ye me matam idam nityam
mucyante te ‘pi karmabhih
Persons who always follow this teaching of Mine, with faith and without question, are released from the bondage of all actions.
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.
If a seeker whose only aim is God-realization, gives a serious thought to the topic, he will come to know the truth, that all the acquired things such as, the body, rank, right, education, knowledge, riches, property etc., belong to the world, and so they should be utilized, for the world. We may call them either of the world or of nature, or of God, but these are not ours. So how can they be for us? Having surrendered everything and action to God, he should not be swayed, by the pairs of opposites, such as profit and loss, honour and dishonour, pleasure and pain etc., because these are the gifts of God and so they are His. Performance of duty, joyfully under the available circumstance means, the practice of His teaching.
The Lord without pride and with a simple and polite heart calls His principle (Siddhanta) as opinion (Mata). An opinion is not universal but it is personal. Everyone can express his opinion but a principle is the basic and supreme truth of universal character which everyone has to follow. Therefore there can be difference of opinion between the teacher and the pupil but there can’t be difference in principle. Sages, hermits and philosophers name their opinion as ‘principle’ but in the Gita the Lord names His principle as ‘Mata’ (opinion).
ye tv etad abhyasuyanto
nanutisthanti me matam
viddhi nastan acetasah
But those who, out of envy, disregard these teachings and do not practice them regularly, are to be considered bereft of all knowledge, befooled, and doomed to ignorance and bondage.
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. Thus it has been illustrated that doer-ship transpires due to the union of prakriti or material nature and the physical body being influenced by the gunas or modes of goodness, passion and ignorance.
sadrsam cestate svasyah
prakrter jnanavan api
prakrtim yanti bhutani
nigrahah kim karisyati
Even a man of knowledge acts according to his own nature, for everyone follows his nature. What can repression accomplish?
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. All actions, such as seeing, hearing, smelling, touching etc., are performed according to one’s nature and according to His principle. Nature, free from attachment and aversion, is not faulty, while nature with attachment and aversion is. 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. It is, because of impure personal nature, that the assumed affinity for the world is not renounced. As soon as his nature is purified, the assumed affinity is easily, renounced. A perfect soul, being free from attachment and aversion, acts in accordance with pure nature. He is not swayed by nature.
tayor na vasam agacchet
tau hy asya paripanthinau
Attachment and aversion of man abide in each and every sense-object through the feeling of agreeableness’ or disagreeableness towards its senses. Let no one come under their sway, for they are his way layers and foes.
External restraint is of no use unless the inner equipment, consisting of mind and intellect, is trained with the discipline of discrimination and detachment
Each sense has attraction for a pleasant aspect (ear, eye, skin, tongue and nose for sound, sight, touch, taste and smell respectively), and aversion for an unpleasant one. In fact, attachment and aversion do not abide, in the sense-objects. If they had abode in the sense-objects, the same objects might have been pleasant (desirable) or unpleasant (undesirable) equally, to everyone. But it does not happen. Rain is desirable for a farmer, but not so for a potter. Moreover, the same object is sometimes pleasant, while it is unpleasant at other time, to the same person. Cool air, is pleasant in summer but unpleasant in winter. Thus, we have attraction and aversion by regarding these as desirable and undesirable. Therefore, the Lord has declared, that attachment and aversion of man abide in the sense-objects. The Lord assures seekers, that they should never be disappointed, if attachment and aversion appear. The scriptures, rather than attachment and aversion, should be the authority for determining what should be done and what should not be done. When we assume that others are instrumental in providing pleasure and pain to us then attachment and aversion ensue viz., we get attached to the thing which we think provides pleasure to us and have aversion to the thing which provides pain to us. Therefore attachment and aversion are born by one’s own error, there is no other reason.
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.
sreyan sva-dharmo vigunah
sva-dharme nidhanam sreyah
It is far better to discharge one’s prescribed duties, even though they may be faulty, than another’s duties. Destruction in the course of performing one’s own duty is better than engaging in another’s duties, for to follow another’s path is dangerous.
This is not only an oft quoted sloka but also often misinterpreted. Those who want to perpetuate the caste system quote this to suit their purpose. The meaning of the sloka, “one’s own duty, though devoid of merit is preferable to that of another, though more meritorious”, is often misconstrued to mean that one should stick on to the work or kind of life with which he is born and should not strive to come up in life. It really means the work suited to one’s own nature, which may change as the individual changes. It is not uncommon to find that a person qualified to be an engineer, for instance, turns out to be a successful businessman because he has the inborn talents to become one or a man giving up his successful profession and choose a less lucrative one because his attitude has changed. So ‘svadharma’ is what naturally comes to you and not something which others do, however tempting it may appear to be.
One would like to switch their duties for another’s but it is very risky. Engaging in one’s own duty one possesses the correct inner mentality to accomplish it; but for engagement in another’s duty the correct inner mentality would not be present even if the external action was performed perfectly. There might be worry or indecision and questions regarding some aspects of another’s duty and unresolved these would lead to inner conflict which is very detrimental for one’s consciousness and atma tattva or soul realisation. This is Lord Krishna’s meaning.
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.