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Bhagavad Gita Weekly – Chapter 2 – Karma Yoga – Wisdom is One – Verses 39 to 47, Part 13

This is part 13 of this series. In part 12, we looked at verses 31 to 38. Through those verses, we saw Lord Krishna giving Arjuna various reasons as to why he must fight the Kurukshetra war to re-establish Dharma.

Unlike what Arjuna thought about incurring sins by having to kill his kinsmen, Lord Krishna tells him that, he would only incur sin if he chooses not to perform his duties as a Kshatriya warrior and withdraw himself from this war. It is Arjuna’s Swa-dharma – prescribed individual duty – as a Kshatriya to fight, especially such a righteous war like the Kurukshetra war.

Lord Krishna also reminds Arjuna in verse 38, “fight for the sake of duty, treating alike happiness and distress, loss and gain, victory and defeat. Fulfilling your responsibility in this way, you will never incur sin.”

Even though there is no certainty on who will win or lose this war, Arjuna must fight this war for the sake of fighting without worrying about the result. Lord Krishna also tells Arjuna that, there is no difference between happiness or distress, loss or gain, victory or defeat, it is all part and parcel of life. What matters is that we perform our duties without being influenced by the thought of its results, instead treating all of those emotions as equal, something that is transient. Only then, our actions become an offering to God, an act of worship, ensuring that we incur no karmic reactions or sins.
From next verse onwards, Lord Krishna explains the science and logic behind all that is said which we will see in this part. You can read all the previous posts by clicking here and the very last one by clicking here.

Jump to the Commentary for Chapter 2, verses 39 to 47

Chapter 2, Verse 39

एषा तेऽभिहिता सांख्ये बुद्धिर्योगे त्विमां श्रृणु।
बुद्ध्यायुक्तो यया पार्थ कर्मबन्धं प्रहास्यसि।।

eṣã te ’bhihitã sãṅkhye
buddhir yoge tv imãṁ ṛṇu
buddhyã yukto yayã pãrtha
karma-bandhaṁ prahãsyasi

Thus far, I have explained to you Sankhya Yoga, or analytic knowledge regarding the nature of the soul. Now listen, O Partha, as I reveal Buddhi Yoga, or the Yoga of Intellect. When you act in such knowledge, you will be freed from the bondage of work or karma.

Chapter 2, Verse 40

नेहाभिक्रमनाशोऽस्ति प्रत्यवायो न विद्यते।
स्वल्पमप्यस्य धर्मस्य त्रायते महतो भयात्।।

nehābhikrama-nāśo ’sti
pratyavāyo na vidyate
sv-alpam apy asya dharmasya
trāyate mahato bhayāt

Working in this state of consciousness, there is no loss or adverse result, and even a little effort saves one from great danger.

Chapter 2, Verse 41

व्यवसायात्मिका बुद्धिरेकेह कुरुनन्दन।
बहुशाखा ह्यनन्ताश्च बुद्धयोऽव्यवसायिनाम्।।

vyavasāyātmikā buddhir
ekeha kuru-nandana
bahu-śākhā hy anantāś ca
buddhayo ’vyavasāyinām

The intellect of those who are on this path [Path of Yoga] are resolute in purpose, and their aim is one. O beloved child of the Kurus, but the intellect of those who are irresolute is many-branched.

Chapter 2, Verse 42 – 43

यामिमां पुष्पितां वाचं प्रवदन्त्यविपश्िचतः।
वेदवादरताः पार्थ नान्यदस्तीति वादिनः।।

कामात्मानः स्वर्गपरा जन्मकर्मफलप्रदाम्।
क्रियाविशेषबहुलां भोगैश्वर्यगतिं प्रति।।

yām imāṁ puṣpitāṁ vācaṁ
pravadanty avipaścitaḥ
veda-vāda-ratāḥ pārtha
nānyad astīti vādinaḥ

kāmātmānaḥ svarga-parā
janma-karma-phala-pradām
kriyā-viśeṣa-bahulāṁ
bhogaiśvarya-gatiṁ prati

O Partha, those with limited understanding, get very much attracted to the flowery words of the Vedas, which recommend various ostentatious rituals for elevation to the celestial abodes and presume no higher principle is described in them. They glorify only those portions of the Vedas that please their senses and perform pompous ritualistic ceremonies for attaining high birth, opulence, sensual enjoyment, and elevation to the heavenly planets.

Chapter 2, Verse 44

भोगैश्वर्यप्रसक्तानां तयापहृतचेतसाम्।
व्यवसायात्मिका बुद्धिः समाधौ न विधीयते।।

bhogaiśvarya-prasaktānāṁ
tayāpahṛta-cetasām
vyavasāyātmikā buddhiḥ
samādhau na vidhīyate

Their resolve deluded by contemplating sensory satisfactions and worldly pleasures by such ideas do not attain the spiritual intelligence to concentrate their minds on the Supreme Lord.

Chapter 2, Verse 45

त्रैगुण्यविषया वेदा निस्त्रैगुण्यो भवार्जुन।
निर्द्वन्द्वो नित्यसत्त्वस्थो निर्योगक्षेम आत्मवान्।।

trai-guṇya-viṣayā vedā
nistrai-guṇyo bhavārjuna
nirdvandvo nitya-sattva-stho
niryoga-kṣema ātmavān

The Vedas deal mainly with the subject of the three modes of material nature. O Arjuna, become self-realized, transcendent to these three modes in pure spiritual consciousness, free from duality and free from conceptions of acquisition and preservation.

Chapter 2, Verse 46

यावानर्थ उदपाने सर्वतः संप्लुतोदके।
तावान्सर्वेषु वेदेषु ब्राह्मणस्य विजानतः।।

yāvān artha uda-pāne
sarvataḥ samplutodake
tāvān sarveṣu vedeṣu
brāhmaṇasya vijānataḥ

Whatever purpose is served by a small well of water is naturally served in all respects by a large lake. Similarly, one who realizes the Absolute Truth also fulfills the purpose of all the Vedas.

Chapter 2, Verse 47

कर्मण्येवाधिकारस्ते मा फलेषु कदाचन।
मा कर्मफलहेतुर्भूर्मा ते सङ्गोऽस्त्वकर्मणि।।

karmaṇy evādhikāras te
mā phaleṣu kadācana
mā karma-phala-hetur bhūr
mā te saṅgo ’stv akarmaṇi

You have a right to perform your own duty, but you are not entitled to the results of your action. Never consider yourself the cause of the results of your activities, and never be attached to not doing your duty.

Commentary for Chapter 2, verses 39 to 47

As we saw in the last many verses in chapter 2, Lord Krishna explained the Sankhya Yoga or the analytical knowledge regarding the nature of the soul to establish various reasons as to why Arjuna should not give up on his duties.

“Sankhya” means “that which describes things in detail”. It is considered the highest knowledge. It is the powerful knowledge that can liberate anyone the moment they realise the essence of that knowledge.

It is probably why Lord Krishna chose to start his teachings to the grief stricken Arjuna with Sankhya Yoga, as to help him clear his doubts and to teach him the knowledge to set himself free from the mental torture he was going through.

Lord Krishna teaches Arjuna the differences between the physical body and the atma (soul) beautifully and vividly. It is the ultimate knowledge that could set us free from the bondage of the cycle of births and deaths and that knowledge is realising that, no one actually dies. It is only our physical body that dies which cannot be prevented even by the Gods anyway. Whereas, the soul is eternal and cannot be destroyed by anyone, including the Gods.

It is the same knowledge that is said in the Upanishads which says, Aham Brahmasmi – that we are all Brahman, the minute particle of Para Brahman himself, a drop in that Ocean of Consciousness.

Having explained the Sankhya yoga beautifully, Lord Krishna is now going to explain the science and logic behind all that knowledge, the Buddhi Yoga, or the Yoga of the Intellect.

Lord Krishna says in verse 39, “Thus far, I have explained to you Sankhya Yoga, or analytic knowledge regarding the nature of the soul. Now listen, O Partha, as I reveal Buddhi Yoga, or the Yoga of Intellect. When you act in such knowledge, you will be freed from the bondage of work or karma.”

Lord Krishna says that one who understands and acts in the way that is going to be explained – how to cast off the bondage of action (karma), of dharma and adharma, of virtues and sins, of happiness and distress, of merit and demerit – according to Buddhi Yoga, they will be free from the bondage of work or karma.

One who is free from the bondage of karma does not accumulate karmic reactions, thus attaining moksha, the ultimate union with the divine, the Supreme, from where all of us (atma / soul) drew our origin.

At this point, I would like to again point out how beautiful Hinduism or Sanatana Dharma is..! It is beautiful for thousands of reasons, one of that is found right here!

Nobody, not even Gods, asks its followers to follow anything blindly, rather, everything is being explained in detail, scientifically and logically, in a way that can be conceived and understood by anyone so that they discover their own true nature, their own path and their true self.


Image source: eSamskriti.com

Lord Krishna never asks Arjuna that he must do either this or that, instead, he explains numerous reasons and put forths various arguments that would give Arjuna the clarity he needs to make a decision that is best for him and the society at large!

Lord Krishna continues in the following verse (40), “working in this state of consciousness, there is no loss or adverse result, and even a little effort saves one from great danger.”

As we know, in any other work we do, there is no real use of it until that work is fully completed. In most cases, unless the work is fully completed, even the whole attempt becomes futile. However, any work we do on our own self is never lost.

As Lord Krishna says, not only there is no loss or any adverse effect by such work in a state of consciousness in order to spiritually advance ourselves, but also, even the simplest effort is never wasted.

In Hinduism, we believe that the only thing we carry with ourselves when we pass on from one plane to another (death of the physical body) is our knowledge. If we have put 10% effort in our spiritual journey in this life, in next life, we start from that 10% which is where we left. That 10% of work is never lost when our body dies. Our atma carries on with that 10% of knowledge and enters into the next life, based on our Karma.

Human life is precious. One of the famous Malayalam poets, Shri. Poonthanam Namboodiri, explains it beautifully – ‘after struggling through so many lives as worms in the excretions, as various insects and flies in the water, in the soil and on trees, etc. we finally got this golden opportunity to be born as human beings. Even then, we spend 10 months in the womb of a mother, so many years as kids and adolescents, and when we finally grow up, we live in our egoistic world, thinking there is nothing bigger than me, and waste an entire human life instead of putting efforts in discovering our own true self!

“We tend to think that it is our mind which controls us, however, it is not often true. It is our intellect that feeds our mind. Intellect is superior to the mind and does all the decision making. Whereas the mind creates desires based on our intellect and gets attached to the objects of those desires.”

Thus Lord Krishna says, even a small effort in the Path of Yoga, to spiritually advance ourselves, will never be lost!

Lord Krishna continues in the next verse (41), “the intellect of those who are on this path [Path of Yoga] are resolute in purpose, and their aim is one. O beloved child of the Kurus, but the intellect of those who are irresolute is many-branched.”

We are the product of our intellect. According to the Vedas, there is a subtle entity known as Antahkarana – the inner cause – within all of us, which we usually refer to as our heart. It consists of four parts – the intellect (Buddhi), the mind (Manas), the ego (Ahamkara) and the memory (Chitta).

We tend to think that it is our mind which controls us, however, it is not often true. It is our intellect that feeds our mind. Intellect is superior to the mind and does all the decision making. Whereas the mind creates desires based on our intellect and gets attached to the objects of those desires.

For example, if your intellect thinks that money is the most important aspect of your life, then your mind keeps wandering after wealth. If your intellect decides that social status is most important to you, then your mind keeps building images in your head to make you wanting for social status and plays out the whole drama.

Because the mind is heavily influenced by our intellect, if we feed our intellect with the right knowledge, it takes our mind in the similar direction, allowing us to have more control over our mind.

Here, Lord Krishna advocates Buddhi Yoga through which one can attain the right knowledge, sharpen their intellect and thus sharpening their mind and focus. As Krishna says in this verse (41), those who are on the Path of Yoga has their intellect sharpened and resolute. However, those who are not, their intellect feeds on various desires and unwanted ideas, thus creating chaos in your head, making your life miserable and unhappy.

Those who do not make an attempt to attain the right knowledge – the knowledge of the self – have their intellect materially inclined, causing their mind to wander around and live an aimless life.

Lord Krishna continues in the next verses (42  & 43), “O Partha, those with limited understanding, get very much attracted to the flowery words of the Vedas, which recommend various ostentatious rituals for elevation to the celestial abodes and presume no higher principle is described in them. They glorify only those portions of the Vedas that please their senses and perform pompous ritualistic ceremonies for attaining high birth, opulence, sensual enjoyment, and elevation to the heavenly planets.”

Vedas are divided into three sections: the Karma kanda which describes various ritualistic ceremonies, Jnana kanda that describes various knowledge and then the Upasana kanda which describes devotional aspects.

Most people are ignorant and are not intelligent enough to seek true knowledge due to their greed for money and material possessions. Such people get deeply attracted to ritualistic sections of the Veda, thinking that, Vedas are only about all the rituals. Such people’s prime goal is only to attain Swarga loka, the celestial abodes, to enjoy more and more sensory satisfactions. However, they do not understand that even Swarga loka is impermanent. No one remains in the Swarga loka eternally if all they wish for is wealth, fame and various other objects of desire and material benefits for sensory gratification.

Such people are forever stuck in the samsara – the cycle of births and deaths, moving from Swarga loka to other planes since they’re always pleasing the Gods through various rituals and ceremonies only in the pursuit of fulfilling their desires to attain sensory satisfaction.

“Being in the midst of ignorance and thinking in their own minds that they are intelligent and learned, the ignorant wander, afflicted with troubles, like the blind led by the blind.”

Here, Lord Krishna calls such people with limited understanding of the Vedas as unwise. Just like how a foolish man would be attracted to a poisonous fruit without knowing the imminent danger of his attraction, unintelligent people – people who  do not possess the right knowledge or do not even have the urge to seek such spiritual knowledge – are attracted to various rituals only in the pursuit of attaining Swarga loka. They do not realise that, their pursuit to objects of desire would only get them stuck in a constant battle of births and deaths.

The Mundaka Upanishad explains this beautifully in the following verse;

“Being in the midst of ignorance and thinking in their own minds that they are intelligent and learned, the ignorant wander, afflicted with troubles, like the blind led by the blind.”

Lord Krishna continues by saying in the next verse (44), “their resolve deluded by contemplating sensory satisfactions and worldly pleasures by such ideas do not attain the spiritual intelligence to concentrate their minds on the Supreme Lord.”

The people with limited understanding of the Vedas, thinking that, Vedas are only meant for the pursuit of desires and material possessions and eventually attaining Swarga loka do not have the wisdom to concentrate their minds on the Supreme.

Spiritually unintelligent people are unable to experience what Samadhi is. Samadhi is about having the mind focused on understanding Who Am I. It is about understanding the Self, the atma, our true nature. Every knowledge that does not help us finding our true nature is futile.

As explained by Lord Krishna in verse 40, any attempt at understanding our true self never goes in vain! Thus, a person who understands that the sole purpose of human life is to pursue the knowledge that would lead them to discover their own true self is considered spiritually intelligent.

Lord Krishna continues to explain why Vedas describe various ritualistic ceremonies to attain heavenly planes in the next verse (45), “the Vedas deal mainly with the subject of the three modes of material nature. O Arjuna, become self-realized, transcendent to these three modes in pure spiritual consciousness, free from duality and free from conceptions of acquisition and preservation.”


Image source: BahaiTeachings.org

There are three modes of material natures explained in the Vedas, namely; Sattva (the mode of goodness), Rajas (the mode of passion), and Tamas (the mode of ignorance). Each of us have these three gunas in various proportions which is determined by our Sanskaras – our tendencies and inclinations – which are accumulated through past lives.

Our scriptures (the Vedas) accept this disparity in each of us and provide adequate instructions suitable to every kind of people. Thus, Vedas provide instructions on ritualistic ceremonies for the materially inclined as well as spiritual knowledge for the seekers of eternal truth.

Vedas offer various rigorous ritualistic practices to those who are materially inclined, so that they would eventually be elevated to the higher levels of consciousness and move on to seek spiritual knowledge. Eventually, the idea is that they would transcend the mode of goodness, the mode of passion and the mode of ignorance and realize their true self which is Brahman.

Here in this verse, Lord Krishna is asking Arjuna to transcend all of that knowledge and dualities and be pure in his spiritual consciousness and elevate himself equal to the Absolute Truth, the truth that Aham Brahmasmi – that I am Brahman.

One who takes refuge in the Vedas alone would attain higher planes like Swarga Loka, however, those who take refuge in the Supreme Lord himself wholeheartedly, transcend even the Swarga Loka and unite with the divine, attaining spiritual perfection and enlightenment, liberating themselves from the cycle of births and deaths!

One would wonder, to what extend one would offer various Vedic rituals and ceremonies if we are to essentially transcend all of that as instructed by Lord Krishna..?

Lord Krishna explains that in the next verse (46) by saying, “whatever purpose is served by a small well of water is naturally served in all respects by a large lake. Similarly, one who realizes the Absolute Truth also fulfills the purpose of all the Vedas.”

The Vedas and its nearly 100,000 mantras describing various prayers, rituals,  practices and ceremonies all do have one purpose – to help us realise our True Self – that, we are all Brahman – Aham Brahmasmi. To attain that state of consciousness, one should transcend all the dualities and even Vedas.

Thus, Lord Krishna compares Vedas to a small lake which is finite and Self Realisation to an all-spreading, vast, infinite lake. Whatever purposes a small lake would serve, even more can be experienced in that vast, all-spreading lake. Similarly, all the results one would experience by strictly following Vedic rituals and mantras are finite. However, the one who realises their Ultimate Reality, experience all the results of rituals in the Vedas and infinite joy by uniting with the Supreme.

“The Vedas and its nearly 100,000 mantras describing various prayers, rituals,  practices and ceremonies all do have one purpose – to help us realise our True Self – that, we are all Brahman – Aham Brahmasmi.”

All the bliss one would experience by following all the mantras and ritualistic ceremonies and prayers described in the Vedas are meant to know the Supreme Lord. By acquiring that right knowledge, one not only attains all the knowledge of the Vedas but also realises their Supreme Reality and experiences an infinite bliss by merging with that One Supreme God, the Para Brahman!

Thus, one must not get attached to just the Vedic rituals simply to attain higher planes such as Swarga Loka so that, they can merely continue to enjoy all sensory pleasures and material possessions. Rather, one must realise that, Vedas are the path to know the Knower, the all knowing, all pervading, infinite bliss – the Supreme Lord.

The one who possesses that right knowledge transcends all rituals and objects of desires to reunite with the Lord and realise their true self, that they’re brahman, the Absolute Truth!

The idea of Vedas is to help all of us move from lower planes to higher planes and to reach a stage where we can renounce everything – even the prayers, the worship, the mantras and even the Vedas – and to unite with the Supreme God. We then naturally become the very prayers, the very mantras, and the very offerings. All of it then happens deep within us and not outside of us. We become liberated from all bondage and experience infinite joy.

After asking Arjuna to transcend even all the Vedas, Lord Krishna continues to explain to Arjuna in the next verse (47) what he should do, “you have a right to perform your own duty, but you are not entitled to the results of your action. Never consider yourself the cause of the results of your activities, and never be attached to not doing your duty.”

This verse is one of the most popular verses from the Gita, clearly explaining about Karma Yoga in a nutshell. Lord Krishna tells Arjuna to perform his duties which is his Swadharma. However, he should never to be attached or affected by the results of his duties.

There are couple of very important lessons found in this verse;

  • Do your duty wholeheartedly without ever thinking or worrying about what the result would be
  • Whatever be the results of your actions and duties, they are not for your enjoyment
  • Give up the pride or the ego of the doership even though you’re the one performing your duty
  • Do not ever be attached to inaction.

Here, Lord Krishna is asking Arjuna (and all of us) to perform his prescribed duty without ever thinking about what the result of that action would be.

One should not be influenced or motivated by the thought of the result, as such actions only lead to attachments and bondage. The result could either be positive or negative, but that shouldn’t concern us. Perform our duty for the sake of performing it, simply because, it is our duty.

Results of all actions are beyond us. We have no control over the result. Only those who transcend both negative and positive results and the thought of what would be result altogether, performs their duty as a spiritual offering to the divine.

However, at this point, we may wonder, what is the point of performing our duties if we are not to enjoy the results of our duties, rather we shall not do anything at all. This is answered in the same verse by Lord Krishna – that we must never be attached to inaction.

Inaction is due to our attachment to the result. Arjuna was grief stricken and decided to not fight the battle due to his attachments to his kith and kin. His attachment caused him great grief, clouded his intelligence, made him forget his duties as a Kshatriya warrior.

Thus Lord Krishna asked Arjuna to neither worry about the results of your actions nor be attached to inaction.

We will continue from verse 48 in the next part. Let’s conclude here for now.

ॐ पूर्णमदः पूर्णमिदं पूर्णात्पुर्णमुदच्यते
पूर्णस्य पूर्णमादाय पूर्णमेवावशिष्यते ॥
ॐ शान्तिः शान्तिः शान्तिः ॥

Om Puurnnam-Adah Puurnnam-Idam Puurnnaat-Purnnam-Udacyate
Puurnnasya Puurnnam-Aadaaya Puurnnam-Eva-Avashissyate ||
Om Shaantih Shaantih Shaantih ||

My Pranams to you!


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