CHAPTER III

Bhagavad Gita Chapter III – Verse 1 & Verse 2

1. The verse highlights Arjuna’s confusion by the choice of names he uses to address Krsna. Janardana means protector of people while Kesava means killer of the demon Kesi. Arjuna is not sure whether Krsna is protector or destroyer. In fact He is both – protector of good and destroyer of evil. Action by itself is neither good nor bad. It is the intention, motive, that determines the quality of action. The same action could be good if driven by a desire to do good and could be gruesome if motivated by a negative desire. Arjuna is confused because Krsna has elaborated on the importance of knowledge in Chapter 2 yet encourages Arjuna to fight. Arjuna is faced with the prospect of having to fight and kill his own beloved patriarch, Bhisma, and Dronacarya, his guru who taught him archery. He cannot understand how Krsna could ask him to perform such a repulsive action. Arjuna has lost sight of the purpose of the battle which is to restore righteousness. Bhisma and Drona, though noble, happen to be on the wrong side. Arjuna needs to focus on the larger picture rather than get caught up with his personal relationships. Besides, Arjuna is a warrior. His duty is to uphold virtue and justice. He has fallen into a temporary sense of false renunciation where he wants to give up the kingdom because it is painful to fight. The Bhagavad Gita is open to questioning. It is not a text of dogma [...]

Bhagavad Gita Chapter III – Verse 3 & Verse 4

3. Krsna begins his sermon on the doctrine of action. He addresses Arjuna as Anagha – one without sin, pure. Arjuna is not a perfect person. He has many faults. Yet Krsna sees only virtue and purity in him, indicative of His love for Arjuna. A child may be mischievous and rebellious but the mother sees goodness alone because of her love for the child. Knowledge is best taken in an environment of affection and oneness. Krsna speaks of a dual path. There are three aspects of our interactions in life. The world enters us as stimuli through the five sense organs. These stimuli then react with desires in the mind and intellect. The reactions are expressed as responses through the organs of action. This constitutes the traffic of life. There are two types of people – those with many desires or vasanas and the few who have a handful of high quality vasanas. The ones with many desires react to almost every stimulus that enters them and therefore tend to be active. When such people take to the spiritual life they need to convert actions to worship – Karma Yoga or the Path of Action. The other category has already followed Karma Yoga and reduced their stock of vasanas. They are contemplative by nature, disinterested in the happenings of the world. The stimuli of the world enter them but there are almost no reactions or responses. Such people convert perception to worship – Jnana Yoga or the Path [...]

Bhagavad Gita Chapter III – Verse 5 & Verse 6

5. Inaction is not an option. Action is imperative for sheer survival. Nobody can remain inactive even for an instant. The quality of action is determined by one’s gunas or vasanas. As long as there are vasanas in your system there will be thought, desire and action. You have a certain quality of vasanas, you are born with an inherent talent, tendency, inclination. You are compelled to act accordingly. What you do, therefore, is a given. How you do it is your choice. If you have vasanas for music you have to act in the field of music. You can act disinterestedly, excitedly or wholeheartedly. That choice is yours. The type of activity you perform is determined by your gunas or traits. There are three types of gunas – Tamas is the lowest state of indifference, lethargy, sloth, inactivity, and heedlessness which arise from ignorance. Rajas is the intermediary state of passion, desire-driven activity, restlessness, attachment and the consequent mental agitation and stress. Sattva is the highest, sublime state of serenity, tranquility and purity which comes from freedom from desire. It is a condition of dispassion towards the world because of total absorption in the higher. Everyone is a victim of their own vasanas. At the present moment you have no choice but to act according to your vasanas which are the result of all your past actions. So a person with angry vasanas will be angry. Gentle vasanas will manifest as gentleness, crude vasanas as crudity and so [...]

Bhagavad Gita Chapter III – Verse 7 & Verse 8

7. Karma Yoga is acting in the field of your most powerful vasanas with the mind on the higher. Fix a higher ideal or goal that includes the welfare of others too. There are two ways of eliminating desire – 1. Through knowledge of the higher. A child’s desires for toys drop when she grows into a teenager. 2. Fulfilling your strongest desires with the mind on the higher. Dedicate your actions to a higher goal. Work in a spirit ofyajna, sacrifice. Existing desires will get exhausted without acquiring new ones. If the mind and body indulge you acquire more desires. If the mind indulges but body withdraws you are a hypocrite, as said in verse 6. If the mind withdraws whether the body participates or not you excel, as per this verse.   8. Action is therapeutic. It is a must. Even after surgery patients in hospital are made to walk as soon as possible. Remain inactive and you degenerate. There are three types of action – niyatam obligatory action, kamya desire-driven action, and nisiddha prohibited action. We all know what our obligations are – to family, society, country, environment, and to ourselves. What comes in the way of obligation is desire. When desire mounts to unsustainable levels you cross the line and perform actions that violate the conscience. Niyatam obligatory action falls in two categories – nitya karma, regular, routine duties and naimittika karma special, occasional duties that arise in extraordinary circumstances. The Indian culture is based [...]

Bhagavad Gita Chapter III – Verse 9 & Verse 10

9. In this verse Krsna introduces the concept of yajna sacrifice. Yajna is an ancient Vedic ritual of fire sacrifice. In those days, as now, people performed the ritual without knowing or living the significance of the ritual. Hence they had become selfish and self-centred. Selfishness is not an option. As we have seen earlier you get neither success nor happiness through selfish actions. And your spiritual level nosedives with selfishness. The ritual consists of invoking fire in a havan kund. Each participant offers ahuti into the fire which is usually ghee, grain or pieces of firewood. When the flames are kindled the belief is that fire god has been propitiated and blesses the participants. When all the wood is consumed the ash is applied in three stripes across the forehead and the members visit the temple. The meaning behind the ritual is: The havan kund represents the field of activity, the organization, society, nation, environment etc. The ahuti is one’s particular talent or ability. When the contributors offer their respective talent for the larger purpose the organization prospers, society blossoms and the economy does well. When you act in a cooperative spirit for a larger cause the field blesses you with success. Everyone does well. The greater the altar at which you offer your talent the greater is the benefit. Every organization or society has an impressive range of talent. But to achieve lofty goals individual stars need to align to work collectively as galaxies! The spirit of [...]

Bhagavad Gita Chapter III – Verse 11 & Verse 12

11. When you work for a higher cause you will be blessed by the cause. You will grow to greater heights of awareness and achievement. As you achieve the goal your vision shifts to a still higher goal. Thus you keep moving to higher goals till you reach the final destination of Self Realisation. The first step is to move from selfish to unselfish. Even to fulfil a selfish end you need to include others. An organization must have sound HR policies to run smoothly. As you work towards this you begin to develop genuine feelings for others. You develop pride in the company, the focus shifts from self to the organization. Then you start engaging in philanthropy. Thus as you think the goal expands to include a larger cross section of people.   12. In the first line Krsna underscores the fact that when you work for a higher goal you prosper. You become the greatest beneficiary of your sacrifice. If you enjoy the benefits bestowed on you without giving back you are a thief! At first reading you think you do not fall in this category – you have not stolen ever. But as you think you become aware of the thousands and millions of blessings you have received in life. Have you paid for the sun’s energy, the fragrance of flowers, the oxygen you breathe, the heart, liver and kidneys that function meticulously? Have you so much as paused to be aware and grateful for all [...]

Bhagavad Gita Chapter III – Verse 13, Verse 14 & Verse 15

13. Rajasika and sattvika persons are detailed in this verse. The rajasika, who perform desire-driven actions, cook but eat sin. They put in a lot of effort, work ceaselessly, but are stressed out and cannot enjoy the fruits of their labour. With agitated minds their thinking is deviated and actions flawed. Hence the result is not commensurate with the effort they put in. And success eludes them. The result of selfish action is stress. And desires accumulate in them. The rare sattvika one enjoys the remains of sacrifice. At the end of a puja or havan, prasad is distributed which is always sweet. The prasad signifies the result of sacrificial action which is success. The sattvika person is inspired to act for the welfare of the world so the mind is calm, thinking clear and actions perfect. Unselfish, dedicated action gives happiness. This is a law. And desires reduce. Thus only a sattvika person enjoys life. The rajasika, whose sole purpose in life is enjoyment, is worried and stressed!. There are three types of action: 1. Selfish action – Restless, ceaseless activity driven by desire and ego. Causes maximum agitation, least energy, inefficiency and is self-defeating. 2. Unselfish action – dedicated to a noble cause, larger purpose, higher ideal that includes others. Less stressful, more energizing and powerful. Leads to success and enjoyment. 3. Selfless action – breaks away from desire. Obligatory action directed towards freedom from the world, dedicated to Self Realisation. Most potent, most energizing and blissful. [...]

Bhagavad Gita Chapter III – Verse 16 & Verse 17

16. One who does not follow the principle of yajna which seems to pervade the entire universe merely lives a sensual, indulgent life, oblivious of a higher purpose. Such a one lives in vain. Your birth, abilities and circumstances are conducive to take you to the highest goal of Enlightenment. Everything is designed only for that end. If you choose to waste this golden opportunity and are swept away by instant pleasure it is the greatest loss. No doubt, the spiritual path is painful in the beginning. Waking up early and studying the scriptures is no pleasure. But very soon it gives way to immense joy and the results are well worth the initial discomfort. Yet you give up a life time of happiness for trivial, momentary joys. As a birthday gift if you were to offer a four-year old child the choice of a box of chocolates or a million-dollar cheque she would take the chocolates. She is ignorant of the value of a million dollars. Similarly you give up infinite Bliss for transient, finite, pleasures due to sheer ignorance! Individuals, societies and civilizations declined when they opted for indriyarama, sense indulgence, as against Atmarama, delighting in Atman. Sense enjoyment is not taboo. But not as an end in itself with no higher pursuit in mind. Do not deny yourself superior enjoyment. Enjoy the senses. Just make sure they do not enjoy you. Be a victor, not victim, of the senses. Gain knowledge of the higher. Ignorant, immature, [...]

Bhagavad Gita Chapter III – Verse 18 & Verse 19

18. The verse continues to give the exception to the tenet of action. The experience of Realisation is like waking up from a dream. If you were able to re-enter the same dream how would you conduct yourself? Would the highest achievement in the dream make any difference to you? Or the greatest loss affect you adversely? Yet you would do what you have to do – objectively. Similarly, when you wake up to the fourth plane of Consciousness becoming the wealthiest person in the world or the most powerful would have no impact on you. Yet you would fulfil every role enthusiastically, excitedly, wholeheartedly, knowing that the entire world is essenceless and of zero value. You have no obligations to perform as you are not dependent on the world. When you put uncooked food in hot oil it splutters and sizzles. Cooked food has no spluttering when put in the same oil. This is true both in the absolute as well as in the relative sense. To the extent you escalate to the higher you are freed from the obligations of the lower state. Einstein was free from the tyranny of keeping up with the Joneses! Mahatma Gandhi was not debarred from any place because of lack of formal clothing!   19. Krsna concludes after a logical presentation on the necessity for action. Therefore, always perform obligatory action well, without attachment. Karyam karma - Shift track from desire to obligation. Follow the intellect when preferences of the mind [...]

Bhagavad Gita Chapter III – Verse 20 & Verse 21

20. Krsna shifts from the intellectual approach to an emotional appeal as logic does not seem to have motivated Arjuna to act. Verses 20 to 24 give six emotional motivations. Here he appeals to Arjuna’s devotion to role models and leans on the power of persuasion. Arjuna has great reverence for Janaka and other king-sages. Janaka and the rest reached Perfection only by action. So you also act to attain the same State. Arjuna was basically a sacrificial person dedicated to the welfare of his people. Krsna asks him to rise above personal considerations and work for lokasangraha, welfare of people. Often the emotional angle works where logic alone fails. While motivating people it is useful to deploy both to get them to rise to higher levels of performance.   21. The emotional support continues. In this verse Krsna boosts Arjuna as a leader. Arjuna is a prince, the commander-in-chief of the Pandava army. He is a leader. The people will follow whatever he does. The message is to lead the way and not merely sermonize. Vision must be top down. This is true of a parent with the child, a Government with its people or a teacher with students. They do not listen to what is said but tend to follow what the leader does. So if you want your kids to be disciplined you must first be so. If a Government wishes its people to be law-abiding it must set the example. A teacher must be a [...]

Bhagavad Gita Chapter III – Verse 22 & Verse 23

22.Krsna inspires confidence in this verse by giving His own example. This verse speaks to the devotional as well as the intellectual. The devotee sees that Krsna had no stake in the battle yet as Arjuna’s charioteer He was in the middle of it all. The intellectual views Krsna as Atman. Atman has no interest in any activity yet nothing can happen without Atman. As long as you have vasanas you have no choice but to act. Krsna was born Realised and had no vasanas but was active right through life. As the Pandavas’ ambassador He tried to negotiate peace with Duryodhana. He helped Arjuna elope with Subhadra when Duryodhana was trying to take her away from him. He protected people and fought evil even as a child. And He entertained and amused everyone with his pranks! Krsna was the mischievous yet endearing One who captivated the Gopis and beckoned them to the Higher. The three worlds are heaven, earth and hell. Philosophically they represent the waking, dream and deep sleep states that we go through.   23. Krsna instills fear by saying that everyone will become inactive if He stopped acting. That would be disastrous.This is a purely emotional angle that works with Arjuna. An intellectual person would not have responded to it. ‘I work tirelessly’. Fatigue comes from selfishness. A child is energetic because of its unselfishness. Mental stress drains you of vitality.       Previous Next

Bhagavad Gita Chapter III – Verse 24 & Verse 25

24. Now comes the threat, the last resort. Arjuna has reacted to the disastrous consequences of Krsna not acting. Krsna continues in the same vein and issues a warning. The devotional meaning is that Krsna protects all beings and maintains harmony in the world. Without Him there would be chaos and confusion resulting in widespread destruction. The intellectual interpretation is that Atman has put all the laws in place – external as well as internal. External laws are the myriad physical, chemical and biological laws. Internal laws are the three gunas or traits. All humans have all three gunas. Their varying proportion creates the four varnas or castes. Brahmanas are the head of society. They are predominantly sattvika by nature with a little rajas and traces of tamas. They are the intellectuals - thinkers, contemplators, visionaries. A Brahmana naturally becomes teacher, preacher, philosopher, musician, artist, scientist, or research scholar. Ksatriyas are the hands of society. They are largely rajasika with a little sattva and more tamas. They are the administrators, warriors, rulers, law-givers who are active and ambitious. They expand their kingdoms and protect their people from invaders. Vaisyas are the belly of society. Tamas has increased and they have less sattva and rajas. They engage in trade, commerce, industry and finance. Sudras are predominantly tamasika with a little rajas and traces of sattva. They take to manual work. They are the artisans, skilled labour, who were also highly regarded in society. The Brahmanas were the highest caste, leaders. [...]

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