nature, get attached to work prompted by these
dispositions. Those who know the whole Truth should not unsettle these dull-wilted men of
30. Offering all your actions to Me, your mind in unison with the spirit and free from
desires and egotism, you fight without the slightest touch of hatred or excitement.
31. Whoever follow this teaching of mine, with their minds full of faith and free from
disparagement, they also are released from the bondage of Karma.
32. But those who disparage this doctrine of Mine and discard it, know such senseless men,
blind to all wisdom, as lost.
33. Even a wise man acts in accordance with his nature. All beings follow their nature.
What can repression do?
34. It is natural for each organ to feel attraction or aversion in respect of objects pertaining
to each sense. Do not come under their sway, for they are enemies (of all spiritual
35. One's own Dharma (duty), even though not glamorous, is better than duty alien to
one's growth (Para-dharmah), however well performed. For even death in doing one's duty
leads to one's good, while a duty alien to one's growth is burdened with the fear of
36. What is that, O scion of the Vrishni race, prompted by which a man is forced, as it
were, to live a sinful life even against his will?
The Blessed Lord said:
37. It is lust, it is anger, born of Rajoguna, insatiable and prompting man to great sin.
Know this to be the enemy (in man's spiritual life).
38. As fire is enveloped by smoke, mirror by dust and the embryo by the placenta, so is
knowledge overcast by lust.
39. Knowledge, O Son of Kunti, is covered up by this eternal foe of the aspirant after
knowledge - the insatiable fire of lust.
40. The senses, the mind and the Buddhi are said to be its seat. With these it veils
knowledge and deludes the embodied spirit.
41. Therefore, O scion of the Bharata race, controlling the senses at the beginning itself,
slay this foul enemy, the destroyer of all knowledge and realisation.
42. The senses are great, they say. Superior to the senses is the mind, and superior even to
the mind is the intellect. What is superior even to the intellect is He, the Atman.
43. Thus knowing Him who is superior even to the Buddhi, and controlling the lower self
with the higher, kill that tough enemy in the form of lust, O mighty-armed Arjuna