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Bhagavad-Gita Chapter 2, Verse 47

Chapter 2: Contents of the Gita Summarized
Verse: 47
karmany evadhikaras te
ma phaleshu kadacana
ma karma-phala-hetur bhur
ma te sango 'stv akarmani

Translation:
You have a right to perform your prescribed duty, but you are not entitled to the fruits of action. Never consider yourself the cause of the results of your activities, and never be attached to not doing your duty.

Explanation:
This is a very famous verse that is widely quoted. In the last 5 verses (2.42-2.46) Krishna has urged Arjuna not to get bewildered by the various conflicting injunctions in the Vedas, but act according to the real purpose of the Vedas. Factually Krishna is giving Arjuna a glimpse into the highly elevated realm of pure devotional service or bhakti. At this point Krishna does not elaborate beyond this oblique reference. He considers Arjuna to be qualified to act at the level of niskama karma yoga (buddhi yoga), a concept He first explained in 2.39-41. Beginning for this verse, in the next 6 verses (2.47-2.53) Krishna explains to Arjuna the "how to" aspect of buddhi yoga.

In this verse Krishna recommends action without attachment. In performing an activity, there are three types of possible attachments. One is attachment to the fruits of the activity ("I am the enjoyer"). Second is attachment to the activity itself ("I am the doer"). And third is attachment to not doing the activity ("false renunciation"). At this point Arjuna is in the third category. Based on his own mental speculation, he considers the right path for him is not to do his duty. Here Krishna rejects these three forms of attachments. When one acts without these attachments, then even though one acts, there is no reaction to such activity and therefore such activity does not result in any bondage. Such activity is called akarma.

Many people misuse the first line of the verse to support the idea that they must perform their prescribed duties of maintaining their families etc. They neglect the second line which adds that such activity must be performed without attachment to the fruits or to the activity itself. Prescribed duties are karma-kanda which results in bondage. Whimsical activities are vikarma which results in suffering. Krishna here talks about akarma, acting without attachment, which does not result in any reactions.

Srila Prabhupada comments, "Arjuna was therefore advised by the Lord to fight as a matter of duty without attachment to the result. His nonparticipation in the battle is another side of attachment. Such attachment never leads one to the path of salvation. 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."

Please read the Sanskrit Verse and the Prabhupada's Purport.

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