There is really a stage in which inactivity is to be attained: but real inactivity. Real inactivity is certainly a state of Knowledge; there is a state of Knowledge, which you can really call the state of inactivity. And Sri Krishna insists upon it that that inactivity in any case you must possess; but do not think you will come to that inactivity merely by sitting down, doing nothing. Do not think that by giving up everything, “I don’t want to stay in my house, I want to go away to the Himalayas” do not think that by doing that you will achieve the siddhiṁ. This is not the way. “What I am telling you is a process by which even while doing action you will be inactive. That is the miracle, and that is the real path: even while doing actions you will really achieve the burning of actions. Certainly I would like you to be inactive, but truly inactive.” That is why later on Sri Krishna says, “One who sees ‘action’ in ‘inaction’, and one who sees ‘inaction’ in ‘action’, only he really perceives.” It is this difficult perception that Sri Krishna wants to lead Arjuna.
And that is why He starts the exposition, saying:
na hi kaścit kṣaṇam api jātu tiṣṭhaty akarma-kṛt |
kāryate hy avaśaḥ karma sarvaḥ prakṛti-jair-guṇaiḥ ||5|| (III)
“There is not a single moment when anybody can ever remain without any action.” This is the basic fact with which you have to start. Whether you want Jnanayoga or Karmayoga, but start by proposition first, that there is not a single moment when anybody can remain without any action. “avaśaḥ, even irresistibly everybody is thrown into action, because of the Gunas, the Sattwa, rajas and Tamas, which are born from Prakriti.”
Everybody is in the hands of Prakriti, and Prakriti is nothing but three Gunas, and three Gunas are constantly in activity: Sattwa constantly organises, Rajas is always impelling forward, and Tamas, even while restraining, is acting to restrain: even resisting action is by restraining, by action. All the three Gunas are nothing but movements of one kind or the other. Therefore, since you are already in the hands of Prakriti, there is not a single moment where you can really rest.
You start with this basic proposition, and therefore, “I am telling you that there is a path in which you will continue to do action all the time, and yet you will be inactive. I want you to be inactive. But it is while doing action all the time you will be free from action.” Karmas are to be burnt. How is this to be done?
Sri Krishna, step-by-step, leads to the process, he says:
karmendriyāṇi saṁyamya ya āste manasā smaran |
indriyārthān vimūḍhātmā mithyācāraḥ sa ucyate ||6|| (III)
You may keep your senses controlled, āste manasā smaran, but in the mind all kinds of activities go on: indriyārthān, all the time your mind is constantly thinking of the objects of senses. Therefore, vimūḍhātmā, he is a bewildered soul; mithyācāraḥ sa ucyate, he is supposed to be doing something in vain.
What do you do?
yas tv indriyāṇi manasā niyamyārabhate ’rjuna |
karmendriyaiḥ karma-yogam asaktaḥ sa viśiṣyate ||7|| (III)
Therefore, what you should do: manasā indriyāṇi niyamyā, by your mind control all the senses; ārabhate, but do action, one who acts, but keeping all the senses under his control. karmendriyaiḥ karma-yogam asaktaḥ: his activities may be done by all the karmendriyaiḥ, but, karma-yogam asaktaḥ, but he is not attached. Then, sa viśiṣyate: it is one, who really becomes distinct, distinguished; that is the right thing to be done.
You have to do two things: saṁyamya indriyāṇi, and yet act. Your karmendriyaiḥ should be active, but all your indriyās must be under control. And you do Karmayoga which He has explained what is Karmayoga earlier: samatvaṁ yoga ucyate[II,48], karmasu kauśalam [II,50], and karmaṇy evādhikāras te mā phaleṣu kadācana [II,47].
He says, “You be as in Karmayoga and become non-attached. Then you really become what I really want you to be.”
niyataṁ kuru karma tvaṁ karma jyāyo hy akarmaṇaḥ | (III,8)
This is a very important sentence. niyataṁ kuru karma: do action, niyataṁ regulated: that is to say, “Do the work in yoga”, that is niyataṁ kuru karma. That Karma, which is done in the spirit of Karmayoga: that is niyataṁ karma.
niyataṁ kuru karma tvaṁ karma jyāyo hy akarmaṇaḥ |
karma jyāyo hy akarmaṇaḥ: action is much more important, is better than akarma, than inaction. Jnana is more important than Karma; and Karma is more important than inaction. Therefore, “I am not telling you to go away from action. While I tell you ‘have Knowledge’, I am not saying that therefore give up action. Have Knowledge; do Karma; and when you will combine together you will see that even while doing Karma, Karmas are no more there, they don’t bind you, this is the state I would like you to attain.”