Text of the Bhagavagd Gita (Mother's Institute of Research) - Session 12: Introduction; Chapter 3—Verses 1–17 (26 December 1998)

Introduction: Chapters 3-4

Now we come to the 3rd chapter. Actually, the 3rd and 4th chapters need to be read together. Although the 3rd chapter is entitled, “Karma Yoga”, and the 4th chapter is entitled, “Jnana yoga”, even the 4th chapter is largely devoted to karma yoga. It is only because in the 4th chapter, the relationship between karma and jnana is brought out in a very emphatic manner, and the relationship between knowledge and action is brought out to show that knowledge is always superior to action, and that there is nothing greater than knowledge. It is because of this emphasis in the 4th chapter, that the 4th chapter is entitled, “Jnana Yoga”. But basically, both the chapters, 3rd and 4th chapters are enunciations of one important element in karma yoga, and that is “that all karma should be done as a sacrifice: yajña”.

So, the 3rd and 4th chapters are devoted to the enunciation of sacrifice. What is the meaning of sacrifice? And how can an action be a sacrifice? And this rests upon a great secret of existence. And the words, which are used, are so compact that often that secret is not so very visible.

That is why, I would first of all like to affirm three things, repeat what is said in the 2nd chapter about Karma yoga. The first statement that we had said about karma yoga is: “Do every action without the desire for the fruits of action”. Secondly, “Whatever action you do, you do with the sense of equality”. Thirdly, “Do every action with complete proficiency”. These were the three things that were emphasised in the 2nd chapter.

Towards the end, we had the climax of a certain kind, where the consciousness was to be made stable upon the Divine, brāhmi sthiti, so that the intelligence is completely settled on the Divine. And then, we are told how that settlement in the Divine arises, when all the desires are given up, when all the indriyā(s), the senses, are fully controlled, and when even the rasa, that is in the indriyā(s) is conquered by mat-paraḥ, when you are completely dependent upon the Divine, by intense bhakti, and yet to be engaged in action.

All the three are to be present, and yet the consciousness is settled in the Brahman. The description that is given of this is the climax, the sthita-prajña. Now, when sthita-prajña is described, there is certainly an emphasis upon the buddhi being completely engaged, concentrated upon the Divine: that is the Jnanayoga. The fact that you are to be equal in all, whether honour, dishonour, success, failure, all this can come only when you are active. If you are not active, there is no question of success or failure. So, in action you have to be equal: that is the path of Karmayoga. And, as far as the rasa is concerned in anything in the world, you conquer it when you are completely devoted to the Divine. When these three are united together fully, then you are supposed to be sthita-prajña.

The relationship between the three is also in a certain sense laid down. Knowledge is always superior to action; knowledge is superior to will; will is the starting point of action. The will is always dependent upon knowledge; knowledge is not dependent upon the will: knowledge is the spring of will. Therefore, between knowledge and action, the relationship is always such that knowledge is superior to action.

Bhakti is always the culmination, is the crown. When knowledge and action are combined together, then, there is tremendous delight, and love is an expression of delight. Once this relationship is understood, then, we shall not ask the question, whether Bhagavad Gita is meant for Karma yoga, or meant for Jnana yoga, or for Bhakti yoga.

All the three are insisted upon, and it is said that particularly for the action of the Divine in the world, the three must be united. If you want subordinate results, or some exclusive results, then you can emphasize one instead of the other. But if you want to carry out the will of the Divine on the earth, then, all the three must be united, and in the unity, this is the relationship: the will must be based upon knowledge. Even if you start with will, it must end in knowledge, culminate in knowledge, and then derive itself from Knowledge: even though when you start an action out of will, you should constantly drive the will in such a way that it culminates in knowledge. Having culminated in the knowledge, you derive the will from the knowledge: this is the right relationship between the two. And when the two are united fully, then there is the crowning: it is the bhakti.

Question: Can you give us an example?

Very often, in fact most of us are born in action. Our natural tendency is towards activity; our entire being is as it were a breath: breathing itself is an activity! So, we are born in action you might say, and we have natural tendencies by which from childhood, we simply run into activity. Usually, in our childhood, it is instinct, or impulse, which impels us to do actions. It is our inclinations that make us do actions: it is our wish, our desire, our longing, our attraction, our repulsion, or at a certain stage, a burning desire to be or to become. These are our ordinary motivations in our young stage of life.

Therefore you might say that normally we start with action. That is the most natural starting point for everybody. Even Arjuna’s question has started from karma. In the Bhagavad Gita, the starting point is action: Arjuna has come to the field for action.

Now, having come to the field of action, he is now confronted with grief, and this grief has come as a result of a certain attitude towards his action, certain ideas, which are now beginning to play in regard to action. Now this attitude and these ideas constitute the part of jnana. Now, that jnana being incomplete, being confused, he gets bewildered, and now affects his action. That is why Sri Krishna, to put him on the right keel, immediately lifts Arjuna from the field of action to the field of knowledge.

That is why the first part of the 2nd chapter is entirely given to knowledge, is given to Sankhya, to the path of knowledge, where Sri Krishna tells him that: “Your main difficulty is with the ideas, so let me first clarify the ‘ideative’ aspect of your being. You have taken a few ideas into account, and you are manifesting them without really understanding them properly. You use the words of the wise, and you might even think that you are wise because you are using the words of the wise, but let me tell you what is the real wisdom.”

And, in one word that wisdom that he says is that: “There is the eternal, which never perishes.” This is the first point of wisdom. “There is the eternal, which never perishes, and all your ideas are on dying, killing, ‘I am the killer and they are killed’, but the real wisdom is, the first statement is, ‘There is the eternal, which never dies.’, if you want wisdom, this is the real wisdom, and you need wisdom; unless you are settled upon that knowledge, you will not be able to do your action properly.”

So, the whole of the 2nd chapter is nothing but settling the mind of Arjuna upon that which is eternal, and then drawing out of that all other consequences.

Now, in our life also, we start with action and everyone at a certain stage needs the knowledge to support the action. That is why, in childhood, we want our children to study. It is the emphasis on knowledge because the children are normally engaged in activities, in actions, and we know that these activities will ultimately come to a crisis. So, before the crisis comes, you want your children to be educated so that the knowledge aspect is emphasised, and that the children begin to study, begin to think, but because you do not know how to educate properly, and because you do not know the connection between knowledge and action, our methods of education are all arbitrary and artificial. We go on emphasising knowledge aspect, and that too, intellectual knowledge to such an extent, that very often many children’s activities become blunted, which is also wrong.

The right education is one in which a proper balance is brought about: the activity and knowledge. That is how in the modern methods of progressive methods of education, activity oriented education is emphasised, child’s centred education is emphasised, where the inclinations of the children are emphasised, and knowledge is, as if it were provided through activities, for the activities, for the enlightenment of activities, but that also is a limited field and limited idea.

A yogic system of education must actually ultimately lead to a harmony of both knowledge and action, in which the knowledge of the Eternal must be the foundation: a true educational system is one in which the children naturally grow into a knowledge of the Eternal. If you can provide to the children the idea of the Eternal, and then, the perception of the Eternal, then you have done the foundational education. But this is not an easy system of education because the children may not yet be ripe to understand the Eternal, so you have not to impose upon the children. You have to provide such a system for every individual, a method of education, that ultimately, spontaneously, the child grows into the perception of the Eternal: but that should be the aim. By what method? How long? What duration? All will depend upon every child.

In fact in the time of the Upanishads, the system of education was such that every child was told in the very beginning: “Meditate upon the Brahman, meditate upon the supreme Eternal”. This was the real reason that ultimately, what matters in life, the basic knowledge that you require in life, is of the Eternal. Once you are settled there, everything else flows very harmoniously.

Now, when you start on the line of karma, then, the way in which knowledge will be intertwined with action will depend upon each individual’s inclinations and activities, which are appropriate to the individual. Now, there are some individuals who are not active, and sometimes you are mistaken even when you have three, four children.

Now, if a child is not active, you might say that this child is very smart, but this child is not smart, and you may even deprecate the child who is not smart, without realising that the child who is not smart may be very contemplative, and may be reflecting deeply; or he may be very affective, not contemplative but full of emotion. He is filled with goodwill, he is filled with love for everything in the world; he has no interest in doing this or doing that; he is not interested in fashions of life, but he is interested in loving and being loved: it is like a chocolate, the very consciousness is full of sweetness in the being, and very often we tell the child, “Now love is enough, but now study”; and we spoil the whole thing for the child; we do not realise that this child requires eating of chocolate all the time, and quite a lot, so allow the child that sweetness; we don’t give that sweetness enough. But that child’s development will be quite on different lines.

The important point is that we must know the inter-relationship between Knowledge, Action, and Love: Love is a crown of Knowledge and Action. Even if you start with Love, remember that it is really speaking, a crown of Knowledge and Action: even if it is the starting point, it means that the other two elements have already to some extent have achieved some kind of union.

A child who is very sweet, realise that that child has already attained some kind of unity of knowledge and action, and therefore his heart is full of love and sweetness. Therefore, if you want to make a child active that also is necessary: then love should be the motive of action. The springboard of action will be love. If you simply put action arbitrarily, it will be an imposition upon the child: so, do not impose the action upon the child, but whatever love he wants to manifest, through that love the activities can proceed.

Very often those who are full of love, they don’t have an inclination to work. If you read the stories of many bhaktas, you will find that they will be very interested in singing songs, or bhajans, and so on, or going to a temple, but as far as work is concerned he may be even negligent and may not do anything at all, and people might even think that he is good for nothing. But that is a mistake. His action is to be motivated by love: it is not instinct, it is not appreciation, it is not attraction, it is not any desire that impels this child. But for the sake of love, if something is to be done, then, that will be the real motive of his action. So if you really want to make a child active, then arrange in such a way that his love begins to manifest in activities.

Usually, those who are very active do not like to learn much: they want to play cricket, they want to go about; they want to do this; they want to do that, fine! We should impose knowledge upon the children, but if you really want that child should take interest in knowledge, then, allow the child to do activity, but let the knowledge regarding that activity be injected into the child. If you give lectures on Eternal, he will not be interested in it at all: so that is irrelevant to the child. You should therefore give the knowledge, which is pertinent to his action. Then, gradually out of the action, a time may come, like Arjuna had to wait for such a long time to get the real knowledge.

He was so much in action, as Sri Aurobindo says, “His basic nature was pragmatic, emotional, sensitive, sensational, one who was inclined to do action on the basis of accepted ideas.” This was the first occasion when accepted ideas were all broken, and therefore, he was in need of the true knowledge, and that is why Sri Krishna now gives him the first injection of knowledge and that too because Arjuna gave the chance of speaking, because he spoke the words of wisdom. So, Sri Krishna picked up those words of wisdom and said, “O you speak the words of wisdom, then I will tell you what wisdom is, the real wisdom is this!” And that is how the whole procedure of knowledge now starts. And you will see how gradually the stream of knowledge will become gradually more and more powerful in the Bhagavad Gita as we proceed further.

But even then, Arjuna gets arrested with the questions regarding action. And after reading the whole thing of the 2nd chapter you will find that Sri Krishna seems to be emphasising the element of concentration upon the Eternal: the Brahman. The whole thing is called Buddhi yoga: Buddhi yoga has two applications in the field of knowing the Eternal and, Buddhi yoga is applied to action in such a way that even if you do action you are not bound, but the emphasis is upon buddhi.

Chapter 3—Verses 1-4

That is why the very 3rd chapter starts by saying that, “O, Krishna you tell me very ambiguous words. If according to you buddhi is more important, then why do you insist upon action so much?” Which is very clear that in the whole 2nd chapter, the great emphasis that creates the impression in the mind of Arjuna is that all that is connected with Knowledge. That Sri Krishna has spoken of Karmayoga so much, that the emphasis that is laid in regard to samatvaṁ yoga ucyate, and that yogaḥ karmasu kauśalam, all that, has not made so much impression upon him, as the fact that the buddhi should be concentrated upon the Eternal: brāhmī sthiti: mat-paraḥ, the Bhakti has hardly made any impression at all up till now, because only one word is used in the whole description. The element of bhakti has only come only once like that. So the overall impression that is created in the mind of Arjuna is that now Sri Krishna has told him that the most important thing is to make your intelligence absolutely quiet, and settled upon the Brahman.

That is why, if you see the very first sentence:

jyāyasī cet karmaṇas te matā buddhir janārdana |
tat kiṁ karmaṇi ghore māṁ niyojayasi keśava ||3.1||

He says: “If You think, that buddhi is greater than Karma, then why do you throw me into this terrible action?”…not only action, ghore karmaṇi māṁ niyojayasi: why do you throw me into this ghore action?”

So Arjuna is impressed by the fact that buddhi is to be settled in Brahman. And therefore, he says that, “buddhi according to you is more important than arma”. So, that is why the 3rd chapter starts with this question: “If according to you buddhi is more important than karma, then why do you throw me into action, and in that terrible action?”

And therefore he complains now he says:

vyāmiśreṇeva vākyena buddhiṁ mohayasīva me |
tad ekaṁ vada niścitya yena śreyo ’ham āpnuyām ||3.2||

“You are mohayasī you are bewildering, buddhiṁ, my intelligence is bewildered, vyāmiśreṇeva vākyena such sentence which are ambiguous, sometimes it gives one kind of meaning, sometimes it gives another kind of meaning, therefore: tad ekaṁ vada niścitya, decide one thing”, (as if Krishna was not decisive!), so he says “tad ekaṁ vada niścitya yena śreyo’ham āpnuyām , therefore you tell me one thing having firmly decided as to means by which śreyo ’ham āpnuyām, so that my eyes welfare is secure; do not tell me this also, and that also.”

The whole point is that the teaching is complex. Sri Krishna has got to say that knowledge is far superior to action, because that is the natural relationship between action and knowledge. But therefore, He therefore doesn’t mean that action has no place, and that is a subtle thing that Arjuna is not able to grasp: because knowledge is superior to action, it does not mean therefore that you have to give up action. Sri Krishna has never said that karma is less important than akarma; that he has not said. Knowledge is more important than karma, that is right, fine, that is the starting point; but Sri Krishna does not say that karma is less important than akarma. In fact Sri Krishna will say that, “Karma is superior to inaction”, that will be later on, Sri Krishna will explain that actually speaking, “I have told you that knowledge is superior to action, but action is superior to inaction”: it is the relationship.

Arjuna only wants to say, “What is the best? Only one thing you tell me”, but the real thing is that the world is not absolutely black and white. The world is that complex reality, and there are complexities of relationships, therefore even it is not correct to say, “Do this and nothing else, and even when I am telling you this, you are not accepting it, when I tell you, ‘look, fight’, even that you are not accepting, because why? Your ideas are coming into the picture; your knowledge comes into the picture; therefore, I must settle your knowledge first”.

So, that is why, the relationship between knowledge and action, and between action and inaction has to be understood. And then at a later stage, we have still to come to the real action, the real motive of action in bhakti. So, that also has to be seen; we shall come to that later on; but for the moment, we have only these two terms: knowledge and action. So, this is the complaint that Arjuna makes.

And now, bhagavān uvāca, Sri Krishna answers, He says:

loke ’smin dvi-vidhā niṣṭhā purā proktā mayānagha | ||I,3*

“ O ānagha, O sinless, loke ’smin dvividhā niṣṭhā purā proktā: in this world…niṣṭhā means the path, that in which you can rely; dvi-vidhā, two-fold; purā proktā mayā I have declared.”

This is said so lightly that Arjuna is not attracted by this word as yet. It is in the 4th chapter, when Sri Krishna will say that, “Look, I have given this Knowledge long ago to Vivasvan, and then to Manu, and then to Ikshvaku, and then it was lost”, when he gives a long description, then, he is struck by it, and says, “You are now, but Vivasvan was much earlier, how could you have given this knowledge to Vivasvan at that time? But even now”, he says, purā mayā proktā, I have given this twofold path long ago.”

That is, Sri Krishna now speaks as the Divine who was already in another birth somewhere: at that time he had already pronounced this whole Knowledge. So, he says, “In this world I have already spoken, purā, long ago, dvi-vidhā niṣṭhā , I have already spoken of twofold path.”

jñāna-yogena sāṁkhyānāṁ karma-yogena yoginām ||3.3||

“There are two categories of people: yogis are those who are inclined towards the action; sāṁkhyānāṁ are those who are inclined towards knowledge. So, to those who are inclined towards Knowledge, I have given the path of Knowledge: Jnanayoga. Those who are inclined towards the action, I have given them the path of Karmayoga.”

“And both the paths have their own stages. So, when I have to tell you something, which will be both combined together, if you are only concerned with knowledge and nothing else, if you are not keen to do action on the earth for God, then, following the path of knowledge alone would have been enough: if you only wanted to know the Eternal, then, that would be enough; I would have told you of the Eternal, I would have told you now you concentrate and meditate upon him and you will attain to Eternal. But, I know what you are, you are active by nature, you want to be active, you can’t remain without action, even though you talk of wisdom, I know you quite well that you are one who is engaged in action. And even when you have reached knowledge, even then, I know that you will be inclined to do knowledge for action for God; knowing all that I am emphasising upon you the whole idea of Karma yoga.”

Now, comes the exposition of Karma yoga, which had already started in the 2nd chapter; but Sri Krishna, now, emphasises that Karma yoga is something most natural to human beings:

na karmaṇām anārambhān naiṣkarmyaṁ puruṣo ’śnute |
na ca saṁnyasanād eva siddhiṁ samadhigacchati ||3.4||

“Do not think that by not doing anything, you attain a stage of action-less-ness. And do not think that by giving up everything, you attain the highest realisation.”

The real giving up is quite different; the real not-beginning of action is quite different. Even if you do not do anything and sit down, cross-legged, don’t think that you have attained the state of inaction, or you have attained to the state of Knowledge. It may be only an outer inaction; but the mind may be raging into all kinds of battles. So, merely not doing anything does not mean that now you have attained to inactivity. To attain the state of inactivity is very important; Sri Krishna does not deny that inactivity is not important. But real inactivity is to be distinguished from ordinary inactivity: not doing anything is not inactivity. There is a state in which you really achieve…

Chapter 3—Verses 5-17

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 be achieved 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.” 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 now He starts exposition, saying:

na hi kaścit kṣaṇam api jātu tiṣṭhaty akarma-kṛt |
kāryate hy avaśaḥ karma sarvaḥ prakṛti-jair-guṇaiḥ ||3.5||

“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 retrain: even resisting to action is by restraining, by action. So, 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 burned. Now how is this to be done?

So Sri Krishna, step-by-step, leads to the process, he says:

karmendriyāṇi saṁyamya ya āste manasā smaran |
indriyārthān vimūḍhātmā mithyācāraḥ sa ucyate ||3.6||

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, mithyācāraḥ sa ucyate.

Therefore, now what do you do?

yas tv indriyāṇi manasā niyamyārabhate ’rjuna |
karmendriyaiḥ karma-yogam asaktaḥ sa viśiṣyate ||3.7||

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 that, who really becomes distinct, distinguished; that is the right thing to be done.

So 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[||,48], karmasu kauśalam [||,50], and karmaṇy evādhikāras te mā phaleṣu kadācana [||,47], already He has spoken of it.

So, he says, “You be as in karmayoga and become non-attached. Then you really become what I really want you to be.”

niyata kuru karma tva karma jyāyo hy akarmaa | (||I,8)

This is a very important sentence. niyataṁ kuru karma: do action, niyataṁ regulated: niyataṁ is 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.

niyata kuru karma tva karma jyāyo hy akarmaa |

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 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.”

Now, 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, it is not only niyataṁ, prescribed action only. 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.

That is why I am opposing that meaning.

Comment: That meaning should not be taken.

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 Karma yoga.

śarīra-yātrāpi ca: now he says that even, śarīrayātrā means any karma, you will require all kinds of actions for śarīrayātrā.

śarīra-yātrāpi ca te na prasiddhyed akarmaṇaḥ ||3.8||

“By inactivity you cannot even maintain your body.” So, even for your journey of your body in life, you are required to do action: therefore, inaction is inferior to action.

Now comes the most important sentence of this chapter and of the whole of the Gita. There He says:

yajñārthāt karmao ’nyatra loko ’ya karma-bandhana |
tad-artha karma kaunteya mukta-saṅga samācara ||3.9||

This is the idea of yajñā, now brought in the Bhagavad Gita for the first time. yajñārthāt: “You do the action as sacrifice”.

Now we are moving forward in Karma yoga. In the 2nd chapter we had only been told, “Do not do any action for the sake of the fruit of action”. Now He says, “That even karma that you are doing, even that karma, you do it as a sacrifice.” It's 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. Now 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. So, 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.

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. Now 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.

So, while doing action, how will you be able to burn it? So, He says, “Fire, there is…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. So, you do actions for the sake of burning them, and as you put 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: it is burned. But as a result, something more will come; again that also you burn.

This is the cycle: yajñā is a cycle. Be engaged in a cycle, and ultimately you will see that actually you are not even throwing the action into it. As Sri Krishna will say that, “It is an illusion that you are throwing a yajñā, you ultimately attain to knowledge”. That will come in the 4th chapter: “You will really realise what is the whole universe.”

At present, you only think that you have all surroundings in you, around you, and all in the surroundings is yours, and you want to even take out from others, and accumulate, and put into your own utensil: ‘this is mine’. And then you want to enjoy it: this, Sri Krishna says is “stena (II,2), you are a thief.” Why? Because actually speaking, when you really will see, this is no real way even of increasing. Even if you want more, then the only means is “You throw into the fire”, and then you will see that more will come to you even if you want more. Otherwise without doing it if you just accumulate, you are only stealing, you are like a robber. All that is there you are robbing; ultimately will find that nothing will remain, because there is cycle going on in the world, and nature will extract from you, even if you do not want, it will be taken away from you by force; it will be thrown because the whole world is a yajñā: it’s not ‘you are doing yajñā’, the whole world is a huge yajñā.

The whole world is nothing but ‘one huge sacrifice’. Sacrifice done by whom, for whom? What is all this? So, Sri Krishna says: “Unless you know the whole process…” that is why knowledge is required now: you must know what is the whole process of the world. In that process where you are, what you are, what you have, what you don’t have…you are completely ignorant! You are just moving about thinking that all that is in your way is yours, and you just try to accumulate, and you just go on fighting with people for accumulating ‘this is mine; this is mine; this is mine’. It’s completely in ignorance. First of all, realise the whole world.

Now Sri Krishna will explain that right from the beginning…this is 3rd chapter, 10th verse:

saha-yajñāḥ prajāḥ sṛṣṭvā purovāca prajāpatiḥ |
anena prasaviṣyadhvam eṣa vo ’stv iṣṭa-kāma-dhuk ||3.10||

This is only the preliminary statement that ‘when the whole world was created, the whole world was created saha-yajñāḥ prajāḥ; saha-yajñāḥ, along with yajñā the whole world was created’; yajñā is a fundamental thing, without yajñā there is no world. What is this yajñā? Before we proceed further, I will just take you to the real meaning of yajñā: yajñā is a process by which you cease to be what you are. Sacrifice: sacrifice means you give up everything.

In the beginning, here He says saha-yajñāḥ prajāḥ sṛṣṭvā, so we are gone back to the origin of the sṛṣṭi. Entire sṛṣṭi, the whole world is created out of sacrifice, and with sacrifice: it’s a continuous sacrifice, and the world is nothing but a cycle of sacrifice. In the beginning there is only the “Supreme One Reality”. He could have remained absolutely alone, quiet, because He needs nothing, He is complete, perfect. But, He is not incapable of activity. But, His very activity has one condition: His activity takes place by Himself ceasing to be Himself. Only there is only one way by which activity arises: on the moment activity arises, yajñā starts; He becomes other than Himself.

You remember, I have been speaking to you about the Vedic statement (Rig Veda I. 170,1), where it is said that the Reality is adbhuta, is wonderful: na nūnamasti no śvaḥ, that Reality is neither today nor tomorrow: it is eternal; kastadveda yadadbhutam. What is that Reality which is so wonderful? Why is it wonderful? anyasya cittamabhi sancareṇyam, His very activity is another’s, He remains He is, but He becomes another. His very activity becomes …makes out of Him something other than Himself. A Reality which remains itself and yet becomes other than Himself, that is the wonder of the Reality; that is why He is adbhutam. Therefore it is utādhītaṁ vi naśyati, don’t try to understand it by our ordinary intellectual way, because in this world it does not happen; there is only one Reality which is adbhutam; in His becoming, ‘sancareṇyam’, in His very becoming ‘sancara’ means: sancara. In His very activity of becoming, ‘anyasya’, He becomes another.

That means there is holocaust; in His activity, there is a holocaust of His being: all that He is, is as it were, given to somebody else. This is at the ‘very root’ of activity. Action means what? Action means: ‘you cease to be’ what you are. You make a sacrifice of yourself, but the moment you sacrifice yourself, something else is created. And that something that is created also is of such a nature, that that something else also throws back upon you. There is the yajña, puruṣa to prakṛti, and there is the yajña, prakṛti to puruṣa. This is the only nature of action, action is nothing but this: throwing yourself, abolishing yourself totally, which you can never be because you are the sattwa, the real sat, and yet you become: your holocaust is such a thing that you really create another.

So, this you throw out, even if you subtract it yourself from yourself, you still remain perfect: you add something to yourself, you still remain the perfect. Such is the very nature of Reality. So action is only one principle: yajñā. You make a holocaust of yourself, through yourself, unreservedly. As a result somebody else…you will become somebody else. In very metaphysical terms it is said that the world is ‘objectivisation’ of the Self. The Self is subject.

Now all action is nothing but a movement of ‘objectivisation’: the subject becomes object. You begin to see yourself as an object to yourself. How do you see yourself? Even in ordinary terms, when you want to see yourself, you have to become different from you, and face, now confront yourself and see backward. In other words, now the object has a subject and looks at you as an object. First you are the only thing in the world, now you throw yourself, and then, as a result an object is created, and that object begins to look at you as his object.

Comment: Is this introspection?

Yes, in introspection this is what happens. Now the whole world is nothing but introspection of God. The whole world is nothing but bahū syām : it means, “Let me be many”, this is the only meaning. There is only one action;, action has only one meaning: ‘holocaust’. As a result of it, anyaḥ is produced; and anyaḥ begins to look at yourself as now an object. And in looking at, also, there is only one law: holocaust. That object also makes a holocaust, yajñā from your side, and yajñā from the other side. And action is nothing but this cycle; everything in the world is nothing but yajñā.

Question: Can you explain this in the terms of Purusha and Prakriti which you just mentioned?

Yes, it is this. In fact, by ‘holocaust’ of the Supreme, anyaḥ is produced; something else is produced. Now, ‘something else’ is not different from ‘Himself’, because there is nothing else than Himself, but a different standpoint is created. He was…He was…now what He was…now, He begins to look at Himself from the other side. Nothing else is created because there is nothing else; so what happens is: a standpoint is created, which now looks at the original as his own object: that is now Prakriti.

So, for Purusha, Prakriti is the object; for Prakriti, Purusha is the object. Now the whole action is nothing but this. The whole world is nothing but this basic activity: holocaust of yourself, as a result Prakriti begins to come into being, that objective reality, and that begins to look at yourself. And what is the method of looking at yourself by holocaust? A special relationship is now created between the original and now the other one, which is produced. sampūrṇa balidāna: complete holocaust, complete, you give up yourself, you no more remain what you are: something else is produced. So, Prakriti is nothing but Purusha himself, but now taking a stand point, which is objective to that Purusha. Prakriti is not something different because there is nothing else.

In the Bible, this is very well expressed as if Eve is produced out of the rib of Adam. Now, this is in a very lower sense it is taken up, but actually speaking it is true. Prakriti, Eve stands for Prakriti and Adam stands for Purusha. So, Prakriti has no independent existence: Prakriti is actually Purusha. The substance of Prakriti is nothing but Purusha, but the original reality is Purusha, because there is only one Reality. That Purusha takes out of Himself as if were Himself, and puts before Himself, objectifies Himself, and then, that object begins to look at original Purusha as his object.

So, that is why, the theory of Purusha and Prakriti is perfectly valid. The whole world is nothing but a play of Purusha and Prakriti, where Purusha gives himself fully to Prakriti, and Prakriti gives fully to Purusha. And yet there is a special relationship. What is that? Purusha, after the Prakriti is produced will say: “I will do nothing; all doing is now given to you; that is your function now. What I will do is I will tell you what is to be done. I will only say what is to be done, and your function will be to carry it out: how you carry out is your business, you will only carry it out. And when you carry it out, you will give it to me back because this is my Will.”

This is the only relationship between the two. The Purusha wills; Prakriti executes, and after executing offers it back for the enjoyment of Purusha. Therefore Purusha is called the enjoyer. Prakriti works out all that the Purusha wants, and having produced, it gives back to Purusha. And by this, constantly, all action is nothing but this: action is nothing but an objective movement of Purusha, and offering from the side of Prakriti.

If you know this whole world, and if you know this is all action, wherever action is there, remember all action is nothing but action of Prakriti. And whether you like it or not, that Prakriti, in spite of you… you are nothing actually, you are only a small instrument of Prakriti created by Her. Her interest is not to do anything for you. All Her activities are meant for Purusha, and whatever she produces, she really wants to offer it at the feet of Purusha. If you realise this, then what happens? You just collaborate with it. You go on offering to Purusha, then, you are absolutely in harmony.

Our obstruction comes only because we think that, “Oh! This is mine; I want to hold it on”. But actually speaking there is no such thing at all, even if you want to hold it, Prakriti will take away from your hands and put it before Purusha, because that is all that Prakriti wants to do. There is nothing like yours here. There is only one, there are only two: there is Purusha and Prakriti, or Ishwara-Shakti. There is nothing else. And if you are, you can also play a part; you are a kind of additional thing you might say. As an additional, you can remain only if you take the same position: you be one with the Purusha, and you may become one with the Prakriti in both ways, play both the roles. Will like Purusha, and execute like Prakriti.

Comment: So it has a meaning: terā tujko arpan kyā lage merā |

That’s right, that’s right, correct: it is all His. So you take this position; as far as you are concerned, on the side of Purusha, you become like one who wills; and you will what He wills because after all there is no such thing as your willing: you will what He wills, and that whatever is produced, you offer it to yourself, don’t come into the way. You make a channel very clear: offer it to Purusha.

So, as far as action is concerned, you take the position of Prakriti; and the position of Prakriti is that it is offered to Purusha. As far as your self has enjoyed his concern, you want to enjoy, isn’t it? Yes, you enjoy! But enjoy by becoming one with Purusha. Will what He wants; don’t will what you want; then you are enjoyer; you will enjoy then properly, because all this world is nothing but enjoyment, but enjoyment of ‘His’ will.

Once you understand this whole scheme of the world, all ignorance collapses. After knowing this of course it has to be in our action, in our activities, it has to be filled in our very substance of being. But this is all the meaning of yajñā. That is why Sri Krishna says that: “Even now you do not know the whole scheme, so I am only telling you that whatever action you are doing, you offer. In your offering it will burn away; it will go to the enjoyer, He will eat it away, but as soon as He eats away, He again gives back. It will come back again to you.

In the puruṣa bhāva, take puruṣa bhāva you will enjoy, provided you become one with Purusha. If you take the part of Prakriti, you offer: this is your enjoyment.

The great test happens as a Prakriti is when it offers what Purusha wanted. Prakriti is nothing but a kind of a ‘factory’ in which what Purusha wants is produced; and having produced, it is given to Purusha, and Purusha enjoys it. Having enjoyed it, He again gives back to Prakriti and says: “I want this”. Then again it is produced by Prakriti. Prakriti’s very function is executing, producing results, manufacturing, giving shape, executing the thing. The Purusha simply says: “I want fifty rupees”. The Prakriti works out everything so fifty rupees are produced and they are absolutely offered fully to Purusha. Prakriti keeps nothing with Her: that is Her greatest enjoyment. To belong to Purusha, to belong to Purushottama entirely and fully with all the results produced, and offered to the Divine: that is the greatest happiness of Prakriti. So, enjoy that, be Prakriti as far as your action is concerned, and be like Purusha as far as your will is concerned, then, there is no problem: that is real Karma yoga.

Karma yoga is nothing but to do an action in the real way. As it is really being done in the world, you collaborate, you realise this is the right method of action. Since you do not know the whole story He says, “At present at least you take this bhāva, you do for yajñā: yajñārtham karma. So, every action you take is as yajñā, and if you do this you are a Karmayogi. Ultimately you will even see that your action does not even belong to you. That is in the 4th chapter, when you will know the whole thing. By doing yajñā, you will come to know the whole secret, that the whole world is nothing but a play between Purusha and Prakriti.

Having known it, you will be one with the supreme Lord on one side, you will become one with Prakriti on the other side, so where is ‘you’. You are only a kind of an additional element who is allowed to play: such is your real position. And therefore, you come into divyam karma: you really now do the Divine Action, because now there is no moha; there is no robbing: there is no stena, you are no more a robber. You are all the time nothing but engaged in this kind of a cycle; and you are at both the places, that is your special privilege, that you are at both the places, you can be Purusha, you can be Prakriti at the same time.

So, what is Jiva? Jiva is Purusha and Prakriti at the same time. We, the individual, are at once Purusha-Prakriti; we are not only Purusha, we are both at once Purusha-Prakriti. So, that you can be both, active in action you are a Prakriti, in willing you are Purusha. If you attain to this, you are a Karmayogi. And therefore, nothing will happen to you except what Divine wills.

The ‘sacrifice’ is He, the ‘sacrificer’ is He, the ‘sacrificed’ is He: everything is He. The Brahman is the sacrificer, the Brahman is the sacrificed, the Brahman is the sacrifice. When this is understood, then that is the parakaśtha of Karma yoga.

So, this is what He says: sahayajñāḥ prajāḥ sṛṣṭvā puruvāca prajāpatiḥ. The supreme Lord has created the whole world only by yajñā, by holocaust. That is why in the Veda there is one very important shloka which is called Purusha sukta. Purusha sukta describes what is Purusha: so it describes the Supreme Lord who has got thousands of eyes, and everything that is thousands, there is no limit; and it is He who makes a holocaust; and then prajāḥ sriṣṭaḥ then all the creatures are born out of that holocaust.

So, in the beginning, when you are still ignorant, you understand only this much: that all the people are born with the principle of sacrifice. And you are told that you will give yourself to cosmic power, and cosmic powers will give back to you: that is the first initial knowledge that you will have. Ultimately even that will go away; you will really realise that it is only Purusha-Prakriti, which are playing with each other, and we have to enjoy ourselves by becoming on both sides; that is all that we have to do.

devān bhāvayatānena te devā bhāvayantu vaḥ |

These cosmic powers, you have not yet seen the supreme Lord. Up till now, you are only seeing at present the cosmic powers:

devān bhāvayatānena te devā bhāvayantu va |
paraspara bhāvayanta śreya param avāpsyatha ||3.11||

“You will in the beginning only do for gods, and gods will do for you, and this is how you will attain whatever is to be attained in the terms of your welfare: śreyaḥ param avāpsyatha.”


iṭān bhogān hi vo devā dāsyante yajña-bhāvitā |
tair dattān apradāyaibhyo yo bhukte stena eva sa ||3.12||

They will give you and He will give to them, but he who keeps to himself, is a robber, saḥ stena eva. Therefore, our mistake lies only in keeping to ourselves: whatever belongs to you, you do yajñāthāt.

yajña-śiṣṭāśina santo mucyante sarva-kilbiai |
bhuñjate te tv aghaṁ pāpā ye pacanty ātma-kāraāt ||3.13||

Whatever you sacrifice, and then what comes back to you, that is, what is left out from yajñā: only that you should keep. And when you do that, you are free from all kinds of sins. But those who cook only for themselves: “This is my earth”, and “This is my materials, my samidh”, and “I will only do this”, and “I will only eat all that is here”, all those who are doing that pāpāḥ, they are all becoming sinful, because they are following something that is not true.