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Bhagavad Gītā 3

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Chapter 3



Union by Action

(Sanskrit terms and names can be clicked for explanation)


Arjuna said:

If understanding is considered by you as superior to action. O Janārdana, then why do you urge me to this fearful deed, O Keśava? (1)

Verily, by confused language you disorder, as it were, my understanding! Therefore speak, having decided upon one thing, by which I may obtain what is best. (2)

The Holy One said:

I have already declared, O sinless One, that in this world there are two kinds of devotion: that of Sāṅkhyas by means of knowledge, and that of the followers of the Yoga-school by means of action. (3)

A man does not arrive at non-performance of action merely by the non-commencement of acts; nor does he attain success from mere renunciation [of them]. (4)

For, indeed, no one even for a second remains inactive. Everyone is necessarily caused to act by the guṇas [the three qualities] inherent in (his) nature. (5)

He, who having restrained the organs of action, nevertheless remains dwelling upon objects of sense mentally, is said to be foolish-minded and hypocritical. (6)

But he who having subdued the senses by the mind, O Arjuna, undertakes the yoga of action with the organs of action, is distinguished as being freed. (7)

Do perform actions, then, with self-restraint; for action is superior to inaction. The support even of your body is not accomplished by idleness. (8)

This world is fettered by action other than action performed as a sacrifice. Perform action for that purpose, O son of Kuntī, free from attachment [to it]. (9)

Having long ago emanated offspring together with sacrifice, Prajāpati [Progenitor of Creatures] said: By this [sacrifice, i.e. acts performed as a sacrifice, vide preceding śloka] you shall propagate. Let it be to you, the ‘cow of plenty’ [iṣṭakāmadhuk: granting desires longed for.] (10)

Cause ye the gods to be, by this; may the gods cause you to be. Causing each other to be, you shell attain the highest good. (11)

The gods brought into being by ‘sacrifice’ will give to you advantages desired by you. But he who [selfishly] enjoys these, not giving back to them the things given by them, is truly a thief. (12)

The virtuous who partake of the remains of sacrifice, are freed from all their evils; the sinful who cook food for themselves, eat sin. (13)

From food are generated beings; from the rain-cloud, is generation of food; from sacrifice is generated the rain-cloud; sacrifice is generated by action [karman]. (14)

Know action [karman] to be generated of brahman, generated of the indestructible brahman. Hence the all-pervading brahman is constantly established in sacrifice. (15)

He who does not keep turning the wheel revolving forward thus, is sinful and indulgent of his senses. He, O son of Pṛthā, lives in vain. (16)

But for the man who is tranquil in the Self, and content with the Self, and taketh delight in the Self, there is no [such] necessary act. (17)

For him there is no advantage whatever in what is done, in this world; nor is there any refuse for him in any creature. (18)

Therefore perform than, always, acts that are to be done, without attachment [to them, i.e. to results]. The man who does act without attachment [to them], attains the highest grade. (19)

Verily, by action, Janaka and the others sought perfection. Even considering only the holding together of man, you should act. (20)

Whatever the superior man seeks after, that also the inferior man [seeks]; for whatever the former makes his standard, that the world follows after. (21)

There is nothing whatever [necessary] for me to do in the three worlds, O son of Pṛthā, nor anything to be won which is not won. Still I move on in action. (22)

If I, verily, should not unweariedly move on in action, men everywhere, O son of Pṛthā, would follow in my path. (23)

If I were not to perform action, these worlds would sink into ruin, and I should be the maker of chaos in this world. I should destroy (all) these creatures. (24)

As the unwise act, O son of Bharata, though attached to action, thus should a wise man act, though unattached [to results], desiring the holding together of men. (25)

The wise man should not cause confusion of understanding among the ignorant who are engaged in action; he should encourage [them] to all [proper] action, himself acting, but self-controlled. (26)

All acts are everywhere effected by the qualities of Nature [prakṛti, primal matter]. The man who is beguiled by egoism [ahaṅkāra; also personality] thinks ‘I am the doer!’ (27)

But the man, O you of mighty arms, who knows things as they really are in the distribution [in Nature] of acts and qualities, and who considers that ‘qualities act in qualities’ is not attached [caught]. (28)

Those who are deluded by the qualities of Nature [prakṛti] are caught [attached] in the action of [those] qualities. A man of full knowledge should not trouble those, whose knowledge is not complete and we are dull. (29)

Having resigned [the results of] all actions to me with mind directed to the Primal Self, do fight without distress, without expectation, without egoism. (30)

Those men who constantly follow this doctrine of nine with conviction, are freed even through acts. (31)

But those who through impatience do not follow this doctrine of mine, know them to be bewildered with regard to all knowledge, lost, and without discrimination. (32)

Moreover, the man of knowledge performs that which is similar to his own nature. Beings follow [their] nature(s). What will suppression [of this instinct] effect? (33)

In the use [object, purpose] of every sense are distributed longing and aversion. The will should not go to these two, for they are verily (like) highway robbers to it. (34)

One’s own duty, even if imperfectly performed, is better than another’s duty well done. Death in [performing] one’s own duty is better. Another’s duty is perilous. (35)

Arjuna said:

But impelled by what, O descendent of Vṛṣṇi, does this man [i.e. any man. Compare preceding ślokas] move to sin, even unwilling, constrained as it were by force? (36)

The Holy One said:

Desire it is, passion it is generated from the rajasguṇa (quality); insatiable, very evil. Know you this to be the foe in this world. (37)

As fire is concealed in smoke, as the mirror by dust, as the fetus is surrounded by the womb, so is this world enveloped by it. (38)

Knowledge, O son of Kuntī, is enveloped by this fire, the constant enemy of the man of knowledge, born of desire, unappeasable. (39)

Its seat is said to be the senses, the mind, the understanding, expectation. By these it delivers the embodied self, covering knowledge around. (40)

Therefore, O Bull of the Bharatas, at the very outset, having controlled the senses, you should slay this evil thing, the destroyer of knowledge and discernment. (41)

The senses are held to be superior [to the body]; the mind is superior to the senses; but the understanding is superior to the mind. That which is superior to the understanding is It [the self]. (42)

Knowing thus what is superior even to the understanding, and establishing the self by the self, do, O mighty-armed one, slay [this] foe, desire-formed and difficult to meet! (43)


Thus in the Holy

Bhagavad-Gītā. The third

chapter, by name —


Union by Action