Reflections on the Bhagwat-Geeta – Chapter II – Section 4

Last week, we discussed Sections 1-3 of Chapter II of the Bhagwat-Geeta. Today, we reflect on Section 4 which begins at Verse 39.5 and ends at Verse 53.  

Recall that in Section 2 of Chapter II, the teachings of Shree Krishna focused on the Indestructibility of Atma (Soul). This concept is closely linked to Samnyaas, one of the Three Ways to Liberation . The name for the philosophy underlying Samnyaas is called सांख्य  or Saankhya.

Verse 39 marks the transition from the Saankhya teachings to Karma-Yog, the Yog of Action. In this verse, Shree Krishna says:

  • This was the Saankhya knowledge I taught you. Listen to me now, O son of Prutha, so equipped with this knowledge and you will shed the shackles in Karma.

This is why we consider the first half of this Verse as the end of Section 3 and the second line as the beginning of Section 4.

Section 4 – कर्म योग -Karma-Yog, the Yog of Action – Verses 39.5 – 53

The words कर्म (Karma) and क्रिया (Kriyaa) are both derived from the root कृ (kru) or “to do“. Karma stands for Action or Doing while Kriyaa is the motion of the action. In other words, Kriyaa is the process and Karma stands for the act or performance. With this in mind, let us look at the teachings of this Section.

  • In the first line of Verse 41, Shree Krishna tells Arjun to concentrate his conscious intelligence only on the action to be performed. The exact word from the Geeta is व्यवसाय आत्मिका बुद्धि or conscious intelligence (बुद्धि or Buddhi) focused (आत्मिका or Aatmikaa) on the undertaken Act (व्यवसाय or Vyvasaya).
  • In the second line of Verse 41, Shree Krishna points out that if the Buddhi or conscious intelligence is unfocussed and gets diverted to other issues (बहुशाखा), the Buddhi becomes incapable of action (अव्यसायिनाम).

In the next 5 Verses, Shree Krishna tells Arjun to stay away from the Vedic Ritualistic temptations that promise to deliver riches (ऐश्वर्य), pleasures (भोग) and the fruits of life’s work (जन्म कर्म फल).  

In Verse 44, Shree Krishna warns Arjun that once the desire for riches, pleasures and fruits of work enter the hearts (हृत) & minds (चेत) of people, their conscious intelligence cannot maintain total focus (समाधौ न विधीयते) on the action to be performed.

But what about the importance of teachings of Vedic कर्म काण्ड (Karma-Kaand) or Rituals? Shree Krishna is clear in his answer in Verse 46:

  • What is the need of a Well when one is surrounded by water? That much is the need of Vedic rituals to a Brahman who is enlightened with true knowledge (विजानतः)

The next Verse is probably the most famous Verse of the Karma-Yog Section:

            कर्मणि एव अधिकारः ते
            Karmani Ev Adhikaar Te
            To Action is Your Only Right

            मा फलेषु कदाचन
            Maa Phaleshu Kadaachan
            Never to the Fruits (of that Action)

            मा कर्म फल हेतुः भूः
            Maa Karma Phal Hetu Bhu
            Never Let Your Objective be the Fruits of Action

            मा ते संगः अस्तु अकर्मणि
            Maa Te Sanga Astu A-Karmani
            Do not associate with Avoidance of Action
                                     Bhagwat Geeta, II.47

The above Verse needs no explanation. It is the hardest Verse to put into practice. But if you succeed in doing so, your doubts will vanish and you will be totally focused in whatever you choose to do.

The next 6 Verses are corollaries and extensions of Verse 47. These Verses complete the instruction to Arjun to adopt the Karma-Yog.

  • Verse 48 – Perform your Actions with the Yog approach (योगस्थ  कुरु कर्माणि) by shedding or jettisoning attachment (संगं त्यक्त्वा). The approach that accepts the equality (समत्वं) of success (सिद्ध) and lack of success (सिद्ध) is called Yog.
  • Verse 50, line 2 – Therefore adopt Yog (तस्मात् योगाय युज्यस्व). Yog is Skill in Action (योगः कर्मसु कौशलम).

The last 3 Verses focus on the need for the appropriate posture of Buddhi or conscious intelligence for such Yog, the posture of total focus, concentration and stability. Read what Shree Krishna says to Arjun at the conclusion of this section:

  • Verse 53 – ………….When your Buddhi (बुद्धि) becomes absolutely Stable (निश्चला), totally focused (समाधौ अचला), Then You Will Attain Yog (तदा योगम अवाप्स्यसि).

If you were Arjun and Shree Krishna told you to achieve such stable, totally focused Buddhi, what questions would you ask him? What would you like to know about such stable Buddhi and the people who achieve it?

Next week, we shall see what Arjun asked Shree Krishna in Verse 54 and what Shree Krishna told him in Section 5 (Verses 55 – 72) of Chapter II. 

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One response

  1. Just my thoughts on this beautiful verse

    “karmany evadhikaras te
    ma phalesu kadacana
    ma karma-phala-hetur bhur
    ma te sango ‘stv akarmani

    karmani–in work/actions; eva–certainly; adhikarah–right; te–of you; ma–never; phalesu–in the fruits; kadacana–at any time; ma–never; karma-phala–in the result of the action/work; hetuh—cause, reason motive ; bhuh—become,happen, occur; appear; ma–never; te–of you; sangah–attachment; astu–there should be; akarmani–in not doing work.

    You certainly have the rights in all the works meaning freedom in action, but never to its fruits; let not the fruit-of-action be not your motive, nor let your attachment be to be inaction, meaning you cannot sit around and do nothing.
    There are several ways to understand this very profound statement.
    First of all, does this statement make any sense or rational ? We study hard or work hard in the expectation of passing the exam or to earn (lots of?) money. If we are not sure our efforts would bring the result then what is the very purpose of our action?
    Let me flip the wordings in this verse and see what would happen. What if Krishna had said?
    You certainly have no right in your work meaning you have no freedom in your actions but you have all the rights to the fruits and you can be attached to inaction, meaning just sit around and do nothing!

    That would have been the message we all would have loved, no work to do and just enjoying the fruit viz… Paradise and the pleasures. Who does not want to live like that?
    But at a closer examination of these things reveals a huge cost of lack of freedom. Now we have an option of freedom vs. just the fruit. Going back to the verse, we read the word Karmany or the work is qualified with the words “eva adhikar”. The word Adhikar means authority or right or control. The word “eva” is certainty. We have full freedom in all our actions good or bad. This raises the question “Isn’t God supposed to be in charge?” Surprisingly this verse in a way says No!
    If God were to be in charge we would happily sit around and expect food dropping from the sky on to our plates. We do not have to work; we do not have to be responsible, accountable and sensitive to the needs of other persons but all these at the cost of no freedom. Pick your choice. Freedom vs. Fruit?
    Geeta clearly wants us to have full freedom and it puts us in the Driver’s seat. God/Krishna does not want to guarantee a good fruit every time we do a good work, to do so would be like loosing the full freedom.
    Freedom in addition to great things unfortunately also brings evil things but the good and evil things are only in our perspectives, how we look at these. As we read further in Geeta good and evils are dualistic and have no place in Advaita. Without freedom we fear. Without freedom we have no conscience. Without freedom we lack responsibility and sensitivity. Without freedom we lack LOVE. No freedom means no love.

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