Saturday, 10 July 2021

Bhagavad Gita Summary - Book 3 - Karma Yoga

Sometimes titled Karma Yoga, the third book of the Gita is an essential exposition on action and duty, selfless compassion, and the nature of desire. It is one of the most distinctive and important chapters of this spiritual classic. The section divisions are based on the Baghavad Gita, with the Commentary of Sri Sankaracharya, transl. A. Mahadeva Sastri, 1901. Further comments from William Q. Judge, Essays on the Gita, and the Dnyaneshwari, transl. M.R. Yardi) 
 
CHAPTER 3 PATH OF ACTIONS - ARJUNA IS CONFUSED 
1- Karma Yoga (Verses 1-19)
Which is better, Knowledge or Action. (1-2)
At this stage Arjuna asked why, if Shri Krishna was against actions he was asking him to fight. (3:3) (William Q. Judge, Essays on the Gita, 3,1)
 
The Paths of Knowledge and Action. (3)
3. The Blessed Lord said: In this world twofold is the self-application of the soul (by which it enters into the Brahmic condition), as I before said, O sinless one: that of the Sankhyas by the Yoga of knowledge, that of the Yogins by the Yoga of works.
What was that twofold path of devotion ?—One of them was jnana-yoga, the devotion of knowledge—knowledge itself being yoga — suited to the Sankhyas, to those who possessed a clear knowledge of the Self and the not-Self, who renounced the world from the Brahmacharya (the first holy order or asrama), who determined the nature of things in the light of the Vedantic wisdom, who belonged to the highest class of samnyasins known as the Paramahamsas, whose thoughts ever dwelt on Brahman only. The other was karma-yoga, the devotion of action,—action itself being Yoga or devotion,—suited to yogins, to karmins, to those who were inclined to action.
But the truth is this : Devotion to action is a means to the end, not directly, but only as leading to devotion to knowledge ; whereas the latter, which is attained by means of devotion to action, leads to the goal directly, without extraneous help. (Judge, 3-3)
 
Karma-Yoga leads to freedom from action. (4)
4. Not by abstention from works does a man enjoy actionlessness, nor by mere renunciation (of works) does he attain to his perfection (to siddhi, the accomplishment of the aims of his self-discipline by Yoga).
IMPORTANCE OF ACTIONS Abandoning action is not non-action. If without doing the prescribed actions first one says that "I am abandoning actions like a Siddha", then that will not at all constitute non-action for him. Because it is foolish to think that non-action is the same thing as not doing the duties that have fallen to one's lot. As long as one is in his body and has desires, actions cannot be abandoned; certain natural duties (like earning livelihood, preparation of food, having progeny etc.) have perforce to be performed. But the actions become non-actions when one is ceaselessly content. Therefore one who wants to achieve non-action should never give up the prescribed actions. (Dnyaneshwari 3:45- 50, transl. M.R. Yardi) 
 
The ignorant are swayed by Nature. (5)
5. For none stands even for a moment not doing work, everyone is made to do action helplessly by the modes born of Prakriti.
 
The unenlightened should not give up Karma-Yoga. (6-13)
6. Who controls the organs of action, but continues in his mind to remember and dwell upon the objects of sense, such a man has bewildered himself with false notions of self-discipline.
7. He who controlling the senses by the mind, O Arjuna, without attachment engages with the organs of action in Yoga of action, he excels.
8. Do thou do controlled action. For action is greater than inaction; even the maintenance of thy physical life cannot be effected without action.
9. By doing works otherwise than for sacrifice, this world of men is in bondage to works; for sacrifice practise works, O son of Kunti, becoming free from all attachment.
Act as per the code Brahmadeo replied, "I have already set the code of actions depending upon your caste. Let your actions be guided by it and your wishes will be fulfilled with ease. Do not trouble your body by performing Vratas (observance of austerities like fast sometimes with rituals) and penances. Do not go far away for pilgrimage. Do not observe yoga and similar techniques, penance with desire or mantra and tantra techniques. Do not worship other deities. Perform the natural yajna of doing actions as per the code (Dharma) and the actions will become successful. If you worship the deities by performing actions as per the code then the deities will be pleased and give you the desired objects and will sustain you. You will enjoy the good things of life and be happy." (Dnyaneshwari, 3:88-95). 
 
The wheel of the world should be set going. (14-16)
16. He who follows not here the wheel thus set in movement, evil is his being, sensual is his delight, in vain, O Partha, that man lives.
In such an age as this, the ritualistic sacrifice of a different age which has indeed a magical effect becomes a sacrifice to be performed by each man in his own nature upon the altar of his own heart. And especially is this so with theosophists of sincerity and aspiration. Being born as we are in these days, among families with but small heritage in the wave of descent from unsullied ancestors, we are without the advantage of great natural spiritual leanings, and without certain peculiar powers and tendencies that belong to another cycle. But the very force and rapidity of the age we live in give us the power to do more now in fewer incarnations. Let us then recognize this, and learn what is our duty and do it. (Judge, 3, 16)
 
Karma -Yoga is not meant for the Self-knower. (17-18)
17. But the man whose delight is in the Self and who is satisfied with the enjoyment of the Self and in the Self he is content, for him there exists no work that needs to be done.
 
Arjuna qualified for Karma yoga. (19)
19. Therefore, without attachment, constantly perform the action which should be done ; for, performing action without attachment, man reaches the Supreme.
A DESIRELESS PERSON In this context listen to the characteristics of a desireless person.  Such a person though outwardly he may behave like others, is internally steady, always absorbed in the meditation on the Supreme Self. Since he is in control of his sense-organs he is not afraid of sense-objects and nor does he avoid his duties. While he lets his action-organs do their task he is not affected by the resultant feelings. He is not influenced by delusion or by lust. Since outwardly he behaves like others, one cannot know his inner state. Such a person may be considered as liberated. Such a liberated person should be specifically called a yogi. Therefore Arjuna, be such a yogi and let your mind be quiet and free, and let the action organs do their duties. (Dnyaneshwari, 3:67- 76). 
 
2- Setting an example (20-35)
The wise should set an example to the masses. (20-24)
20. It was even by works that Janaka and the rest attained to perfection. Thou shouldst do works regarding also the holding together of the peoples.
ACTIONS AS AN EXAMPLE TO OTHERS There is another advantage gained by performing prescribed actions. When we do our duties, others note and follow and thereby they are saved from pitfalls. Particularly those who have attained Self-realisation and reached a perfectly desireless state should perform duties for the guidance of others even after Self-realisation. (3:153-155). If a man of knowledge does not teach others by his actions then how will the ignorant understand and take to good path? It is natural for ordinary people emulate the actions of the big, thinking them to be the prescribed actions. Therefore one should not abandon one's duties. Especially the saints and similar persons must perform their duties. (Dnyaneshwari, 3: 153-159). 
For me, or for any other person who, knowing the Self, thus seeks the welfare of the world, there is nothing to do except it be with a view to that welfare of the world at large. (Judge, 3-25)
 
The wise man's action as contrasted with that of the ignorant. (25-29)
27. While the actions are being entirely done by the modes of Nature, he whose self is bewildered by egoism thinks that it is his "I" which is doing them.
 
How an aspirant for Moksha should do actions (30-32)
30. Giving up thy works to Me, with thy consciousness founded in the Self, free from desire and egoism, fight delivered from the fever of thy soul.
 
Influence of man's nature on his conduct. (33)
33. Even the man of knowledge acts in conformity with his own nature ; (all) beings follow (their) nature; what shall coercion avail?
 
Scope for man's personal exertion. (34-35)
35. Better is one's own law of works, swadharma, though in itself faulty than an alien law well wrought out; death in one's own law of being is better, perilous is it to follow an alien law.
IMPORTANCE OF DHARMA It is advantageous to practice one's own Dharma, however difficult, rather than that of others even if the latter may appear attractive. Would one demolish one's own thatched hut by comparing it to the white mansions of others? Similarly, even if one's Dharma is painful and difficult to practice, it is that which makes his afterlife happy. Therefore by taking into account his own benefit, one should not do actions which may befit others but not to himself. Even if one has to sacrifice one's life while practising Swadharma it is good because it will establish one's greatness in both the worlds. (Dnyaneshwari, 3: 219-229). 
 
3-Desire (36-43)
Desire is the enemy of man. (36-37)
37. The Lord said: This is desire and its companion wrath, children of rajas, all-devouring, all-polluting, know thou this as the soul's great enemy (which has to be slain).
Those who accept with respect this firm opinion of mine and behave according to it with faith will be free from the binding of their actions.  A wise person should never pamper the organs.  When the body is controlled by others why should one accumulate the fruits of actions for it.  Ordinarily, mind experiences pleasure when the organs are provided with the sense-objects. But just as the company of a robber is safe for a short time, only up to the village boundary, the lust residing in the organs leads them to depravity. The desire for sense-pleasures causes anger and destroys the intellect. Desire and anger are both extremely dangerous; therefore shed their company. Do not let the nectar of experience of the Self be spoilt by even the thought of desire and anger. (Dnyaneshwari, 3: 192-218). 
 
Desire enshrouds wisdom. (38-39)
39. Covered, O son of Kunti, is wisdom by this constant enemy of the wise, in the form of desire, which is greedy and insatiable.
 
The seat of desire. (40)
40. The senses, mind, and reason are said to be its seat ; veiling wisdom through these, it deludes the embodied.
 
Vow to kill out desire. (41-43)
43. Thus knowing Him who is superior to reason, subduing the self by the self, slay thou, O mighty-armed, the enemy in the form of desire, hard to conquer.
LOSING DESIRE AND ANGER LEAD TO SELF-REALIZATION Their original residence is in the sense-organs from where impetus for action originates. Therefore it is necessary to exercise control on the sense organs which will restrict your mind from the pleasure-seeking tendency. This will free your intellect and thus they will lose their support. Once a person loses anger and desire, the person will realise Brahman in whose bliss he will enjoy. This is the secret between a Guru and his disciple and it is also the union of the Self and the Brahman in which he remains stable perpetually. (Dnyaneshwari, 3:268-272) 
 
It is by means of the outward senses and their inner counterparts that a great turmoil is set up in the whole system, which spreads to the heart and from there to the mind, and, as it is elsewhere said: "The restless heart then snatches away the mind from its steady place."
We thus have to carry on the cultivation of the soul by regular stages, never neglecting one part at the expense of another. Krishna advises his friend to restrain the senses, and then to "strengthen himself by himself." The meaning here is that he is to rely upon the One Consciousness which, as differentiated in a man, is his higher self. By means of this higher self he is to strengthen the lower, or that which he is accustomed to call "myself."
The disciple must learn to do every act with the Divine in view, and the Divine in everything. Therefore let us think of him and fight; while entangled in this dense forest of existence, let us think of him, the Lion our guard, the Sage our guide, the Warrior our sure defense and shield. (Judge, 3, 41)

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