THE PATH OF DUTY: KARMAYOGA
Samkhya and Yoga: Jnanayoga and Karmayoga (1-3)
Addressing Krshna as Janardana, as one who agitated the people, jana, Arjuna asked him why he urged the latter to do the gory (ghora) work, karma, if he considered intellect, buddhi, to be superior to action, karma.
Arjuna had to kill his own kinsmen, svajana. He complained that Krshna was perplexing him on the concept of Brahmanirvanam.
He asked Krshna to tell him decidedly the one path by which he could get the greatest benefit. (3-1, 2)
Social thinkers have tended to hold that intellectuals are superior to those engaged in economic activities and physical work and that the branch of yoga that deals with acquisition of knowledge, jnana, should hence be held superior to that which describes the performance of duties, karma.
Krshna was a student of Ghora Angirasa, a Brahmavadi. The Brahmavadis were socio-political activists too.
Arjuna implies that Krshnas insistence that the former take part in war was not consistent with his stand that an intellectual should be free from passion and wrath.
Arjuna was being trained to become a Rajarshi, an intellectual-cum-king. He should be free not to take part in battles, Arjuna claimed.
Krshna pointed out that he had in the past taught this loka, the social world of commoners, a two-fold course, dvividha, of disciplined interest, nishta.
For those who follow samkhya, dialectics, he had recommended jnanayoga and for those who opted for yoga, he had recommended karmayoga. (3)
The school of yoga which owed allegiance to Ghora Angirasa and Krshna had thrown open its doors to those who were interested primarily in dialectics, samkhya.
After getting trained inyoga they could proceed to become academicians, acquiring and imparting knowledge, jnanayoga.Others could opt for social duties after being trained in karmayoga.
It catered also to the other sectors of the society including the officials who controlled the state and ran the administration.
Krshna was explaining to Arjuna the scopes of samkhya, jnanayoga, buddhiyoga, and yoga in general and karmayoga in particular.
He dealt with samkhya in 2--11 to 30 and then with the stages of samadhi, sthitaprajna, brahmasthiti and the benefits, prasadam, prasannam, santi, anandam (happiness) and then with the great goal, Brahmanirvanam, intellectual emancipation.
From the point of view of buddhiyoga, training of the intellect, samkhya and yoga were both meant to regulate the conduct of the individual.
Purusha as a Non-participant Leader of a Work-group (4)
Krshna added, A purusha (one who is capable of leading others) does not attain the state of actionlessness by only not commencing at all any work. Not by mere renunciation, samnyasa, does one come close to perfection, siddhi. (4)
Renunciation, samnyasa, has to be distinguished from relinquishment, tyaga. Krshna clarifies the issue raised in 2--69.
The issue of making naishkarmya obligatory for all persons who were in the stage of a householder, in grhastha asrama, when one was required to be engaged in economic activities, earning for himself and his family was then being discussed by scholars and socio-political ideologues.
Should a student, Brahmachari, be permitted to become a Siddha without going through the other three stages of life, grahastha, vanaprastha and sanyasa, each with a discipline of its own? He would not have commenced performing any economic activity.
The stage of dutilessness, naishkarmya, was open only to those who had gone through all the four stages of life. It was post-samnyasa.
It also implied night vigil, a task, which was being performed by the cadres of Gandharvas, Chakshus, Tapasas and Siddhas when the rest of the world slept.
It was a positive work done by these cadres voluntarily and incidentally while pursuing other and higher goals. It was not open to any of those in the four stages of life, even to the samnyasi.
Arjuna was aware of this aspect and had been briefed on it by Chitraratha, a Gandharva chieftain and ideologue.
However, Krshna would restrict himself to a description of the role of those social leaders, purushas, who had no specific economic duty, karma.
In the social world of the commoners, prakrti, their leader, purusha, sets in motion an activity and the prakrti continue it while he stands aside and watches them work and guides them when necessary.
Arjuna belonged to such a cadre of purushaswho set the process in motion and watched its progress.
As only one who practises constantly can become perfect in his work, the leader, purusha is advised by Krshna to be always engaged in work. He is not envisaged as a non-worker.
The nobles, devas, who belonged to the rich leisure class were non-workers and so too the saddhyas, who had attained perfection and were not expected to slide down though they had ceased to work.
Samkhya and yoga are drawn upon to stress that the stage of actionlessness, absence of obligation to perform a prescribed duty, naishkarmya, is open only to those have reached perfection, siddhi.
Work is not to be avoided.
The monk, sanyasi, has given up working for his personal needs and comforts and for his family. But he has societal duties to perform. And so too, the nobles, devas.
Even those not seen to be performing any work, any social duty, are in fact engaged in work, awake and vigilant, but unseen by others.
For, Krshna points out that the purusha too belongs to the social world of commoners (prakrti). In samkhyaprakrti is acted upon by the purusha and thereby its traits are brought out. dialectics,
Work determined by natural propensity (5)
The spirit activates the inert matter. These innate traits, sattva, rajas and tamas, gentleness, dynamism and inertia, are present in varied proportions in every being.
They cannot be undone or silenced. They determine what an individual will do and how he will do it.
Neither the serene intellectual nor the idiot can remain totally inactive, for there is some dynamism in him too. (5)
Purusha-prakrti relationship is of leader-follower type and not of master-servant type. It is not based on the distinction, non-working master and working subordinate.The work to be done by a person is based on his innate traits, svabhavas.
No one can act nor is required to act in a manner not in consonance with his innate traits, gunas, not even the purusha with leadership traits and talents.
He tries to get mastery over his work, to attain siddhi. He can neither become nor remain perfect by giving up working.
The purusha is visualized not as a master who controls workers but as one trying to get mastery over his work.
Karmayoga as the Discipline of Action (6, 7)
Karmayoga has to be appreciated in this background. Krshna states that a fool, vimuda atma, who restrains, samyamya, the organs of action, karmendriya, but continues in his mind to remember the objects of senses, indriyartha, the pleasures and comforts given by these objects, is said to be a hypocrite. (6)
But he who controls, niyamya, by prescribed methods, the organs of action, and the senses by the mind, manas, and is without attachment, asakta, (to the objects of senses) and undertakes, arabha, work through organs of action excels in the discipline of action, karmayoga. (7)
Krshna is harsh with those who do not pursue any vocation but recall with joy the pleasures that they had while they were working and live on work rendered in the past without continuing to work.
They are not to be described as ascetics, sanyasis. They are fools and hypocrites.
There has to be a total severing of ties with the period of active life as a householder.
The sanyasi has not only to leave the vocation and the wealth he had earlier but must not recall them to his mind.
Since this is not easy the discipline of karmayoga has to be practised even before entering the householder stage of life and embarking on a vocation.
Then one would be able to leave these at the proper stage and smoothly enter the stage of renunciation.
Karma Vs Akarma: Prescribed Duty Vs Non-work (8, 9)
It is not advisable to bring to an abrupt end an active life, restricting all the organs of action at the same time, samyama.
Instead Karmayoga advocates following the prescribed methods, niyama, and regulating the work being done even from the stage it is begun. Hence non-attachment, asakta, is stressed.
The objective that Krshna had in training Arjuna in Karmayoga and Rajayoga has to be constantly borne in mind while discussing the steps described by him.
Krshna advised him to perform his prescribed (niyatam) duty (karma). For, action (karma) is better than non-work (akarma).
Even physical, sarira, progress, yatra, (through different stages of life) cannot be accomplished, prasiddhi, through non-work. (8)
Arjuna had contempt for work. He had to be shaken out of it.
According to Krshna, every individual has to be assigned aspecific vocation as a duty and it has to be in tune with his natural aptitude, svabhava.
He has to be engaged in that work, karma. No one can claim the right not to work. None has claim to akarma.
Krshna did not favour nivrtti, withdrawal from social and economic duties, svadharma, which was associated with the concept of the right and duty to enter the sanyasa stage of life.
The non-worker cannot hope to get the things needed for physical growth that is essential for mental and intellectual progress.
Sarira-yatra means more than maintenance of the body. Yatra implies forward movement under internal impulse.
Social, economic and cultural progress, lokayatra depends on work.
The concept of a large class of workers directed by and working for the maintenance of a small rich class of non-workers is not wholesome for social progress, lokayatra.
Work in the Spirit of Sacrifice: Karma and Yajna
All have to work whether the work brings rewards or not, Arjuna has to realize.
Karmayoga was open to those who were entering the stage of a householder, which required that the entrant be engaged in an economic activity and earn his livelihood.
This training was obligatory for all classes and ranks of the society and for all entrepreneurs in particular.
The intellectuals who earned their livelihood by teaching or guiding others and the priests who officiated at the yajnas, sacrifices, and those who entered the vanaprastha stage of life required this training and so too those who desired to enter sanyasa, the stage of a monk.
Was Krshna for or against sacrificial rites, yajnas, which were patronized by the sages, nobles and elders, rshis, devas and pitaras?
Sacrifice, yajna, was a communal action that marked the socio-economic relations of the agro-pastoral economy of the Vedic core society.
To interpret it as Vedic religion is not sound. And to view it as utilization of superstition is wrong.
Krshna says that except when work is performed for purposes of sacrifice, yajna, this loka, the social world of commoners is in bondage to work, karmabandhana.
Yajna was voluntary.All were exhorted to contribute wealth and labour for communal endeavour.
But it was the norm only among the commoners of the agro-pastoral society and was not so among the other people, itara-jana, of the frontier society which was attuned to industrial economy or among the blessed people, punya-jana, who were constantly on the move.
While yajna was voluntary, the other duties and vocations prescribed by the codes could not be avoided or refrained from by the commoners or by the others.
Arjuna too had to work. He was not a member of the privileged class of nobles, svas, and might never become its member.
Therefore, son of Kunti, do your work, karma, in the spirit of sacrifice, yajna, and for that purpose, efficiently, samachara, in collaboration with others, free from attachment, muktasanga, Krshna advised him. (9)
Arjuna was not willing to be an ordinary worker earning his livelihood by physical labour. He was not to be compelled to work for others.
But he could be a free worker contributing all his earnings and physical work in the spirit of sacrifice to benefit others. Soldiers and executives too were workers.
Karmayoga was meant also for voluntary workers who were not engaged in earning their livelihood through work and were not attached to any workers guild.
Such muktasangas, sanyasis and those who had given up attachment to social and economic organizations and functioned as independent volunteers too took training in karmayoga in Krshnas academy.
They might have worked together with organized groups. Arjuna could consider this option.
Institution of Sacrifice as Visualised by the Prajapati (10-15)
The institution of yajna, sacrifice, had its origin in the social milieu when the varna scheme had not yet been outlined and the state had not yet come into existence.
It was absorbed in the varnasrama dharma, the code of varna (class) and asrama (stage of life) duties, as a voluntary ritual open to the three higher classes.
Their members who were in the grhastha and vanaprastha stages of life were expected to contribute to the upkeep of the non-economic cadres, sages, nobles and elders.
The Vedic society was a largely taxless, non-extortionist society. Neither taxes (kara) nor levy (bali) marked its politico-economic system.
The chief of the people (prajapati) accepted as his wards (prajas) only those who consented to perform sacrifices (yajnas).
The emergence of the concept of yajna was coeval with the emergence of the protective, patriarchal system of prajapati and prajas.
(It is not advisable to treat the term, prajapati, as a reference to Brahma, the God of creation.)
Krshna's statement (10) indicates that the unidentified prajapati who introduced this system claimed that the wards would prosper (prasavishyadvam) by this pure (anena) practice and that they would be able to get their desires (ishtakama) fulfilled through sacrifice.
They were not free from desires. The prajas offered as sacrifices the pure things to the nobles, devas, who belonged to the ruling class. [The term, deva is not interpreted, as god.]
The prajapati advised his wards, Let those nobles, devas, by this sacrifice, foster (bhavayata) you.
The prajas, commoners as well as newly admitted members of the wider commonalty which had accepted this orientation looked after the needs and comforts of the nobles, devas, who were a non-economic class and the latter looked after the happiness of these subjects.
By this mutual, parasparam, appreciation and encouragement (bhavayantam) you will obtain (avapatya) the highest benefit, the Prajapati assured his wards. (11)
This Prajapati was perhaps the highly charismatic leader, Mahadeva, who was known as the Vratya and provided the constitution of the new nation-states.
(The term, Prajapati, might have been a reference to the chief of the council of seven sages.)
Thus Krshna explained the extension of the institution of yajna, as one mutually beneficial to the nobles and the larger commonalty, to both rulers and their subjects and as free from coercion.
Arjuna should not shrink from this wholesome practice.It was not a loss to the commoners. Only the cruel feudal lords, asuras, levied exorbitant charges, bali, on the subjects.
Yajna, according to some, originally a ritual associated with procreation and fertility, later became a contract between the ruling elite and the masses, devas and manushyas, for mutual benefit. Yajna was a secular institution.
Performance of yajna, voluntary sacrifice of the fruits of labour for the benefit of the three non-economic cadres, devas, rshis and pitaras, nobles, sages and elders, is not to be treated as irrational.
Krshna tells Arjuna, Fostered by yajna, the nobles, devas, will surely bestow on you the desired enjoyments, ishtabhoga, for he who enjoys the gifts bestowed on him without giving them back, apadeya, is a thief, sthena.(12)
This stand was accepted by and incorporated in the social codes, dharmasastras, while outlining the duties and means of livelihood of the members of the three higher classes, varnas.
Only the working class, Shudras, could not bestow gifts, as they were too poor. They could accept gifts, dana.
Krshna was for the resurgence of the liberal cultural aristocracy of devas. Unlike the plutocrats, yakshas, they were not covetous.
Retaining unearned wealth was treated as theft.Hence the nobles had to return the gifts received by them after keeping the minimum needed for maintaining themselves as a cadre engaged in administration of the country and protection of the weak.
So the nobles would surely help the people, Krshna told his students who must have been disillusioned by the decadence of the elite.
The entire commonalty performed sacrifices, yajnas and the nobles who received the offerings returned these to the entire commonalty. That too was yajna, sacrifice.
Krshna found it necessary to impress on his students that sin was the result of ones failure to perform his duty. It covered not only acts of commission but also acts of omission.
By partaking what was left of the sacrifice, yajna, the virtuous, saints, are absolved of all stains, kilbisha. The sinful ones, papas, who prepare food for only themselves eat only impurity, agh. (13)
Should one sacrifice all that he has earned? Krshna would recommend that the performer of sacrifice retain only what was not required for the maintenance of the three cadres and their own dependents.
Most of what has been earned has to be parted with. Not parting with any thing at all is objectionable. This distinguishes the pious from the sinners.
Krshna was addressing mainly his new disciples. He takes the opportunity to emphasize the key position which agriculture has in social economy.
All beings, bhutas, come into being from food, anna; for producing food rain is necessary; rain occurs because of yajna; and yajna comes from collective work, samudbhava karmasam.
Arjuna is asked to recognize the importance of collective work for social economy.
It is not advisable for any commoner to plough his own path. Krshna was for collectives and not for individual holdings or for new enterprises. His emphasis was on contentment and willingness to work with others and for others. Yajna was a wholesome Vedic practice linked to agrarian economy and collectives. (14)
Krshna declares, Know thou that the origin (udbhavam) of work (karmam) is in the Brahma (Veda) and that Brahma springs from the imperishable letter (akshara). Hence the all-pervading (sarvagatam) Brahma is said to be founded (pratishtita) always in sacrifice, yajna.
'Akshara refers to the holy letter, Om, pranava, which reverberates forever in the cosmos and is said to be the essence of all utterances, writings, sarva-vang-maya.
It means more than alphabet. It is the symbol of the Vedas.They have prescribed the duties to be performed by every one.
The basis of this scheme of duties made universally and permanently applicable is yajna, sacrifice.
It was voluntary sacrifice of all earnings for the welfare of the community.
It underlined collective work and mutual support between the nobles and the commoners.
It is selfless sacrifice of all the fruits of labour. Krshna advises his students and followers not to give up this practice institutionalized by the Vedas. (15)
Samkhya dialecticians sought to cull directly from the Vedas what dharma was and what was adharma, that is, what actions and duties were to be prescribed as obligatory for all and valid for all times and which conduct was prohibited as undesirable.
Brahma is not to be equated with prakrti in this or any other context. Akshara is not to be treated as a reference to Paramesvara.
The claim that the all-pervading Brahman is always worshipped in the yajna is not valid and is not intended in this verse. The Vedic hymns were mostly mundane in theme.
Collective Work, Mutual Benefit and Dharmachakra (16)
Krshna says that he who does not follow the (above) wheel (chakram) (of dharma) set in motion (parivartatam) is sinful (adhayu), belongs to the lower rungs of the society, is engaged in sensual delight (indriyarama) and lives in delusion (moham), leads an unprofitable life. (16)
[The concept, imagery of dharmachakra features in many Hindu schools of thought. It is to be kept rotating.]
The place of yajna in social economy and the principles of mutual assistance and collective endeavour were pertinent to the Vedic social practices.
These are to be studied in the context of the circulation of the elite, fall of the decadent nobles and their replacement by new competent ones from the upper crust of the commonalty, Vis.
But there were some who did not participate in the production economy. They were after sensual pleasures only and they had to be kept down.
Krshna did not envisage an unalterable social stratification. But social ascent is not easy for those pursuing pleasures of senses. They lead a useless life.
There are some manavas, engaged in contemplation whose delight, rati, is in the self, atma, alone. For such persons, there exists no duty to be performed, karyam. (17)
Krshna agrees that some do not live for others. Nor what the others do or think influences them.
They live for themselves and by themselves. They are however not recluses.
They are free citizens and thinkers, manavas, and are not subjects, prajas of the state, who follow the directions of their chief, prajapati.
These manavas claimed to follow the code outlined by Pracetas Manu. They were not commoners, manushyas, living by manual work and supervised by the purushas.
They were not part of the economic society. But unlike the hedonists given to sensory pleasures impelled by their indriyas, senses, they are impelled by their minds.They are closer to the intelligentsia as thinkers.
It may be pointed out here that Hindu Sociology makes subtle distinctions among the terms and cadres, manushyas, manavas, naras, purushas, bhutas, jana, prakrti, prajas, manishinas. They are not to be all translated as men.
Manavas: Free Citizens
Such a manava, free thinker, has here, that is, in this social world of commoners, manushyas, no intent or material purpose, artha, whatever to gain by his actions and none to be gained by those he has not gained. He does not depend, asraya, on all these beings, sarva bhutas, for his needs, Krshna explains in (18).
In 3--14, he said that all beings need food and are hence engaged in collective work.
The manavas, free thinkers, do not take part in economic activities and do not depend on these individuals, bhutas, who are engaged in collective work for meeting their needs.
They are not intent on artha. They react sharply to the schools of Arthasastra.
They refuse to participate in the economic system and live in isolation. They keep away from communal life and communal endeavour.
They have already obtained whatever they need and do not need to work any more. But Krshna would not allow them to refrain from work.
The school of Pracetas Manu was constrained to exempt them and some other cadres of intellectuals from participation in communal endeavour and even from all types of economic activities as they had fulfilled their social obligations and had no further personal requirements.
These were not monks. Theirs was a rich intelligentsia. Krshna was only interpreting their approach and not defending them.
Krshna's concern was with the creation of a new social order and the absorption of the then existing cadres in the appropriate new social stratum.
The intelligentsia may not be dependent on the rest of the larger society that includes all individuals (sarva bhuta) but it has to work for this unorganized milieu of individuals with diverse talents and expectations.
The organized clans and communities could look after their own interests.
But the isolated persons of the social periphery were not members of organizations. They needed guidance by the thinkers.
The school of manavas was asked to guide them. The free thinker, manava, is not part of the social milieu nor is he dependent on it. His pursuits are different.
He is not inactive though he is not pursuing economic interests, personal or communal.
Arjuna was not a free thinker though he was at a level higher than that of a commoner, manushya.
He was a social leader, a purusha, who had to be necessarily an extrovert and also try to become perfect in all fields of activities, social, economic and political.
Such a purusha too has to go on doing his duty, karma, well, samachara and be always unattached, asakta; for, by doing his work according to prescribed rules and without attachment, he attains, apnoti, the highest level, param, Krshna advises. (19)
The term param here is not to be translated as God. It implies rise to the highest level in the social hierarchy by the social leader, purusha, who is actively engaged in working according to rules and does not stay away from the social milieu claiming to be a free thinker, a manava.
The reason for Krshnas insistence on performance of socio-economic duties by leaders and thinkers has to be pinpointed.
The term asakta is not to be interpreted as calling for the spirit of sacrifice, tyaga, or of renunciation, samnyasa.
It means non-attachment and is prosaic and not value-laden. Yet it is highly relevant in the context of selfless service and stoicism expected of a social leader.
Janaka and Social Integration (20)
Krshna pointed out to Arjuna, Janaka and others reached perfection, fulfillment, (siddhi) through such actions (karmana) (routine duties performed without attachment to their purposes, results and rewards). You should do work also with an eye on social integration (lokasamgraha). (20)
The term, lokasamgraha, meant bringing together the various social worlds that had their distinct identities and orientations.
More was expected of Arjuna than of rulers like the Janaka of Videha. The latter had attained perfection and was a stoic who had no likes and dislikes.
These stoical rulers did not neglect their basic duties and vocations though they were intellectuals.
Karmayoga does lead to perfection, siddhi, Krshna assures.
But it should not be Arjunas only aim, how to govern effectively. He has to aim at achieving social integration, lokasamgraha.
He was expected to take part in Krshnas mission and was being trained for that.
Janaka as the Elected Chief of the Agrarian Society
Janaka, the head of the janapada of Videha in north Bihar was an ideal ruler noted for his scholarship.
He patronized the sages like Yajnavalkya who had contributed to the Upanishads. He tilled his lands personally and was emulated by the people, jana, those who were born in that land, the sons of the soil.
Janakas were not hereditary rulers.It may be noted here that hereditary monarchy was not the norm during the Vedic times and even in the early post-Vedic polity.
During the Vedic times a college of chieftains who excelled in rajas, aggressiveness, elected the head of the state from its own members.
He had to get the support of the house of nobles, sabha, and of the council of scholars, samiti.
Under Vaivasvata constitution, he was elected directly by the taxpayers and was to be approved by the paura-janapadas, the assemblies of the urban and rural areas.
Janakas who were elected by the agriculturists alone, were not successful in wars and did not have coercive power.
Yet they were respected and heeded to by their subjects as scholars honoured them.
A social leader, purusha, who was also an independent thinker, could rise to become a Janaka.
Janakas had become role models. They were in reality heads of stateless regional societies and had no ruling elite or an administrative machinery to help them.
Sreshtas: Economic Captains of the Other Society, Itarajana
Krshna points out to Arjuna and other trainees thatwhatever a respected man, sreshta, practises (achara), the same alone other people (itara jana) do. What he sets up as a standard (pramanam kurute) the commonalty (loka) follow (anuvartate). (21)
He seems to state the obvious. It cannot be taken exception to. But it has been held to imply that the commoners follow the elite blindly and unquestioningly.
It is more than an axiom of social psychology. It has to be correlated to the issue of social integration, lokasamgraha.
Krshna had earlier referred to the concept of three lokas, social worlds.
Up to this stage he was dealing with the distinction between devas and manushyas, nobles and commoners, both of whom belonged to the core society and were dependent on agro-pastoral economy.
He stressed the importance of communal endeavour and mutual aid and the place of yajna in these.
Now he refers to the third social world, itara jana, who were comparable to the jana of the rural areas.
The Janaka did not belong to the urban elite, paura.He was regulating the social relations and endeavour at intellectual improvement that would raise the native population (jana) of the rural areas of the core society to a level closer to the elite.
This effort pertained to the period of transition from the pre-varna Vedic social order to the post-Vedic varna society.
The Gita belonged to this period of transition even as some other Upanishads did.
Within the agro-pastoral commonalty, prthvi, there were some personages, purushas, with leadership traits and the unclassified commoners, prakrti, followed them and functioned under their supervision.
This purusha-prakrtidichotomy was confined to the predominantly agrarian commonalty and so too the prajapati-praja andJanaka-jana.
These did not spill over into the other two social worlds (lokas), divam and antariksham, nobles and frontier society.
All the three, prakrti, prajas and jana, were functioning under the parasol of the elite-masses, deva-manushya dichotomy.
The nobles who were a distinct and superior social world were exempt from the socio-economic codes that governed the commoners.
The masses, prakrti, who act under the impulse of their inborn traits, gunas, are often referred to as manushyas who have not surpassed these gunas.
The naras, purushas, manishinas and even manavas who were superior to the above were engaged in economic activities pertaining to agriculture, pasture and trade like the commoners, manushyas, of the core society.
But the nobles, devas, were superior to all these cadres. The ruling elite of the Vedic times was essentially a rich leisure class and constituted the cultural aristocracy.
The elite had survived into the post-Vedic times by constantly recruiting new members from the upper strata of the commonalty, Vis.
The new group of nobles of the larger commonalty, Visvedevas, had earlier been rich landlords and traders.Of all these cadres only the purushas had leadership traits, purushasamarthyam.
The prajapatis, patriarchs, were heads of communities and were respected and obeyed because they were experienced elders.
Some of the Janakas were revered highly, as they were selfless and stoical and also learned.
The nobles, devas, were benevolent and were later treated as immortal beings. They have however remained anonymous.
Only the sages and kings and generals have carved a place for themselves in the pages of history. It has been so all over the world.
Most of the nobles later merged in the higher varnas, socioeconomic classes.
The third social world (loka) which covered the frontier society of the forests and mountains and the periphery was known as antariksham. Its population was referred to as itara jana, the other people.
It was subordinate to the plutocrats, yakshas, who had then recently been elevated to the status of devatas, almost equal to that of devas, the aristocrats of the core society.
Its socio-economic codes were not identical with those of the core society.
Arjuna had earlier learnt these codes from the Saligrama sage and from Chitraratha.
Krshna refers to the economic captains of this other society, itara jana, as sreshtas.
In the core society the feudal lords (asuras) claimed to be senior, jyeshta, to the nobles (devas).
What the sreshta practised became the guideline for the conduct of the itara jana, even as the masses, prakrti, followed the leader, purusha, or the domiciles, prajas, followed the prajapati or the natives jana, the janaka.
When the two societies, core and frontier merged under the scheme of social integration, lokasamgraha, what the sreshta set up as a model for socio-economic conduct was accepted and followed by the commoners of the core society also.
It was later incorporated in the socio-cultural codes, Dharmasastras.
Politico-economic codes, Arthasastras accepted the informal precedents set up by the plutocrats of the Vedic times and gave them formal approval.
It may be stated here that Krshna did not approve this move. However achieving social integration required voluntary acceptance by all the three social worlds, lokas, of common codes and common orientations.
It needed emergence or creation of leaders acceptable to all the three social worlds. This was not easy.
Why Krshna continued to do his Duty (22-24)
In the verse 3--22 Krshna introduces himself to Arjuna as a charismatic leader honoured by all the three lokas, social worlds, devas, manushyas and itara jana and as one who had no specific duty, kartavyam, to be performed.
There was nothing that he had not already gained and yet he continued to perform action, duty (karma).
He was addressing Arjuna as Partha to remind him that the latter was yet confined to the agro-pastoral commonalty, prthvi. It had to follow the codes recognized by the Vedas, the prajapatis, the janakas and the devas.
Prthu constitution was based on the Vaivasvata constitution.
It replaced Kubera, the representative of the yakshas, plutocrats, by one of the commonalty, prthvi on the eight-member ministry headed by Indra, a noble.
This step had temporarily set back the move to arrive at an acceptable level of social integration.
Arjuna was expected to join Krshnas mission to arrive at a new level of social integration.
The diversities in the Vedic society were a matter of great concern to Krshna who belonged to its last decades.
Krshna continued to work as the commoners, manushyas, followed his path (anuvartate) in all matters (sarvasa) and if he did not engage himself in work (karma) unwearied it would set a bad example for others and they would harm themselves. (23)
Though all the three social worlds honoured Krshna, his charisma was more among the commoners, he was aware.
The recognition of this earlier limited charisma is of much significance in tracing his emergence as the charismatic leader of all the three social worlds, lokas.
When the Gita was expounded to Arjuna, Krshnas claim to be a member of the elite, divam, had not received peer approval, the approval of the other nobles.
He was keenly aware that he had little following among the itara jana, the members of the other society.
The Rudras dominated the latter while he was a Vasu. He knew that this limited charismatic leadership was not enough to bring all the three lokas together, to achieve social integration, lokasamgraha.
It needed rational reorganization of the entire society, a mission he had undertaken and to which he was introducing Arjuna.
Krshna feared that if (as a leader) he did not perform his duty, karma, the social worlds, lokas, would perish (utsideyu) and he would become the person causing (karta) 'mixture' (samkara) and destruction (upahanyam) of the subjects (prajas). (24)
In the previous verse he presented himself as a commoner engaged in his vocation though he did not need the income from it. The Janaka did not give up his vocation of a tiller.
Here he presents himself as a prajapati who is concerned with the welfare of his wards, prajas.
A father wants his son to continue the vocation and traditions of his patrimonial family and not to disturb these traditions by resorting to another vocation and causing varnasamkara.
Krshna was for social integration (lokasamgraha) and was against lokasamkara that would disturb the identity of a social world.
If he opted for a new vocation or if he stopped pursuing his traditional vocation, it would have a bad effect on all the three social worlds. This stand was a well-reasoned one and not blind traditionalism.
The subjects, prajas, who belonged to diverse social worlds of the new integrated janapada, would cease to adhere to their respective social orientations and vocations and instead tend to perform those of the other social worlds, lokas, he feared.
This would result in confusion in the society. It would lead to a social catastrophe. He would be considered as the person causing the collapse of the social order.
Hence he did not want to conduct himself as a noble and was content to be a commoner (tending his cows).
If the prajapati, the chief of the community, failed to ensure that his wards adhered to their codes, he would be held responsible for causing varnasamkara and lokasamkara. When the Manava Dharmasastra came into force, Marici was in charge of divam, nobility, and Atri, of antariksham, the frontier society. Bhrgu, Angirasa, Pulastya and Vasishta looked after the four new classes (varnas), Brahmans, Kshatriyas, Vaisyas and Shudras respectively. Manu Svayambhuva appointed them as prajapatis.
Samkara covers both varnasamkara and lokasamkara. Krshna did not approve either of them but he was concerned more with the latter, lokasamkara, as the varna system itself had not yet come into full swing then.
He wanted the three lokas to retain their separate identities while getting integrated functionally. If he failed in this mission he would be held responsible for the collapse of the lokas. He had to be cautious.
The term, upahanyam, means accomplice in killing. He refused to support total merger.
He could not hence allow any scope for varnasamkara, he assured Arjuna who feared it.
Both aristocracy and the industrial frontier society were not compelled to accept the varna classification.
This scheme was originally intended mainly for the commonalty engaged in agro-pastoral economy that had trade relations with the other two social worlds and not communal endeavour. It has continued to be so.
Maricis protg and the chief of Vaivasvatas council of seven sages, Kashyapa outlined a new policy for social integration.
It widened the base of each of the four varnas, classes, and accommodated more groups from the frontier society in them, making a varna, a confederation of clans and communities and cadres and allowed it to admit discrete individuals on the basis of their aptitudes.
It also encouraged the concept of an enlarged janapada and made the people of the forests also consent to be its subjects.
Kashyapa, a leading ideologue and political activist, was for union without uniformity.
Krshna too was for it. He appears tohave endorsed ManuSvayambhuvas suggestion that the existence of a cultural aristocracy apart from the four classes, varnas, should be ensured.
Besides, caution had to be exercised as the frontier society, itara jana, the people on the social horizon, antariksham, had other orientations and structural eccentricities on account of their technological superiority, that did not facilitate the implementation of the varna scheme in their midst.
They were culturally more varied than the agro-pastoral commonalty.
The frontier society was not primitive. Most of its sections fell under samkaravarnas, mixed classes.
Krshna was aware of these aspects. He called for social integration without causing new mixed setups.
There were then movements that pleaded for steam-rolling the differences, for removal of their identities and dissolution of the aristocracy and the frontier society and their merger in the four-varnas scheme.
Such merger would result in larger but less coherent varnas.
Krshna had reservations about these moves. The success of the process of integration required that not only the commoners and subjects but also their rulers and leaders were engaged in performing their duties as determined by the new composite codes, Dharmasastra and Arthasastra then on the anvil.
The non-learned (avidvan) act from attachment (sakta) to their work (karma). The learned (vidvan) too should work, do their duties, but without attachment (asakta). They should be intent (chikirshu) on social integration (lokasamgraha). (25)
Karmayoga wanted that both the educated and the uneducated performed their assigned duties.
The uneducated did not know the purpose of the new schemata of duties. They were attached to their clans and vocational communities.
The scholars, vidvans, who accepted the new schemata and worked selflessly without being attached to clans and communities who had their vested interests and specific orientations, were aware that they were engaged in the great mission of effecting social integration, lokasamgraha.
They had a special responsibility in making this mission a success. They were expected to contribute physically and intellectually whatever might be the nature of the work assigned to them.
They were not to stand aside and only watch others, the non-learned, plod for the creation of the new society or comment on them from their ivory towers.
Of course they should not be members of any work-group or pressure group.
We are not to read the present in the past or the recent past in the not-so-recent past. Not all sections of the scholars were found to be contributing to the above task of social integration.
Krshna asked the non-active scholars not to disturb the progress of this work. The learned (vidvan) should not cause (na janaya) contradictions in intellectual assessments (buddhibhedam) among the ignorant (ajnanam) who are attached to work-groups (karmasanginam). (26)
The task of creating a new integrated society had begun with the formation of groups of activists and mobilization of scholars.
But debates indulged in by intellectuals were found to interfere with the smooth progress of this mission.
The missionaries should not be exposed to the discussions on contradictions in which the dialecticians found delight, Krshna felt. The activists were not sages, jnanis.
The learned should himself perform properly (samachara) his duty (in the company of ordinary persons) and remain correctly trained (yukta) (not allowing his intellect to run unbridled) and should get others perform (joshaya) all their duties, Krshna directs. (26)
His academy was training the volunteers engaged in social reconstruction. Most of them were not well educated.
They had to be guarded against loss of faith in the mission. He cautions the intelligentsia against failing in their duties.
They have a great social responsibility to bear. They have to perform their own duties, preferably in the company of the ordinary activists, but as independent persons not attached to any work-group in the field.
They have to be masters in their fields of study and make others perform their duties. They have to ensure that all perform their duties well as persons ready to practise yoga, even if they do get the expected rewards and even if these duties appear to be meaningless ritualistic exercises.
Krshna was exhorting the dialecticians to become trained activists.He warns against egotism, a major failing of the intelligentsia.
All kinds of work are done by the innate traits of prakrti (commoners, masses). But the fool (vimuda atma) who is egoistic (ahamkara) thinks that he is the doer (aham karta). (27)
The learned, vidvan, too is part of the commonalty, prakrti, and is under the influence of the three innate traits (gunas), sattva, rajastamas. and
Unlike the commoner the learned may not be acting under the impulse of his indriyas, senses.
He may be able to bring intellect to bear on his work and on acquisition of knowledge. But he too can do only that work which is in consonance with his innate traits.
Even the learned cannot claim the right to follow a vocation for which he is not fit. Of course he can make conscious and wise decisions, rising above rajas, which leads to self-aggrandizement.
However most fail to do so for they are egoistic, proud and foolish though highly educated.
Natural Traits and Functions: Gunas and Karmas (28, 29)
Krshna clarifies that the learned, vidvan, knows the tattva, the essential principle, of the spheres of jurisdiction, vibhaga, of gunas and karmas, that is, which field of action or duty is correlated to which innate trait, guna. The vidvan realizes that these gunas move (vartata) among the gunas, that is, the gunas influence one another and are telescoped and are not totally isolated from one another.
Hence he does not get attached to the actions which are impelled by these gunas, that is, to the actions which are not performed after due deliberation. (28)
We are not to read the influence of heredity here. It is not possible to arrange all cadres performing distinct duties or pursuing different vocations in three classes, sattva, rajas and tamas.
There can be no easy compartmentalization as socio-cultural, politico-military and economic configurations.
In other words, the facile classification and correlation, sattvik Brahmans, rajasik Kshatriyas and tamasik Vis is not to be adhered to.
Their duties cannot be put in straight jackets. Krshna was cautioning against oversimplifying.
The recognition of this telescoping and interactions among the three gunas led to the pre-varna paradigm of nine levels of guna hierarchy with internal stratification in each of these nine levels.
More than forty social cadres and sectors had to be fitted in this paradigm before it was felt expedient to get them accommodated in the four large classes.
The guna-karma paradigm advocated by Krshna tried to avoid both varnasamkara and lokasamkara. It belonged to the period of transition from the pre-varna Vedic social order to the post-Vedic varna system.
Krshna adds that the commoners, prakrti, who are deluded (sammuda) by the innate traits, gunas, get attached (sajjanta) to the actions correlated to these traits (gunakarmas) (without rational considerations).
However the person who knows all aspects of the social order that is being created (krtsnavid) and adopts a holistic view should not unsettle (vichalaya) the mentally weak (mandana) and those who are ignorant of this project (akrtsnavid).
He appeals to the learned who were acquainted with his plan and had approved it, not to confuse the other activists by discussing the merits and demerits of its rationale openly. (29)
Most intellectuals are experts in their specific fields. They are unable to present a holistic view of social life and social actions.
Krshna did not feel it advantageous to goad Arjuna further in the path of sagacious choice of duty and performance of duty without attachment to the rewards it promised.
Arjuna's mind was weak compared to that of the bold and ideal intellectual of Krshna's vision.
He had yet to develop a constructive vision and form a holistic view of the task ahead. He had to go a long way.
Krshna's Stand and Manava School of Pracetas (30-34)
The next verse (30), an oft-cited one, has been subjected to diverse interpretations.
Krshna urges Arjuna to renounce (samnyasya) the issue of the propriety of all the works, duties, (sarvakarma), (which he has been called upon to perform) to the judgment of the former (and not to be disturbed by the fear of sin accruing from those actions).
He should focus his thought (cetas) on his inner personality (adhyatma) and become free from expectations (nirasi) and egoism (nirmama) and be free from fever, nervousness (vigatajvaram) and proceed to fight.
It would be better if Arjuna allowed Krshna to decide for him the issue of morality and ethics, if he could not arrive at a proper conclusion, for he had already taken refuge in the latter, a friend since boyhood.
The choice of the term, cetas, in preference to mind and intellect is significant.
Krshna hints that Arjuna who was being trained to become a faultless leader, purusha, might treat the former as his cetas or Pracetas, and allow him to decide the issue of ethics and proceed to perform his role as a leader.
This needs reference to the Prthu constitution that had created the post of a Pracetas to ensure that the King as a Purusha was not held responsible for any miscarriage of justice. Later this post was equated with those of Sannidhata and Mahanandi.
It has to be clarified that Krshna was not thrusting his opinion, matam, on issues connected with ethics or ideology down the throats of his devotees.
He did not promise that he would save them and bear the onus for their wrong doings, if any, while carrying out his mission, which they had joined.
The standpoints of the schools of Pracetas Manu, Brhaspati and Usanas have been discussed and commented on by Kautilya, a Samkhya dialectician and author of Arthasastra.
He was a proponent of Anvikshiki, which included the disciplines of Samkhya, Yoga and Lokayata.
Unlike the other three scholars Kautilya claimed the status of an independent faculty for Anvikshiki.
He also claimed it to be more valuable than the other three faculties, the three Vedas, Varta and Dandaniti, humanities, economics and political science.
Kauilya was a contemporary of Bhishma, Krpa and Vyasa, I have pointed out.
Krshna, like Bhishma, was closer to Pracetas who was also a contributor on issues pertaining to polity and economy (artha).
Only several centuries later, creeds began to sprout round personages who had been raised first to the status of saints and then deified.
Krshna suggested to his followers and trainees that they need not be bothered about the merits and demerits of the duties they had to perform. For, he was vouching for their appropriateness.
He was a teacher and Arjuna was one of his students, He was also a great social organizer.
He assured them that those manavas (followers of Pracetas Manu) too who full of faith (sraddha) and free from illwill (anasuya, are not jealous of those better positioned) followed his teaching would be released (muchyanta) from (accountability for) their acts. (31)
[Many thinkers like Bhishma who followed Pracetas Manu were jealous of Krshnas popularity.]
These 'manavas' were not residents of the janapada but were not prevented from having social and economic relations with the local communities. They were 'citizens of the world' and the local governments protected their rights and lives.
Who were the others who were similarly exempted from such accountability?
Krshna declares that those who carp at his stand, matam, and do not follow it are confused (are fools, vimuda) in all fields of knowledge (sarva jnanam), are lost (nashta) and are unintelligent (acetas). (32)
[This virulent denunciation may raise doubts about the authenticity of this verse. It has made the commentators shrink from dwelling on it.]
He seems to be annoyed with the theoreticians who criticized his emphasis on performance of ones assigned duty, on karmayoga.
He had stressed that the duties assigned were in accordance with ones innate traits, svabhava.
They were not based on heredity or on the tradition of the clan or community in which one was born.
Svadharma should be based on svabhava.
This stand, matam, seems to have been opposed by some thinkers who did not belong to the school of Pracetas Manu. This is indicated by the term, acetas.
Krshna concedes that his critics are well versed and belong to different special studies but holds that they are confused, as they do not adopt a holistic view. Hence their arguments cannot stand the test of reason, are nashta'.
He argues that the scholar, jnanavan, too acts according to his nature, prakrti, that is, the composition of his innate traits, gunas.
(The term, prakrti, is used here to refer not only to the agro-pastoral commonalty but also to that of the frontier society and to the faultless cadres of intelligentsia to the jana, itara jana and punyajana as well.)
Krshna draws attention to the link between the scholar and his social world. All beings, bhutas, follow their respective natural trait, prakrti. What can repression of natural traits, nigraha, accomplish? he asks the champions of nivrtti. (33)
It is not wise to violate the laws of nature.
Every discrete individual (bhuta) functions according to his nature rather than as how he was required by the social group to conduct himself.
Krshna takes exception to over-emphasis on repression of natural trends, nigraha, nivrtti. But he does not approve hedonism and lack of self-restraint. and withdrawal from all pleasing acts.
He treats passion, raga, and hatred, dvesha, caused by the free play of senses, indriyas, rooted to their objects, indriyarthas, as the two enemies of man. Let no one come under their sway, for they are way-layers, paripanthinas, he warns. They deprive man of the merit he has earned by his virtuous deeds. (34)
The theory that ones present life has been determined by his actions, karmas, in his previous lives, is unacceptable.
Krshna dealt only with mans actions in the current life and their impact on his career and the lives of the people.
Svadharma Vs Paradharma (35)
Krshna then proceeds to enunciate his famous thesis that however accommodates the objections voiced and reservations held by his critics.
One's own duty, svadharma, though devoid of guna base, that is, imperfect in correlation between guna and karma, natural trait and vocation adopted, is better than anothers duty, paradharma, followed perfectly (svanushthita) by the former. Death, nidhanam, in performance of ones duty, svadharma, is good, beneficial, sreya, for performance of anothers duty, paradharma, is perilous, bhayavata.(35)
It is wrong to translate dharma as religion and imprecise to treat it as law.
It is not academically sound to cite this verse as a pronouncement condemning religious conversions. Of course the latter are political and cultural aggressions and have rarely been based on conviction.
It is likely that one has taken over (or been assigned) duties that are not fully in consonance with his nature, svabhava, with his prakrti, the composition of his gunas, and hence are against the laws of nature, Rta.
(Pravrtti, nivrtti, tendency to act in a particular way for survival, and refraining from work as the instinct for survival wanes, are based on Rta. The Vedic social order was based on the laws of nature, Rta, until these were supplemented and even overshadowed by the principle of truth, Satya.)
Yet he must perform only his duties, svadharma.
It is not advisable for any one to perform duties that are assigned not to him, but to others, though he may perform these effectively.
Krshna called upon every one to perform the duties as prescribed for the varna to which he had been assigned, though one might not have been assigned to the right class, varna, or there might not have been a suitable class to which he should have been assigned.
Krshna had agreed to support the four-varnas scheme but did not approve the samkaravarnas scheme.
The organization of the society in four classes, varnas, on the basis of the new code, varnasrama dharma, with which Krshna agreed and was actively associated, had left much desired. It was not perfect.
It did not ensure perfect correlation between gunas and vocations, karmas. Yet Krshna preferred it being implemented with its imperfections to creating new classes and recognizing samkaravarnas and the rules of exigency, apad-dharmas.
The above concepts, svadharma and paradharma, are to be appreciated against this background and not marred by chauvinism and vicious prejudices against other faiths and cultures.
It was perhaps possible for one assigned to the class of warriors, Kshatriya varna to perform the duties of an intellectual, a Brahmana perfectly and not those of his own varna so well.
But Krshna would advise him to fight and get killed in the battle rather than give up his association with the Kshatriya varna and become a teacher or scholar devoted to pursuit and spread of knowledge. He rejected social fluidity as it belied social stability.
Rajas leads some leaders to commit sins (36-43)
Though Arjuna was valiant, he had not yet become competent to shoulder the duties of a ruler. He wanted to know what made a purusha, a social leader, commit sins even against his will, acting as though driven by force. (36)
He was being trained to take up the role of a social leader.
Though such leaders desired to adhere to truth and other rules of ethics and morality they were forced by circumstances to act against their conscience and vows and commit sins. Was the individual to be blamed or the social system?
He was referring not to the commoners or even to the scholars who at times committed sins, unable to restrain their sensory urges.
He was drawing attention to the dilemma of the leader, purusha, whose personal propensities were subordinated to the expectations of the society from him leading to dysfunction in his performance of his duties and consequent commission of sins by him.
This was a discreet reference to the dilemma of a highly charismatic leader of those times who enjoyed the status of a Purusha but was condemned as a sinner.
Krshna clarified, It is desire and wrath, kama and krodha, begotten of the trait, rajas, which is ravenous and grossly wicked, mahapapma. Know this to be the foe, vairi, in this case.(37)
Who was the personage being discussed is yet to be located.
Rajas, assertiveness and dynamism, is needed for the performance of ones duty as a ruler and warrior, as a Kshatriya, and also as a social leader, purusha.
But it also makes him covetous, vengeful, passionate and wrathful.
Rajas rather than tamas, ignorance makes one commit the worst of the sins.
Sins of commission may be traced to rajas and sins of omission to tamas. Both are punishable.
One has to realize that the enemy is within himself.
Only sattva, serenity, makes one stay sober and be free from sins. The purusha has to excel in 'rajas tempered by sattva.
Only the commoners, prakrti, are docile, ignorant and inert. Arjuna wanted clarification on the onus for sins committed involuntarily by a leader because of innate traits.
In 3--38, an enigmatic verse, Krshna says, As a flame is covered by smoke and a mirror by dust and a fetus by womb, so is this (idam) covered by that (tena).
The true leader, purusha, is not affected by sins committed under the influence of rajas, especially by acts of lust, kama. Most commentators have evaded this profane issue. Lust is the main enemy of a ruler.
Krshna adds, The knowledge, jnanam, of the wise, jnani, stands veiled, kept back, by this eternal foe who is in the form of kama, an insatiable fire of desire. (39)
He explains that besides the senses, indriyas, the mind, manas, and the intellect, buddhi, too are said to be the seat, adhishtanam, of lust, kama. They too induce one to be lustful.
Not only the commoners but thinkers and scholars too are found to yield to lust. Veiling knowledge, jnanam, lust, kama, through these (senses, mind and intellect) deceives (vimohyati) the soul (dehina), which is within the body (deha). (40)
Intellectuals too fall victim to lust. Till one frees oneself from it, though he might have known a lot, he is not to be called a jnani, a wiseperson.
Arjuna had to go a long way to become a jnani. Krshna does not use the term, atma, to refer to the soul within. (knowledgeable)
"Therefore, Bharatarshabha, you must first control your senses, indriyas, and kill (prajahi) this evil (papmanam), that ruins (nasanam) jnanam, (knowledge acquired through the study of the extant works) and vijnanam (further knowledge that may be acquired through fresh empirical and experimental studies), Krshna advises. (41)
Prajahi implies infanticide and foeticide, killing ones own offspring. Lust prevents one impelled by sensory pleasures from gaining knowledge.
Krishna pointed out that the soul, dehina, is superior to and different from mind, manas, and intellect, buddhi. These have to be distinguished from one another.
But he does not underestimate the influence of the senses, indriyas, on ones personality. By knowing this soul (dehina, atma) that is beyond comprehension by the intellect (buddhi) and by steadying (samsthabhya) ones self (atma) by the soul within (atmana), one may kill (jahi) the enemy (satru) who is in the form of desire (kama) and who is hard to overcome. (42, 43)
Arjuna has to overcome the enemy within himself. A karmayogi has to be an intellectual who is free from lust. Then he will be free from rajas too.
Addressing Krshna as Janardana (one who agitated the people, jana), Arjuna asked him why the latter urged him to do the gory' (ghora) work (karma) if he considered intellect to be superior to work. He asked Krshna to tell him decisively the one path by which he could get the greatest benefit.
Krshna said that he had in the past taught the social world (of common men) a two-fold course of disciplined interest. For those who follow Samkhya dialectics he had recommended jnanayoga and for those who opted for for yoga he had recommended karmayoga
A social leader (purusha) does not attain the state of actionlessness by only not commencing any work. Not by mere renunciation (samnyasa) does not one come close to perfection. Relinquishment is tyaga.
Neither a serene intellectual nor the idiot can remain totally inactive, for there is some dynamism in every one.
Krshna states that a fool who restrains the organs of action but continues in his mind to remember the objects of senses, the pleasures and comforts given by these objects is said to be a hypocrite.
But he who controls by prescribed methods the organs of action and the senses by the mind and is without attachment and undertakes work through organs of action excels in the discipline of action, karmayoga.
Krshna advised him to perform his prescribed duty. For, work (karma) is better than non-work (akarma). Even physical progress cannot be accomplished through non-work.
Krshna says that except when work is performed for purposes of sacrifice (yajna) this social world (of commoners) is in bondage to work (karmabandana). "Therefore, son of Kunti, do your work (karma) in the spirit of sacrifice and for that purpose efficiently in collaboration with others, free from attachment.
He indicates that the (unidentified) Prajapsti, chief of the people, who introduced this system claimed that the wards would prosper by this pure practice and that they would be able to get their desires fulfilled (ishtakarma) through sacrifice.
The prajas offered as sacrifice the pure things to the nobles (devas). The prajapati advised his wards, "Let those nobles by this sacrifice foster you. By this mutual appreciation and encouragement you will obtain the highest benefit."
Fostered by sacrifice (yajna), the nobles (devas) will surely bestow on you the desired enjoyments for he who enjoys the gifts bestowed on him without giving them back is a thief.
By partaking what was left of the sacrifice the virtuous, saints, are absolved of all stains. The sinful ones who prepare food only for themselves eat only impurity. All beings (bhutas) come into being from food (anna); for food rain is necessary; rain occurs because of yajna; and yajna comes from collective action.
Krshna declares, "Know thou that the origin of work is in the Brahma (Veda) and that Brahma springs from the imperishable letter. Hence the all-pervading Brahma is said to be founded always in sacrifice (yajna).
Krshna says that he who does not follow the above wheel set in motion (dharmachakram) is sinful, belongs to the lower rungs of the society, is engaged in sensual delight and lives in delusion, leads an unprofitable life.
According to Krshna there were some 'manavas' who were citizens of the world and were not bound by any social or state bonds, and were engaged in contemplation seeking delight in self (atmarati). For them there exists no duty (karyam) to be performed.
Such a manava, free thinker, has here, that is, in this social world of commoners (manushyas) no intent or material purpose (artha), whatever to gain by his actions and none to be gained by those he has not gained. He does not depend on all the beings (discrete individuals, bhutas), of the social periphery, for his needs.
A social leader (purusha who heads a social unit like family) too has to go on doing his duty, karma, well and be always unattached, for by doing his work according to prescribed rules and without attachment he attains the highest level, Krshna advises.
He pointed out that Janaka (head of a native agro-pastoral population, jana) and others reached perfection, fulfillment through such actions (karmana). Arjuna should do work also with an eye on lokasamgraha, integration of the three social worlds.
He pointed out to Arjuna and other trainees that whatever a respected man (sreshta, plutocratic chieftain) practised the same alone other people (itara jana) (of the indistrial frontier society followed.
Krshna introduced himself to Arjuna as a charismatic leader honoured by all the three social worlds and as one who had no specific duty, kartavyam, to be performed. There was nothing that he had not already gained and yet he continued to perform action, duty (karma).
He continued to work as the commoners (manushyas) followed his path in all matters and if he did not engage himself in work unwearied it would set a bad example for others and they would harm themselves.
He feared that if (as a leader) he did not perform his duty (karma) the social worlds (lokas) would perish and he would become the person causing 'mixture (samkara) and destruction of the subjects (prajas, domiciles).
"The non-learned (avidvan) act from attachment to their work.The learned too should work, do their duties, but without attachment. They should be intent on social integration.
Krshna asked the non-active scholars not to disturb the progress of this work. The learned should not cause contradictions in intellectual assessments among the ignorant who are attached to work groups.
The learned should himself perform properly his duty and remain correctly trained and should get others perform all their duties, Krshna directs.
All kinds of work are done by the innate traits of prakrti (masses). But the fool who is egoistic thinks that he is the doer (aham karta).
He clarifies that the learned knows the essential principle (tattva) of the spheres of jurisdiction (vibhaga) of gunas (natural traits) and karmas (duties), (which field of action is correlated to which natural trait).
The scholar realizes that these traits move amongst the traits (gunas). [The guna-karma paradigm of Krshna tried to avoid both lokasamkara and varnasamkara.].
Krshna adds that the commoners, prakrti, who are deluded by the innate traits get attached to the actions correlated to these traits.
However the person who knows all aspects of the social order that is being created and adopts a holistic view should not unsettle the mentally weak and those who are ignorant of this project.
Krshna urges Arjuna to renounce (samnyasya) the issue of the propriety of all the works, duties, to the judgement of the former.
He should focus his thought (cetas) on his inner personality (adhyatma) and become free from expectations and egoism and be free from fever, nervousness and proceed to fight.
He assured that those 'manavas' (followers of Pracetas Manu) too who full of faith and free from illwill followed his teaching would be released from (accountability for) their acts.
He declares that those who carp at his stand (matam) and do not follow it are confused in all fields of knowledge and lost and are unintelligent (acetas).
He argues that the scholar too acts according to his nature, prakrti, that is, the composition of his innste traits, gunas. Krshna draws attention to the link between the scholar and his social world. All beings, bhutas (discrete individuals wherever they live) follow their respective natural trait (prakrti).
What can repression of natural traits accomplish, he asks the champions of retirement, nivrtti.
He treats passion (raga), and hatred caused by the free play of senses rooted to their objects as the two enemies of man. Let no one come under their sway, for they are waylayers, he warns.They deprive man of the merit he has earned by his virtuous deeds.
Krshna then enunciates his famous thesis: "One's own duty (svadharma) though devoid of guna base, that is, imperfect in correlation between guna and karma, natural trait and vocation adopted, is better than another's duty (paradharma), followed perfectly by the former.
Death in performance of one's duty (svadharma) is good, benficial, for performance of another's duty (paradharma) is perilous and to be feared."
Arjuna wanted to know what made a social leader (purusha) commit sins even against his will, acting as though driven by force. (Was the individual to be blamed or the social system?)
Krshna clarified, "It is desire and wrath (kamakrodha) begotten of the trait, rajas, which is ravenous and grossly wicked. Know this to be the foe, in this case." As a flame is covered by smoke and a mirror by dust and a fetus by womb so is this covered by that.
Krshna adds, "the knowledge of the wise stands veiled, kept back by this eternal foe who is in the form of kama, an insatiable fire of desire. He explains that the five senses (indriyas), the mind (manas) and the intellect (buddhi) too are said to be the seat of lust.
Veiling knowledge, lust, through these deceives the soul (dehina) which is within the body.
Therefore, Bharatarshabha, you must first control your senses and kill (prajahi) this evil that ruins knowledge.
By knowing this (soul) that is beyond comprehension by the intellect and by steadying one's self by oneself (the soul within, atmana) one may kill the enemy who is in the form of desire and who is hard to overcome.