Central Tenets of the Bhagwat Geeta – 2 – Karma Yog

Editor’s Note
: In this series of articles, we try to distill the Central Tenets of the Bhagwat Geeta as they are discussed across various chapters. The first tenet we discussed was Bhakti of Bhagwan. Today, we discuss Karma Yog.

Remember the Bhagwat Geeta is a dialogue between Shree Krishna and Arjun at the start of the greatest event of that era, the Mahaa-Bhaarat War, the most destructive war in history. It essentially ended an entire generation in the known world of that time. That is why it called युगांत (Yug-Anta) or the End of the Era.

Shree Krishna began teaching when Arjun, overcome with grief and doubt, refused to perform his Dharma or duty. So it is natural that the exhortation to Karma or Action is the foundation of the Bhagwat Geeta.

Karma-Yog is Important & Special

We begin where we ended last week, with the explicit instruction of Shree Krishna. We add to that two other verses in which the importance of Yog is stressed.

  • Chapter 7, Verse 1 – With your mind concentrated on me and with me as your support, O Paarth (Arjun), Perform Yog (योगं युंजन).
  • Chapter 6, Verse 46 – The Karma-Yogi is considered greater than the Tapasvi (the sages who do penance in forests); The Karma-Yogi is considered greater than the Dnyaani (people with knowledge) and greater than people who do Yadnya or Vedic Rituals. Therefore O Arjun, Become a Karma-Yogi (तस्मात् योगी भव अर्जुन).
  • Chapter 5, Verse 2 – Karma-Yog is the better or more notable (कर्म-योगः विशिष्यते)

The Definitive Instruction of Karma-Yog

One of the most famous Verses of the Bhagwat Geeta is the Karma-Yog instruction to Arjun:

  • Chapter 2, Verse 47 – Your only right is to (perform) Action (कर्मणि एव अधिकारः ते ) Never to the Fruits of Action  (मा फलेषु कदाचन )  Never let your objective be the Fruits of Action  (मा कर्म फल हेतुः भूः )  Do not Avoid Action (मा ते संगः अस्तु अकर्मणि)
We discussed this in detail in Chapter 2, Section 4. The concept of निष्काम कर्म, Nishkaam Karma (or Karma without any attachment or desire) has been discussed through out the Bhagwat Geeta. It was reiterated in Chapter 18.

  • Chapter 18, Verse 6 – Your duty is to perform Karma with jettisoning all attachment to the Fruits of Karma. That is my definitive statement.

The Definition & Practice of Yog

The word Yog is often used colloquially for the physical Yog of Paatanjali. When the word Yog is used in the Bhagwat Geeta, it means Yog in its purest metaphysical concept. We discussed the origin and the basis of Yog in our article Reflections on the Bhagwat Geeta – Chapter XIII – The Basis of Yog.

Shree Krishna explains the practice of Yog in simple yet profound instructions. When you perform Karma as a Yog, you perform it understanding that success and failure are but two sides of the same coin. And performing Yog does not mean doing penance or conducting physical exercises. You perform Yog in everyday actions by excelling in what you do and by jettisoning the desire for success and the fear of failure. In short,

  • Chapter 2, Verse 48 – Perform your Actions as Yog (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.
  • Chapter 2, Verse 50 – Therefore adopt Yog (तस्मात् योगाय युज्यस्व). Yog is Excellence in Action (योगः कर्मसु कौशलम).

And what should be the state of your Buddhi to perform Yog?

  • Chapter 2, Verse 53, Line 2 – When your Buddhi (बुद्धि) becomes absolutely Stable (निश्चला), totally focused (समाधौ अचला), Then You Will Attain Yog (तदा योगम अवाप्स्यसि)

This is not just ancient text to be read as a spiritual exercise. These are eternal concepts and instructions that will make you excel in anything you do, in any vocation you choose. Read the stories of great Scientists, Warriors and Saints in world history. In their attitude and actions, you will see the embodiment of these Karma-Yog teachings of the Bhagwat Geeta.

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