Ch. 4 Yoga of Unattached Karma (Part 8)

This article is part 45 of 80 in the series Jīvana-dharma-yoga

The Necessity of Firm Decision

Arjuna, if we analyse from the perspective of the supreme principle, it becomes clear that your doubts are baseless. Be firm about the ātmā. Do not entertain doubts in your mind.

ajñaścāśraddhadhānaśca saṃśayātmā vinaśyati
nāyaṃ loko’sti na paraṃ na sukhaṃ saṃśayātmanaḥ
(BG 4.40)

(One who does not know, doesn’t have faith or is filled with doubts in his mind, perishes. A doubtful man can neither live in this world nor the otherworld. He is never happy.)

Do not keep swinging between karma, jñāna, dharma or sannyāsa. You will be ruined from all sides if you do that. Trust something completely. Only then will you attain a better state.

Let us suppose a man has been invited to a banquet at a big restaurant. We can imagine the conflict in a traditional man’s mind if he comes to know that that day is an ekādaśi [eleventh day of the lunar fortnight; traditional Hindus fast on this day.] If he stays back at home, he will be thinking about the good time his friends are having. If he does go, he will be worrying that he is eating outside food on an ekādaśi. Both are doubtful — saṃśayātmās. One did not enjoy the banquet, the other did not think of Bhagavān on ekādaśi.

We have to believe in one thing — either karma or jñāna. Only then can we be peaceful. Belief is courage, and courage is happiness. There are thousands, even countless philosophies in today’s world. But it cannot be said that any one of them can really build faith. Many of them can, however, shake existing beliefs. The poverty of our times is that we do not have strong belief — the belief ‘I am living for a specific purpose, I will be delivered from our sorrows from this’. Amongst the various kinds of poverty that afflict us, lack of belief (śraddhādāridrya) is the greatest.

“Arjuna, doubt born of ignorance is housed in your heart. Cut it with the power of the knowledge of the self, and establish yourself in the yoga of performing your duty for the Divine. Get up and fight”. This is Śrīkṛṣṇa’s instruction.


This chapter seems to have got its name, jñāna-karma-saṃnyāsa-yoga, from the words “yoga-saṃnyasta karmāṇaṃ”. This chapter is called brahma-yajña-praśaṃsā in the Śāṅkara-bhāṣya. The important takeaway here from the view of the common people is karmaṇyakarma yah paśyet. We should perform karma, but in such a way that its dirt does not stick to us. Therefore, it is quite apt if we name this chapter nirlepa-karma-yoga.

Alepa or nirlepa is a negative form. It means that something is not there, and not that something good is present instead. If something or some work has to be useful, there should be a positive ’as’ (present) quality associated with it. Just because something bad went away, it does not mean that something good came by.  Just because a banana leaf is cleaned well with water, it does not mean that the tongue tasted good food and the stomach became full. A banana leaf becomes useful if and only if there are various palatable eatables on it. Similarly, an unattached mind should attain yoga. Yoga means one thing joining another. When a jīva joins the Supreme ātmā, it becomes yoga. Nirlepa-karma-yoga is that by which an unattached mind or a purified mind that has washed off all attachments, performs its ordained duties and gradually merges the jīva with paramātmā.



lokārthamĕ bhagavaṃtaṃ
sākāradi karmiyāge nīnellava tat-
vyākulakĕḍĕyillavidu caturthādhyāyaṃ

The fourth chapter says, “For the benefit of the world,
Bhagavān assumed a form to perform duties.
Perform all your karma for his acceptance,
There will be no cause for agitation."

śiravaṃ vajravāgippan-uramaṃ sudheyāgipaṃ

Skilled at ripening Naras mind, Adhokṣaja
Makes the head a diamond and fills the heart with amṛta.

*Nara can mean just a human or Arjuna himself.



Īśvara’s Governance

yadā yadā hi dharmasya glānirbhavati bhārata
abhyutthānam adharmasya tadātmānaṃ sṛjāmyaham
(BG 4.7)

(Whenever dharma decreases and adharma becomes more prominent, I take birth).

paritrāṇāya sādhūnāṃ vināśāya ca duṣkṛtāṃ
dharmasaṃśthāpanārthāya sambavāmi yuge yuge
(BG 4.8)

(I am born again and again to protect the good, to destroy the evil and to establish dharma).

ananyāścintayanto māṃ ye janāḥ paryupāsate
teṣāṃ nityābhiyuktānāṃ yogakṣemaṃ vahāmyahm
(BG 9.22)

(I will take complete care of those who think of me always with no other thought and worship me, and are fully occupied in me).

Anything that exists (sat) can be thought of in four ways -

  1. Parabrahma — this is shapeless, changeless, still, and not subject to expansion.
  2. Īśvara or Jagadīśvara — is an entity related to Brahma that has shape, can change and has activity. It is the energy that rules the universe.
  3. Prakṛti — this is the universe, with name, form and activity. It is under the control of  Īśvara.
  4. Jīva — this is of the form of many living beings of the universe, the individual element of the universe.

Of the above four, the first one does not have any activity. Therefore, we will examine the relationship among the other three.

It is already said that Īśvara is related to the universe in the same way as a king is related to a subject in a constitutional monarchy, such as England. Constitutional monarchy is a system of governance where the king and all his subjects are subservient to a known set of rules and arrangements. In such a system, just as common people agree to abide by a set of rules (the constitution, for instance), the king is also bound by the same rules. The king here is not at complete liberty to do as he pleases. Though it does not tie up his hands fully, it sets a limit to his freedom. His official duties are carried out within this limit, and he accepts it.

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.



Devanahalli Venkataramanayya Gundappa (1887-1975) was a great visionary and polymath. He was a journalist, poet, art connoisseur, philosopher, political analyst, institution builder, social commentator, social worker, and activist.



Engineer. Lapsed blogger. Abiding interest in Sanskrit, religion, and philosophy. A wannabe jack-of-all.


Mother of two. Engineer. Worshiper of Indian music, poetry, and art.

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