Bagawat Geeta, Class 43
Shloka # 19:
तस्मादसक्तः सततं कार्यं कर्म समाचर।
असक्तो ह्याचरन्कर्म परमाप्नोति पूरुषः।।3.19।।
Therefore, unattached, always do the work that has to be done; for, doing work with detachment, man attains the supreme.
Continuing his teaching of the Gita and refreshing our memory of the last class, Swami Paramarthananda said, Sri Krishna talked about the important topic of Karma Yoga from Shloka’s 8 through 18. The essence of Karma Yoga can be described as giving more and taking less. A life of contribution need not only be monetary. It can even be in the form of knowledge, one’s energy or even kind words. Sri Krishna looked at this way of life from different angles. They were:
Chitta Shodhakam: Preparation of mind
Dharma: Means of maintaining harmony at all levels. This includes at the individual, family, societal, and ecological levels.
So, You have to take to a life of Karma Yoga. Since it is required for all people for spiritual progress, you, Arjuna, should also follow it. Through this you will attain the highest progress, that of Moksha.
Note that Karma yoga has to be followed by Gyana yoga to attain Moksha. Karma yoga prepares one for Gyana Yoga. Karma Yoga involves doing one’s duty and maintaining harmony. As a Kshatriya you need to remove obstacles to harmony and hence you need to fight the battle.
Shloka # 20:
कर्मणैव हि संसिद्धिमास्थिता जनकादयः।
Janaka and others achieved perfection through works alone. At least to promote the welfare of the world, you ought to do works.
After hearing this Arjuna may still feel diffident. Many people say being tied to a family life makes liberation impossible. They say only Sanyasa can help us. Arjuna is also in a similar state of mind. Right now, he also wants to take Sanyasa. How can a ruler think of spirituality? Sri Krishna tells Arjuna, don’t feel diffident. Even a Grihastha can attain liberation. Grihastha has the advantage that he can become a Sanyasi, while a Sanyasi cannot become a Grihasta. That is why in our culture every stage is called an Ashram. You can convert a house into an ashram. What is difference between a house and an ashram? It is the attachment that makes a difference. If attached, it becomes a house. If detached, it becomes an ashram. It is a difference caused by the person who resides in the house. Even a ruler with responsibility can attain liberation. Sri Krishna gives example of Janak Maharaja. In Brihadaranyaka Upanishad it is a dialogue between Gargya (a Brahmin) and Ajata Shatru (a Kashatriya). Ajata Shatru teaches Brahma Vidya to Gargya. Ajat Shatru and Janaka are examples of Grihasta Ashrami’s attaining liberation.
Therefore, Arjuna, continue to be a Grihastha Gyani.
And with this example, Krishna has given confidence for Arjuna and with this example the topic of karma yoga is over. Now from the 2nd line of this verse, Sri Krishna is changing into another topic. Karma yoga topic is over, with the 20th verse 1st line.
Now, a new topic starts with Shloka # 21. In Shloka’s 17 and 18 respectively, Karma Yoga is shown as important for purification of mind and attaining knowledge. After liberation one does not need Karma yoga. Gyani may or may not perform Karma Yoga. He does not need to perform Karma Yoga; he can be a passive Gyani.
So, Arjuna too wants to get out of this painful Karma or duty. He can claim to be a Gyani. There is no test for a Gyani. Gyanam is the only criteria and it is not a visible one.
Anticipating this objection, Sri Krishna says, Arjuna, even if you are a Gyani, you should continue doing Karma Yoga. Even though you do not require Karma after Gyanam, for the sake of society and Dharma you need to follow Karma yoga.
In our tradition there are three sources of knowledge to know if a situation is Dharmic or not. If not we will have a let-go Philosophy (Laissez faire) or a Raga Dvesha based life also called Prakritha Purusha. It is not a life of a cultured person called Samskruta Purusha. So one goes back to Dharma Adharma life. So, how to know if it is Dharma or Adharma?
If I have to be a refined person, I should not do what I like to do; I should do what is proper. Propriety is more important. Naturally, I should know what is proper. And
I should know what is improper. So the question, what is the source of knowing dharma and adharma? Poorva Mimamsa sutra says Vedokilam Dharmamulam or that the entire vedas are our scriptures and are the primary source of dharma-adharma jnanam..
1) Sruthi: The Vedas are the primary source of Dharma/ Adharma Gyanam. The human being can never know totally because, human beings’ knowledge is Limited.
- Smrithi: All secondary literature based upon Vedas are also a source. They have to be interpreted according to the times. The interpreters have the freedom to interpret. They must, however, have no axe to grind. Ramayana and Bhagawatham are examples of Smrithi’s.
- Shishta Achara: A life led by cultured elders who show by example. They serve as role models of Dharma. They are called Shishta’s. Of the three sources the Shishta Achara is the most important. Sruthi and Smrithi are only literature. Live models have greater impact on society.
Shloka # 21:
यद्यदाचरति श्रेष्ठस्तत्तदेवेतरो जनः।
स यत्प्रमाणं कुरुते लोकस्तदनुवर्तते।।3.21।।
Whatever is done by the best of men, others also do; the world conforms to the standard that he sets.
Who are Shishta’s? The most powerful person is the mother. She is the greatest influence on a child. Even in the womb the child knows mothers’ thoughts. It knows if it is wanted or not. Ceremonies such as Simantham are meant for welcoming the child. The child knows the atmosphere in the house.
Next role model is the father. A father should perform noble things in the house. He should not swear. A child is deeply influenced by a father’s action as well. Others will follow a good man’s actions.
Shloka # 22:
न मे पार्थास्ति कर्तव्यं त्रिषु लोकेषु किञ्चन।
नानवाप्तमवाप्तव्यं वर्त एव च कर्मणि।।3.22।।
I have Arjuna! no duty whatever to discharge in all the three worlds; there is nothing I have not won, and nothing remains to be won by Me; still I ceaselessly work.
Here Sri Krishna cites himself as an example. A society that gives healthy models to children is a healthy one. One example is Anjaneya. His story is full of morals. His attitude of respect towards women is taught. Human ingenuity alone is not enough; the grace of God is essential to succeed. Hanuman’s Bhakti is an example of this devotion. Lakshmana was another exemplar. He could only recognize Sita’s anklet, as he never looked above her feet. They had healthy attitude towards women, wealth and society.
Elders are responsible for the next generation. So, Arjuna you too should act.
With Best Wishes,