Arjuna’s question basically was: “Is it possible to perform the purest action, or is it that every action is fundamentally rooted in some kind of imperfection?” That is why he says: ‘I shall withdraw from all action, I will not fight. Whatever action I do, there will be impurity in it and so I shall withdraw from it.’ This was really the basic attitude of Arjuna and Sri Krishna said: you act! And he could not understand why Sri Krishna does not allow him to withdraw from action. Why is He enjoining him to do an action, not only an action but ghoraṁ karma, terrific work, a work in which there is a work of slaughter? Now, even if you act, but with a detachment, even then, as far as action is concerned, there is imperfection in it. We may be detached therefore in a sense we are free. So, Arjuna’ question was not merely how to be free from action, but whether it is possible that action itself could be completely pure and perfect.
So, Sri Krishna’s answer which comes at the end is that there is a possibility of a perfect action and He compares that action, which is perfect, with Divine’s own action. Divine is not only Akshara, but He is also Kshara and in His position of Kshara He does not get diminished, it is not as if in a status of Akshara Brahman, Akshara Purusha, He remains absolutely pure and in the moment He performs action, He becomes slightly imperfect. Even in the movement of dynamism, He remains perfect, that is why “purṇamadhaḥ purṇamidam”: He is perfect here, He is perfect there also”.
Such is the nature of the Divine and that is the real meaning of the 15th chapter that Purushottama is at once static and dynamic and in both the condition He is perfect. And therefore if you attain to the divine-hood, it is possible for you therefore to perform actions which are as perfect as the actions of the Divine Himself. So, a perfect action is possible. This is the real answer of Sri Krishna to Arjuna and therefore He enjoins him that even while doing that action, if you derive your force from the Divine Himself, then there is no sin, there is no blemish. That is why the last one is: ‘you go beyond all limitations, become divine and then sarva-pāpebhyo mokṣayiṣyāmi, (XVIII, 66), “I will liberate you from all the sins”. And that comes about only when you surrender fully to the Divine, then you become really divine. As long as you remain you, there is a distance between you and the Divine therefore imperfection always pursues you.
Now the question is how to rise therefore from the present state of our consciousness into that divine state of consciousness. There are two important passages from where we are to the ideal where we want to arrive at. One is to attain the state of Akshara and second is to attain to the state of Kshara: when the two are combined together, then you attain that condition in which your action will be perfect. Movement in which you enter into Akshara is often described as a state of ‘Moksha’. The state by which you enter into Akshara and you can remain in the state of Akshara is often called the state of ‘Moksha’: ‘liberation’. But mere liberation does not by itself give you the guaranty that your action also will be perfect. If you want to be perfect in the action, a farther step is to be taken. That farther step is the subject matter of chapters n°16, 17, and 18. What are the farther steps by which you rise to a state of perfect action?
So, the Bhagavad Gita now analyses the state of our ordinary consciousness of action, when you normally act. What is the machinery of our action? : Analysis of that state. Now, how this machinery can be altered? How this alteration takes place? And then how you reach the highest state? In brief the answer is that normally all our action is woven by three Gunas: all our action. The Akshara is devoid of three Gunas, always, but in our action, where we are now is an intertwining of three Gunas: Sattwa, Rajas and Tamas, these three are always together and that is why in the 14th chapter, we had the three Gunas described.
In fact if you see chapters n°13, 14 and 15, they are concerned with the description of Akshara and Kshara as we understand them now. Chapter n°13 tells you that there is a difference between kṣetra and kṣetrajña, the one who observes the field of action and the field of action itself. Now, the field of action is filled with the 3 Gunas. So, chapter n°14 is a description of the three Gunas. Then in chapter n°15, you have the reconciliation of the Kshara and Akshara, but it is not explained in full how Kshara and Akshara become identical. Let me therefore explain this in detail because this is important for understanding the whole of the last block of the Bhagavad Gita: chapter 13 to chapter 18. Then, this can best be understood if you take recourse to two statements of philosophy. One is a statement of ‘Sankhya’ and the other is a statement of ‘Vedantic Sankhya’.