Text of the Bhagavagd Gita (Mother's Institute of Research) - Session 6: Karmayoga (20 September 1998)

Sri Krishna will explain later on, this Karmayoga cannot be practised without Jnana yoga. The Karmayoga of the Gita is such a Karmayoga, it cannot be practised without Jnanayoga, and it cannot be practised without Bhaktiyoga. It is a complete synthesis: this yoga is a complete synthesis of karma, jnana and bhakti. But the starting point is karma. And here, there is no subordination of one element to the other as in the Yoga today. In the Yogic system of Patanjali, the overall emphasis falls upon only jnana, on a particular process of samadhi, or a process leading up to samadhi. Whenever Sri Krishna uses the word ‘Yoga’ in the Bhagavad Gita, we have to understand it that whenever he uses the word ‘Yoga’, He means three fold process of jnana, bhakti, karma, the starting point of which is karma.

We can understand better, when He says that, “I have explained to you the process by which you can attain to liberation by the power of Sankhya, by Buddhiyoga, I shall tell you of Buddhiyoga when applied to action, that how while doing action, you can be liberated”.

In the 3rd chapter, Sri Krishna says very explicitly that there are two paths of liberation, either the path of Sankhya, or the path of Yoga, and the path of Sankhya is the path of Knowledge, and the path of Yoga is the path of Works. It is in this way that you might say, Sri Krishna synthesises ‘Sankhya’, ‘Yoga’ and ‘Vedanta’; and He synthesises the process of ‘Karma’, ‘Jnana’ and ‘Bhakti’. This is the background of introduction to the real content of Karmayoga, which we will take up next: this is only a kind of an introduction, because Bhagavad Gita’s main starting point is in ‘karma’ because Arjuna has a question mark in regard to his action. He has come to a stage where he is not able to find out what is the right thing to do. And Sri Krishna says that, “I will teach you something that even while doing action, you will really do the right action, and even while doing action, you will have no doubt at all about it, you will be free from all saṁśaya, all doubts, and you will be able to do the work and even while doing the work you will be free. This is the secret knowledge that I am going to give you”. This is the promise that Sri Krishna makes to Arjuna. What is that secret? What that process is actually the subject matter of the whole of the Gita. There are many other elements also, but this is the basic trend and the whole argument of the Bhagavad Gita rests upon this. We shall take up next time.

Yajna, Sthitaprajña, Divyam Karma

I think we had made an excursion into the understanding of two words: ‘Sankhya’ and ‘Yoga’. The word ‘Yoga’ is used in the Bhagavad Gita basically to indicate: “Yoga of Works”. And in due course we shall find that this word ‘yoga’ becomes enlarged to become a synthesis of the Yoga of works, knowledge and devotion. Whenever the word ‘Yoga’ comes in the Bhagavad Gita, we have to be careful and see what exactly is the context, and what it means in that context. We were to consider that statement where Sri Krishna says, “By Buddhiyoga I have given you that by which you can get free. You distinguish between Purusha and Prakriti and you come out of Prakriti and get liberated into the status of Purusha”. In that process, works are eliminated: it is purely a process of Knowledge by discrimination. Then Sri Krishna says, “I shall tell you the application of Buddhiyoga, by means of which, even while doing works, you can be free”. Later on, Sri Krishna will say that, that is a superior way, a better way, a preferred way. let us see what that process is: “…even while doing works, you become free from works”.

As soon as you start this process you are confronted immediately with a view, which was prevalent at that time, a view of vedavāda, which concentrated upon Works. It was also a kind of Karmayoga, which had two basic propositions: one, you must do works, and by doing works you can satisfy your desires, and satisfy them on a large scale or interesting scale. And secondly, that this sacrifice depends on your offering through a special kind of act, through a special kind of work, in which you invoke gods who receive what you offer to them, and in return, they bestow upon you what you desire. It is an interchange between your offering and what gods give to you in return. This is a process, which was well known at that time and which was propounded as the view of the Veda.

Although we must say that the original view of the Veda was different, but in due course of time the original meaning of the Veda was lost, it had come to be narrowed down only to this particular point. Secondly the important point is that this sacrifice was conceived as a ritualistic process. You had to ignite fire, physical fire, agni; you had to prepare a special offering, like samidh, the twigs of wood, the gṛhtam, and some kind of a food, all that to be offered to the fire. There had to be a saṅkalpa, an enunciation of a definite desire, expressed in clear terms and then a Mantra, a sacred word, which is also called brahman in the original sense of the Veda: brahman is a mantra, expression of Knowledge, it was also called Brahman..., Mantra as a means of invoking the presence of gods. The idea was that when you recite Mantra, then the gods manifest: they come as a result of invocation. Then, they receive the offerings through the fire: the fire was regarded as the intermediary between you and the gods. That is why fire is called dūta, devānāṁ dūta: he is the messenger of the gods. Through the intermediary role played by the fire, agni, the gods would come, and they would receive your offerings, and then, being pleased with your offerings, they would give, because they are cosmic powers, they are capable of giving the gifts to you. They give you the gifts.

Such is the notion of the Vedic sacrifice. Since Sri Krishna is explaining the Path of Works, and since at that time, ‘this’ was understood to be “the Path of Works”, and since ‘this’ path of works is not approved by Sri Krishna, He begins by criticising that path. And He says: “Those people who are full of desires, and want to satisfy the desires, they offer their offerings to the gods and received from the gods the satisfactions of their desires”. And Sri Krishna says,“This is not the path by which you can get liberation, even while doing actions: the highest that you can get is satisfaction of your desires, but it is not by which karmabandhaṁ prahāsyasi (2.39); you will not become liberated from the karmabandhaṁ”.

Having said this now is the most important statement. What is then that path by which you do works and yet you do not get bound? It is here that Sri Krishna enunciates that famous statement:

karmaṇy evādhikāras te mā phaleṣu kadācana | (2.47)

This is the principle. In the time where Sri Krishna gives this message, it is a new message because, although it was the original message of the Veda itself, it was lost, but now He renews it, and gives it with a new formulation. In that sense you might say that Sri Krishna enunciates in his time a radical view, a new teaching, a revolutionary teaching.

Let us concentrate upon this very important sentence because it is supposed to be the mahāvākya of the Gita, although it is not, it is you might say the first part of the mahāvākya. The full mahāvākya can be said into three basic statements. The first is this one: “To the fruits of action you have no right”. The second statement is that: “All works are done by Prakriti”, this is the second mahāvākya: all work is done by Prakriti. In the first sentence karmaṇy evādhikāras te means: “You have the right to action, only to fruits you have no rights.” But now the second statement says: “Even with regard to action, all action is done by Prakriti”. Even to say that, “You have the right to action”, is also based upon some kind of ignorance: as a starting point it is a good statement, but not as a final statement.

As you proceed further, as you begin to watch the movements of Prakriti, you will find that this Prakriti, which is in you only a small portion, is a vast movement in the whole world, spread over the whole universe; and everything is done by that Prakriti. Even what you think you are doing is only a partial view, a very limited view, a very narrow view. Everything is moving in the whole cosmos and you are a part of the cosmos. How can you therefore be doing something which emerges from you? Everything is emerging from the vast movement of Prakriti. If there is a big engine in which there is a small little machinery that itself is moving because of this vast machine, then how can that small machinery inside the engine can claim that it is acting? That whole movement of that machinery is because of this large movement of the whole machine: such is the case of all of us. And therefore, when you see that when Prakriti is doing everything, Sri Krishna says that, “‘I am doing’, ‘I am doing’ is itself an ignorance”: all work is done by Prakriti. This is the second mahāvākya of the Bhagavad Gita.

The third mahāvākya of the Bhagavad Gita is that: “Even Prakriti is not an independent movement”: this is where the ordinary Sankhya is transcended. According to Sankhya there are only two principles: Purusha which is immobile, and Prakriti which is active. Now, Sri Krishna says that even Prakriti is not original. Prakriti itself is nothing but a movement of the will of the Supreme Lord. That is: beyond Purusha and Prakriti, there is a still higher principle, the higher Reality and that is Purushottama (puruṣottama), the supreme Lord. Actually speaking, all actions proceed from the Supreme Lord. This is the third mahāvākya.

The first is: “To the fruits of action you have no right; only to action you have a right”. The second proposition is: “All work is done by Prakriti”. Third proposition is that, “Even Prakriti is not the final doer; it is the supreme Lord who is the doer of everything”. And since the Supreme Lord, even while doing action, He is not bound, therefore if you become like the Supreme Lord, He will also be doing works and yet you will not be bound. This, in substance, is the basic teaching of the Bhagavad Gita: “Be like the Lord”. And the famous word which will come later on in the Bhagavad Gita is: madbhāvaḥ, mad means myself; bhāva means becoming; “Become like Me”, madbhāvaḥ. “Just as I am doing, so you be”. “If I can be free from work, even when I do works, similarly, in that state of consciousness, if you become as vast as I am, if you become as transcendental as I am, then, even while doing works, you will not be bound, you will be free”. You will be free because the Supreme Lord has a very special kind of nature.

An aspect of His nature is that it is entirely silent: the Supreme Lord even while acting, He is capable of a poise, which is completely silent. This is the difficulty of Karmayoga. To be like the Divine is that even while you do works, you become completely silent. Whenever there is a silence, what will happen is that whatever work you do, it will enter into silence and silence dissolves all works: there is no activity there, and yet it is from that silence that all activity proceeds. Such is the special nature of the Supreme Divine. Therefore, Sri Krishna’s whole Karmayoga is: how to become like that so that even while doing actions, you do not get bound?

There is one important statement which we must immediately make: when it is said that the Supreme Lord is the doer of everything, which is the third statement, which I made: very often people therefore, make a confusion and they begin to apply it immediately and say that, “Whatever I do is done by the Lord. Since the Supreme Lord is the doer of action, I am doing His action; therefore, this is Supreme Lord doing this action”. This kind of confusion arises in the minds of many people who read the Bhagavad Gita. In fact, there are some people who are very egoistic and they want to be as big as God, and when they read this, “That all work is ultimately done by the Lord”, then they apply their work to the Lord and say “What I am doing is Lord’s wish; if I am wishing something, if I want to do something, I am not wishing egoistically, it is God who is doing it, I am only the instrument of that Lord.” It is in this way that a great illusion is created by these people, over themselves and over others.

We have to be very careful about this statement, let us analyse it. When it is said that Lord is the doer of all things, this statement is true in the ultimate sense, at the highest, all works proceed from God. But Lord Himself has produced a kind of a covering upon His own action: it is as if a kind of veil has been cast over His own action. Therefore, all the rays of light, which are coming from the Divine, are arrested by that veil, and only a scattered reflection of this light comes out of this veil. Where we are standing, where we are acting, is an action of the Lord proceeding from above, but coming through a veil, and therefore, what is coming, what is happening in our case is only a kind of a scattered rain of God’s light, God’s work.

There is therefore a difference between God’s action above the veil, and God’s action below the veil. Until you cross this veil, you should not claim that all you are doing is God’s work. You can say that all that is coming is God’s work, but through the veil and therefore distorted, therefore what I am thinking, what I am willing is God’s will, but distorted by this veil. And if I really want to claim that what I am doing is God’s doing, you must be sure that first the veil is removed, then you can rightly say that it is God’s own action.

In fact Karmayoga consists of this breaking, rending the veil. We shall go into the detail of this, but I just wanted to warn at this stage because very often, the moment this third statement is made, at least egoistic people immediately begin to claim what they are planning, what they are willing, what they are doing is not what they are doing, but God is doing. It is a kind of an illusion created upon their own illusion because they want to justify all that they are doing.

We have three mahāvākyas, you might say, of the Bhagavad Gita. And all this is done when your intelligence becomes clear.

First statement is: “To action alone have thou the right and not to the fruits of action”. Now, this statement is very easy to see. If your mind is clean and clear and impartial and objective, you can see very clearly that, even when you apply the right means for the right result, once you do the action, the result no more depends upon you: action is thrown by you into the field, what will happen to the field, it is no more dependent upon you: I may be a farmer, and I may have sown the seeds in the soil, I may have tilled the soil, that is all dependent upon me, all that I can do is this: I can have a field, I can till the soil, I can cast the seeds, nurture them, water them, all that, I can do; but sunshine is not dependent upon me, rains are dependent upon me, storms are not dependent upon me.

Therefore, even though you may do all your actions, the result, which has to come out of this, is not dependent upon you. Results are dependent upon many other agencies; it is by the combination of so many agencies that the result comes out. Therefore, as a scientist, if you look at the whole world, very objectively, you will very easily see that nobody’s results of action depend upon that agent. And therefore, when Sri Krishna says that, “Realise that you have a right to action, you can also do as much as you want to do by yourself, but as far as the results are concerned, it is not your domain”.

If you know this, then what follows as far as we, as agents are concerned, Sri Krishna says, “Therefore, you do whatever action you can do, or you must do, or whatever you feel like doing, but become completely detached, as far as the results are concerned. If the results are good, be very quiet, if the results are bad; be very quiet, in both the conditions, you become un-deflected”.

sukhaduḥkhe same kṛtvā lābhālābhau jayājayau | (2.38)

“Whether you succeed or you fail, whether you get gain or loss, you become completely equal minded”.

It does not mean, therefore, that you should not act. This is one of the consequences, which immediately comes out. When you tell anybody: “You act but do not desire the fruits of action, and become equal minded in regard to the fruits of action”, then very often it becomes a negative medicine and people then say: ’Why should I act at all?’ Therefore Sri Krishna says, “Even then, do not neglect,yogaḥ karmasu kauśalam”.

There are two mahāvākya(s), again here in this regard: one is yogaḥ karmasu kauśalam(2.50); samatvaṁ yoga ucyate(2.48), “Equality is called Yoga.” These are the two statements: attain to equality with regard to the fruits of action, at the same time, you do your action efficiently, with perfect application of the will and do not neglect it. When you have done this, then you are sthita in Yoga: but ‘this’ is only the first stage, when you are still concerned only with the fruits of action, and with regard with the fruits of action, you have taken this poise. The emphasis, as far as this stage is concerned, is upon equality and efficiency; this is the first stage of Karmayoga.

Karmayoga is so called, because Yoga has always three aspects: there is an ‘object’ of Yoga, there is an ‘instrument’ of Yoga and there is the ‘method’ of Yoga. When these three are combined together, it is a complete ‘system’ of Yoga: the object of Yoga, the instrument of the Yoga, and the method of Yoga.

What is the object of Yoga? The object is: “Even while doing action, you become free”, that is the object. What is the instrument? There can be three instruments: the instrument may be the ‘intellect’, the instrument can be knowledge, (that is one); the instrument can be ‘will’; or the instrument can be ‘emotion’. There are three instruments. If you analyse the whole psychology of a human being, you find there are three instruments: there is knowledge, there is will and there is emotion. Either of these three can be your instrument.

Karmayoga is called Karmayoga because ‘will’ is taken as the instrument: will is the active power in us, therefore it is called Karmayoga. If you take intellect and knowledge as a means, it is called Jnana yoga. If you take emotion as a means, it is called Bhaktiyoga. So, the distinction between one Yoga or the other depends upon the instrument that you are using. The object is: ‘While doing works you want to be free’, that is the object. The instrument is will. And what is the method? This is the method: we have just started describing the method but let us repeat. The method is that in us, the active energy at present is ‘impulse and desire’: all that is active within us, at a given stage in our consciousness, when we start, we find that, that which is very active in us, that is pressing upon us very much, is desire. Therefore, Sri Krishna says that, “You take desire in your hands and do something about it”, that is the method: apply method on desire. Like a scientist, you look into your consciousness and see where exactly the desire rests. What is it impelling you to do? What is it counselling you to do?

You will find, for example, if you take the drama of Macbeth…Macbeth was a faithful general of the army of Duncan, who was the King; he was very faithful. After a victory somewhere, when he was returning with his friend, three witches met him on the way, and they received him by saying: “Hail the King!” That is to say, they addressed him as the king.

As soon as this happens, in him a desire is ignited. He is now a different man, something is injected into him, and desire is injected into his consciousness. And the entire drama is nothing but the action of this desire. He even goes again to the ghosts, to these witches, to be sure whether what they had said was an accident, or whether it was really something intended, and they assure him that he is destined to be the king.

To know that he is destined to be the king is not enough, the desire is such a powerful instrument that even when you know that this is going to happen, the impulse of the desire impels you to do something about it. Lady Macbeth for example, when she hears this, then she impels him to arrange something by which this can be realised, this dream, this prediction can be fulfilled. And they come to decide to even plotting of the killing of the king so that after that king’s murder, Macbeth can become the king.

The plot was to invite the king for dinner, for banquet at home, and then at home, when he is sleeping after the banquet, there is a terrible scene of Lady Macbeth and Macbeth, and how Lady Macbeth impels Macbeth to murder, and what hesitation takes place. But all this is a play of desire.

I give this example because this is one of the very clear analyses of desire given by Shakespeare in this drama: how the desire really plays, what restlessness! How the will is turned downward for satisfaction of desire, and how various kinds of images bewilder the mind, and how ultimately the act is performed, and which is not the end! No action at the end, it goes on, and there are consequences, and the whole tragedy of Macbeth is ‘this desire’, ‘action’, and ‘its consequences’.

This is the illustration of how desire normally acts. Since our action normally depends upon desire, Sri Krishna takes up this particular element in us and says how you deal with it. The first statement that Sri Krishna makes is that this desire, when you analyse it, you find that its basic orientation is towards result. Therefore, if you can control your orientation towards the result then that will be the beginning of dealing with it. That is why the first step is: you take this orientation towards fruits of action, and say to yourself: ‘I will act but I will be equal-minded with regard to the results’, so that the element of desire, which is constantly oriented towards results, is controlled.

The second thread of this desire is always connected with “I”, “I am the doer”. This is the second element in desire. All desire and ego, they normally go together; so, this is the second thread. Therefore, Sri Krishna says that, “I am the doer; I am the doer, that is ignorance! The whole work is done by Prakriti as a whole; the whole cosmic universe is at work and you are only a small little cog in the machine, therefore your idea of “I am the doer” is wrong! Eliminate this desire for fruits of action, eliminate this ego, and then realise that above this whole movement of Prakriti, there is a supreme Lord from whom all action proceeds, although through a veil. Trace upwards to the origin, and when you go to the origin then you find that the supreme Lord is acting, but there is no desire in the supreme Lord’s action”. In our actions, this element of desire and ego are present. But in the case of the supreme Lord, when He acts, there is neither ego nor desire. Therefore, if you then merely become the channel of that, action will proceed through you, but action will not touch you: na karma lipyate nare, as the Isha Upanishad says (Isha.Upn. 2). If you really do the action in this way, then there will be no bondage to action. This is the method.

The method is first, again, to concentrate upon the fruits of action, and to cut the orientation, which is towards the fruits of action, towards the enjoyment of the fruits of action, with that knowledge that fruits of action are never in your hands. You are not doing something that is unnatural; you are only applying the true knowledge to the situation. It is a wrong idea to think that results depend on you. If you have true knowledge, objective knowledge, you will find that results are never in your hands, therefore apply this knowledge and therefore cut out your orientation towards enjoyment of the fruits of action.

Secondly, apply the knowledge that all action comes from the universal Prakriti, therefore the idea of “I am the doer”, is also eliminated.

Thirdly, apply the knowledge that all actions proceed from the supreme Lord, although through the veil. Go to the root where the supreme Lord is acting, and discover there that all actions from the Divine emerge not out of desire, not out of any egoism, but as pure action, and let that action proceed through you without desire and without ego. And when that happens, you will arrive at what is called divyam karma, the divine action.

This is the method, three steps of the method, and by ascending gradually, you arrive at the supreme conclusion that human action in which we are now involved disappears, and then comes in his place divyam karma, the divine action begins to flow.

We say that Divine has neither desire nor egoism, and yet there is action: what is ‘that’ nature of action? What is desire? Desire is a movement to grasp what you do not possess. All desire is nothing but a movement to grasp what you are lacking. In regard to the things that you have, you see your reaction, the things that you already possess and see how you act in regard to them: there is no movement of grasping because you already possess them…

What is the psychology with regard to things you already possess? Your psychology is that of ‘play’: you may keep those things in one place, you keep them in another place, and both are equal actually because you already possess them; you attitude towards them is only to go on changing their positions from time to time, you know they are not to be lost from you, they are yours here, whether I put this statue here or statue there, both are equal to you, automatic equality comes about, with regard to things you already possess.

Where there is no equality, it is because you want to grasp something which you don’t possess. In that case of things, which you possess, action is possible, not that you don’t do anything at all, action is possible, that action is that of a ‘play’: it is only on re-arrangement, the arrangement of one way or the other.

The supreme Lord possesses everything: there is nothing, which is not possessed by Him because by definition He is the One–All–Possessor. There is nothing, which is not realised, which He does not possess. Therefore what He does is that He simply arranges and re–arranges things in the world, all the things that He has got. All action of the world…Divine…is nothing but arranging and re-arranging. That is how it is said that Sri Krishna, the Supreme Lord, He is only ‘at play’. The whole concept of Lila (līlā) arises from this, a very simple metaphysical idea: that when you are possessed of everything, then it is not that therefore you don't do anything. When you are possessed of everything there still remains an action, and that action is the action of ‘play’, arranging in one way or the other, again you change it after sometime. This is the psychology.

Sri Krishna wants to say that it is your ignorance, which tells you that you do not possess this or that. But in reality, it is the veil of ignorance, which tells you that this is not yours, that is not yours. But in reality, you are the child of the Divine, you are aṁśaḥ matra sanātanaḥ, (15.7), “you are an eternal portion of the divine”, and you can draw from the Divine whatever the divine possesses: this is your true nature. That means that you are possessing the All–Possessor already: this is your true nature. Your true being is such already. It is we who do not know this. We are ignorant. Therefore we think that, “I don’t have this, I don’t have that”, and therefore we strive to possess or not to possess…all kind of jealousy, all kind of strife, all kind of quarrel in this world is because we do not know that we are possessors of the All-Possessor. The Supreme Lord is already in us, so, we are possessors of the All-possessor. Therefore, what is it that we do not have?

If you know this, and Sri Krishna wants to give this knowledge that when we know this then, where will be the place of desire? Where will be the place of grasping at things? The world is vast in which everything is available; it is your ignorance which keeps you narrow and then we go on elbowing the others out. All competition in the world is only this: “I think that my world for me is only this much, I am not prepared to make an effort to see that the world is very vast, I decide that my world is only this much, then I try in that small world to get whatever I can, and if something seems to be hurting me I want to elbow out saying get out from here, it is my place, ‘mine and thine’”, and all that sorts of things arises simply because we are ignorant, we do not know that the world is so vast, and that you have right to everything. It is we who think that “Oh! I got right only to this small little world”, no! You are possessor of the All-Possessor. There is nothing, which is denied actually in this world: this is the true knowledge.

Attainment of this knowledge gives you a perfect mastery over action; you do an action thereafter not because you want to possess something, which you are not possessing, but because there is a massive movement of action arising out of all possession, and you become an instrument of that; you participate in that. There is then no ‘my action’ nor ‘his action’ or ‘this possession’ or ‘that possession’, ‘this truth’ or ‘that truth’, all that seems to be absolutely illusory. This is the culmination of the Karmayoga.

As Sri Aurobindo says, “Karmayoga of the Gita rests upon two principles: equality and oneness”. These are the two basic principles of Karmayoga. Become equal minded and see oneness everywhere.” Oneness means: you are possessing everything, all possessions, there is only one possessor of everything. Perception of oneness: “ekatvamanupaśyataḥ”. It is an Isha Upanishad saying:

tatra ko mohaḥ kaḥ śoka ekatvamanupaśyataḥ

तत्र को मोहः कः शोक एकत्वमनुपश्यतः ॥

The Upanishads 1.7

“When this is seen as one everywhere, then where is the bewilderment?” where is the mohaḥ, kaḥ śoka, “where is the grief?”

You will see that in this process, a great emphasis lays upon knowledge. “Realise that fruits of action are not in your hands”: it is knowledge. “Realise that all works are works of Prakriti”: it is knowledge. “Realise that all the works ultimately proceed from the supreme Lord”: this is also knowledge. Therefore, Karmayoga as given by Sri Krishna cannot be practised without Knowledge. It is Karmayoga because you deal with action but this kind of Yoga cannot be done without arriving at Knowledge. This is called the synthesis of Knowledge and Action. How we say that Sri Krishna gives you this samanvaya of Karmayoga and Jnanayoga? It is this: that this Karmayoga cannot be practised without attainment of Knowledge. You cannot handle desire without attainment of the right knowledge.

Therefore, in the Bhagavad Gita, there is one very important statement: Knowledge is far superior to Action and yet you should not therefore go into inaction, because action is better than inaction; action is higher than inaction; and higher than action is Knowledge. In fact, this is a sentence which bewilders Arjuna very much, that if Knowledge is superior to Action, then why do you throw me into action? Why should you throw me into this ghoraṁ karma(3.1)? But Sri Krishna says: Knowledge is superior to action, but action is superior to inaction. And actually speaking, the Karmayoga that ‘you want to do action, and yet you can be free’, that can be done only by Knowledge. Therefore, Knowledge is superior. The superiority of Knowledge to action, we might say, is the basic principle of Karmayoga: by perception of equality and oneness, you are able to put your action in the right order.

I have told you the whole line of the argument of Karmayoga, not confining myself only to the 2nd chapter or 3rd chapter or 4th chapter or the 12th chapter or the 18th chapter: this is only to show that if you know the whole line of argument, then all the statements of the Bhagavad Gita, which will come one after the other, there we found to be falling in the right place.

Let us go, step by step, proceeding from the 2nd chapter to the 3rd chapter and then to the 4th chapter. In the 2nd chapter which we have already read, Sri Krishna after explaining that as far as action is concerned you have a right, but not to the fruits of action, although later on He will say that even to action you have no right, because action belongs to Prakriti and Prakriti to the Supreme Lord. But at present, in the first of your Karmayoga, this is enough, first step: “To the fruits of action you have no right, only to action you have a right”, and on that basis, Sri Krishna develops the concept of sthitaprajña. In fact that is one of the most important elements of the 2nd chapter: when in your consciousness there is equality, because you are no more trying to grasp at the fruits of action, then your will becomes concentrated. Ordinarily, our desires make our will move hither thither, multi-branched, bahuśākhā: this the word used by the Gita. When your will is not concentrated, is not sthita, then we are tossed about in a hundred directions, and there is no resting place. But when you know that fruits of action are not in your hands, then you become free from this and you are settled in action, and settled in Knowledge. Settled in this knowledge at least, that there is an inactive Purusha and there is a dynamic Prakriti, and in this movement of Prakriti over the fruits of action you have no right, you can concentrate upon action, and do your action with efficiency, have equality with regard to the fruits of action, and have efficiency in regard to your action.

When you attain to all this, then it is said that your intelligence becomes fixed: intelligence is prajña, and fixed is sthita. So, when your prajña becomes sthita, sthira, by means of three things: perception of Purusha which is inactive and silent; perception that fruits of action are not in your hands and therefore you are free to concentrate upon action; and when you do your action efficiently with one-pointedness, and when you have therefore a sense of equality, because now the fruits of action do not trouble you, it is in ‘this’ state that you arrive at that condition, which Sri Krishna says is the condition of sthitaprajña.

And then, He adds one word, “It is also called the state of samādhistha”. The sthitaprajña is also one who is samādhistha, one who is settled in samādhi.

This word requires some understanding. ‘samadhi’ is a word used in Raja yoga, in Patanjali’s Raja yoga. Samadhi is supposed to be the culminating point in the Yoga of Patanjali, and there samadhi is supposed to be a state of concentration, in which there is no vibration whatsoever: nirvikalpa, there is no vibration at all, completely fixed, concentrated. It is also called in English “trance”, samadhi is called trance when the consciousness is fixed upon the object with such an identity that there is no separation from it, there is no vibration, no movement at all. This is the idea of samadhi that normally in India today, people think of, whenever the word samadhi is used.

But if you read the description of samādhistha, in the BhagavadGita, you don’t find it: samādhisthais one who is active according to the description given here, although he is acting but has no deflection because of this result or that result. He is sthita, but not inactive. He is equal-minded but not inactive.

Therefore, this concept of samādhistha in the Bhagavad Gita can be rightly understood when we dissociate ourselves with the idea that trance means: a complete stillness of consciousness alone and nothing else. This ‘concentration of consciousness’ is certainly implied in the condition of sthitaprajña; but the absence of action is not implied. The sthitaprajña of the Bhagavad Gita is one who has a living trance, waking trance. There are states of trance which are very intense, in which the individual is so lost to the outside world, so concentrated upon the superior planes of consciousness, which are above in the consciousness, that externally the man in trance seems to be dead; he cannot…even if you move, shake, he cannot come back to the waking consciousness. Normally people think that this is really called Samadhi.

We have to realise that that particular samadhi is only a certain intensity of consciousness, but that is not the necessary sign of samadhi. The necessary sign of samadhi is that you are fixed, concentrated, one-pointed, in Brahman, in the inactive silent Brahman, you are absolutely fixed: this fixation is sthitaprajña. Your prajñais sthita. But at the same time, because you are no more attached to the fruits of action, actions proceed, and you are not deflected yet, you remain constantly fixed in the Brahman, you act, and even then, there is no deflection, there is no bahuśākhā at all: that is the essence of the description that is given of sthitaprajña.

In the 3rd chapter, the idea of Karmayoga is further developed. A new concept is introduced in the 3rd chapter and that concept is yajña: sacrifice. You remember earlier, Sri Krishna had criticised vedavāda: Vedavada insist upon sacrifice, havana, invoking the fire and throwing all the samidh(s) and food and everything into the fire and through the intermediary role of agni, you invoke the gods and bring the gifts of gods into your life.

This very concept which Sri Krishna has criticised, He brings in here in the 3rd chapter, and says that the essence of Karmayoga is yajña, and even describes yajña in the way in which ritualists would describe it. It is later on, that we find that Sri Krishna uses this word yajña in a larger sense: He does not mean ritualistic sacrifice.

While reading the Bhagavad Gita we have to be very careful as to how the whole argument is developed. Otherwise one might feel that there is a self-contradiction: yajña, which was criticised, is now described in the 3rd chapter as the fundamental principle of Karmayoga. Why? Because the original concept, even in the Veda, yajñawas the correct concept, but that correct concept had been obliterated, and it had come to mean only ‘ritualistic sacrifice’ to be conducted for the sake of satisfaction of desire.

This was not the original meaning of yajña in the Veda originally. Certainly this also was a subordinate idea in the Veda; but as we shall see Sri Krishna does not deny that this subordinate idea is also an effective idea: it is a lower idea but an effective idea. Secondly, even the ritualistic sacrifice, although not at the highest level, it is also a subordinate idea, but as a subordinate idea it is also a correct thing, it has its own lower status and truth, but when you look at it from the higher point of view, this word sacrifice is expounded by Sri Krishna in a very large way.

Let us go to that real meaning of sacrifice, and He says that, “All actions bind you when it is not done as a sacrifice”. This is a new element coming into the picture. We have first told: you give up the fruits of action. Now, we are told that even when you do action, that action you do as a sacrifice. What is then the sacrifice?

In the ritualistic sense as I told you earlier, it is an offering into the fire, saṅkalpa, for achieving a certain result by invoking cosmic powers and receiving from them the gifts as a result of what you offer. Sri Krishna says that actually it is true that even this kind of sacrifice becomes effective: it is not denied. But it is something that ‘binds you to action’ that does not liberate you from action. But if you want to be acting, and yet you want to be free from action, then, try to understand the inner meaning of sacrifice and do your action as a sacrifice, so that while doing action you will be free. What is the ‘inner meaning’ of sacrifice?

The word sacrifice basically means: “self-giving”. Self-giving has its origin. The origin is with the original Reality. The Supreme Lord, Himself, is the original Reality: there is none other than the supreme Lord in the world or anywhere; He is the only one existent, one without the second. That supreme Lord possesses everything; He has no need to do anything; He can remain quiet forever. But that also be a limitation if He remains only quiet, because that He cannot do action. Therefore He can remain active, also if He so wills.

When He does action, it means He looses forth, from His silence He is loosing… He is in the process of deploying Himself. This loosing forth, deploying Himself is called the “first self-giving”. The Lord gives Himself, all that is within Himself, He looses forth, He puts forth. This is the “original” sacrifice, you might say. The Purusha putting Himself into activity, deploying Himself is the basic sacrifice, as a result of which the whole world moves. When it is loosed forth, (this is one kind of movement), then what happens is that, that movement that is loosed forth returns itself, back again to the supreme Lord. The whole world is nothing but this basic movement: the supreme Lord loosing forth, and that which is loose forth returning itself with the supreme Lord.

As you see the waves of the ocean, there is a movement of the waves and then there is a backward movement of the waves: the whole world is nothing but this wavy movement. This may be called the basic exchange. The Lord looses forth, and that which is put forth returns back to the supreme Lord. It is a mutual sacrifice. If you want to use the poetic language, not a metaphysical one, but a poetical language, it is a supreme Lord offering Himself to the supreme consort ‘Para Prakriti’, ‘Shakti’, and then Shakti returning all that is received from the supreme Lord, back to the supreme Lord. Supreme Lord sacrificing Himself to ‘Mahashakti’; Mahashakti sacrificing Herself to the supreme Lord. This is called Sacrifice.

You will see here, sacrifice means that all that you have you loose forth; and then if so happens automatically what will happen is that what is loosed forth will be again offered back: this is the law of life.

In fact this is what Sri Krishna wants to say: if you want to study what is the world…We say that Bhagavad Gita, or the Upanishads, or the Veda are the books of Knowledge and this Knowledge is three fold: God Knowledge, soul Knowledge and world Knowledge. Now, if you want to know what the world-Knowledge in the Gita is, this is the world knowledge, that if you see the whole world, analyse the whole world, you will find only this basic point: it is a wavy movement, first of all. There is a huge pulsation going on, the world is nothing but a pulsation. It may seem a very simple statement but it is so, all truths are simple. The whole world ultimately is nothing but one pulsation: human body is nothing but pulsation. Even matter which seems to be inert is also if you examine, it is nothing but pulsation. This pulsation has only two rhythms: ‘loosing forth’ and ‘return’, very simple.

But in ignorance, what happens is what is returned by nature we try to keep with ourselves because of ignorance we do not know that this is the law. Whatever comes unto us, we keep within ourselves, and we do not loose forth again. Now, when we do not loose forth again, you become inactive, although you may seem to be active, but actually you are not doing what is to be done. ‘Real’ action is nothing but ‘loosing forth’, therefore all action is nothing but yajña. Action, which is not done as a yajña, is that which is really not action, it is inaction actually, it is ‘bondage’, it is inertia, you remain fixed, remain ignorant, remain bound.

This is the true Knowledge of the whole world, and Sri Krishna says that even if you do not know this law, and even if you think ‘I am keeping with myself’, it will never be possible, the world is such that even though unwillingly, it will be taken away from you: the world movement is such (only in your consciousness you will think that this is still remaining with me), but actually the world’s movement is such that nothing will remain with you. It will be loosed forth by itself, by force as it were.

In ignorance we keep to ourselves whatever comes to us, even when it is again loosed forth, we still feel that we should cling to it, and there is a strife and strain in a result of that, and there is ‘bondage’. All bondage is nothing but simply this: whatever is in you or is thrown into you, you try to hold it, and whatever is still coming into you, you are still trying to amass as it were, it is you are doing it as it were, you are amassing; actually this is coming because the whole universe is nothing but this movement.

Even if you do not do anything at all, this movement will go on all the time and this is Karmayoga: do nothing and allow this movement to go on by itself, that is Karmayoga, because it will be automatically loosed forth, it will be returned, again loosed forth, again returned. This is the real meaning of yajña: to loose forth all that you have and then, it is an automatic law that whatever is loosed forth again comes back from the whole universe again.

Vedic Rishis were not wrong by saying that when you sacrifice, it will come back, the thing will come back to you, you will gain; again you loose forth, again you sacrifice, again it will come back. But when you do it ignorantly, when you want to possess certain things, it is this desire to possess, to enjoy in an egoistic manner: “that is mine, something that is fixed to me, not belong to anybody”: it is that which is the cause of all the trouble in the world. When you do this process of loosing forth all the time, there is an exchange, and from the highest point of view, this whole process is a process of exchange, which goes on automatically, without your doing it even, if you don’t do it will go on, but if you do it consciously, and that is where the Yoga comes: Yoga is nothing but to do consciously or allows consciously to do what is happening by itself. To be objectively clear of what is real, and allow the real to do whatever is doing is Yoga.

It is out of ignorance that we are jumping into it in our own ignorance, and we don’t know where to jump and how to jump, we don’t know how to dance, therefore we are like monkeys moving about in the world doing this action or that action, but the world goes on in its own way. Therefore to know the reality as it is, and in that status of knowledge, to stand and allow things to happen: that is Karmayoga. Therefore, even when you do action, you are not doing anything.

Let us go into the details of this process of yajña. We say it is an exchange; and the basic exchange is between the Supreme Lord and the Supreme Shakti. Supreme Lord looses forth, and Supreme Shakti again returns back. The Supreme Shakti does nothing, which is not willed by the Supreme Lord, and the Supreme Lord leaves everything to the Supreme Shakti to do whatever He wills. This is the real process of exchange. This is the basic law of life.

In this process, we are somewhere in this whole process: somewhere we are there. What are we? At present we are, first of all, not aware of what we are, first of all, that is our basic condition. We only ‘think’ what we are: we think that this is my body, or I am this body, or these surroundings are mine; this, my family is mine, this work is mine, this property is mine. This is all my definition of myself, and this is all that I am aware of, and we are completely encircled in this. But in the state of Knowledge, you find yourself to be a ‘partial manifestation’ of the Supreme Lord and the Supreme Shakti: this is what we really are.

Therefore all this exchange is taking place through us as centres, but not limited centres as we are now; we are peculiar kinds of centres. Centre is a centre, which has no circumference: usual centre is one, there is a centre and then there is a circumference, but we are such centres in which we have got a centre, which has no circumference. So, such is our real position. Take your position as such; this, in mystical language is called: take yourself or return yourself to a child consciousness: be a child. If you examine the child's consciousness, what is the speciality of a child? The child is a centre, which has no circumference. The whole world is open to the child. The whole world is there to protect to put in whatever is needed, the whole world is arranging for it. He has no possession of his own: this is why Christ said: “Become like children then you will enter into heaven”. This child consciousness is the real consciousness of our being.

In this child consciousness therefore, what is necessary is to remain open all the time, this sacrifice is going on between the Supreme Lord and the Supreme Shakti, and you are in that movement a centre, and allow this sacrifice, this movement exchange on and on, don’t stop it. We in our ignorance are stopping that movement.

How to start our process? Therefore Sri Krishna says that, “whatever action you are doing…” this is the method, the truth is, it is already going on: the yajña is going on between the Supreme Lord and the Supreme Shakti. It is a huge ‘play’ in which there is no desire at all anywhere. It is a free ‘play’ of the Divine, in which we also are centres without circumference. But because of the ignorance, which has come because of the veil, this centre begins to have a kind of circumference. Therefore Karmayoga consist of ‘breaking of’ this circumference. And how do you do it? You imitate the basic sacrifice which is going on, allow the rhythm; all that is in you, offer yourself, and whatever is to come will come back, do not have desire for fruit because it is not in your hands: offer yourself but be sure all that is going to come back because that is the law, you cannot escape it. You are the children of the wealthiest parents. And the whole universe and more than universe is your heritage. Whatever is given to you, whatever comes to you, give freely like prince, princes and princesses, throw them out, and all the rest will again come back and again go on playing.

Karmayoga is therefore to play an entire process of yajña, which is in any case going on in the world, but you become conscious of it. When you become conscious of it there is no bondage, no limitation, automatically it will go on. But to the ignorant human being, the basic principle which is given is simply this, that since you are ignorant, see what you think you have, you think that you have got this, that, etc…That which you have, you offer, you give.

To whom to give? Normally, even without our desire or anything, normally we all the time go on giving. You see, the whole world is nothing but a process of giving. The master gives to the peon, the servant; the servant gives back to the master; people who seek favour, they give presents to the people from whom they seek favour, and those who can give favour they offer back again to you. In this way everything in the world is nothing but, giving and returning, giving and returning. But because you are giving only to small forces of the world, the results are very small, returns are very, very meagre, therefore Sri Krishna says, “Offer to the Supreme, why do you go to this or that, or these small little forces in the world?”

All this is a play of the Supreme Purusha and the Supreme Prakriti: the Lord and the divine Mother. Therefore whatever you have you offer it to the Divine. And yajña, the ritualistic yajña actually is nothing but this: it is only a ritualistic symbol; yajña kuṇḍa is nothing but a field of offering. Agni in which you offer everything is a messenger of your wish, your saṅkalpa to offer, and as a result of which it will become a kind of a ‘knot’ from which everything comes back again. It is said that when you do yajña, you are entitled only to eat what is left, that is what is in ritualism; you will know the rule that in a sacrifice, you sacrifice everything, and you are entitled to eat only what is left, ‘uciśta’. But in reality, when you sacrifice everything, what is left? What is left is the delight. Therefore soma is what is left, and what is given to you is ultimately soma. If you go on sacrificing, what is left will always be soma, this is always ‘remainder’, because that is the origin of sacrifice, the end of sacrifice, the middle of sacrifice: this is all delight. This is all that is left ultimately and all that you act is…what for? It is only a delight. For delight of action you do the action and that all that you enjoy; you are entitled to it. What Sri Krishna says is that you are entitled to one thing and that is delight.

After sacrificing everything that you have to the Lord, offering everything to the Lord, there is a return of it, even that you go on returning. This is all that is action, action is nothing but this. Therefore it is said: “Action which is not done as a sacrifice is that which binds you”. But action that all the time is done as sacrifice does not bind you, and that is the secret of the Karmayoga.

We have now covered two steps of Karmayoga, first:

karmaṇy evādhikāras te mā phaleṣu kadācana* ||2.47||

“You have right only to the action, and not to the fruits of action”.

And the second step is: “To do all actions as a sacrifice”: sacrifice to the Supreme Lord and the Supreme divine Mother. When you do sacrifice to other forces, they will work, they will give you benefits, but it will be all limited, you will be ‘bound’. Why do you aim at something limited? Plunge yourself completely, offer everything to the Divine. You must know ‘the object’ of sacrifice. This knowledge of the object of sacrifice, the one who receives the sacrifice and one who returns to you, is the knowledge contained in the entire process of yajña. This is the central part of Karmayoga.

It is very easy to say: offer everything to the Lord, but it takes…normally we are all the time offering ourselves to small deities, all the time, either to this minister or that minister or this clerk or that clerk: these are our deities and we go on giving to this or to that. But to arrive at knowledge that all that is to be offered to the supreme Lord, is a long process, but this is the real process. Realise that you have to offer to the Supreme Lord, and when you do it, you are entitled only to the remainder, that remainder is soma, is the delight. This is the second step of the Karmayoga.

We shall do the third step next time.