na buddhi-bhedam janayed
vidvan yuktah samacaran
Let not the wise disrupt the minds of the ignorant who are attached to action, they should not be encouraged to refrain from work, but to engage in work in the spirit of devotion.
It may be put forth that if one feels compassion for the ignorant, one should give them knowledge of ‘atma-tattva’ or soul realisation which is the highest. Lord Krishna neutralises this argument by stating ‘na vicalayet tan’ meaning one should not try to impart knowledge to them. The ignorant should not be influenced to refrain from performing their duties by superior instructions about the atman or soul that they are not qualified to understand. The spiritually wise in Vedic knowledge should inspire the ignorant to perform their duties with attentiveness and care. If the minds of the ignorant become disturbed and unsettled then they may lose faith in working altogether and with actions stopped and knowledge not rising the ignorant would lose out in both ways.
An ignorant person performs action to reap its fruit, while, a wise man is neither attached to the fruit of action, nor has any duty to perform. Great men have greater responsibility, because common men follow them. Therefore, the Lord urges the wise man, that he should not perform any such action or make any such utterance, as may lead the ignorant to a downfall, which has been called here ‘as buddhibhedam’ (unsettlement in the minds). Therefore, a wise man should perform virtuous actions, for the welfare of other people, so that they may be inspired to perform their duty, without any desire for fruit.
gunaih karmani sarvasah
kartaham iti manyate
All actions are performed, in all cases, by the modes of nature (prakriti). He whose mind is mesmerised by egoism thinks, “I am the doer.”
A question may be raised that the spiritually wise may sometimes perform actions that are also performed by the ignorant then what is the difference? Lord Krishna clarifies this point with the word prakriti meaning the material nature which is impelling actions through the medium of the three gunas being the modes of prakriti known as sattva or goodness, rajas or passion and tamas or ignorance. One who is perplexed by false ego believes that they are the physical body and that the physical body is the doer of all their actions. The Lord declares that all actions are performed by the modes of nature, not by the self.
An action done with the sense of egoism, can never lead to salvation, because egoism is the root of all misfortunes, of birth and death. There were many rulers and leaders in the world who thought and believed that they are indispensable and without them chaos would persist in society. Today they all are resting in the cemetery and the world moves on. Therefore a seeker instead of attaching importance to the performance of action should attach importance to discrimination. This discrimination is then transformed into Real-Knowledge.
tattva-vit tu maha-baho
guna gunesu vartanta
iti matva na sajjate
But the enlightened one, who knows to distinguish the gunas and their works, is not attached, with the view that the gunas are operating on their respective counterparts.
The three modes of goodness, passion and ignorance (Sattva, Rajas and Tamas), are born of nature. The entire universe, including the body, senses, mind, intellect, creatures and objects etc., is constituted of the three modes. Out of ignorance, a man by assuming his affinity for these modes, becomes a doer of actions i.e., by regarding the actions and objects, as his own and he becomes a doer. But, when he realizes that the self is different and is an illuminator, he cannot think that he is a doer. A train, having received power from the engine, runs with the help of a driver. The engine supplies power but the train reaches its destination only when the driver drives it. The engine has no senses, mind and intellect. Therefore, it needs a driver (man) with senses, mind and intellect. But, a man has an engine in the form of body and has also senses, mind and intellect to drive it. But the senses, mind and intellect function having received inspiration from the source of light. First, light is reflected in the intellect, from the intellect it goes to the mind, from the mind it goes to the senses, and then the engine (body) functions. Intellect, mind, senses and the body-these are modes and their illuminator is the self which is not connected with them. So long as a seeker has affinity for the world, he can’t be an enlightened soul. The reason is that a man can’t know the world so long as he is attached to it. The world can be known only when he disconnects himself from the world – this is the rule. Similarly a man cannot know God by assuming himself apart from God. He can know Him only by identifying himself with Him – this is the rule. The reason is that really we are different from the world and are identical with God. The body is identical with the world while we (self) are identical with God.
If we renounce our affinity for Nature, through discrimination, it is known as ‘Jnanayoga’ (Discipline of Knowledge). If this affinity is renounced by performing duty, for the welfare of others, it is known as ‘Karma yoga’ (Discipline of Action). When we renounce our affinity for nature, we realize Yoga, (i.e.) union with God. Otherwise, it is merely Jnana (knowledge) and karma (action). Those who realize this real affinity for God, having renounced the affinity for nature, are, ‘tattvavit’ (enlightened souls).
tan akrtsna-vido mandan
krtsna-vin na vicalayet
Bewildered by the modes of material nature, the ignorant fully engage themselves in material activities and become attached. But the wise should not unsettle them, although these duties are inferior due to the performers’ lack of knowledge.
This body is a gift of the material nature, and one who is too much attached to the bodily consciousness is called ‘mandan’, a lazy or ignorant person. Ignorant men think of the body as the self. Social work, nationalism, and altruism are some of the activities of such persons and are always busy in the material world; for them spiritual realization is a myth, and so they are not interested. Those who are enlightened in spiritual life should not try to agitate such materially engrossed persons.
In this way after presenting the distinctions between one who is spiritually wise in Vedic knowledge and those who are acting in ignorance; Lord Krishna advices the wise not to unsettle the minds of the ignorant. For the ignorant being completely infatuated by prakriti or material nature are totally attached to all their actions thinking always that they are performing a particular action for the express purpose of being able to enjoy a particular delight. They are unable to perform actions as a matter of duty without desiring rewards. Even though the actions of the ignorant do not lead them to salvation, the very fact that they are performing actions is in itself good. Administering superior knowledge to them may cause them to refrain from their duties altogether. Eventually in the course of their lifetime there will be a glimmer of comprehension and understand the futility of attachment for such actions.
mayi sarvani karmani
nirasir nirmamo bhutva
Therefore, O Arjuna, surrendering all your works unto Me, with mind intent on Me, and without desire for gain and free from egoism and lethargy, fight.
The Lord urges us to surrender all our actions to Him, without having the least affinity for those actions. In fact, all actions of the world are performed by Lord’s power. By thinking so, when a seeker performs actions, those actions instead of leading him to bondage, steer him to salvation. Every person knows that he cannot keep the body, senses, mind, intellect and material objects etc., under his control, according to his desire. These belong to nature while the self is a fragment of the Lord. So, real surrender consists in accepting these as of the Lord’s, rather than his own. Therefore, ‘surrender’ means, the renunciation of assumed affinity, for objects and actions, by attaching importance to discrimination. By the expression ‘adhyatmacetasa’, the Lord means to say, that one should have a spiritual aim (of God) rather than a mundane one. The man, who has fixed his aim, has a discriminative insight. In fact, a man’s aim or necessity is, to attain the imperishable, (spiritual) while his desire is to gain the perishable. A seeker should decide upon the aim of his life, instead of having a desire.
The word ‘sannyasa’ means renounce. What is to be renounced? Lord Krishna is explaining Arjuna to renounce all actions and instead dedicate his actions as yajna or worship, as an offering to the Supreme Lord. One should try to be guided by the Lord in every action they perform. One should think that they are being guided by the Supreme Lord at all times. Relinquishing both desire and attachment and thereby being free from any ego conceptions of I-ness or my-ness and any conceptions of ownership; one should cheerfully perform all actions for the satisfaction of the Supreme Lord. In this way Lord Krishna is instructing Arjuna to free himself from delusion and to fight. Here ‘fight’ only means do your duty, whatever it may be.
When a seeker has God-realization as the only goal of his life, all his possessions and things, whether superior or inferior, are surrendered to God. Having surrendered his actions and objects, he surrenders his desire, the sense of ‘mine-ness’ and grief, which appear in him, to God. Thus, he becomes a staunch devotee with exclusive devotion. Therefore, the Lord in this verse orders Arjuna to perform his duty of fighting, so that he may come to know his defects also.