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

When we face the prospect of performing an action that could have unpleasant consequences,  we feel doubts, a sense of angst whether the action is worth doing and whether the difficulties our action imposes on others will come back to haunt us.

We feel this angst in our every day lives. So we can imagine what Arjun must have felt. His actions were to have tremendous consequences and impose grave damage on hundreds of thousands of lives. How difficult must his dilemma be?

Whether consequences of Our Actions attach themselves to Us is a central question of the Bhagwat Geeta. How to avoid such an attachment of our Actions to Us is therefore one of the central instructions of the Bhagwat Geeta.

This was first discussed in Verse 2 of the Isha-Upanisad which laid out the concept of
न कर्म लिप्यते नरे ((Na Karma Lipyate Nare) or the Action (& its consequences) do not attach to the Man.

The Isha-Upanisad is for a dialog between Gurus and Students. So it can afford to be concise. The Bhagwat Geeta, on the other hand, is for all of us. It is a dialog that is supposed to be easier to understand. It is meant to dissolve doubts and get the listener ready for Action.

Therefore Shree Krishna discusses this concept at length in the Bhagwat Geeta. He shows the way to prepare the mind, to obtain the knowledge, to control the desires and passions to be able to perform Action or Karma without any attachment  (नि-संग). He explains that by performing actions in this frame of knowledge, the performer becomes free of the Action or Karma itself as well as the burdens of the Action (कर्म-बंध-मुक्ति).

Recall that the first section of Chapter IV ends with Verses 14 & 15.

  • Verse 14 – Shree Krishna says that the “he who understands me so ( इति मां यः अभि-जानाति), himself will not be bound by the Action (कर्मभिः  न स बध्यते)”. 
Then in Verse 15, Shree Krishna exhorts Arjun,   एवं न्यात्वा कृतं कर्म or “Knowing this, Perform Action”. This is how Section I ends.

In Section II, Shree Krishna goes into greater detail about the differences between कर्म (Action), अ-कर्म (Lack of Action) and वि-कर्म (Wrong Action).  He discusses the concept of  ज्ञान (Dnyaan) or knowledge and how such knowledge is critical to dissolution of doubts and the focus on Action.

According to Bhagwat Geeta and according to this section in particular, the concepts of ज्ञान or knowledge and कर्म-योग or Karma-Yog are not separate but linked together as parts of a whole. This is a clear repudiation of the Saankhya concept of focusing on ज्ञान or knowledge to the exclusion of कर्म or Action.  This is why Chapter IV is called ज्ञान-कर्म-संन्यास योग.

The last verse of Chapter IV is a clear and unequivocal instruction to Arjun, who is kneeling on the ground in front of Shree Krishna:

  • Verse 42Therefore cut off all doubts, embrace Yog and Stand up, O Son of Bharat

Thus Endeth Chapter IV named Dnyaan-Karma-Samnyaas Yog ( ज्ञान-कर्म-संन्यास योग ) of Shree Bhagwat Geeta, of the Upa-Nisad
(उप-निसदत्सु) , of the Yog-Shaastra (योग शास्त्र) of Brahma-Vidyaa (ब्रह्म विद्या), of the dialog (संवाद) between Shree Krishna & Arjun.

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