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Chapter 2 â€" Who is the real’I’








Naasatho vidhyathe bhaavo naa bhaavo vidhyathe sathah, says

Krishna. What exists can never cease to exist and what does not exist

can never come into existence. This sounds like high philosophy but

this can be applied to our everyday life. Most of our problems arise

because we imagine something to be real when it is not. We identify

ourselves with our body ,mind ,and intellect while the real

‘I’ is different from all these. This can be verified

through a simple exercise by trying to answer the question Who am I ?

The obvious answer would be ‘ I .am so and so.’ But that

is only your name. You may say that I am father of so and so or husband

of so and so. But it is only your relationship. Even when you say I am a

professor or I am an intellectual, it only denotes your professional and

intellectual status. So, who are you in reality ? We commonly speak

about our body as when we say “My body aches all over.â€

This proves that you are not your body. Similarly when we use

expressions like “My mind is upset†or “My

intellect has failed to grasp this†it is obvious that we are

separate from our mind and intellect.




That the real self must be something different from our

body, mind, and intellect we are able to perceive with no difficulty at

all .But there is another ‘I’ which we have to reckon

with , and that is our ego, which is the consciousness that I am. Even

this is absent when we are in deep sleep because we are not aware of

ourselves then. But there is some entity who is aware of our existence

even at that stage which makes us say that we had a sound sleep.

This is the real ‘I’ which is even different from our ego

..This is what Krishna calls avinaasi or sariri. Except that ,

everything else can be termed as transitory or antavantah.


All our experiences, joy and sorrow, heat and cold etc are

also transitory ,which have to be endured. There is no stoicism

involved in this as we cannot fail to see that all our problems or

difficulties pass after some time whether we face them boldly or cringe

away in fear. That is what Krishna means when He says that all

experiences are due to the contact of the senses with the sense objects

and they are fleeting and transitory aagamapayino anityaah and advises

Arjuna to bear with them patiently .They have nothing to do with the

real ' I 'which is the pure self, different from body mind and



The real self is thus shown to be different from body, mind

and intellect. Krishna tells Arjuna that it is impossible for him to

kill anyone. Bhishma and Drona have existence beyond their bodies which

are only outer covering and when one dies he only sheds off this body to

acquire another as we discard our old clothes to put on new ones.


This sounds alright if death occurs at old age when the

body has become jeerna or old. But how can this analogy of discarding

old clothes and putting on new ones be applied when death occurs at

young age or childhood when the body cannot be termed as old? Jeerna

here means that it had served its purpose. A body is acquired for the

purpose of exhausting a particular karma and when the result of that

karma has been experienced, that body has served its purpose and becomes

jeerna. The residue of karma cannot be exhausted in that body and hence

it is shed to acquire a different one suited for the purpose. So death

is not something to be feared or grieved about at any age




Now what is the nature of the real ‘I’ ?

Najaayate mriyate vaa kadhachit naayam bhootva bhavita va na bhooyaha

.. Never is it born or dies nor does it have ‘being’ after

it is born. Its nature is indicated as ajah, nityah, saswatah, puranah .

It is unborn ,eternal ,everlasting and ancient and is not destroyed when

he body is killed. When it could simply be termed as permanent or

eternal why does Krishna employs so many epithets? In Sanskrit

literature not a single word is tautologous but carries different

implications A thing may be unborn but it may have an end. A classical

example given for this in Vedanta is that of prior non-existence or

praagabhaava. Before something ,say, a pot, is created, there was its

non-existence which is known as its praagabhaava. This can be termed as

unborn as it has no beginning. But it has an end when the pot comes into

existence .So it is not eternal or everlasting An example of something

which has a beginning but no end is what is known as posterior

non-existence or dwamsa. When the pot is destroyed it is its dwamsa or

destruction which has a beginning but no end. So it is said to be born

but deathless. .Nityah is eternal while saaswata means without decay.

The self which is the real ‘I’ remains always as it is

..But it is also puraana ancient. Hence the self or Atman cannot be

destroyed by natural elements like water fire etc., nor by destructive

weapons sastra because it is nithya and sarvagatah all pervading.

Krishna uses two more adjectives ,namely,sthaanu and achala ,steady and

immovable. Again we see that the words sthaanu and achala are not

synonymous as the word sthaanu denotes something stable like a tree

which , however, may be moving or chala. So the adjective achala is used

to denote immobility which is obvious of something that is all pervading

as it has nowhere it can move to.




Something that is eternal, immobile is commonly understood

to be a perceivable entity. But this is denied of the self by saying

that it is avyakta unmanifest .It is not something that can be

experienced through the senses. Perhaps that it could be intellectually

understood is also dismissed by the expression achintyoayam unthinkable

or beyond the comprehension of the intellect “. Therefore

,†Krishna tells Arjuna , “You should not grieve.â€


Bhagavatgita is like milk which is easily digestible for

infants while Upanishads are like food for adults which is not so easy

to digest , which is why the former is called Dugdham gitamritam mahat

..Highest vedanta is administered in easy doses by mixing it with brutal

commonsense. For instance , after describing the nature of atman now

Krishna comes down to the mundane affairs and says “ Even if you

do not understand the nature of the self and still think that people die

when their bodies are destroyed even then you should not grieve because

jaathasya hi dhruvo mrityuhu dhruvam janma mritasyacha. Death is certain

for those who are born and birth is certain for those who die .What we

understand as life is therefore a very small section of the whole

existence of which both the beginning and the end are not perceived

except the middle , which we understand as the life of an individual.

So, says Krishna tatra kaa paridevana "Why lament about it?


In accordance with the trend of the Gita , Krishna again

ascends the pinnacle of wisdom and says-Aascharyavat pasyati kaschidenam

aascharyavat vadati thathaiva chaanyaha ; aascharyavatchainam

anyahsrunoti srutvaapyenam veda nachaiva kaschit Krishna explains that

the self in incomprehensible. Some see it as something of a wonder some

speak of it as a wonder, others hear about it as something wonderful,

but even after hearing about it no one understands. The rare ones who

have experienced Atman or Brahman view it as a great wonder in the

sense that it is something beyond perception, being beyond the

comprehension of the sense organs. Among those, only few are able to

tell others about it , and when they do they refer to it as something

wonderful because it exceeds verbal description. Those who listen about

it are also wonderstruck on hearing about it and it is still more

difficult to find one who understands this as it really is.


Perhaps thinking that Arjuna may find all this perplexing ,

Krishna lapses back to the worldly expression by reminding him that,

being a kshatriya, it is his duty to fight a righteous war as only a

fortunate few get this sort of an unsolicited opportunity. Krishna

further adds that if Arjuna turns away from such a duty not only he will

incur sin but also earn infamy, which is worse than death for a hero

like him The Mahaarathas like Bhishma will despise him while his enemies

like Duryodhana will ridicule him.


It will be interesting to note that both the wise and the

wicked have no doubts about what they want to do. Only the average man

who is averse to wickedness but lacks the courage to do good is

perpetually in doubt! Arjuna represents an average human being , that is

, people like us! So what Krishna tells next applies to all of us

whenever we are in a dilemma, to do or not to do anything. He says ,

Sukhaduhkhe same kritva laabhalaabhau jayaajayau tatho yudhdhaaya

yudhyasva, hinting at karmayoga which He is going to elaborate in the

subsequent chapter .Karmayoga is termed as selfless action .This path

is praised by Krishna as being without pitfalls by saying

nehaabhikramanasoasthi pratyavaayo na vidyate because even a little of

karmayoga practised diligently produces result in the form of freedom

from the perils of samsara.




The essential condition for practising karmayoga is an

intellect directed towards one ideal with determination. Otherwise

thoughts run in all directions dragged by desires towards innumerable

goals. Such people even if they are well versed in Vedas look upon the

scriptural texts only as the gateway to heaven or to a better life on

this earth and exhaust their intellectual skills in flowery speeches to

prove their ends. That is why Krishna calls the Vedas as being

traigunyavishayaaha and asks Arjuna to transcend the three gunas

because they are of as much use to one with enlightenment as a small

reservoir of water , when the whole area is flooded This can be

construed in two ways .To an enlightened one the karmakanda of the veda

which is the ritualistic portion that secures enjoyment in this world

and the next is like water in the well when the whole area is flooded.

But if we take veda to mean the entire scripture including wisdom of

Upanishads it may be interpreted thus: Even when the entire land is

flooded the well can contain only as much water as it can hold .So too

one can comprehend only as much as his intellect can grasp, which fact

has been proved by the controversies in interpreting the vedantic

passages. This may very well be the meaning of the term





Karmayoga or selfless action is now explained by Krishna

who says karmanyevaadhikarasthe maapaleshu kadachana , maakarma

palaheturbhooh maate sangoasthu akarmani “You have right over

action only and not the fruit of action. Your action should not be

motivated by desire for fruit ,nor should you be attached to

inaction.†Swami Vivekananda said ‘work for work’s

sake duty for duty’s sake’ meaning that one should do work

for its own sake and not out of desire to get the result .But the

question is ,Will anyone do anything unless he wants the result?

Certainly not! There is nothing wrong in starting a work with a specific

result in mind but Karmayoga consists in not getting attached to the

result. This is not as pessimistic as it seems to be but sheer common

sense. When we begin a work we cannot help fixing a goal to achieve as

otherwise we would not have started at all. But once started we should

concentrate on the action only without worrying about the result

constantly as the anxiety will reduce our efficiency .On the other hand

, if we put our heart and soul into the work we are doing, the result

will automatically follow, and even if it does not, due to some factor

on which we have no control, we will not feel frustrated as we have

already had the satisfaction from the work itself .This is what Swami

Vivekananda meant by ‘work for work’s sake.’ To

give up the attachment to the fruit of action is Karmayoga as advised in

the Gita .It applies not only to the mumukshu,. one who aims for

realization but also to the man of the world ,wherein lies the value of

Gita The work which is assigned to you in this birth in accordance with

your karma is your duty that has to be discharged. This is what Krishna

means when He says Maa te sango astu akarmani, “You should not

give up work altogether.†This provides the answer to the

question “If I should give up the result why should I act in the

first place?




Then comes the question , “How should I act in order

to follow the path of Karmayoga?†Pat comes the answer Yogasthah

kuru karmaani sangam tyaktwaa. Sangam, attachment towards the fruit of

action brings the attitude of samatwa in which one becomes neutral

towards success as well as failure, siddhi and asiddhi. So Krishna asks

Arjuna to have equipoise of mind. Skill in action lies in the practice

of Karmayoga Yogahkarmasu kausalam endowed with which the wise get

free from shackles of birth and attain immortality

‘Janmabhandhavinirmuktah padam gachchantyanaamayam. When the mind

gets free from delusion which is the cause of joy and sorrow by wrong

identification of oneself with the body there is no more confusion of

conflicting thoughts and the intellect comes to rest, steady, and with

no distractions, in the absolute reality and one attains Samaadhi

realization. Krishna has thus skillfully maneuvred the conversation to a

point in order to make Arjuna ask the question Sthithaprajnasya kaa

bhaasha. Then He starts the description of the man of realization.













3.-Sthithaprajna-The man of realization.








Having heard of the state when the intellect becomes firmly

established in Brahman or Atman , Arjuna now asks the question already

created in his mind by Krishna. He wants to know the definition of

Sthitha prajna. sthithaprajnasya kaa bhaasha samadhisthasya Kesava

,sthithadheeh kim prabhashetha kimaseetha vrajetha kim? Arjuna wants to

know the signs by which he can identify the man of realization and

asks Krishna to tell him the way such a person speaks, sits and walks.

This is not as absurd as it looks when translated literally. One may ask

- what will be the difference between the way an ordinary man of the

world speaks,sits and the man of stable mind sthithaprajna? He will

also walk with two legs , speak in the same language of the human beings

, and sit as we do. But what Arjuna means exactly is as follows:-


1. The sthitha prajna has no interest in things which matter most to

people in general. So what will he talk about.

2. Where will he reside? Will he stay amidst others or will he go

away to some solitary place?

3. How will he carry on his life in general?




These questions are answered by Krishna in detail:


Prajahaati yadhaa kaaman sarvaan Partha manogathaan

atmanyaivatmanaa thushtah sthithaprajnastatdochyate. One is known as

sthithaprajna when he gives up all desires that arise in his mind and

rejoices in his own self. Let us see what this means. Thushtah means

happy and contented. When does a man become so? Let us take, for example

an instance where one learns that he has become a father of a boy. He

has been desirous of getting a child so long and now the desire is

satisfied. So he is happy but only until he starts desiring for some

other thing , like providing for his son etc. Hence the joy lasted only

as long as no other desire has started in its stead. This proves that

happiness comes not out of satisfying a desire but only in the absence

of any other desire. Therefore if one wants to remain happy he should

lengthen the gap between one desire and the next


Swami Chinmayananda used to give an equation for happiness as



Number of desires fulfilled


--- & = the quotient of happiness.


Number of desires entertained




When the denominator becomes zero the value of the quotient is

infinity. So it follows that only the absence of desire will result in

infinite happiness. This can be verified through experience. Generally

one’s childhood is always remembered as the happiest part of our

lives except for some unfortunate beings. If we analyse as to why it

was so, we could see that in our childhood we had very few simple

desires which were mostly fulfilled. As we grow older we multiply our

desires so fast that it becomes impossible to satisfy all of them even

during the whole span of life. Atmanyaivaatmanaatushtah, revelling in

the joy of one’s own self. Man runs after sense objects expecting

them to provide happiness which is a myth. If so, the same object will

not be the source of happiness for one and give sorrow to another and

the same source of happiness will not bring sorrow at a different time.

External object does not bring joy or sorrow but our joy or sorrow

depends on the way we react to it. Hence happiness must come from

within, which explains the reason why the man of realization is

always happy. He is experiencing the bliss , which is the real nature

of the Self .He is happy within because he has given up all his desires

.. Therefore he does not react to the circumstances that gives joy or

sorrow to the ordinary man. He has no attachment nor repulsion for sukha

or duhkha, joy or sorrow because he is devoid of passion fear and anger.

So he , whose mind neither rejoices with , nor recoils from good and

evil , is a sthithaprajna the one whose mind is stable.


Now the question is, how does he manage to become detached so as

not to be affected by sukha or duhkha nor by good or evil? The answer

is given thus Yadhaasamharathe chaayam koormangaaneeva sarvasah

indriyaneendriyaarthebyah thasya prajnaprathishtithaa. Just as a

tortoise withdraws its limbs into its shell he withdraws his sense

organs from the sense objects .This does not mean that he goes on in the

world shutting his eyes ears etc. but he does not allow the sense

objects to affect him. The damage is done only when the mind runs after

the senses as is seen later in the discourse when Krishna says

Indriyaanaamhi charathaam yanmanoanuvidheeyathe thadasyaharati prajnaam

vayurnaavamivambhasi. When the mind follows the senses it takes away

one’s determination like a boat which is carried away by the wind

..The sense objects turn away from him who is not attracted towards them

but still the propensity to enjoy the sensual pleasures remains , though

not encouraged , until the final consummation with the Supreme.

Rasavarjam rasoapyasya param drshtwaa nivartathe.


‘Arise, awake, stop not till the goal is reached’,

thunders the Upanishad. But before proceeding we should know the

pitfalls we will encounter on the way in order to be guarded against

them. But this is more easily said than done. Indriyani pramaatheeni

haranti prasabham manah , says Krishna , even for a wise man

vipaschithahwho tries hard yatato hyaapi Kountheya purushasys





Krishna now traces the descent of man from the state of infinite

bliss which is his real nature. dhyayato vishayaan pumsah

sangastheshoopajaayate. This is the first step by which one descends

from his mansion of bliss. When we think about an object continuously

we get attached to it. This is sanga .Then we start desiring it sangat

sanjaayate kaamah, which, when thwarted , results in anger kaamaat

krodho abhijaayate. Then comes sammoha delusion. When the intellect is

clouded with anger one is not .able to think straight. That is, we

imagine something which is not there and that is delusion. sammohaat

smrti vibramah.’. From sammoha arises confusion of memory. When

angry we forget whom we are talking to,and what they have been to us in

the past. In the Sundarakanda of the Valmiki Ramayana, Hanuman says

kruddho hanyat guroon api,.angry man will not hesitate to kill even his

elders or even his preceptor. This will happen because he forgets

everything except the cause of his anger, not caring whom he hurts. The

confusion of memory results in the loss of reason buddhinaasah due to

which he comes to ruin. As Krishna elaborates later, kaama or desire is

the principal enemy of man followed by the other forces of destruction

, namely , anger , delusion pride, avarice and jealousy. So the only

way to avoid downfall is to cultivate placidity of mind. This is

achieved by self control. Raagadveshaviyuktaistu

vishayaanindriyaischaran aatmavasyairvidheyatma prasaadam adhigachchati.

A man of discrimination enjoys the sense objects through his senses but

does not cling to them, being free from likes and dislikes. With the

attainment of the placidity of mind all the sorrows come to an end ,

that is to say, he is free from the woes of samsara.


The description of a sthithaprajna comes to a close with a

portrait of the man of wisdom , one whose senses are completely

restrained from their objects and who, having given up all desires moves

freely without attachment, ego and possessiveness. Vihaaya kaaman

yassarvaan puman charati nissprhah ;nirmamo nirahankarah sa shaantim

adhigachchati. In him all enjoyments merge themselves like the rivers

entering the ocean. Rivers are continuously falling into the ocean

which remains unperturbed , maintaining its own level. So too , a

sthithaprajna remains calm while enjoying the sense experiences without

being affected by them Aapooryamaanam achalaprathishtam samudramaapah

pravisanti yadvat ;tadvat yam kaamaah pravisanti sarve sa

shaantimaapnoti na kaamakaamee.’ Krishna concludes his portrayal

of the sthithaprajna now. That, which is night to all beings the

realized man keeps awake and that in which all beings keep awake is

night to the seer. This does not mean that a sthithaprajna is a night

owl! The state of Divine knowledge and supreme Bliss is like night to

the ignorant whereas it is as clear as the day to a jnani. On the other

hand the ever changing, transient worldly happiness does not mean

anything to him. Yaa nisaa sarvabhoothaanaam tasyaamjaagarti

samyami,yasyaam jaagarti bhoothaani sa nisaa pasyayo muneh.’This

, says Krishna , is the braahmee sthithih, the state of realization,

having reached which, one never lapses back into delusion. He remains in

it till the end of his life, and shedding his mortal coil ,he attains

Eternal Bliss.


Thus ends what can be termed as the Yoga of Knowledge and Krishna

starts expounding the Karmayoga.










Chapter 4. Action without attachment [ Karmayoga ]






Krishna told Arjuna to fight and do his duty without

attachment , which itself is baffling to Arjuna in his present state of

mind , and in the same breath Krishna explains the path of renunciation

by describing the state of the sthithaprajna. Arjuna now raises a

legitimate doubt about the real intention of Krishna and says

vyamisreneva vaakyena buddhim mohayaseeva me meaning, “I

don’t think that this is your intention but it looks as though

you want to confuse me, by extolling about the path of knowledge after

insisting the importance of doing my duty.†He asks Krishna that

if the path of jnana is superior, why should Krishna goad him to fight,

which is dreadful, tatkim karmani ghore maam niyojayasi Kesava. Then

Arjuna asks Krishna not to beat around the bush and tell him which is

good for him, sankhya the path of knowledge or yoga the path of action.


Like an eminent physician Krishna has given Arjuna a shot in

the arm to bring down the fever of despondency by describing to him the

state of realization in which one attains peace. This has brought him

out of his delusion about dharma dharmasammoodachetaah , but he is now

confused as to what is good for him , the path of knowledge or that of

action. Anyway, confusion is better than delusion! Now the doctor is

ready to treat the patient by milder doses of medicine and Krishna gave

Arjuna a glimpse of the ideal to be attained in order to take his mind

away from his dilemma, namely, katham Bhishmam aham sankhye Dronam ca

ishubhih pratiyothsyami “How can I fight Bhihma and

Drona.†Now Arjuna is ready to take normal advice as he is out of

his delirium.


There are two courses of spiritual discipline, says Krishna,

the path of knowledge and the path of action .This is not left to the

choice of the individual. One cannot decide that from tomorrow onwards

he will give up all actions and follow the path of renunciation unless

he is capable of doing so. Here it should be noted that Krishna has not

repudiated the superiority of knowledge to action but what He means is

that the two are to be practised by different agents.


Unless one is ready for renunciation it is not possible to

give up action. If Krishna has confirmed that the path of knowledge is

superior, Arjuna would have been delighted because it is exactly what he

wanted. The path of karma which involved fighting is what he detested.

Krishna is not going to help him to take an easy way out and tells him

that mere abstention from work is not renunciation. Man does not attain

freedom from karma by giving it up because it is virtually impossible

to remain inactive. How a man acts depends upon his propensities and if

he controls his senses and refrain from action he will be mentally

dwelling on the sense objects . Such a man is vimoodaatma and

mithyaachaara, says Krishna, he is a deluded person and a

hypocrite.Therefore action is superior to inaction.


Now what is Karmayoga? Yastvindriyaani manasaa

niyamyaarabyate Arjuna karmendriyaihi karmayogam asaktah sa visishyate ,

says Krishna. One who controls his senses through his mind and does his

allotted duty with detachment is a karmayogi .This is not as easy as it

seems to be. Krishna gives a clue. Do everything with the spirit of

sacrifice, because, man is bound by his action except when it is

performed for the sake of sacrifice yajnaarthaath karmano anyathra loko

ayam karmabhandhanah. The word yajna is translated as sacrifice which

normally taken to mean the ritual of yaaga as enjoined in the Vedas.

But it is the spirit with which it is done is meant here and not the

mere ritual.




Yajna was created along with man, says, Krishna, so that man

can prosper by it. Anena prasavishtyadhvam eshavo asthu ishtakaamadhuk,

‘You shall prosper by this; may this yield the enjoyment you

seek.’ Yajnaas elaborated in the karmakanda of the Vedas are

supposed to yield the fruit for which they were performed. The same

done without attachment brings about release from the bondage of karma.

To understand this one has to know something about the way yajnaas are





Yajna in those days was a cooperative endeavour undertaken

for the welfare of the society. It was done by the people from all the

varnas, which were formed on the basis of the division of labour and

not birth. Brahmanas were so called because they were the custodians of

the knowledge of the Vedas which culminates in the realization of

Brahman. The word Brahman in Sanskrit denotes the Absolute Reality, veda

and yajna. Hence they were in charge of conducting the yajna, or the

priests. Kshathriyas were those who protect the people from enemies and

maintain law and order. The king, a kshathriya was usually the

yajamaana, the master of the ceremony, as he had the authority to

organize. Vaisyas were the men of trade who supplied the commodities

needed by the society an they were in charge of providing the materials

for the yajna. Sudras were the unskilled labourers doing the manual

work. All contribute their share towards the success of the yajna and

what is left over as the result of the yajna is distributed equally to





Now, if we examine the words of Krishna, ishtaan bhogaan hi

vo devaah dhasyanthe yajnabhaavithaah, ‘fostered by sacrifice

the gods will give all the desired results’ which only mean that

if we do our duty towards devas, the powers behind the natural elements

they will be kind to us and bestow their bountiful blessings.. We seem

to be learning this the hard way, judging by the state of affairs at





Krishna then sets out to describe the wheel of creation.

Annaath bhavanthi bhoothaani parjanyaath annasambhavah yajnaath

bhavathi parjanyah yajnah karmasamudhbhavah, All beings are evolved from

food; production of food is dependent on rain; rain ensues from

sacrifice, and sacrifice is rooted in action and yajna, which is

Brahmodbhava, has its origin in the Vedas. The fact that every action

culminates in Brahman is denoted by karma brahmodbhavam viddhi

brahmaaksharasamudbhavam; thasmaath sarvaghatham brahma nithyamyajne

prathishtitham. Vedas proceed from akshara, the indestructible reality,

Brahman. Hence the all pervading reality, Brahman is always present in

sacrifice, yajna.




Krishna further insists the necessity of doing one’s

duty and says that one who does not perform his duty with a spirit of

sacrifice is aghaayuh,indhriyaaraamah, sinful and sensual, and his life

is worthless. These words emphasise the importance of working in harmony

with the world, selfless and without attachment, which is Karmayoga,

elaborated subsequently.


Karmayoga alone is to be followed by one who has not

attained jnana. To a sthithaprajna, however, there is no duty because

he has no desire for anything as he does not depend upon any thing for

his happiness, being delighted in the Self alone.

Aatmanyevachasanthushtah thasya kaaryam na vidhyathe. Therefore, Krishna

advises Arjuna to do his duty without attachment in order to attain the

Supreme; asakthohyaacharan karma paramaapnothi poorushah. Here Krishna

cites he example of Janaka, the father of Sita , who was an example of

karmayogi. It is said that Janaka was not at all perturbed when

someone told him, just to test his detachment, that his palace was in

flames. He seemed to have said that he owned nothing in this world as

everything belongs to God. And that God’s will be done. Janaka

and others like him, says Krishna attained perfection without renouncing

their works. They went on doing their duty for the welfare of the world

because yadhyadhaacharathi sreshtah thaththadhevetharo janaah, the world

follows the doings of the foremost man and conforms to the standards set

by him.




It should be remembered that throughout the discourse of

Gita Krishna was not talking as the son of Devaki but only as the

Supreme Self .In the same vein He is saying now Na me Partha asthi

karthavyamthrishu lokeshu kimchana naanavaptham avaapthavyam vartha eva

cha karmani , “There is nothing for me to do in all the three

worlds but still I am incessantly working though there is nothing to be

obtained by me by doing so.†Krishna gives two reasons for doing

so. First as Krishnavasudeva, He is the leader of His times and in

accordance with His own saying ‘yadhyadhaacharathi

sreshtah’ He is bound to set an example to others. Secondly,

speaking as the Lord Almighty, if He stops His work, namely sustaining

the world He Himself created there will be chaos all around. Even to a

nonbeliever it is an undisputable fact that the world follows a certain

order and functions in a pattern which requires some Super Intelligence,

call it God or by any other name, but its existence is unquestionable.

So, when Krishna says ‘uthsedhyuh ime lokaah na kuryaam karma

chedhaham’ “If I cease to act these worlds will

perish†He is talking as the Supreme Self.




Krishna, even as a son of Devaki, was an example of a

sthithaprajna, when we consider the exploits and behaviour, which no

ordinary human being is capable of. He was portrayed in Bhagavatha in

exactly the same way as He himself describes a realized soul,

jeevanmuktha in Bhagavatgita. Rama says to Kaikeyi

‘Rshibhisthulyam maam vidhdhi’, “Know me to be

similar to a sageâ€, to show His equanimity on being told to give

up the throne and go to the forest. Krishna lived as He said in

Ramaavathaara.-(It is not the other way round like some people say. It

is partly in answer to Arjuna’s question in the seccnd chapter of

the Gita, ‘sthithadheeh kim prabashetha samaaseetha vrajetha

kim’, “ How does a sthitha prajna speaks, acts and

lives,†Krishna now says, Sakthaah karmanyavidhvaamso yathaa

kurvanthi bhaaratha kuryaathvidhvaan thathaasakthah

chikeershshurlokasangraham, the enlightened one would act in exactly

the same way as an unenlightened but without attachment.




But should not the wise teach the unwise to be detached?

No, says Krishna, because it would only unsettle mind of the latter to

give advice before he is ready for it. So a wise man should only

encourage the worldly men to do their duty and should not turn them away

from it.




Those who do not have the knowledge that all actions are the

result of interaction of gunas within us and the gunas of the objects

outside, are deluded by egoism and think ‘I am the doer.’

The wise who have the true insight into the respective spheres of

gunas, the modes of prakrthi, and their actions, do not get attached to

their actions ‘gunaa guneshu varthantha ithi mathva na

saajjathe.’ Though the actions of the enlightened seem to be no

different than the others it is the attitude that differentiates them.

The life of Krishna was an excellent example of this fact. ( vide:

mypage-epic-yadhavaabhyudhaya, where significance of Krishnaavathaara

will be brought out.)




How to cultivate the attitude ‘gunaaguneshu

varthantha?’ W hen one gets anger he thinks “I am

angry†and does not say that his anger is the interplay of

rajas and thamas in him towards those outside When one learns to stand

apart and views his actions as an outsider he will be aware of the

gunas, the constituents of his body and mind, moving among those of the

sense objects outside, producing the various emotions, with which he

identifies himself. Krishna shows the way to do this ‘Mayi

sarvaani karmaani sanyasyadhyaathmachethasaa niraaseernirmamao

bhoothva.’ “Dedicate all your actions to Me,†He

says “with your mind fixed on Me, the self of all, thus freed

from desire and ego, act on in the world.â€




The doctrine of Karmayoga, about which Krishna is advising

Arjuna, is based on the scriptural authority and has to be followed,

says Krishna, by those who are sraddhaavanthah and anasooyanthah,

unenvious and devout. Those who find fault with this

teaching(asooyanthah) or have no faith will be deluded and lost. We see

that even in worldly affairs as when one wants to find his way to a

destination, one must have faith in following the directions given or he

gets lost. It is much more so if one aspires for spiritual progress. But

Krishna talks with compassion and says that it is not very easy to

exercise self control necessary for Karmayoga because even a man of

knowledge tends to act according to his natural inclinations depending

on the three gunas within. Sadhrsam cheshtathesvasyaah

prakrtherjnanvaanapi. Hence external restraint is of no use unless the

inner equipment, consisting of mind and intellect, is trained with the

discipline of discrimination and detachment, viveka and vairagya. So,

Krishna tells Arjuna, a man should never allow raga and dvesha,

attraction and repulsion to overpower him because they are like

highwaymen on the path of perfection. Indhriyasyindhriyasyaarthe

ragadveshou vyavasthithou thayornavasamaagaccheth thou hyasya





Thus the root of all evil as explained in the sloka

dhyaayath vishayaan pumsah while describing the sthithaprajna are

pinpointed here again. Then comes the oft quoted stanza of the gita,

sreyaan svadhrmo vigunah paradharmmth svanushtithaath svadharme nidhanam

sreyah paradharmo bhayaavahah. This was not only oft quoted but also

often misinterpreted. Those who want to perpetuate the cast system quote

this to suit their purpose. The meaning of the sloka,

‘one’s own duty, though devoid of merit is preferable to

that of another, though more meritorious,’ is often

misconstrued to mean that one should stick on to the work or kind of

life with which he is born and should not strive to come up in life.

They quote the words paradharmo bhayaavahah, another’s duty is

fraught with fear. .




There is no other word more misunderstood in sanskrit than

the word svadharma,. It really means the work suited to one’s

own nature, which may change as the individual changes. It is not

uncommon to find that a person qualified to be an engineer, for

instance, turn out to be a successful businessman because he has the

inborn talents to become one, or a man giving up his successful

profession and choose a less lucrative one because his attitude has

changed. So svadharma is what naturally comes to you and not something

which others do, however tempting it may appear to be. Here in the

context Arjuna wanted to give up his svsdharma which is that of a

warrior and Krishna points out that to leave his duty as a kshathriya is

dangerous as he will come to ruin as he is not fit for other life, say,

that of a sanyasi.




Arjuna expresses a wish to know more about the highwaymen,

raga and dvesha so that he can avoid them. He observes that men commit

sin as though impelled by some great force even though they know that it

is wrong and asks Krishna the reason for this. A sin is something which

you feel guilty of doing. Every one has an intellect which tells him

what is right and what is wrong. A sinner is the one who goes and does

something fully well knowing that it is wrong.




Kama and krodha, coupled as one, is the formidable enemy of

man, says Krishna. Kama esha krodha esha rajogunasamudhbhavah , born out

of rajas. The craving for something is kama which changes to krodha when

obstructed. Hence they are not two but one,. Incited by which, man

commits sin. The knowledge of right and wrong becomes obscured by this

craving for the object of desire and hence Kama is called jnaninah

nithyavairi, the perpetual foe of man. Wisdom becomes obscured by desire

as the fire is by the smoke, mirror by dirt and the embryo by the womb.

Dhoomenaavriyathe vahnih yathaadharso malenacha yatho ulbena aavrtho

garbah thathaathenedhamaavrtham. Aavrtho jnanamethena jnaanino

niyhyavairinaa. The desire is insatiable like fire. This is why it is

termed as a formidable and perpetual enemy of man. Desire never becomes

extinguished by fulfilling it. On the other hand it only increases like

fire being fed with fuel.




The three analogies given to describe the obscuration of wisdom by

desire are significant. First is the fire being obscured by smoke. This

denotes a nature predominant of satthva where the wisdom is slightly

obscured as the fire with smoke. Once the smoke clears of its own accord

the fire becomes visible. Similarly a person who is of saathvik

temperament needs only a little help from the sastras or his guru to

clear his ignorance which is only slight like smoke that conceals the

fire. The next example of mirror covered with dust refers to one who has

more rajas and thamas due to karma accumulated in the past lives. It

takes time for a mirror to become covered with dust. This can be removed

only through persistent effort like cleaning a mirror with a cloth. That

is the wisdom can be acquired only through diligent spiritual

discipline. The third example of the foetus being concealed in the

womb is applicable to those whose nature is predominant of thamas. The

ignorance is so great that it can be removed only in course of time just

as the baby is born only at the appropriate time.




The first step towards fighting the enemy consists in

locating him. Krishna points out that the senses, mind and intellect

are abode of desire and hence the control of these is the only way to

vanquish and destroy this foe of man who hides behind the senses, mind

and intellect using them as his fortress deludes the embodied soul by

obstructing jnana and vijnana, knowledge and realization




Krishna then proceeds to show the way to control the body,

mind and intellect in order to conquer desire. Indhriyaani paraanyaahuh

indriyebhyah param manah manasasthu paraa bhaudhdhiih yo budhdheh

parathasthu saha evem bhudhdheh param bhudhdhvaa

samsthabhyaathmaanamaathmanaa jahi sathrum mahaabhaaho kaamaroopam

dhurasadham. The senses are said to be greater than the body but greater

than the senses is the mind. Intellect is greater than the mind but the

Self is the greatest of all. Therefore the inaccessible enemy in the

form of desire can only be destroyed by resorting to the support of the

Atman, the Self.




To understand this we must examine the process by which the

desire overpowers man. Does Krishna advise that one should wish for

nothing in life and live like a vegetable? No! It is absolutely alright

to have a wish for something or enjoy anything with which the senses

come into contact. But, as already explained in the previous chapter

only when the mind dwells upon the object it becomes desire. So mind is

more powerful than the senses. But even then the intellect has got the

power to turn one away from the object of desire. To do this the

intellect should identify itself with the self and not with the mind.

This is what Krishna means by saying, samsthabhyaathmanamaathmana,

controlling the intellect by the power of the. Self, Atmashakthi. How

to acquire this is explained by Krishna in the subsequent chapters of

the Gita. .






chapter 5. The truth about action












The discipline of knowledge along with renunciation of

result through yoga of action has been explained so far in the previous

chapters. Now Krishna sets out the authenticity of Karmayoga by tracing

it back to the Sun. He says ‘imamvivasvathe yogam prokthavaan

aham avyayam,’ “I taught this immortal yoga to the

Sun.†Krishna further says that this yoga was known to the

rajarshis, who were the descendents of the Sun and it became extinct in

course of time. The yoga is ancient and a supreme secret and Krishna

tells Arjuna that He will impart the knowledge to Arjuna as he is a

devotee and a friend.




Now, Arjuna, who has been hitherto considering Krishna as

the son of Devaki, though with great reverence and adoration, comes

out with a legitimate doubt. He expresses his disbelief that Krishna had

expounded the yoga to the Sun as the birth of Krishna was much later

than the Sun, who was of ancient origin. The reply was ‘bahooni

me vyatheethaani janmaani thava chaarjuna, thaanyaham veda sarvaani na

thvam veththa paramthapa,’ “You and I have passed many

births, I remember them all ; You do not remember.â€




Now for the first time Krishna reveals His true identity as

the Self of all., though it was hinted at in the third chapter of the

Gita ‘mayi sarvaani karmaani sanyasya.’ The Supreme Self

is the sarvajna, omniscient, not being contaminated by karma and it is

only the individual transmigratory self, jiva, who has limited

knowledge due to karma. The pure self has no karma as Krishna asserts in

the third chapter ‘na me partha asthi karthavyam.’ As if

sensing the question in the mind of Arjuna that if Krishna is none

other than the Supreme Self why should He be born at all, Krishna

explains the purpose of His incarnations that, ‘ajopi

sannavyayaathma bhoothaanaam isvaropi san prakrthim svaam adhishtaaya

sambhavaami aathmamaayayaa,’ though He is unborn and the

immutable Self and the Lord of all beings He manifests Himself

resorting to His own Maya, wherever there is a decline of dharma,

‘yadhaayadhaahi dharmasya glaanirbhavathi,’ for the

purpose of protecting the good and punishing the evil

‘paritkhraanaayasadhoonaam vinaasaaya cha dhushkrthaam.’




To understand the true nature of the Supreme Self,

‘janma karma cha me dhivyam’ is the right knowledge and

one who acquires this transcends the cycle of birth and death,

thyakthvaa dheham punarjanma nethi maamethi,’ and attains the

brahman-hood. This is the path of emancipation which existed from time

immemorial and many have attained it by jnanathapas, the austerity of

knowledge, which consists of getting rid of desire, fear and anger,

veethraagabhayakrodhaah, through utter dependence on the Lord,

perceiving Him in everything ‘manmayaa maamupaasrithaah.’

Thus they attain the status of the Lord, which signifies the state of

salvation, Mukthi.




The words manmayaa maamupaasrithaah does not indicate

partiality on the part of Krishna because He is now talking as the

Supreme self. The sloka that follows makes this clear. Ye yathaa

maamprapadhyanthe thaan thathaiva bajaamyaham, He says. In whatever form

one seeks the Lord, He appears in the same form to the devotee. The

criticism of Hinduism being pantheistic is proved wrong by this. There

is only one God who can be called by any name or conceived in any form,

provided the worshipper remembers that He is not limited to that name or

form. The Lord who is everywhere, in and out of all being is naturally

present also in the particular form in which one thinks of Him. So

Krishna affirms that all men follow His path only, mama varthmaa

anuvarthanthe manushyaah paartha sarvasah’




In this world men seeking the fruition of their activities

worship the minor gods, says Krishna , kaankshanthah karmanaamsidhdhim

..yajantha iha devathaah. Who are the minor gods referred to here? It

does not mean any particular deity but imply only the limited power

which men seek to fulfil their desires, and the activities undertaken

for that purpose are desire motivated. It is like asking a millionaire

for a few coins. But the actions that are prescribed in the veda for

desired ends definitely bear fruit in this life itself, though

transient. Kshipram hi maanusheloke sidhdhirbhavathi karmajaa. But the

result of the desire motivated actions need not and often do not bring

happiness. A man who diligently pursues a course of action in order to

amass wealth is also a worshipper of a minor deity, namely, money . The

action undoubtedly gives the desired result but the effect of it may

turn out to be quite the reverse. Under the circumstances can a man, who

is engaged in desire motivated activity, be considered as following the

path of the Lord? The answer to this is given later in the seventh

chapter of the Gita, in the sloka, ‘udhaaraassarva





Why should there be any difference in the activities of

the .people if all are following the same path? The answer is given by

Krishna that the difference is due to the propensities which differ

according to the inborn qualities. “They were created by

Me,†says the Lord ,â€according to the mode of prakrthi

predominant in each, and apportioning duties corresponding duties to

them, †and his is he basis of classification of the four orders

of society, namely, braahmana, kshatriya, vaisya and sudra. So the

Bhagavatgita very clearly specifies that the caste system was man made

and does not have he authority of scriptures. Chaahurvarnyam mayaa

srshtam gunakarma vibhaabasah, and not by birth as already explained in

the previous chapter..




If the Lord is the creator, will the fruit of His action

accrue to Him? No, says Krishna, Na maam karmaanimlimpanthi na me

karmaphale sprha. Neither the action nor the fruit adhere to Him. This

can be explained as follows: The expression ‘I’ actually

means the Self only and taken in that sense the agent of action is the

Self because without it the action can never take place, but the Self

is only saakshi bootha, a witness-self. And therefore it is neither the

doer nor the enjoyer. Similarly the Lord who is the inner self of all

is not affected by the actions of the individual beings. The ancient

seers knew this and identifying themselves with the Lord their real Self

they discharged their duties with detachment and with the welfare of the

world at heart. So, Krishna tells Arjuna that he should also follow the

footsteps of his ancestors and do his duty.


Karmayoga had been explained by Krishna in the previous

chapter and here He elaborates on karma and akarma, action and inaction.

In order to follow the path of Karmayoga the seeker must be very clear

as to which actions will lead him to bondage and which will secure

release from bondage. Krishna has been insisting on the importance of

doing one’s duty and cited the example of the ancients in

by-gone days. The reason for doing so is due to the fact that it is

difficult to decide which actions are to be done and which are to be

given up. Even the sages are deluded in respect of the questions as to

what is action and what is inaction, kim karma kim akarma ithi kavayo

api athra mohithaah, says Krishna, and tells Arjuna that He will

instruct him on this subject so that he can follow the path of Karmayoga

without being riddled with doubt.




The average man seems to have no doubt at all in this matter

because to him action is exertion of some kind and inaction is

immobility. But there are not only karma and akarma, action and

inaction, but also vikarma, prohibited action. What is laid out in the

Vedas are karma in accordance with one’s nature and position in

this world. These have to be done but without attachment. At the same

time one ought to know what are the actions prohibited by the Vedas and

should avoid them. For example a thief may say that stealing is what

comes to him naturally and demanded by his status in the society

because he is not trained for any other work. This kind of activity is

denoted by vikarma. On the other hand there are certain actions which

need not be done and abstaining from them will be akarma.




To put this in a simple language, any work that brings a

result that affects the doer is karma and that which does not affect the

doer in anyway is akarma. A man of divine wisdom, jnani, does not think

that h is doing anything because he does not identify himself with the

body, mind and intellect and does not possess ahamkara, ego. As

mentioned in the last chapter he considers his actions as the

interaction between the gunas in him an those outside, gunaaguneshu

varthantha ithi mathvaa na sajjathe. Only the man whose intellect is

clouded with ego thinks that he is the doer.




This idea can be well brought out by a story about sage

Vyasa and Krishna. Once Krishna told a gopi to take food for Vyasa who

was at the other side of river Yamuna. But she was not able to cross the

river as Yamuna was in spate. Krishna told her to pray that if Krishna

was a nithya brahmachari the river should part. Probably the gopi had

her own doubts but she had explicit faith in Krishna and did as he told

her and the river parted and she went to the other side and gave the

food to Vyasa. But again there was flood and she could not go back .

Then Vyasa told her that if he was nithya upavasi the river will part.

This time the girl was really perplexed because just then he ate the

whole food brought by her and termed himself a nithya upavasi. She

expressed her doubt to Vyasa and also told him what Krishna said about

Himself.. Vyasa explained that both of them being jeevanmukthas the

function of their bodies did not touch their real Self. The real

‘I’ which is the pure Self is neither the doer nor the





Then Krishna starts elucidating the truth about action that

has to be known. The wise men sees action in inaction and vice versa.

The one who can do this is yuktha, integrated and krthsnakarmavith, has

the real knowledge of action, karmanyakarma yafpasyeth akarmani cha

karma yah sa bhudhdhimaan manushyeshu sa yukthah krthsnakarmavith.






This appears to be a self contradicting statement on the

surface but it is not so in reality. Seeing akarma in karma is with

respect to the actions done without attachment giving up the desire for

the fruit of such actions. This could be understood by the above story

of Vyasa and Krishna. Since the result of such actions do not affect the

doer who identifies himself with his Self and not with his body, mind

and intellect. Another example of seeing akarma in karma is the incident

that happened in the life of Jadabharatha cited in Bhagavathapurana.


Bharatha, a king in ancient times left his kingdom in

pursuit of knowledge and led an ascetic’s life. But due strange

circumstances he became attached to a deer cub and had to take another

birth as a deer, in which due to the wisdom acquired in his previous

janma he shed his body and was born as an enlightened sage in his next

and last birth. Once he was asked to carry the palanquin of King

Rahugana, which he did without hesitation as he was totally devoid of

ego. When his gait did not match that of others the king got irritated

and seeing his well built body, sarcastically remarked that perhaps it

was too much of a burden for him. Bharatha replied “I do not have

any strain because I am not doing any work.†When he said

‘I’ he meant his Self and not his body. So this is a case

of seeing akarma in karma.




But more perplexing is the idea of seeing karma in akarma.

The word inaction, akarma is usually understood as abstention from

action or keeping still. Bur even when we are keeping quiet our mind is

active. So it appears that inaction is when even the mind is silent or

in a state of Samadhi. But it is not as simple as that. The great sages

who are found even today in Himalayas doing meditation are in fact

engrossed in great activity, namely bringing blessings to mankind. The

classical example can be Lord Ranganatha who is reclining on His

Seshasayana . As Krishna Himself said in the previous chapter,

utseedheyuh ime lokaah kuryaam karma chedhaham, If the Lord is really

inactive the world will collapse. Also identifying the Lord with the

anatharaathma , the real Self, there can be no activity without the

Self, which in reality is not the doer. This is karma in akarma.




This idea can be very simply verified in daily life. When

we are moving in a vehicle, provided the movement is very smooth and not

felt as such, it looks as though we are still and the other objects

outside are rushing in the opposite direction. Similarly when we look at

a distant object it looks as though it is stationary whereas it may be

moving and the movement is not visible due to the distance. The

difference between a man of wisdom and a man of the world is similar to

that between a man of scientific knowledge who knows that the earth is

moving and an ignorant man who thinks that it does not.

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