THE BHAGAVAD GITA: Chapter 3

Reference: The Bhagavad Gita

NOTE: The following translation of the Sanskrit verses into English is obtained from Srimad Bhagavad Gita, SADHAKA SANJIVANI by Swami Ramsukhdas, published by Govind Bhawan Karyalaya, Gita Press, Gorakhpur, INDIA. For original comments please consult the above book. Abbreviated comments in color are provided by Vinaire.]

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Chapter 3 Summary

(1) All aspects of Yoga go hand in hand. Jnana yoga is not devoid of action and Karma yoga is not devoid of renunciation. Only the spheres of activity are different.

(2) Don’t just sit and think. Let actions flow naturally from well controlled thinking.

(3) Well-controlled thinking means all senses under control without any attachments or fixations.

(4) Perform your allotted duty. This includes maintaining your body properly.

(5) The nature provides us with everything to sustain ourselves; and we must do everything to sustain the nature back.

(6) Yajna (sacrifice) means the performance of duty in order to foster and nourish other people for their advancements.

(7) A person who is complete in himself is extroverted and does not need to act for any self-interests.

(8) Whatever such a person does, sets an example for others to follow. Therefore, such actions must be done to inspire others.

(9) Such actions actually flow out by the modes of nature. There is no doer. This is the universal principle.

(10) Natural actions have discriminative insight, which is free from desire, the sense of mine and mental strain. 

(11) Passions, which generate attachment and aversions, are impressed upon a  person’s senses corrupting his nature.

(12) This desire, motivated by the basic impulse, overpowers the knowledge and discernment of the wisest among man. 

(13) To conquer desire, you have to conquer yourself.  It is not easy, but it must be done in a manner that is free of strain.

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CHAPTER 3

अर्जुनउवाच:
ज्यायसीचेत्कर्मणस्तेमताबुद्धिर्जनार्दन।तत्किंकर्मणिघोरेमांनियोजयसिकेशव।।3.1।

Arjuna said:
If you think knowledge is superior to action, O Janardana (Krishna), why then do you urge me to do this savage deed, O Kesava (Krishna), (III-1).

व्यामिश्रेणेववाक्येनबुद्धिंमोहयसीवमे।तदेकंवदनिश्िचत्ययेनश्रेयोऽहमाप्नुयाम्।।3.2।।

With an apparently confused utterance you seem to bewilder my mind; therefore, tell me definitely the one principle by which I may attain the highest good or bliss, (III-2)

श्रीभगवानुवाच:
लोकेऽस्मिन्द्विविधानिष्ठापुराप्रोक्तामयानघ।ज्ञानयोगेनसांख्यानांकर्मयोगेनयोगिनाम्।।3.3।।

The blessed Lord said:
O sinless Arjuna, in this world a twofold path has been enunciated by Me before, the path of Knowledge for men of renunciation (Sankhya Yogi) and the path of Action for men of action (Karma Yogi), (III-3).

नकर्मणामनारम्भान्नैष्कर्म्यंपुरुषोऽश्नुते।नचसंन्यसनादेवसिद्धिंसमधिगच्छति।।3.4।।

Not by non-performance of actions does a man attain actionlessness; nor by mere renunciation does he attain perfection, (III-4).

Both Jnana Yoga (path of Knowledge) and Karma Yoga (path of Action) overlap each other. Only the focus is different.

नहिकश्िचत्क्षणमपिजातुतिष्ठत्यकर्मकृत्।कार्यतेह्यवशःकर्मसर्वःप्रकृतिजैर्गुणैः।।3.5।।

For no one can remain even for a moment without performing action; everyone is made to act hopelessly by the impulses born of nature, (III-5).

कर्मेन्द्रियाणिसंयम्ययआस्तेमनसास्मरन्।इन्द्रियार्थान्विमूढात्मामिथ्याचारःसउच्यते।।3.6।।

He who, restraining the organs of action, sits thinking of the sense objects in mind, he of deluded understanding is said to be a hypocrite, (III-6).

यस्त्विन्द्रियाणिमनसानियम्यारभतेऽर्जुन।कर्मेन्द्रियैःकर्मयोगमसक्तःसविशिष्यते।।3.7।।

But he who controlling the senses of the mind, O Arjuna, engages in the path of action with all the organs of action and sense, without attachment is superior, (III-7)

Here we have the innate impulse that is manifested as energy. This energy has to be directed intelligently. It cannot be avoided, denied, resisted or suppressed. Because, if you do that, your attention will get fixated on it. You must direct it through intelligent action, which is performed without attachment.

नियतंकुरुकर्मत्वंकर्मज्यायोह्यकर्मणः।शरीरयात्रापिचतेनप्रसिद्ध्येदकर्मणः।।3.8।।

Do thou perform thy allotted duty, for action is superior to inaction and even the maintenance of the body would not be possible for thee by inaction, (III-8).

यज्ञार्थात्कर्मणोऽन्यत्रलोकोऽयंकर्मबन्धनः।तदर्थंकर्मकौन्तेयमुक्तसंगःसमाचर।।3.9।।

The world is bound by actions other than those performed for the sake sacrifice. Therefore, O son of Kunti (Arjuna), perform action for that sake becoming free from all attachment, (III-9).

Only those actions do not bind you, which are performed as a sacrifice. Such actions are done without self-interest keeping the welfare of everybody and the environment in mind. This is the definition of “action without attachment”.

सहयज्ञाःप्रजाःसृष्ट्वापुरोवाचप्रजापतिः।अनेनप्रसविष्यध्वमेषवोऽस्त्विष्टकामधुक्।।3.10।।

At the beginning of creation the Creator created mankind attended with sacrifice and said, “By this shall ye propagate; let this provide you all the necessary requisites for sacrifice, (III-10).

देवान्भावयतानेनतेदेवाभावयन्तुवः।परस्परंभावयन्तःश्रेयःपरमवाप्स्यथ।।3.11।।

By this foster ye the gods and let the gods foster you; thus fostering each other you shall attain to the supreme good, (III-11).

Here we have the theory of EXCHANGE. The nature provides us with everything to sustain ourselves; and we must do everything to sustain the nature back. We have to take responsibility for our ecosystem. This includes other human beings as well. If we do not include the welfare of others in our actions we are not going to survive well.

इष्टान्भोगान्हिवोदेवादास्यन्तेयज्ञभाविताः।तैर्दत्तानप्रदायैभ्योयोभुङ्क्तेस्तेनएवसः।।3.12।।

Fostered by sacrifice the gods will give you all the necessary ingredients. He who enjoys these objects without utilizing them in the service of others, is verily a thief, (III-12).

यज्ञशिष्टाशिनःसन्तोमुच्यन्तेसर्वकिल्बिषैः।भुञ्जतेतेत्वघंपापायेपचन्त्यात्मकारणात्।।3.13।।

The righteous who eat the remnants of the sacrifice are released from all sins; but those sinful ones who cook food for their own sake verily eat sin, (III-13).

The Vedic ritual of yajna is symbolism for sacrifice, which means acting without self-interest keeping the welfare of everybody and the environment in mind. Those who do so are released from all sin. Those who act with self-interest only incur sin. These verses tell us what keeps one enmeshed in rebirth cycle. These are the actions motivated by self-interest and not done with the welfare of other aspect of life in mind. Here we have the broad morality that rises to the level of a universal principle.

अन्नाद्भवन्तिभूतानिपर्जन्यादन्नसम्भवः।यज्ञाद्भवतिपर्जन्योयज्ञःकर्मसमुद्भवः।।3.14।।

From food creatures come into being; from rain food is produced; from sacrifices arises rain and sacrifice is born of action, (III-14).

कर्मब्रह्मोद्भवंविद्धिब्रह्माक्षरसमुद्भवम्।तस्मात्सर्वगतंब्रह्मनित्यंयज्ञेप्रतिष्ठितम्।।3.15।।

Know thou that action has its origin in Brahma (the Veda) and Brahma springs from the imperishable. Therefore, the all-pervading infinite (God) ever rests in sacrifice, (III-15).

Here we have a bit of science. The ecosystem maintains its balance in a large part by actions of Man. It is the natural impulse in Man to act without self-interest keeping the welfare of everybody and the environment in mind. Therefore, it is unnatural not to follow this impulse, and that has consequences.

एवंप्रवर्तितंचक्रंनानुवर्तयतीहयः।अघायुरिन्द्रियारामोमोघंपार्थसजीवति।।3.16।।

He, who does not, in this world, follow the wheel thus set in motion, who is of sinful nature, sensual in his delight, live in vain, (III-16).

यस्त्वात्मरतिरेवस्यादात्मतृप्तश्चमानवः।आत्मन्येवचसन्तुष्टस्तस्यकार्यंनविद्यते।।3.17।।

But for that man who rejoices only in the self, who is satisfied with the self and who is content in the self alone, verily there exists no work that needs to be done, (III-17).

नैवतस्यकृतेनार्थोनाकृतेनेहकश्चन।नचास्यसर्वभूतेषुकश्िचदर्थव्यपाश्रयः।।3.18।।

For him there is no interest whatsoever in performance of an action, or its non-performance, nor does he depend on any creature for any interest of his. (III-18).

A person should be complete in oneself so that he does not have to depend on others emotionally or otherwise. Sinful nature is quite dependent, as it is introverted, acts for its own interests, and engaged in sensual delights for distraction. A person who is complete in himself is extroverted and does not need to act for himself.

तस्मादसक्तःसततंकार्यंकर्मसमाचर।असक्तोह्याचरन्कर्मपरमाप्नोतिपूरुषः।।3.19।।

Therefore, even without attachment, perform duty bound action efficiently that has to be done; for by performing action without attachment man attains the Supreme, (III-19).

कर्मणैवहिसंसिद्धिमास्थिताजनकादयः।लोकसंग्रहमेवापिसंपश्यन्कर्तुमर्हसि।।3.20।।

It was by action alone that Janaka and others attained perfection. Thou shouldst perform selfless action also for the welfare of the world, (III-20).

It is your duty to act. Carry out your actions selflessly for the sake of the welfare of the world. 

यद्यदाचरति श्रेष्ठस्तत्तदेवेतरो जनः। स यत्प्रमाणं कुरुते लोकस्तदनुवर्तते।।3.21।।

Whatsoever a great man does, the same is done by others as well. Whatever standards he sets, the world follows the same, (III-21).

न मे पार्थास्ति कर्तव्यं त्रिषु लोकेषु किञ्चन। नानवाप्तमवाप्तव्यं वर्त एव च कर्मणि।।3.22।।

There is nothing in the three worlds, O Arjuna, that should be done by Me, nor is there unattained that should be attained; yet I engage Myself in action, (III-22).

Even when you are not compelled to do anything, nor anything is left for you to attain, you must continue to act, because you may set standards for others to follow.

यदिह्यहंनवर्तेयंजातुकर्मण्यतन्द्रितः।ममवर्त्मानुवर्तन्तेमनुष्याःपार्थसर्वशः।।3.23।।

For were I not to act without ceasing, O Arjuna, people would be glad to do likewise, (III-23).

उत्सीदेयुरिमेलोकानकुर्यांकर्मचेदहम्।सङ्करस्यचकर्तास्यामुपहन्यामिमाःप्रजाः।।3.24।।

And if I were to refrain from action, the human race would be ruined; I should lead the world to chaos, and destruction would follow, (III-24).

Actions must be performed to evolve this world forward, else it would decline and perish.

सक्ताःकर्मण्यविद्वांसोयथाकुर्वन्तिभारत।कुर्याद्विद्वांस्तथासक्तश्िचकीर्षुर्लोकसंग्रहम्।।3.25।।

As the ignorant men act from attachment to action, O Bharata (Arjuna), so should the wise act without attachment, wishing the welfare of the world, (III-25).

नबुद्धिभेदंजनयेदज्ञानांकर्मसङ्गिनाम्।जोषयेत्सर्वकर्माणिविद्वान्युक्तःसमाचरन्।।3.26।।

Let no wise man established in the self unsettle the minds of ignorant people who are attached to action; he should set others to act, himself performing his duties with devotion, (III-26).

Do not not perturb the minds of those, who are attached to action; instead inspire them with your non-attached actions.

प्रकृतेःक्रियमाणानिगुणैःकर्माणिसर्वशः।अहङ्कारविमूढात्माकर्ताऽहमितिमन्यते।।3.27।।

All actions are performed in all cases by the modes of nature. He whose mind is deluded by egoism thinks, “I am the doer.” (III-27)

The environment, the mind and the body work together as a natural system to produce action. There is no “I” determining the actions. That “I” may be like a “center of mass” of an object, but it is theoretical and not real.

तत्त्ववित्तुमहाबाहोगुणकर्मविभागयोः।गुणागुणेषुवर्तन्तइतिमत्वासज्जते।।3.28।।

Having the true knowledge of the respective spheres of modes and actions, the great soul does not get attached with them, O mighty armed, by holding that it is modes which are moving among the modes. (III-28)

There are patterns within patterns and actions and reactions. This complicated procedure is performed naturally through associations in the data matrix of the mind. Only problem is that this data matrix may get corrupted by past karmas (violation of universal principles) and traumas.

प्रकृतेर्गुणसम्मूढाःसज्जन्तेगुणकर्मसु।तानकृत्स्नविदोमन्दान्कृत्स्नविन्नविचालयेत्।।3.29।।

Those who are deluded by the modes of nature remain attached to those modes and actions. The man of perfect knowledge should not unsettle the minds of the ignorant who know only a little. (III-29)

The wise people should not distract the faith or conviction or belief of ignorant persons who are attached to the world. If they unsettle their minds they will give up actions and become victims of inertia. The wise ones should turn the minds of the ignorant by giving them gradual instructions on Karma Yoga (Yoga of selfless action) and its benefits.

मयि सर्वाणि कर्माणि संन्यस्याध्यात्मचेतसा। निराशीर्निर्ममो भूत्वा युध्यस्व विगतज्वरः।।3.30।।

Surrendering all actions to Me, with the discriminative insight being free from desire, the sense of mine and mental strain, do your duty of waging the war. (III-30).

ये मे मतमिदं नित्यमनुतिष्ठन्ति मानवाः। श्रद्धावन्तोऽनसूयन्तो मुच्यन्ते तेऽपि कर्मभिः।।3.31।।

These men who constantly follow the teaching of Mine as declared in the previous verse with faith and without caviling, are also released from the bondage of actions. (III-31).

ये त्वेतदभ्यसूयन्तो नानुतिष्ठन्ति मे मतम्। सर्वज्ञानविमूढांस्तान्विद्धि नष्टानचेतसः।।3.32।।

But those who Carp at My teaching and do not follow it, deluded of all knowledge, and devoid of discrimination, know them to be doomed to destruction, (III-32)

These verses simply exhort a person to do his duty selflessly. The person should not allow his desire, the sense of mine, or mental agitation to interfere in the execution of his duty. These verses beseech the person to have faith in this teaching.

सदृशंचेष्टतेस्वस्याःप्रकृतेर्ज्ञानवानपि।प्रकृतिंयान्तिभूतानिनिग्रहःकिंकरिष्यति।।3.33।।

Even a wise man acts in accordance with his own nature. Beings follow their nature. What can restraint do? (III-33).

इन्द्रियस्येन्द्रियस्यार्थेरागद्वेषौव्यवस्थितौ।तयोर्नवशमागच्छेत्तौह्यस्यपरिपन्थिनौ।।3.34।।

Attachment and aversion for the objects of the senses abide in the senses. Let no one come under their sway, for they are his waylayers (foes), (III-34).

श्रेयान्स्वधर्मोविगुणःपरधर्मात्स्वनुष्ठितात्।स्वधर्मेनिधनंश्रेयःपरधर्मोभयावहः।।3.35।।

Better is one’s own duty, though devoid of merit, than the duty of another well discharged. Better is death in one’s own duty; the duty of another is fraught with fear (is dangerous), (III-35)

Again, performing of one’s own duty is emphasized and not just any duty. In other words, a person should follow his own nature in what he must do, without letting his senses distract him.

अर्जुन उवाच:
अथकेनप्रयुक्तोऽयंपापंचरतिपूरुषः।अनिच्छन्नपिवार्ष्णेयबलादिवनियोजितः।।3.36।।

Arjuna said:
But by what is a man impelled to commit a sin, as if by force, even against his will. O Varsneya (Krsna)? (III-36)

That is a very intelligent question because man is impelled to commit sin against his nature. There must be something that overpowers a person’s very nature.

श्रीभगवानुवाच:
कामएषक्रोधएषरजोगुणसमुद्भवः।महाशनोमहापाप्माविद्ध्येनमिहवैरिणम्।।3.37।।

The blessed Lord said:
It is desire, it is wrath, born of the mode of passion, all devouring and most sinful. Know this to be the enemy here. (III-37)

The flaw in man must go quite deep to overpower his nature. Therefore, desire in man is something very natural but, somehow, it gets corrupted and misdirected.

धूमेनाव्रियतेवह्निर्यथाऽऽदर्शोमलेनच।यथोल्बेनावृतोगर्भस्तथातेनेदमावृतम्।।3.38।।

As fire is covered by smoke, as a mirror by dust, and as an embryo by placenta, so is this (knowledge) covered by that (desire). (III-38).

आवृतंज्ञानमेतेनज्ञानिनोनित्यवैरिणा।कामरूपेणकौन्तेयदुष्पूरेणानलेनच।।3.39।।

O Arjuna, wisdom is enveloped by this constant enemy of the wise (discerning soul) in the form of desire which is insatiable like fire. (III-39).

This desire, motivated by the basic impulse, overpowers the knowledge and discernment in man. This is an insatiable enemy that  even the wisest is faced with.

इन्द्रियाणि मनो बुद्धिरस्याधिष्ठानमुच्यते। एतैर्विमोहयत्येष ज्ञानमावृत्य देहिनम्।।3.40।।

The senses, the mind and the intellect are said to be its seat. Veiling wisdom by these (senses, mind and intellect), it deludes the embodied (soul). (III-40).

तस्मात्त्वमिन्द्रियाण्यादौ नियम्य भरतर्षभ। पाप्मानं प्रजहि ह्येनं ज्ञानविज्ञाननाशनम्।।3.41।।

Therefore, O best of Bharatas (Arjuna), controlling the senses first, slay this sinful destroyer of wisdom and realization. (III-41).

Desire precipitates through senses. Therefore, senses must be controlled first.

इन्द्रियाणिपराण्याहुरिन्द्रियेभ्यःपरंमनः।मनसस्तुपराबुद्धिर्योबुद्धेःपरतस्तुसः।।3.42।।

They say that the senses are greater (than the gross body); greater (excellent, powerful, illuminator, extensive and subtle) than the senses is the mind; greater than the mind is the intellect, but greater than the intellect is that (the desire). (III-42).

एवंबुद्धेःपरंबुद्ध्वासंस्तभ्यात्मानमात्मना।जहिशत्रुंमहाबाहोकामरूपंदुरासदम्।।3.43।।

Thus knowing that desire is beyond intellect, subduing the self by the self, slay thou, O mighty-armed (Arjuna), the tough enemy in the form of desire which is hard to conquer. (III-43)

Desire is beyond the senses, mind and intellect. It is at the very heart of self. To conquer desire, self has to conquer itself. It is not easy, but it has to be done.

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