niyataṁ kuru karma: niyataṁ karma is sometimes translated as the Karma which is prescribed; niyataṁ karma, that which is laid down. It means as if Sri Krishna says: “Do only those actions which are prescribed”, that will be the meaning of it. If I use the word niyataṁ, and translated only by saying: “Do the prescribed action”, it will contradict what Sri Krishna will say ultimately sarvakarmāṇi: all actions have to be done. Therefore, niyataṁ actually means, the action which is regulated: any action, every action, but do it in a regulated manner: niyataṁ kuru karma tvaṁ.
Comment: Here it has a meaning that because you are Kshatriya, you are niyataṁ karma, you are prescribed Karma.
Answer: That is why I am opposing that meaning.
Comment: That meaning should not be taken.
Answer: No, because then it will contradict: Sri Krishna will say, karma hy akarmaṇaḥ jyāyo: every action. There, he doesn’t say niyataṁ karma eva akarmaṇaḥ jyāyo. “Karma, action itself, is much better than inaction”, and Karma means every action. Therefore, He says, “You take any action, but do it niyataṁ, do it in the spirit of Karmayoga”: yataṁ means that which is “regulated”, not “prescribed”; niyataṁ may mean both: prescribed and that which is controlled or regulated; and this word is much more appropriate because afterward he says: karma jyāyo. He doesn’t say: niyataṁ karma jyāyo; karma jyāyo: every action is much more important than inactivity. But, whatever action you do, do it niyataṁ, do it in the spirit of Karmayoga.
śarīra-yātrāpi ca: he says that even, śarīrayātrā means any Karma, you will require all kinds of actions for śarīrayātrā.
śarīra-yātrāpi ca te na prasiddhyed akarmaṇaḥ ||8|| (III)
“By inactivity you cannot even maintain your body.” Even for your journey of your body in the life, you require to do action: therefore, inaction is inferior to action.
This is the most important sentence of this chapter and of the whole of the Gita. There He says:
yajñārthāt karmaṇo ’nyatra loko ’yaṁ karma-bandhanaḥ |
tad-arthaṁ karma kaunteya mukta-saṅgaḥ samācara ||9|| (III)
This is the idea of yajñā, brought in the Bhagavad Gita for the first time. yajñārthāt: “You do the action as sacrifice”.
We are moving forward in Karmayoga. In the 2nd chapter we had only been told, “Do not do any action for the sake of the fruit of action”. He says, “That even Karma that you are doing, even that Karma, you do it as a sacrifice.” It’s a one step farther. In other words, you are told to sacrifice your action because you are not entitled to action. In the 1st, 2nd chapter you are told that to action you have a right, therefore do action, but not for the sake of the fruit. Sri Krishna says that, “Even to action you have no right actually, therefore sacrifice it, give it up”. In fact, yajñā, is the means of inactivity, but the real inactivity. While doing action and yet to become inactive, what is the magic? The magic is in the whole idea of yajñā.
Take for example the idea of yajñā that is normally understood in ritualism, in which you light the fire, and then you bring samidh: samidh represent actions. You lift your samidh, and you put into the fire. As a result what happens? The samidh is burnt away: yajñā, is a process by which action is offered in the burning ground; therefore, action is burnt. How while doing action, action can be burnt? It is by yajñā: you do action, but you put it into the fire: this is the secret.
Comment: That’s a wonderful meaning: samidh is the action.
Answer: It’s the real action; your activity samidh, all that you have. samidh is what? All the results that you have obtained in your life, because of that, that samidh exists with you. All that, you lift it, and put it there: it is burnt. The burning of action is important: you should be inactive, but inactive how? Even while doing action. You can never imagine that you can be really inactive because even śarīrayātrāpi, even your journey of life, body requires action.
While doing action, how will you be able to burn it? He says, “Fire, remember there is Fire, invite the Fire”. This was the real meaning of Veda. Veda had found out the secret that if you invite Fire, and then you offer to Agni, then all actions are burnt. You do actions for the sake of burning them, actually speaking what will happen is, when it is burnt, the Fire burns, but also creates further, and this is the whole secret of yajñā. By yajñā, what you have thrown into it becomes even stronger, and you will see that many more fruits will come to you. You only burn this much, but as a result, something more will come; again that also you burn.