| 2010-07-13, by John Ringland|
From a response to a Facebook
conversation about the issue of
action, inaction, non-action, ego, doer, doership, etc.
I just opened the Bhagavad Gita at random and it opened at chapter
3, "Karma Yoga: The Way of Action". The entire book is
relevant to this issue however I will quote extensively from just
this chapter because synchronicity is suggesting that it may be
First some background. Arjuna is a prince of a great kingdom that
has disintegrated into two warring factions. Krishna, the avatar of
the Supreme Godhead is serving as Arjuna's charioteer. A great war
has arisen and Arjuna is called upon to lead an army to fight his
kinsmen, his brothers, his teachers and those who he loves and
On the eve of the battle, in the midst of the two armies, Arjuna
breaks down. "O Krishna, when I see these people, my kinsmen
assembled here, eager for battle, my limbs sag, my mouth feels
parched, my body quakes, and my hairs stand on end... I am unable to
stand still and my mind is in a whirl. I see adverse omens, and do
not forsee any good from killing my own kinsmen in battle... These I
would not wish to kill though they may have risen to kill us. Even to
obtain the kingdom of the three worlds (outer, inner & inner
most); far less for the sake of the earth...."
Krishna's first reply is "O Arjuna, from where does this
disgraceful conduct come into your mind in this hour of peril? It is
unknown to the Aryas (awakened ones), does not lead to heaven, and
brings one disrepute."
Krishna goes on to explain the entire nature of reality, the
cosmic process and its projection upon the earthly plane, the fact
that none there on the battle field are actually alive to begin with
so they cannot be killed, that one must fulfil one's dharma and enact
one's innermost law, which is the law of the cosmos. Anything else is
futile and ruinous.
From chapter three: "Karma Yoga: The Way of Action"
Arjuna: "O Krishna, if you are of the opinion that wisdom is
superior to action, why then do you exhort me to perform this
terrible act? With this apparently conflicting advice, it is as if
you confuse my understanding. Tell me for certain, therefore, that
one thing by which I would attain bliss."
Krishna: "O sinless one, I have said earlier that the way in
the world is two-fold: the path of knowledge (gnana yoga) for those
who contemplate and that of doing (karma yoga) for those who act.
A man does not attain release from action by not acting, nor does
he attain perfection by mere renunciation of action. For, no matter
who he is, he cannot remain for even a moment without acting.
Prakriti (impulses borne of nature) compels everyone who is dependent
to keep performing action.
The deluded one who keeps in check the organs which act while
continuing in his mind to brood over the objects of sense is termed a
But the man who controls his senses with his mind and, with
detachment, begins his karma yoga using the organs of action, is a
very worthy man.
Perform the action prescribed for you, because it is better to act
than to be inactive. Without action, even the maintenance of your
body will be impossible.
Except for work performed in the spirit of sacrifice, all other
holds the world in bondage. Therefore, perform your action in the
spirit of sacrifice, free from any form of attachment.
By it, please the gods, and let them please you. Pleasing each
other thus, may you attain supreme good.
Know the origin of action (karma) to be in Brahman (supreme
non-dual reality), and that Brahman has sprung from the Imperishable.
Therefore this Brahman, which is all-pervading, is always the primary
focus of sacrifice.
The man who does not help to turn the wheel which has been set in
motion in this world is full of sin, and the life of him who is a
slave to the senses is worthless.
But the man merged only with the Self (Atman, which is Brahman),
content in the Self, pleased with it, has no action that needs to be
performed. Similarly, he has nothing to gain here either by doing or
not doing; nor does he depend upon any created being for attaining
Therefore, always perform what you have to do without attachment,
for the man who performs action without attachment attains the
I (the Supreme Godhead) have no duty left to perform in the three
worlds. There is nothing left unattained which I have to attain. Yet,
I am engaged in action. If I cease to work, these worlds would grow
extinct. I shall be the cause of the world's disarray.
Therefore, as the ignorant perform action being attached to it,
the wise should perform action unattached, desiring to maintain the
welfare of the world.
The wise man should not unsettle the faith of the ignorant one's
attachment to action, but should himself become a doer of deeds in
the spirit of yoga, and enjoin others to do so willingly.
Though all actions are done by the constituents of nature
(prakriti), the ignorant one, deluded by his egoism, regards himself
as the doer.
But he who realises that these constituents and actions are both
distinct from himself, and that it is only the constituents
interacting together, does not grow attached.
People who are deluded by the constituents of prakriti get
attached to the actions they produce. Such imperfect, dull-witted
people should not be unsettled by the wise.
Surrendering all actions to Me, with your mind fixed in the Self,
freed from desire and the idea of ownership, fight, delivered from
your mental fever.
The devout who, without finding fault with My teaching (Sanatana
Dharma, eternal law), always act according to it, are also freed from
the bondage of karma.
But know that those who fault My teaching and do not follow it,
are foolish beyond redemption, thoughtless, and are utterly ruined."
(The Bhagavadgita, translated from Sanskrit by Professor Vrinda
Nabar & Professor Shanta Tumkur, Wordsworth Classics, 1977)