ccariyahudu rahasyamahudu rasikanaliptaṃ।
He is human and also Hari,
He is wonderful, a secret, a rasika who is unattached,
He is an expert too in the matters of the world
He (Kṛṣṇa) is the glowing mirror to a complete human life.
dharanātaṃ rājyataṃtri raṇajayiyātaṃ।
He is the Guru, holding up the burden
of dharma, the statesman, victor in wars
He is all of the four puruṣārthas,
named Hari, he is the soul of all beings and still beyond everything.
sannihitaṃ lokakarmadoḻagadu hitamo |
cchinname hitakaramo vihitamāvudu kṛṣṇā ||
Association with puṇya and pāpa
is common for karma in this world.
With saṃnyāsa, ties are cut off.
Which of these is beneficial, O Kṛṣṇa?
In a sense, karma has not spared anyone. When we say karma here, only the actions that we perform after due deliberation are to be considered and not natural bodily functions such as breathing. In such actions where a person exerts himself, there is a possibility of pāpa. What is its root cause? Karma is inanimate. Any quality – good or bad – that is attributed to it, is from the doer. A sword is just a lifeless form of iron. Merit or demerit from the sword is accrued because of the mindset of the person who wields it.
Water acquires the colour, smell, and taste of the land on which it flows. Like water, karma is independent, without colour or quality. It is a part of the universal mechanism of life. The more elevated the doer becomes, the purer his karma becomes. Based on who the doer is, the same karma could be virtuous or sinful; or it could be beyond these two, being just a sport of the Self.
Chapter 3 / Section 4
The Yoga of One’s Own Dharma (Svadharma-yoga) or Karma-yoga
This chapter deals with the following six topics -
- Unavoidability of karma
- Cooperation amongst all beings
- Karma without attachment
- Distinction between karma of the wise and that of an ordinary person
- Relationship between jñāna and karma
- Necessity of performing one’s own dharma
Arjuna’s heart mainly harboured these feelings:
- Love for his kinsmen
- Fear of sin
- Indifference for his own self-interests
- Reflection on dharma
We feel that these are virtues to be found in good people, not vices. However, ŚrīKṛṣṇa derided Arjuna’s words as base, ignoble, and indicative of his weakness. The reason for this acerbic statement was that Arjuna’s argument was prajñāvāda – mere words of wisdom. Kṛṣṇa’s objection to it was that Arjuna was parroting the words of the wise and not substantiating them by applying his own intellect to any philosophical reasoning. What, then, is the basis for philosophical reflection? For all deliberation about dharma and adharma, the fundamental concept is the study of the ātmā. Therefore it is imperative to understand the true nature of the ātmā. Thinking along those lines, ātmā is indestructible; whereas the body is going to definitely perish. Therefore, Kṛṣṇa said “O Arjuna, what is destroyed if you fight? Only that for which destruction is a natural end. You should not bemoan that. If you ask why you have to fight – fight for kingdom, glory, enjoyment and for a place in svarga. If you feel that you don’t need them, fight for dharma. Take part in this fight for dharma with the spiritual view that it is your sacred duty. Karma that is performed without desire for its fruit and with the attitude of a yogi who has transcended both virtue and vice, will not shackle you”. Hearing Bhagavān speak thus, Arjuna asked “Who is a spiritual yogi? How does he behave in this world?” Bhagavān then described the signs of a sthitaprajña – the calm and equanimous yogi. The sthitaprajña has mastered his sense organs. He is beyond the dualities of love and hate, happiness and sorrow. He does not hanker for anything and is unselfish; his mind is placid – thus Lord Kṛṣṇa described the brāhmī-sthiti – the state of where the mind is firmly established in Brahma.
Then Arjuna said – “Well, Kṛṣṇa, you said that the means to attain brāhmī-sthiti is true knowledge of the Self. If the yoga of the intellect, sāṅkhya-yoga can itself gain me that excellent state, can I not follow that path? Why are dharma and karma required?” The answer to this question is given in the third and fourth chapters.
At this point, it is necessary to clearly understand the meaning of karma. Karma means work. Words in Indian languages such as karma, kārya, kṛti, kṛtya, kartavya, karaṇa, kāraṇa, kriyā, ākāra, vikāra, and prakāra - all spring from the same root. Of these words, the word karma is more prevalent in the terminology of the śāstras. The meanings of this word are many. Let us examine those meanings that are of interest to us.
Firstly, karma is of two kinds: 1. Prākṛta (involuntary or natural) and 2. Svakṛta (voluntary or wilful)
Prākṛta karma is unknowingly performed by an animal without it expending any effort: breathing, blinking, yawning, burping, hunger, sleep, excreting and egesting waste from the body – these bodily functions are natural. Even a jñāni has to go through them. Together, they can be called prāṇa-kriyās, or bodily actions essential to sustain life.
Svakṛta karmas are those that humans perform knowingly. They are of two types – 1. sat-karma (good karma) and 2.duṣ-karma (bad karma). We shall see their detailed descriptions later, in the next sections. For now, let us just have this in mind: karma that uplifts the jīva is satkarma, karma that pushes it down is duṣkarma.
All karma can be classified into three kinds.
1.Karma – Performing what is prescribed
2.Akarma – Not performing what is prescribed, or performing it and behaving as if one has not performed it.
3.Vikarma – Performing what is prescribed in a way it is not supposed to be done.
This classification can be seen in prākṛta karmas also; breathing through the mouth instead of the nose, for instance. But they are not because of human volition.
To be continued...
The present series is a modern English translation of DVG’s Kendra Sahitya Akademi Award-winning work, Bhagavad-gītā-tātparya or Jīvana-dharma-yoga. The translators wish to express their thanks to Śatāvadhāni R Ganesh for his valuable feedback and to Hari Ravikumar for his astute edits.