15 | On Bhagavad Gita | Act fervently but without Sanga

Swami Bhoomananda Tirtha


[People often quote: “Your right is only to act, but not to the results”! And they claim this is what Bhagavad Gita declares!! What a blatant distortion!!! What, then, is the right message? Read what Poojya Swamiji expounds below.]

Dear and blessed souls:

Harih Om Tat Sat.

Gita dialogue, marking the finale and fulfilment of seeker’s life. Be discreet. Read and reflect upon Krishna’s words to understand the real import of the message (verses no. 2.46, 47). These are generally misunderstood by readers and even commentators. And it has become too difficult to correct the misunderstanding, because these ‘seemingly popular’ notions have got deeply entrenched in people’s minds.

When everywhere is flooded

Krishna first describes the inner fulfilment of the Knower by an apt illustration. Just imagine the state wherein all places surrounding you are flooded with pure water; wells, tanks, lakes and even rivers have become full. Will you then have any need for a potful of water? A potful of water is generally drawn from a well or taken from a tank, lake or river.

The well water can be used only for drinking and cooking. To bathe, you may go to a tank. If the need is more, you will require a lake. For perennial water to harvest agricultural products, you must have river. No
single source will suffice all our needs.

The well may go dry, even the tank. River also can dry up, if summer becomes acute and lingers. Where is the assurance of sufficiency then? Even if you dig a well, you may not strike water. Indefiniteness is there everywhere. Likewise are the fate and outcomes of Vedic rituals and ceremonies. They may not fetch the acclaimed results; their promised fruition is said to be after the performer leaves his body here. Remember: These rituals are like flowers that do not bear fruits. Moreover, you have to resort to a variety of them to get the results you look for. Thus, abortiveness, indefiniteness and uncertainty assail the whole kārmic mission.

What should one of discrimination then do? Obviously, he must summarily reject the so called rituals outright and turn to the Upanishadic pronouncements on the immortal, all-pervading, blissful Self. This is what Krishna means by the all-flooded state. Be flooded by inner enrichment.

Gain inner abundance

What a great infallible, incomparable proposition! Employing the intelligence, discriminate the Self from the body, take to steady contemplation on it. This is the only ripe way for the genuine seeker. Say goodbye to all rituals and ceremonies which are incapable of giving any result, or whose result is transitory and tormenting. Take to your own inmost Self, which remains as the unconditioned, unaffected, ever present, ever full, inmost presence, about which none can have the least doubt.

You can never find anyone who does not say ‘I’. Undoubtedly, this ‘I’ remains changeless in all the three states – waking, sleep and dream. Waking demonstrates its potential, power and glory to bring about manifold manifestation. Sleep indicates how ‘I’ can dissolve the entire wakeful display and be aloof for hours, dismissing everything of the wakeful state – the body, mind, intelligence, ego and even the world! Sleep clearly proves how there exists the ‘I’ as a singular presence transcending wakefulness and dream. And what about dream? This singular ‘I’, the Self, is displaying its magic potential of creation!

To seek the ‘I’ and realize it, is like going to a place flooded fully with pure water. You will have no lack or dearth. It is a state of inner sufficiency, fullness and ecstasy. See, what a beautiful description Krishna gives for the Self and its realization, in front of which all rituals and ceremonies become irrelevant, useless and a mere waste of time!

Arjuna’s competence evaluated

Listening to Krishna, Arjuna is overwhelmed, enamoured. He wonders, whether he should stop all his war effort and get away from the battlefield to plunge into exclusive spiritual rumination and contemplation. Why delay the process even for a day?

He would have thought: ‘True, I have been preparing for this great Mahabharata war for 13 years. But, that was because I was ignorant and deluded. I had not known, nor had anyone told me, about the imperishable blissful Self, the ‘I’, within my body, as my Krishna does now. Krishna has exposed me to this invaluable, inner treasure and the fullness of ecstasy it showers. Should I not instantly strive in that direction? Why do I need to fight then? No activity of any kind should be taken up. Nothing is worthy before this inner superb, spiritual abundance!

‘What is the use of regaining my kingdom with royal comforts and luxuries? Are they not all equally perishable, transitory, also tormenting? No, No, I should not seek to indulge in any wasteful exercise. My goal should be my inmost Self and its full-fold realization. What can prevent me from this great human fortune? Let me not be blinded any more. My path and goal are inner, spiritual and the ever-present ecstatic Self’.

The great instructor Krishna, true to his role as Guru, entreated by Arjuna to become his Master, rushes to correct and enlighten Arjuna about the unfeasibility of his thought and resolve. It is in such a background and immediacy that we step into the next verse 2.47, most misunderstood and misinterpreted throughout the world.

“Your competence is to pursue activity”

“Arjuna, your competence, maturity you have gained, is now only to pursue activity and through that attain the spiritual goal of Self-realization. You have not yet the maturity to keep away from activity and be engaged in exclusive spiritual rumination and contemplation.

“Mind you, you are born a warrior. You have fighting excellence, incomparable in every way. Did you not perform the hardest penance to win Pāśupata-astra from Lord Shiva? Before gifting you the weapon, did not Lord Shiva test your fighting skill? He came in the disguise of a kirāta (one of tribal class who lives by hunting), chasing a wild boar. He and you pierced the boar with your arrows. He claimed the prey as he hit the animal first. You refuted that claim, stating the animal actually fell by your arrow.

“In the duel that ensued between you, the Lord was pleased by your superior strength and excellence, and finally gifted you the most precious Pāśupata-astra. Can you wipe off the memory of all this from your mind and escape from the challenge, seeking to rest peacefully within yourself, as a renunciate? Dear Arjuna, tendencies are a much stronger force than gravity acting on the body. Mind is more powerful than matter. Its hold cannot be set aside or ignored.”

Not fit for jñāna-niṣṭhā – knowledge-pursuit

The long and short of it all is that Krishna found Arjuna not mature and ripe for taking up exclusive jñāna-niṣṭhā, the wisdom pursuit, in the form of ceaseless introspection and contemplation. His competence was only for pursuing activities with yogic-orientation, which could lead him to the desired goal, after reforming and refining his inner personality.

Does ‘adhikāra’ mean ‘right’?

The word adhikāra Krishna uses, is not clearly understood by people. It is translated as right (privilege). And the words karmaṇi eva te adhikāraḥ are taken to mean ‘your right is only upon activity, and not upon their results, outcomes’. This is absolutely wrong, even insensible. Work and its result, outcome, are inseparable from each other. In fact, one takes up a task to achieve a certain outcome. The whole act is designed keeping this in mind. When the work is complete, the result comes. Just as when the term of pregnancy is full and complete, the child issues forth from the womb. Should then the mother disclaim the child or abandon it?

So too, when a student who has completed his course and written well in the examination, is declared as
having passed and promoted to the next class, should he refuse to accept the verdict? Can a worker having worked a full month, refuse to take his salary? Whom else will the employer pay?

Work and its outcome are inseparable

A work and its outcome are inseparable from each other. None can think of separating the two. As is one’s ownership over what he does, so is his ownership for the outcome it has produced too. Objectively the two go together, and none can do anything about it.

Adhikāra means competence

The word adhikāra means competence and that too to the karma-niṣṭhā, pursuit of activity, as opposed to the pursuit of contemplation and meditation, jñāna-niṣṭhā, as Krishna hinted about the enlightened Brahmana in the earlier verse. Arjuna cannot certainly take up such exclusive contemplation now. So “be doing your activities for the present, do not think of attempting jñāna-niṣṭhā”. This is the meaning and intent of the verse.

In fact, Gita does not deal with the objective results of actions at all, where the rules and laws of the objective world prevail. Krishna, as well as Vedanta, speaks only about spirituality, the science of inner mind, intelligence and Self. Possession, dispossession, delusion, clarity, enlightenment, etc. are concepts that relate to the inner personality of the human. Naturally, the results he speaks of about karma, activity, are the mental responses to objective fruitions of activities.

These are primarily of three kinds, as Krishna says later (18.12): Aniṣṭam, iṣṭam and miśram, meaning the desired, the undesired and the mixture of both. It is these attitudes that must be left or abandoned, not the objective results at all. In other words, what one has to keep away from or abandon is the delusional clinging, saṅga, to these results. Hence, the seeker must gain enough competence and maturity not to be conditioned or deterred by the objective outcomes of actions. Harmonizing and evenizing everything and all, he must go forward graced by equipoise, which comprehends every life situation and its impact.

Act – but with no clinging (saṅga) for results

What is the summary lesson? While pursuing activities one should not be unduly influenced by the thought of the fruition. Any act, when well done, is bound to bring its desired fruition. Rare are the instances, when this is not so. So, it is not necessary to think about whether an act will fruition properly or not. Take your mind away from undue clinging to the fruition, the sole cause of agitation and agony. It is possible to become harmonious with activity and whatever follows. By so doing, no result of any act will be distanced or denied. Be sure.

Once you understand this, the fruits of actions cannot be your motivation for work. Remember, it is nature’s guṇas that compel everyone to engage in activity. It is nature that causes hunger as well as the scope and means to appease it. In the same manner, activity and its fruition also take place within the scheme of nature. Understanding this fundamental is crucial in karma-yoga.

Be not refrained from actions

At the same time, you should not be lazy or indifferent to activities. If activity is irresistible and is governed by the laws of nature, where is the scope and freedom to shun active life? In the end, this is a point of understanding. It is right knowledge and consequent reformation in attitude that transform any karma into karma-yoga.

The yoga part is effected by intelligence. It infuses the right knowledge into the mind. Thus, even in karma-yoga, the pursuit rests upon mind’s attitude and intelligence’s assessment, evaluation.

Remember Krishna’s aphoristic words: vyavasāyātmika buddhiḥ ekeha kurunandana – in the pursuit of this karma-yoga, be attentive on only one factor, namely the resolute nature of intelligence. By applying discrimination, the seeker has to understand that his objective is to turn within and focus on the mind, making it equipoised and even towards the pairs of opposites, especially sukha and duḥkha, the only repetitive outcome of every action.

Equipoise and evenness of the mind

To an even mind, neither the desired result nor something contrary would make the least difference. With this one inner, mental orientation, the karma yogi can meet the entire world and all that greet him from any quarter with peace, poise and placidity.

Though in description the pursuit is called karma-yoga, in actual essence it is no other than a uniform note of equipoise the mind cherishes and preserves. The yogi’s life thus becomes ceaselessly pleasant, prosperous, enriching and fulfilling, no matter what he does and where.

For Arjuna it was the deadly war involving his grandfather, teacher and a number of kith and kin, all poised for facing bodily death and destruction. Whether gain or loss, virtue or vice, heaven or hell, praise or blame, friend or enemy, this inner mental uniform note will dazzle untarnished everywhere, gracing oneself as well as what he does for whatever end it may be.

Krishna asks Arjuna thus: What then is your fear or grief, delusion or doubt? No action, event, challenge or persecution is adverse or unpleasant for you. You have the inner armour of equipoise, which will sublimate all inputs and impacts, enhancing your inner enrichment, expanse and elevation.

Activity will no more be a physical interaction with sensory objects. It will be a well-directed, progressive inner spiritual pursuit, elevating you every time with spiritual enlightenment and reward, centred in your own inmost, imperishable, blissful Self, the changeless ‘I’, the one presence that never shrinks, diminishes or gets effaced!

(to be continued)


“These rituals are like flowers that do not bear fruits. Moreover, you have to resort to a variety of them to get the results you look for.”

“Employing the intelligence, discriminate the Self from the body, take to steady contemplation on it. This is the only ripe way for the genuine seeker. ”

“Gita does not deal with the objective results of actions at all, where the rules and laws of the objective world prevail. Krishna, as well as Vedanta, speaks only about spirituality, the science of inner mind, intelligence and Self.”