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Bhagavad Gita Weekly – Chapter 2 – Sankhya Yoga – The Merit of Wisdom – Verses 48 to 51, Part 14

karma yoga, gita

This is part 14 of this series. In the last part, we looked at chapter 2, verses 39 to 47.

In verse 47, one of the most popular verses in the Gita, Lord Krishna tells Arjuna, “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 clearly explains what is Karma Yoga in a nutshell.

Let us now continue from verse 48 onwards and look at what else Lord Krishna explains about Karma Yoga.

If you have not been following this series, 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 48 to 51

Chapter 2, Verse 48

योगस्थः कुरु कर्माणि सङ्गं त्यक्त्वा धनञ्जय।
सिद्ध्यसिद्ध्योः समो भूत्वा समत्वं योग उच्यते।।

yoga-sthaḥ kuru karmāṇi
saṅgaṁ tyaktvā dhanañ-jaya
siddhy-asiddhyoḥ samo bhūtvā
samatvaṁ yoga ucyate

Perform your duty equipoised, O Arjuna, abandoning all attachment to success or failure. Such equanimity is called yoga.

Chapter 2, Verse 49

दूरेण ह्यवरं कर्म बुद्धियोगाद्धनञ्जय।
बुद्धौ शरणमन्विच्छ कृपणाः फलहेतवः।।

dūreṇa hy avaraṁ karma
buddhi-yogād dhanañ-jaya
buddhau śaranam anviccha
kṛpaṇāḥ phala-hetavaḥ

O Arjuna, by spiritual intelligence, discard reward-seeking actions which certainly are inferior and abominable. Instead, aspire for the refuge of the science of uniting the individual consciousness with the Ultimate Consciousness by this spiritual intelligence. Miserly are those who seek to enjoy the fruits of their duties.

Chapter 2, Verse 50

बुद्धियुक्तो जहातीह उभे सुकृतदुष्कृते।
तस्माद्योगाय युज्यस्व योगः कर्मसु कौशलम्।।

buddhi-yukto jahātīha
ubhe sukṛta-duṣkṛte
tasmād yogāya yujyasva
yogaḥ karmasu kauśalam

One who prudently practices the science of work without attachment can get rid of both good and bad reactions even in this life. Therefore, strive for Yoga which is the art of all work.

Chapter 2, Verse 51

कर्मजं बुद्धियुक्ता हि फलं त्यक्त्वा मनीषिणः।
जन्मबन्धविनिर्मुक्ताः पदं गच्छन्त्यनामयम्।।

karma-jaṁ buddhi-yuktā hi
phalaṁ tyaktvā manīṣiṇaḥ
janma-bandha-vinirmuktāḥ
padaṁ gacchanty anāmayam

Endowed with spiritual intelligence, those wise men who abandon their attachment to fruits of their actions certainly liberate themselves from the bondage of birth and death, attaining a state of complete tranquility.

Commentary for Chapter 2, verses 39 to 47

In the last part of this series, we saw Lord Krishna talks about people with limited understanding of the Vedas who lack spiritual intelligence and think that Vedas are meant only for the pursuit of their desires and to gain more and more material possessions. We also looked at three modes of material natures explained in the Vedas –  Sattva (the mode of goodness), Rajas (the mode of passion), and Tamas (the mode of ignorance).

People with such limited spiritual intelligence keep using various scriptures to attain more punya – virtues or good karmas – and in that process, they completely lose the very purpose of the scriptures, which is to transcend all karmas and virtues and to elevate oneselves to the highest level of spirituality, the Absolute Truth!

Thus, Lord Krishna asks Arjuna to transcend even the Vedas and all other scriptures and asks him to elevate his consciousness to that of Absolute Truth.

Lord Krishna continues to tell Arjuna to perform his duties without ever being concerned about the result, for the result is beyond the control of the doer (verse 47).

If one should not perform his duties without ever being concerned about its results, how else should it be done? Lord Krishna explains that in the next verse (48), “Perform your duty equipoised, O Arjuna, abandoning all attachment to success or failure. Such equanimity is called yoga.”

Lord Krishna asks Arjuna to perform his duties, abandoning all attachments to success or failure. Work performed in that manner is called Yoga.

As we know, most of our problems and unhappiness arise from worrying about the future. When we are doing something, our mind and energy is never fully on that task at hand, but it wanders around, thinking what benefits that action would bring or what results it would bring. With such a an unfocused mind, we are never be able to put our whole energy and intention to any of our actions or duties.

However, if we perform our duties as a matter of performing our duties alone, then our whole energy is put on that. Such a person never worries about the outcome of their action, be it success or failure.

The one who truly understands that the only thing in our hand is the pure, wholehearted efforts that we put into performing our duties and the results of such actions are beyond us, such a person performs their action in Yoga, as explained by Lord Krishna.

Imagine we are sailing in the ocean. If we get annoyed every time when a wave rocks our boat, our entire sailing experience becomes miserable. Just like how we cannot avoid the waves in the ocean from rocking our boat, both success and failures are unavoidable aspects of every action we take and the whole experience of living.

The only practical option we have in front of us is to be in harmony with both success and failures in order for us not to be affected by either of those aspects and one who performs their actions with such an awareness is a Yogi.
Yoga is the science of our individual consciousness (“anu-sat”, “anu-chit” and “anu-ananda”) being in union with the Ultimate consciousness which is sat-chit-ananda!

Yoga is the science of our individual consciousness (“anu-sat”, “anu-chit” and “anu-ananda”) being in union with the Ultimate consciousness which is sat-chit-ananda!

One must perform his duties wholeheartedly without ever being concerned about what the results it would bring. Every action should be performed like an offering to god. Performing our duties – swadharma – should never be influenced by our thirst for its outcome, rather, we should do our duties for the sake of performing our swadharma – prescribed individual duties. Whenever we perform our duties that way, we will never be affected by its results, whatever that be. We will also not be bound by the karmic reactions that result would bring.

Thus, Lord Krishna asks Arjuna to perform his duties like a Yogi, being completely detached from its results, as to put his whole energy into doing his duty simply for the sake of performing his swadharma.

One who performs his duties completely detached from its results offers all his actions to God as an offering and accepts whatever results of their actions as a gift from God. When our mind is set in that level of awareness, our every action become divine, allowing ourselves not to be affected by neither success nor failures, and remain free from both unavoidable phenomenon in life and as a result, we become truly happy.

One who performs his duties completely detached from its results offers all his actions to God as an offering and accepts whatever results of their actions as a gift from God.

Lord Krishna continues in the next verse (49), “O Arjuna, by spiritual intelligence, discard reward-seeking actions which certainly are inferior and abominable. Instead, aspire to seek refuge in the science of uniting the individual consciousness with the Ultimate Consciousness by this spiritual intelligence. Miserly are those who seek to enjoy the fruits of their duties.”

As we saw earlier, the only practical option for us to fully concentrate and perform our duties is to not worry about the outcome of our actions. This is also the only option for us to be happy in life. We have no control over what is going to happen next, however, we have full control over what is being done right now, the present moment and the actions performed in the present moment.

Any action that is performed with the intention of material gain become fruitless. People who perform actions looking forward to only enjoying the fruits of their actions are doing it out of their selfish motives, as explained by Lord Krishna in this verse.

There are two aspects to any work we do – one is the external activity we perform and the other is our internal attitude towards that activity.

Imagine someone who runs an old age home purely out of his love for senior citizens who built his society that he enjoys today and another person who runs an old age home purely with the intention to make a business and money out of it. Both do similar things externally, however, the one who does it only for the money does it for his own motives. He would get irritated and become angry if one of the elders were unable to pay or accidentally damages something or even for any other silliest reasons. He may never find peace or happiness in what he does for the elders and in running that home.

Whereas, the one who does the same work out of his love and respect for elders, as a selfless service, is never affected by any such factors but is only concerned with his work, which is to provide them whatever he is able to provide. He finds genuine happiness in what he does and happily devotes all his life to that.

Though, they both are doing the same work externally, their internal attitude towards their work makes their experiences with their work completely different. While the one who does it for money may become angry and never find happiness, the other who does it purely as a service is always happy.

A lot of us tend to think that, real happiness is derived from the external objects, thus our craving for material possessions are never ending. Even though, at some points we do realise that, none of those external objects of our desires truly make us happy, we still go back to the same habits since we lack control over our senses.

A lot of us tend to think that, real happiness is derived from the external objects, thus our craving for material possessions are never ending. Even though, at some points we do realise that, none of those external objects of our desires truly make us happy, we still go back to the same habits since we lack control over our senses.

Thus Lord Krishna is asking Arjuna (and us) to have a balanced mind (about success and failures) and to use our spiritual intelligence to discard any reward-seeking actions. Instead, perform all actions with the intention to unite our individual consciousness with the Ultimate consciousness, as such actions are always considered superior.

What does one who performs his actions with such a balanced mind, with higher spiritual intelligence and are never concerned about the outcome of their actions get? Lord Krishna explains that in the next verse (50), “One who prudently practices the science of work without attachment can get rid of both good and bad reactions even in this life. Therefore, strive for Yoga which is the art of all work.”

The real purpose of our life is to attain moksha / liberation from the samsara – the cycle of birth and death. One attains Moksha when his atma rejoins with the paramatma, the Supreme God, the Source, whatever else you may call it.

Image source: eSamskriti.com

Both good karmas and bad karmas bring either heaven or hell respectively, however, we are meant to transcend both good and bad karmas – to transcend both heaven and hell – and spiritually elevate ourselves to the level of Absolute Truth, which is Parabrahman and attain Moksha – a state where you’ve no karmic reactions left to be cleared, thus no reason to be reborn again.

Here, Lord Krishna is asking Arjuna to perform his duty in Yoga – action performed in equanimity, giving up attachments to both success and failure – so that he can get rid of both good and bad karmic reactions in this very life without having to wait for another chance as human being to attain moksha.

Performing any work with such an equanimity towards success and failure is called Karma Yoga. Karma Yoga is about performing our duties with the realisation that both success and failure are the same and they have no effect on the one who performs the action. A person who performs his actions in Karma Yoga is not at all concerned about the outcome of his actions, rather, all his energy and intentions are focused on performing the actions alone, being fully present in the moment, finding true happiness in his actions from within.

If you follow Karma Yoga, you find happiness in the present moment, while you perform your actions itself, rather than waiting for the outcome to bring you happiness. The outcome of every action is in the future. We have no control over what will happen even in the next second, let alone the near future.

There are 5 different types of understanding when it comes to Karma Yoga, they are: Samatva buddhi, Swadharma buddhi, Samarpana buddhi, Asanga buddhi and Prasada buddhi.

Samatva buddhi is about seeing sameness in the result. It is the understanding that, both success and failure are not different from each other in the grand scheme of things, and that, the moment one is concerned about either the success or the failure, he loses his peace of mind and will never be able to perform any actions wholeheartedly.

We tend to constantly run away from somethings or move towards some others. The moment we realise that, both victory and defeat, papa and punya (sin & merit), good and bad are all different sides of the same coin, we remain unaffected by any of those aspects in life, but will remain fully concentrated in our actions and actions alone. This attitude towards our actions is called samatva buddhi.

Swadharma buddhi is about performing actions in the path of dharma. We tend to do things based on two factors – our likes and dislikes. It is either, “I do this, because I like this” or “I don’t do this, because I don’t like this.” However, we fail to recognise that the likes and dislikes are in our senses, our mind and intellect and they are based on our perception of things. It may or may not be real.

However, actions should be performed not based on our likes and dislikes, but based on what is dharmic or adharmic. For example, the Prime Minister of a country should make policy decisions based on what is right for the country whether he likes that decision or not.

If we base our choices and decisions only on our likes and dislikes, it will not only destroy us, but the people around us, the society we live in and eventually the nation and the world itself, causing a rippling effect. Thus, swadharma buddhi is about performing our actions based on what is right and dharmic and not what we like or dislike.

karma yoga, gita
Image source: mokshamantra.com

Samarpana buddhi is about dedicating our actions for the greater good of the people, not just for the benefit of the person who performs the action or to feed his own ego. It is about performing our actions according to Dharma, as a service to the Supreme God who is seated in all of us, including the plants, animals and every other living beings.

Asanga buddhi is about performing our actions without being concerned about the outcome of those actions. We are required to do what is right and what is dharmic. But the result of that action is irrelevant as long as we act according to dharma. Ultimately, Dharma alone wins – Yato Dharma tato Jaya (where there Dharma, there is victory) is what is proclaimed in our scriptures.

One who lacks spiritual intelligence may think that the victory lies elsewhere, however, the wise men know that the victory only lies with Dharma. As long as we perform our duties according to dharma and be completely detached from the outcome of it, then we are acting in Asanga buddhi.

And the last one is Prasada buddhi. It is the attitude towards the outcome of any action, treating it like the Prasada / Prasadam. Just like how we don’t throw away the prasadam we get after a puja or from the temples, and pay great respect to it, the outcome of every action, regardless of whatever that be, should be received like the prasadam, with great respect.

The Sanskrit word Prasada means “Prasannata”, the joy felt deep within our heart. When all our actions are performed according to Karma Yoga, there is an eternal joy deep within our heart which can never be lost, as it comes from deep within and not from any external objects. That is true happiness.

The Sanskrit word Prasada means “Prasannata”, the joy felt deep within our heart. When all our actions are performed according to Karma Yoga, there is an eternal joy deep within our heart which can never be lost, as it comes from deep within and not from any external objects. That is true happiness.

All these five buddhis mentioned above are called Yoga buddhis. As long as one performs his actions based on Yoga buddhis, then that person is acting according to Karma Yoga, which ultimately elevates one to Sankhya buddhi – the knowledge of our true self.

Thus, Lord Krishna is asking Arjuna to perform his actions in Yoga, to fight this battle of Kurukshetra without ever being concerned about what the outcome could be, for the outcome of the war is beyond Arjuna’s control.

Arjuna wanted to fight this war out of his anger towards the Kauravas before he was brought to the battlefield of Kurukshetra. However, Lord Krishna never wanted Arjuna to fight this war with the wrong intention. Kurukshetra war is a Dharma Yudh – the battle to protect Dharma! Thus he was taken right in front of his grandfather and gurus, which caused Arjuna great sorrow and all the confusion that led to Lord Krishna delivering the beautiful Gita to Arjuna and for the benefit of the rest of the world.

Lord Krishna wanted Arjuna to fight this war to uphold Dharma, not simply to defeat the Kauravas out of his anger which Arjuna definitely could have achieved with all his might and power. Protecting dharma at any cost is the ultimate goal, that is why our scriptures says, “Dharmo Rakshati Rakshitah” – dharma protects those who protects dharma. Our duty as human beings is to protect dharma at any cost and at every juncture of our life and in return, we will always be protected by Dharma and that alone.

Lord Krishna continues to explain what happens when someone performs their actions in yoga in the next verse (51) by saying, “endowed with such spiritual intelligence, those wise men who abandon their attachment to fruits of their actions certainly liberate themselves from the bondage of birth and death, attaining a state of complete tranquility.”

Lord Krishna tells Arjuna that, those who work according to Karma yoga, without ever being concerned about the results of their duty, become free from the bondage of birth and death – samsara – and attain a state beyond any sufferings, which is Moksha.

Image source: PTI

As we know, we engage in various duties with the hope to achieve certain results. For some, the outcome is the only motive behind everything they do. For example, people visit temples to get more punya or do various offerings to get certain results, hoping to be happy. When we don’t see the result we hope for, we get disappointed and become unhappy. This is one of the main reasons for practically everyone to lead a miserable and unhappy life in this world.

As we know, we engage in various duties with the hope to achieve certain results. For some, the outcome is the only motive behind everything they do. For example, people visit temples to get more punya or do various offerings to get certain results, hoping to be happy. When we don’t see the result we hope for, we get disappointed and become unhappy. This is one of the main reasons for practically everyone to lead a miserable and unhappy life in this world.

However, those who realises that it is our attachment to the results of our actions which causes all the miseries and are able to divert their attention only on performing their duties just because those duties must be performed, become free from their bondage. Such actions are performed as a service to the Supreme God. People who performs their actions with such an intention do not accumulate any karmic reactions from their actions and eventually attain moksha.

Moksha is the only state where there is no sorrows, defeats or paapa (morally evil) but eternal happiness and tranquility – ananda.

We will continue from verse 52 in the next part. Let’s conclude here for now.

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


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