Bhagavad Gita Chapter 3 Part II – Karma Yoga


How do you define a ‘duty?’ How do I know what my duty is? Why should I do my duty?

Duty is that which must be performed. There’s no option to the doer, like a student has to study, human need to brush our teeth and keep us clean, parents taking care of kids and grown up adults caring for elderly parents.

When you don’t do what you’re supposed to do, you experience a guilt, ‘I should have done that’, that which is needed to be performed is your ‘duty’. That’s your innate alarm system cautioning you.

Often we choose to work that which we like and eliminate those that we do not like. That attitude makes us anxious as we work about the results of the action and then get agitated when we get the results. We might or might not get the results that are desired.

The same task when done as a duty, the doer is focused and efficient. He is also mentally calm during and after the task.

Gita says,’Do your Duty’, depending on our stages and position in life. This varies from person to person. Duty can also be defined as to assume the responsibility to do what we need to do. When a duty is performed with full enthusiasm and maximum effort, at the end of the day, one experiences a sense of fulfillment, contentment without any sort of guilt.

When we carry out our duties choiceless-ly and unconditionally with the right attitude, our mind is calm as we work and steady or equipoised with the results whether this is a joy or sorrow, positive or negative or in any dualistic way.

What is the difference between one’s ‘right’ and one’s ‘duty’?

Often times, people are aware of their rights but not their duties.

Swadharma, in Sanskrit has no corresponding word in English, it is often represented as ‘duty’.

Swadharma or ‘duty’ should always precede one’s rights. Duties must be done at all costs no questions asked.

When an individual performs one’s duty whether it is in a family or at work the benefit goes to all that are involved. If a few miss their duty, then the effect of not doing one’s duty will also affect everyone in the family or society.

For example, if we all follow the road rules, everyone is safe. So every driver’s duty is to follow the road rules. If few drivers skip their duty many other drivers could be injured, causing a chaos in the street..

Humans have duties based on one’s position and the role they play. A parent is responsible for the emotional, psychological, financial security of children. It is their duty, not a choice. Children have the duty to take care of parents when they’re old whatever maybe their situation.

So also it is everyone’s duty to vote, to choose the right leader for the benefit of their city, state and nation. When the wise, educated, knowledgeable group of people refrain from voting, it can be counterproductive to the society on the whole.

What’s the main theme of Bhagavad Gita?

Ignorance of the Self (thinking one is the transmigratory, with body and the mind) is the cause of every suffering. This misunderstanding can be removed only through the Self-knowledge with a surrendering attitude is the theme of Gita. First, we need to understand that we are ignorant, then we need to realize that we need help, and then develop a surrendering attitude. Only then the ignorance could be removed. As long we continue to believe that we are this body and/or/both the mind, we are in the karmic cycle of birth & death, samsara.

Gita says, “Your choice is only in action, never in the result”.

We humans have the choice to act, not act or act as one wishes, but the results are determined by the law of nature. We can give any number of examples from our daily lives.

We can sow the seeds but whether the crops will come is based on many factors. When the results are not in our hands, it is vital we do it right with full concentration and commitment at its best.

An arrow shot, left the bow, is beyond our control. We can choose the path before we send it. Once it is oit of our hands, we have no control over it. Similarly every action we perform has a consequence which we are not and cannot be aware of the outcome. It is important therefore to think objectively and do our duty without fail.

Not doing an action also bears consequences. Therefore, recognize that we have the choice to either do it or not do it or do it in a different way.

The wise person is simply motivated by the joy of what needs to be done, at every moment and the joy of doing that, which, must be done. The wise does not worry or anxious about the process or the result and is not agitated at the outcome of the action.

The wise stay focused, complete the work with focused attention, with best possible effort for complete satisfaction. This helps the person experience the joy of improving oneself through selfless actions, which are not desired prompted.

Explain how karma-yoga attitude can make us fit for worldly pursuits leading to higher pursuits.

Efficiency is when a task is done systematically in an orderly fashion, with limited resources, within a short period of time, to get maximum output but even the negatively motivated actions could also be that precise. for ex: a robber or a murderer does them also in a very efficient manner without being caught.

All desire prompted actions bring about results. These results form deeper impressions, also called vasanas. These impressions give rise to more desires, leading to more actions, producing more impressions and these impressions in turn create desires. This is a cyclical process and the individual is caught in this cycle. This cycle is called bondage of action that prevents one to go in for higher pursuits. When an action is performed efficiently with a selfless attitude, then it is yoga.

In chapter 2, “karmani eva adhikarah te ma phaleshu…” is a very important verse to reiterate and retain. We all have the right only to do the action. We should not be inactive, as beings cannot be inactive. We, humans need to constantly do meaningful activities. Action by itself will not bind one but the anxiety and worry over the results of the action is what binds us. Normally humans work to earn power, authority, higher salary, fame, awards and recognition.

These are desire prompted actions. They will cause stress, tension as we work and we either get elated or dejected depending on the results of the actions. This never stops. A student is stressed to get highest grade, then he is stressed to get admission in a college, again stressed, then stressed to get a job, and on and on…

When the action is performed as karma yoga, ie. without any attachment or expectation of the results of action, that person develops a pure mind. Such a person performs all actions without any likes & dislikes and accepts the results as Iswara prasadam. This equanimity in the results of the action is yoga. he is unperturbed by the worldly transactions.

Karma yoga is a selfless attitude with which the actions are performed. It is important to have ambitions and set goals to bring out our full potential but at the same time, we must focus on doing our best and accept whatever result that is derived. In doing so, the mind is calm, focused on the process without agitation for the results leading for higher pursuits.

Who is a realized master? What are the characteristics of such a master and how does such a person interacts with the world?

Generally people are fascinated by the objects around them based on the age, exposure and their stage in life from toys to cars, houses and a variety of things. When a toddler is asked what would you want, one would ask for balloons, then as the individual grows it changes to a cycle to a motorbike to a car.

We operate on the pretext that objects, other people make us happier. Therefore everyone is looking for happiness outside of oneself, in objects or in other people.

But a realized person knows that the happiness lies within oneself. His happiness does not depend on anything outside of himself. He cannot be lured by the external objects or by people around. He is fully contented, fulfilled from within.

This realized person is compared to an ocean which is ever full and doesn’t make any difference when a river flows into it or have stopped flowing to it. He is full, contented with or without any of the external worldly things or people around. Situations do not affect him. Such a person does not associate himself with anything, therefore is a witness of everything around him, including his body.

Explain how Gita describes ‘How to live as a human’. What qualifies one as human? How can one avoid sliding down from being human?

The game ‘snakes & ladder’ is an example of the cycle of going up & down. Playing this game helps us recognize to choose our path in life.

We can prevent our fall from our civilized human stature by taking some conscious steps in our thoughts, words and behavior.

Remaining in a state with a firm knowledge that happiness is within us and not in external objects or people.

Keeping ourselves busy by performing our duties & meaningful activities and not go after material objects. This is Arpana Bhudhi (sacrificing attitude)

Increasing desires that take us to the higher Self than desiring for the temporary objects, actions, results & goals.

Accept life AS IS. Understanding that not all our desires will always be fulfilled. This is ‘prasada buddhi’ (accepting what ‘IS’ attitude).

Refrain from saying words, taking action when emotional, sad, guilt or angry. In fact managing the thoughts is ideal. This is possible only when we think of the higher power and accept the fact that our experiences are due to our own actions.

Reading scriptures and attending satsangs would be healthy.

What prevents us from experiencing peace? How to manage the flow of thoughts? What are the benefits?

When we toss a tiny rock in a lake, the ripples disturbs the lake. So also, we are always in peace until the thoughts cause those ripples, agitations in the mind. That’s why meditation or prayer is recommended early in the morning when we wake up, for, at that time we have not yet experienced any contact with the external world, the mind is at peace.

During the entire day we interact in this transactional world and experience different emotions and the mind is unfit to do meditation at the end of the day, with anxiety and agitations due to day’s experiences.

The effort should be not to disturb the peace that already exists.

The below mentioned four prevents us from experiencing peace.

Ego ~ Ahamkara – the “I” thought causes disturbance. The moment we think ‘I am the doer, speaker’ then we also think “I am not happy, I am restless’ when the desired results are not achieved. The better attitude would be to think that ‘I am only a custodian, caretaker’ and you tend to do your best to serve your master and the result does not affect you and retains the peace within.

My-ness ~ mamata – Again, if you are the custodian then nothing is yours. The thought that we own the objects or the people causes agitation resulting in the fear of losing them, angry when we lose them. Loss is inevitable as they all are temporary in existence. The famous philosopher Kahlil Gibran quotes, “Children are not born to you but born through you”. Our scriptures ask us to be like a droplet, on the lotus leaf that doesn’t wet the leaf, recognizing ourselves to be a part of the world, yet apart from it..

Desire ~ kamana – We see many things as we go through the day and not everything really influences us. But when we try to recall that one object or person that was attractive to us,we keep thinking about it again and again, and develop an attachment. This attachment leads to the thought, ‘I must possess it’. That’s the desire. Interacting is not a problem but recalling often is like a quicksand, it can take us deeper into it thus causing agitation in the mind.

Cravings- This is the longing, yearning for the desired object or person, re-living the past experiences and dreaming or expecting future pleasures. This is the result of desire.

Self knowledge destroys the false ego that we all possess. Even though we claim as doctors, CEOs, Managers and Directors, all these are of the body, mind equipment. Each of us is the witness of these equipment and everything around.

Once the ego is removed then all that is leaning on that ego also disappears. Gita suggests that we should reduce the ‘my-ness’, desires and cravings thereby experience total peace.

What is the ‘ladder of Fall’, ‘sliding slope’ as mentioned in Gita?

Brooding or pondering causes attachment ~ (dhyayato visayan pumsah sangah) Sanga, attachment – is the link, attachment is caused by thinking over and over again about a particular object or a person. Sri Krishna describes as ‘anudharshanam’. In this transactional world, nothing sticks to our mind unless we try to retrieve them, like them to own them. Such an mental thought causes sanga, attachment..

Attachment gives rise to desire (sangat sanjayate kamaha) ~ Such pondering, ruminating thoughts, attachment to any object deepens intense desires to possess them thus prohibiting one to focus on other thoughts & actions..

Desires causes agitation & anger ~ (kamad krodo bhijayate) ~ The desire to possess the object causes agitation and anger when the object is not attainable. More the desires, more the agitation. This agitated, frustrated mind leads to anger.

Anger causes delusion (krodhad bhavati sammohah) ~ The mind thinks thoughts but the intellect makes decisions. When the mind is in a state of anger, it tries to convince the intellect that what it pursues is the right thing and the intellect gets confused and loses it capability to differentiate between the right and wrong thus unable to make any decision. It simply gets influenced by the thoughts of the mind. Then the rational thinking is not possible resulting in people raising their voice, shout, yell and talk absurd. The intellect is bypassed, rational thinking is put on hold and emotion takes over.

Delusion makes us forget our past knowledge (sammohat smriti vibhramah) ~ We all possess the wisdom of all our knowledge and experiences. For example when the computer is frozen, we are unable to access our data & images, so also, when the intellect is frozen, all the knowledge & wisdom that we gained over our lifetime in the past years becomes inaccessible. Even though we know some things are wrong, we tend to do them anyway because at that time the mind has taken over the intellect and we are engulfed in delusion, moha.

When the past knowledge is forgotten, the intellect is destroyed (smrti brahmasad buddhi nasah) ~ Intellect’s responsibility is to be able to sort, analyze, compare, comprehend and decide. When such an intellect is neither able to do these with the current information nor retrieve knowledge from the past experiences, it is crashed and completely shuts down.

A destroyed intellect destroys the individual (buddhinasat pranasyati) ~ Humans are far superior to all other species mainly because of this discriminative faculty of the intellect. We are able to identify the right from wrong, good from bad and have this ability to choose our thoughts, words & actions. Once this important faculty is destroyed, we act on instinct & not intellect. That’s the total destruction of a human being. To be born as a human is very very rare and to lose the opportunity for higher pursuits is the ladder of fall…

We can avoid this fall by managing our flow of thoughts, directing the mind to the higher level towards the Self knowledge.

What’s the essence of chapter four in Bhagavad Gita?

To start with, action is very important and inaction is not advised. Continue to act and act with a worshipping attitude (Iswara – arpanam) and not worry or be anxious about the results of actions. Focus on the process than results.

Do your duty with a selfless attitude (karma yoga attitude) without expecting anything in return in whatever hat you wear. That way you’re not anxious or agitated, and you also experience the joy of doing whatever you do, thus experiencing peace from within.

Perform your duty with selfless attitude and surrendering the results of actions to the Lord until they become your second nature. Do them because they need to be done, not for external rewards or self promotion or recognition. Human birth by itself is a rare opportunity to minimize the bondage and rebirths.

Practice silence to minimize the activities through your senses (dhamaha) except when needed in this transactional world. Watch your thoughts (Kshamaha) and make sure that you always take the higher road and be diligent to avoid the ladder of fall. You have the ability to choose your path, by living a conscious life, stay focused on the higher path, surrender, and live in peace.

Develop the ‘daiva drishti’, ‘divine vision’ to see the divinity in all creatures, be kind, compassionate and dutiful..

Recognize that you’re complete whole, devoid of anything less and using this transmigratory body to stay steady in ‘Self knowledge’ via satsang through the scriptural readings, and teachings

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