Chapter 3 – The Path of Action

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Arjuna said, Krishna, if you consider knowledge superior to action, why do you advise me to fight this dreadful war? I am confused by your ambiguous advice. Please tell me clearly, which is the best course of action?

Lord Krishna said, I have already described the two paths found in this world. Some people try to realise the soul by the path of knowledge and others by the path of selfless action.

You cannot escape from karma by abstaining from action. Perfection cannot be achieved by renunciation alone. No one can remain inactive for even a moment. Everyone is compelled to act by the material nature.

Anyone who externally restrains their senses, but continues to think about the objects of the senses is a fool and a hypocrite. It is far better to control your senses with your mind and carry out your work without attachment.

Carry out your allotted tasks, because action is superior to being idle. You cannot even sustain your existence without working.

Selfless action performed as an offering to the Supreme Lord is known as sacrifice. Action performed for any other reason causes bondage in this material world.

Therefore to remain free of karmic reaction you should remain unattached to the fruits of your actions and perform all your actions for the satisfaction of the Supreme Lord.

At the start of the creation, Lord Brahma produced sacrifice along with the progeny of the world and instructed them by saying,

‘Take shelter of this religious principle of sacrifice because its performance will fulfil all your desires. By pleasing the demigods with sacrifices, they will in turn please you by supplying all the necessities of life. Thus, through mutual nourishment everyone will prosper.’

Anyone who enjoys the natural gifts of the demigods, without first offering them to the demigods incurs the karma of a thief. Virtuous people offer their food as a sacrifice before eating. This liberates them from all kinds of sin. Those who prepare food only for their own pleasure are eating sin.

The bodies of the living beings are produced from food, and food comes from rain. Rainfall occurs because of the performance of sacrifice, and sacrifice arises from action.

The Vedic scriptures specify required actions, and the Vedas originate from the Supreme Lord. Therefore, the all-pervading and imperishable Supreme Lord is eternally present in the acts of sacrifice offered to Him.

My dear Arjuna, anyone who does not respect and follow this natural cycle of sacrifice leads a sinful life, for a person who lives only for sensual pleasure lives in vain.

There is no duty to fulfil for those who take pleasure in the self and are fully satisfied within. The self-realised do not gain anything by performing their duties, nor have they any reason not to engage in work. They have no reason to depend on any other living being.

Therefore, you should carry out your responsibilities without attachment to the results. By selflessly executing your duty, you will achieve liberation. Even great personalities have attained perfection by performing their allotted tasks.

In order to instruct the general population, you should carry out your duties. Others will imitate the actions of the superior people. The entire world will follow the ideals created by their admirable actions.

I have no duty to perform within the universe. I lack nothing and I have no need to obtain anything, but I still engage in work. If I did not work, then everyone would follow my example and this entire world would be spoiled.

People without spiritual knowledge carry out their work motivated by the profits they will obtain. The enlightened must also carry out their work but without attachment to the results.

The wise should not confuse the minds of the ignorant, by advising them to stop work. They should be advised to carry out their duties without attachment to the results.

The material nature carries out all action in this world. The ignorant are deluded because they identify with the body, so they think they alone are accomplishing the work.

Those who are enlightened by spiritual knowledge do not try to satisfy their senses, because they are aware that only the senses are engaging with their objects and they are performing no action at all.

Ignorant people who are captivated by the material nature become addicted to sensual enjoyment. The wise should not agitate these people. They should be advised to work without attachment.

Offer your actions to me with the understanding that all your actions are under the control of the Supreme Lord. Absorbed in this consciousness, seeking no profit and without possessiveness or grief, you should fight as your natural duty.

Those who faithfully perform their duties according to my teachings are liberated from the bondage of karma, even though they are engaged in action. But arrogant people who disregard these teachings are lost in ignorance and condemned to suffer or enjoy the results of their actions.

Even knowledgeable people will act according to their own nature. All living beings are forced to abide by their own nature, so what purpose will repression serve?

Although sensual objects attract and repel the senses, you should not let these urges control you because they are the greatest enemy of those striving for self-realisation.

It is better to engage in your own duty with faults than to perform another’s duty well.

Even death in the course of performing your own duty is better than engaging in someone else’s duties, because it is perilous to pursue the path of another.

Arjuna inquired, “Krishna, what compels someone to commit sinful acts, even against their will?”

Lord Krishna said, It is lust which induces someone to commit sin. Lust arises from contact with the material mode of passion and can transform into anger. Lust is insatiable and it burns like fire. It is the worst enemy of the living beings within this world.

As smoke veils a fire, as dust covers a mirror, or as the womb encloses an embryo, similarly, lust covers the pure consciousness of the living beings in different degrees of intensity.

Lust dwells within the senses, the mind and the intelligence and conceals the knowledge of the living being causing illusion. Therefore, control your senses and defeat this embodiment of sin, which ruins knowledge and self-realisation.

The senses are superior to inert matter, the mind is superior to the senses, the intelligence is superior to the mind, and the soul is superior to the intelligence.

Knowing the soul to be superior, steady your mind with resolute intelligence, and destroy this formidable enemy called lust.

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