15. In this verse Krsna makes an emotional appeal, a distinct departure from the trend so far. Arjuna has respect for tradition so Krsna says even the ancient seekers of liberation performed action. You also act as your ancestors did.
The Self, Atman, is the source of action but is not responsible for the quality of action and has no desire to perform action. Atman has no interest in acquiring or enjoying the fruit of action. Atman remains unaffected by the result of action. Just as gold has no desire to become a bracelet. It has no interest in acquiring because wherever the bracelet goes gold remains. Gold is not affected by the design of the bracelet.
You are Atman. You have no desire to do anything. You have nothing to acquire or enjoy. And you are unconcerned with the fruit. Knowing this, perform actions detachedly. Detachment is not indifference. You are either indifferent or attached to action. When you are attached to Atman and perform action only to get to Atman you act enthusiastically, energetically, excitedly, but detachedly. Like an actor on stage who performs his role brilliantly while being totally unaffected.
Ignorant people must act for atmasuddhi self-purification. The wise act for lokasangraha welfare of the world.
16. Even the wise who have not reached Enlightenment are deluded about action and inaction. When you know clearly what karma and akarma are you know Atman. You have reached Realisation.
There are two interpretations of the terms karma and akarma. In the relative karma is desire-driven action. Akarma is desireless action directed towards achieving Liberation. In the absolute sense all actions are karma. Atman is the inactive Principle that enables all action – akarma.
Desire-driven actions boomerang on you as more desires implanted in your system. It is like walking on sand. You accumulate the footprints of vasanas. Actions performed with the sole intent of Realisation do not accumulate any impurity. It is like birds flying in the air.
The desire for Realisation comes when you understand the strictures that worldly endeavours place on enjoyment. You become aware of the limitation of worldly existence and yearn for freedom. When you are inspired to get to Freedom all desires for the world drop. You are transported to a different realm altogether.
Krsna says – I will tell you what action is. Then you will know Atman, the inactive Principle. And you will be liberated from the evil of vasanas. Thus you gain knowledge by negation of the unreal.