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SECRET OF ACTION IN BHAGAWAD-GITA

In his Introduction to Bhagawad-gita As It Is, Srila Prabhupada says- “Gitopanishad is the essence of Vedic knowledge”. Verses 4 and 6 of the Gita Mahatmya (Glory of Gita) that he quotes in this regard declares that Srimad Bhagawad Gita is the essence of all Upanishads and one need not read any other Vedic literature. The seven hundred verses in Bhagawad-gita spread over eighteen chapters succinctly summarises the entire Vedic wisdom covering Karma (action), Jnana (knowledge), and Upasana (devotional worship). Bhagawad-gita deals with five basic truths namely a) Iswara, the Supreme Controller, b) jivas, the controlled living entities, c) Prakriti, the material nature, d) Kala, the time dimension of existence of manifold material nature and e) Karma, the activity. Of these five truths, the Lord, the living entities, material nature and time are eternal but Karma (activity) is not eternal. It is essential for all human beings to know the Secret of Karma as, among all the 8.4 million species, only man can change the course of his destiny by choosing his activities rightly.

In verse 50 of Chapter II, the Lord declares-“ A man engaged in devotional service rids himself of both good and bad actions even in this life. Therefore, strive for yoga, which is the art of all works.” Explaining the esoteric purport of this beautiful gem, Srila Prabhupada says that each living entity has accumulated since time immemorial, the various reactions of his good and bad deeds and Arjuna is advised to act in Krsna consciousness, the purifying process of resultant reactions. Aspirants seeking liberation, should understand the deep significance of the Lord’s words YOGAH KARMASU KAUSALAM i.e. strive for yoga, which is the art of all work. Karma Yoga, devotional service is elaborately dealt with by the Lord in Chapters III to V of the Bhagawad-gita. In this mundane world, in order to survive, everyone must engage himself in some sort of activity. Actions are a double-edged weapon, as they can bind the doer to this world or liberate him from bondage. The Secret of action lies in choosing such actions as will liberate the soul and keep away from those actions that will bind one to the world. By performing actions for the pleasure of the Supreme Lord, without any selfish motives, one can be liberated from the Law of Karma (action and reaction) and attain transcendental knowledge of the self and the Supreme.

The performance of devotional action for the pleasure of the Supreme, blesses one with the spiritual knowledge of soul, of God and of their close relationship. Transcendental knowledge of the soul, God and their intimate and inalienable relationship is the fruit of Karma Yoga (devotional action). In verse 16 of Chapter IV, Bhagawan (Lord) says “ Even the intelligent are bewildered in determining what is action and what is inaction. Now I shall explain to you what action is, knowing which you shall be liberated from all misfortune.” The intricacies of action are very difficult to understand even by the wise and so the Lord wants to explain what they exactly mean. In his purport on this verse, Srila Prabhupada says that one cannot ascertain the ways of religion simply by imperfect experimental knowledge and the principles of religion can only be laid down by the Lord Himself. Out of causeless mercy to His devotees, Lord Himself explains what action is and what inaction is.

Aspirants seeking liberation should know properly what action is, what forbidden action is and what inaction is, as even the most intelligent are bewildered on this issue. In verse 18 of Chapter IV the Lord proceeds to explain action and inaction. He says “ One who sees inaction in action, and action in inaction, is intelligent among men, and he is in the transcendental position, although engaged in all sorts of activities.” Srila Prabhupada explains the purport of this paradoxical but crucial verse in the following words:

“ Akarma means without reaction to action. The impersonalists cease fruitive activities out of fear, so that the resultant action may not be a stumbling block on the path of self realisation, but the personalist knows rightly his position, as the eternal servitor of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Therefore, he engages himself in the activities of Krsna consciousness.” One who has perfectly understood the Truth that every living entity is an eternal servitor of the Lord engages himself in Krsna conscious activities only. Only devotional actions performed in Krsna consciousness can deliver a person from the entanglement of material existence.

In verse 5 of Chapter III, the Lord says “ Everyone is forced to act helplessly according to the modes of material nature; therefore, no one can refrain from actions even for a moment.” It is the very nature of a living entity to be always active either physically or mentally. The word ‘Karma” (action) covers all activities of the body, senses, mind and intellect. Actions can be for the proper maintenance and upkeep of the body in terms of satisfaction of hunger and thirst, rest and sleep, brushing of teeth and bathing etc. Actions can be for eking out a living through employment, business, profession, vocation etc. Actions can be for the gratification of the senses through music, dance, entertainment, travel, sports etc. They can also be for the nourishment of mind through reading elevating and ennobling literature, reflecting on the profound thoughts of great minds for the purification and enrichment of the mind. Actions can be for spiritual enlightenment through chanting, praying, worship etc. As long as man is alive he is bound to perform actions of one kind or the other according to his nature either for the body or to keep his turbulent senses and restless mind fully occupied. Srila Prabhupada brings our beautifully the purport of this verse in these words:

“ The body is only a dead vehicle to be worked by the spirit soul, which is always active and cannot stop even for a moment. As such, the spirit soul has to be engaged in the good work of Krsna consciousness; otherwise it will be engaged in occupations dictated by illusory energy.”

In his Introduction to Bhagawad-gita As It Is, while referring to pure life he says-“ We are temporarily engaged in different activities but all of these activities can be purified when we give up all these temporary activities and take up the activities which are prescribed by the Supreme Lord.” While referring to verse 7 of Chapter VIII, where the Lord asks Arjuna to think of Him always and at the same time continue his prescribed duty of fighting, Srila Prabhupada says “ The Lord never suggests anything impracticable….. The Lord, therefore, tells Arjuna that he need not give up his occupation, but while he is engaged in his occupation, he should remember Krsna (MAM ANUSMARA). If he does not practice remembering Krsna while he is struggling for existence, then it will not be possible for him to remember Krsna at the time of death. Lord Caitanya also advises this. He says KIRTANIYAH SADA HARIH:, one should practice chanting of the Lord always.”

Replying to the question “How can this divided attention be possible?” Srila Prabhupada while referring to the example of lover quoted by Acharyas (teachers) writes-“ Similarly we should always remember the Supreme Lover Sri Krsna and at the same time perform our natural duties very nicely. A strong sense of love is required here. If we have a strong sense of love for the Supreme Lord, then we can discharge our duty and at the same time remember Him. But we have to develop that sense of love.”

In verse 47 of Chapter II, the Lord declares – “You have a right to perform your prescribed duty, but you are not entitled to the fruit of action. Never consider yourself the cause of the results of your activities, and never be attached to not doing your duty.” Explaining the purport of this very important verse, Srila Prabhupada says “As far as prescribed duties are concerned, they can be fitted into three sub-divisions namely routine work, emergency work and desired activities. Routine work performed as an obligation in terms of the scriptural injunctions, without desire for results, is action in the mode of goodness. Work with results becomes the cause of bondage; therefore such work is not auspicious…. Any attachment positive or negative is cause for bondage. Inaction is sinful. Therefore, fighting as a matter of duty was the only auspicious path of salvation for Arjuna.” One has, therefore, to perform one’s duties without concerning oneself about the results of such actions. In what attitude of mind should one perform his duties? The Lord explains this in verses 9 And 30 of Chapter III.

In verse 9 the Lord says-“ Work done as a sacrifice for Vishnu has to be performed; otherwise work causes bondage in this material world. Therefore, O, son of Kunti, perform your prescribed duties for His satisfaction and in that way you will always remain free from bondage.” Explaining the purport of this verse Srila Prabhupada says “ This is the great art of doing work, and in the beginning this process requires very expert guidance….. Nothing should be performed for sense gratification, but everything should be done for the satisfaction of Krsna. This practice will not only save one from the reaction of work, but also gradually elevate one to transcendental loving service of the Lord, which alone can raise one to the kingdom of God.” Sublimation of actions is what is to be aimed at. Body, senses and mind have to be directed to perform sublime actions so that activities are directed towards higher and more desirable channel of Krsna consciousness.

In verse 30, the Lord refers to this act of sublimation when He says “ Therefore, O Arjuna, surrendering all your works unto Me, with full knowledge of Me, without desire for profit, with no claims to proprietorship, and free from lethargy fight.” Srila Prabhupada in his lucid comments on this very important verse says “ This verse clearly indicates the purpose of the Bhagawad-gita. The Lord instructs that one has to become fully Krsna conscious to discharge duties, as if in military discipline……The Supreme Lord is the Soul of all souls; therefore, one who depends solely and wholly on the Supreme Soul without personal consideration, or in other words, one who is fully Krsna conscious is called ADHYATMA CHETAS. NIRSIH: means that one has to act on the order of master but should not expect fruitive results.”

Individuals with different interests and inclinations as also tastes and temperaments are engaged in varying types of work but all such duties should be discharged in Krsna consciousness, as described in verses 9 and 30 of Chapter III. The attitude of mind with which duties are performed will lead one either to liberation or bondage. Work done with selfish motive for the gratification of the senses will inevitably lead to bondage while sublime work done in the manner detailed earlier will lead one to the path of liberation. This is admirably and succinctly brought out by the Lord in verse 46 of the last chapter where He declares-“ By worship of the Lord, who is the source of all beings and who is all pervading, a man can attain perfection through performing his own work.” Explaining the purport of this all important verse, Srila Prabhupada says: “ Everyone should think that he is engaged in a particular type of occupation by Hrishikesa, the master of the senses. And by the result of the work in which one is engaged, the Supreme Personality of Godhead Sri Krsna should be worshipped. If one thinks always in this way, in full Krsna consciousness, then by the grace of the Lord he becomes fully aware of everything. That is the perfection of life. The Lord says in the Bhagawad-gita (12.7) TESAM AHAM SAMUDDHARTA. The Supreme Lord Himself takes charge of delivering such a devotee. This is the highest perfection of life. On whatever occupation one may be engaged, if he serves the Supreme Lord, he will achieve the highest perfection.”

Leading human life without knowing the Secret of Work as detailed by the Lord will turn out to be a worthless existence. The precious human life should not be wasted in futile and frivolous activities. The purpose of this small write-up is to bring the Secret of Action to the notice of all devotees of Supreme Lord Sri Krsna so that they can lead a purposeful life by following the words of the Lord in letter and spirit.

 pratibha bhardwaj 
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