Bhagavad Gita for Executives – Chapter 3 Summary – Part 2
Common people who attach importance to wealth and position, follow the examples set by millionaires and leaders, regarding them as great, though they may not be really so. The rich people and leaders, resort to evil practices such as falsehood, forgery, dishonesty, thefts and corruption, to gain riches, fame and status in society. The common people, who consider them great, follow those evil practices. Thus, evils become rampant in the society. Great and noble men, such as teachers, preachers, priests, leaders and rulers etc., who hold positions of honour in society, should perform their duties very carefully, so that they may leave a good impression upon the common people, who may follow the standards. Leader’s lives have to be an example for others to emulate. By saying that if He does not act, the world will follow suit, Krishna means that the mortals will not be guided towards the right path and will destroy themselves pursuing the sensual pleasure with no restraint. No one will be interested in doing anything but expect results without working for it. When Lord Krishna took birth, seemingly as a human being, as the son of the great righteous King Vasudeva, he conducted Himself in all ways and manners as appropriate for his position in society as a prince of the royal Kshatriya or warrior class. If Lord Krishna acted otherwise all mankind would begin to imitate Him thinking that such actions were virtuous. All actions of wise men are naturally performed for the welfare of the world. They have also no egoistic notion, that they are engaged in the welfare of others. An ignorant person performs action to reap its fruit, a wise man is neither attached to the fruit of action, nor has any duty to perform. So, it is possible for him to be indifferent to action. Therefore, the Lord directs him to act, without attachment.
Krishna gives three qualifications to attain freedom from action and bondage. It is to be noted that freedom from action is not inaction. First, one should follow the teaching about karma yoga by Krishna and act upon it, secondly he should have absolute faith that this is the right path and thirdly he should not complain about it. Those who do not follow the Lord’s teaching are under delusion regarding worldly knowledge. They are devoid of discrimination, because they cannot distinguish the real from the unreal, righteous from unrighteous, salvation from bondage and so on. They remain ignorant, like animals. Spiritual intelligence is what determines the light of knowledge in the material existence. In the absence of spiritual knowledge, darkness and ignorance prevails and knowledge becomes erroneous and defective.
If it is so beneficial to follow the teachings of the Lord then why is not everyone following them? All actions are performed, either according to one’s own nature or according to the Lord’s principles, (scriptural injunctions). One’s nature can be of two kinds, either free from attachment and aversion, or having attachment and aversion. Actions, which are performed out of attachment and aversion, bind a man because they make his nature impure. On the other hand, actions which are performed according to God’s principles, lead to salvation, because these purify one’s nature. The way to evolve spiritually involves the control of desires and aversion. We contact the outer world through our senses which create desire for the pleasant sense experience and aversion for the unpleasant. This desire and aversion leads one to action, either to acquire the desired object or to shun the undesired one. Thus the attachment to result through desire and aversion create further karma and one gets bound by that and goes through the cycle of birth and death.
The duty of another person according to his profession, stage of life, etc., may outwardly seem full of merit, be easy to perform, be attractive, provide riches, comforts, honour and praise etc., and enable one to live with comfort throughout his life, yet is forbidden. On the other hand, one’s own duty, may be devoid of merit, be difficult to perform, not appealing and not providing riches, comforts, honour or praise etc., and may be painful, yet these should be performed without expecting any reward, as these leads to salvation. Therefore, a person should always perform his duty, without expecting any reward, without a sense of ‘mine’ and without attachment. Lord Krishna is convincing Arjuna that having taken birth in the warrior class and fighting is his duty he had to treat alike victory and defeat, gain and loss, and pleasure and pain. The body, senses, mind, intellect and matter etc., are meant for performing duty alone. Those who do not deviate from their duty in spite of suffering pain are admired and honoured. Patriots, who suffered tortures, went to jail and were hanged, in order to make the country independent, are praised and honoured even today. On the other hand, those who are sent to jail, because of their crimes are condemned and dishonoured.
A person believes that worldly objects provide him pleasure, so he has a desire to acquire them in order to enjoy pleasure. This desire gives birth to attachment. So long as this process continues, he cannot get rid of sinful acts. Craving for perishable objects, is called desire, while the need for God-realization, which may appear to be like desire, is not really desire. The reason is, that desire is never satisfied, but it is strengthened by sense enjoyments, while the need of God-realization is fulfilled having realized God.
The three analogies given to describe the obscuration of wisdom by desire are significant. First is the fire being obscured by smoke? This denotes a nature predominant of Sattva where the wisdom is slightly obscured as the fire with smoke. Once the smoke clears of its own accord the fire becomes visible. Similarly a person who is of satvic temperament needs only a little help from the sastras or his guru to clear his ignorance which is only slight like smoke that conceals the fire. The next example of mirror covered with dust refers to one who has more rajas and tamas due to karma accumulated in the past lives. It takes time for a mirror to become covered with dust. This can be removed only through persistent effort like cleaning a mirror with a cloth. That is, the wisdom can be acquired only through diligent spiritual discipline. The third example of the foetus being concealed in the womb is applicable to those whose nature is predominant of tamas. The ignorance is so great that it can be removed only in course of time just as the baby is born only at the appropriate time.
It is said in the Manu-smrti that lust cannot be satisfied by any amount of sense enjoyment, just as fire is never extinguished by a constant supply of fuel. The fire of desire devours everything which comes into its contact. “The richer a man grows, the more he hankers after worldly prosperity. A poor man, may desire to gain only a few rupees, but when he gains them, he has desire for a hundred and then a thousand, and after that a million and then a billion and trillion and then the ownership of the entire universe. Yet, this form of desire will not be satiated. It is only, by contentment, that this desire can be subdued. In fact it is not wealth, but desire for wealth, which is an obstacle to God-realization. This desire deprives the rich and the poor equally, of God-realization, as it can never be satiated. A man can only get rid of it by renouncing it.
Everyone, likes loving and true words, and hates harsh and false words. It means that every person has the knowledge (discrimination) of good and bad, virtue and vice, right and wrong. In spite of this knowledge, an ignorant person uses harsh language, tells a lie and does not perform his duty scrupulously, because his discrimination is concealed by desire. The main obstacle to the practice of spiritual discipline is the desire for pleasure which is born by the contact of senses with sense-objects. This obstacle lingers for a long time. Wherever a seeker indulges in pleasure, there his spiritual progress is arrested. All actions are performed, with the body, senses, mind and intellect. If desire resides in these, it hinders the performance of spiritual actions. Therefore, a Karma yogi (man of action), having abandoned attachment and the fruit of actions, performs actions, only by the body, senses, mind and intellect, for the purification of the self. So long as, a man is swayed by his senses, he cannot have an eye on the goal of life. Without having an eye on the goal of life i.e., without attaining it, desire cannot be totally killed. So, first the Lord urges to control the senses, in order to kill desire.
The five senses are the main impediments to spiritual development and are arranged in a hostile formation against it. As long as the senses are primarily occupied in the pursuit of pleasure the realisation of the Atma will never happen. Yet the mind although fickle is capable of controlling the senses but if the mind is also inclined to enjoy the senses then realisation of the Atma will never manifest. But the intellect is superior even to the mind as it possesses the discriminative faculty. This means that the mind may be tranquil but if the intellect is inclined towards the channels of sense activities there will be no possibility again for realisation of the Atma. A question may be posed what if all the three, the senses, the mind and the intellect were tranquil and passive? The unvarying answer is that Kama or lust which arises from desires covertly resides deep within the heart and is always craving for sense gratification. This kama is so powerful that it will assert its mastery over them all and domineering them will have them fully pursuing the objects of the senses for sense gratification in the phenomenal world obscuring the light of knowledge and the realisation of the Atma. That which is the most powerful with its domain in the spiritual phenomena is the Atma.
Now in conclusion Lord Krishna establishes the fact that one should try their utmost to destroy the powerful enemy known as kama or lust. Knowing that kama is the mightiest enemy one must, by withdrawing the senses, keeping the mind steady and the intellect resolute in sattva guna the mode of goodness then slay this enemy kama which will attack your mind and senses in various ways causing one to fall into delusion before one becomes powerless to resist. Kama is extremely difficult to overpower and is tenacious and formidable yet if one dedicates all actions to Lord Krishna with their mind fixed on Him they can overcome it. So knowledge of Vedic wisdom and meditation on the Supreme Lord are the combined panacea to neutralise kama from its location in the senses, mind and intellect and then destroy the great enemy. This path of selfless action, unattached, without conception of rewards should be practiced according to one’s capacity and knowledge as a means of gradually achieving renunciation.
At the beginning of the third chapter, Arjuna asked Lord Krishna, “If You think that knowledge is superior to action, why do You urge me, to do this savage deed (war)?” In response to his question, the Lord, from the fourth to the twenty-ninth verses, lays emphasis on the performance of actions, by which a man attains equanimity. In the thirtieth verse, He says that surrendering all actions to Him, with a discriminative insight, free from desire and egoism he should perform actions without mental agitation. In the thirty-first and thirty-second verses, He declares the benefit of following His preaching and the harm in not following it. In the thirty-fifth verse, He declares, “Better is death in one’s own duty.” In the thirty-sixth verse Arjuna asks, “By what is a man impelled to commit sin?” The Lord replies, “It is desire, all devouring and most sinful, which is the enemy,” and ordered Arjuna to slay this enemy.