Chapter 3

Karma Yoga

The third chapter of the Bhagavad Gita is "Karma Yoga" or the "Path of Selfless Service". Here Lord Krishna emphasizes the importance of karma in life. He reveals that it is important for every human being to engage in some sort of activity in this material world. Further, he describes the kinds of actions that lead to bondage and the kinds that lead to liberation. Those persons who continue to perform their respective duties externally for the pleasure of the Supreme, without attachment to its rewards get liberation at the end.

Verse 1
Arjuna said: If Thou thinkest that knowledge is superior to action, O Krishna, why then, O Kesava, doest Thou ask me to engage in this terrible action?
Verse 2
With this seemingly perplexing speech, you seem to be confusing my understanding; therefore, tell me one certain way by which I may attain bliss.
Verse 3
The Blessed Lord said, "In this world, there is a twofold path, as I said before, O sinless one: the path of knowledge of the Sankhyas and the path of action of the Yogins."
Verse 4
Man does not reach actionlessness by not performing actions; nor does he attain perfection by mere renunciation.
Verse 5
Verily, no one can remain for even a moment without performing action; for everyone is made to act helplessly, indeed, by the qualities born of Nature.
Verse 6
He who, restraining the organs of action, sits thinking of the sense-objects in his mind, he of deluded understanding is called a hypocrite.
Verse 7
But whoever, controlling the senses by the mind, O Arjuna, engages himself in Karma Yoga with the organs of action, without attachment, he excels.
Verse 8
Perform your bounden duty, for action is superior to inaction, and even the maintenance of the body would not be possible for you through inaction.
Verse 9
The world is bound by actions other than those performed for the sake of sacrifice; do thou, therefore, O son of Kunti (Arjuna), perform actions for that sake alone, free from attachment.
Verse 10
The Creator, having in the beginning created mankind together with sacrifice, said, "By this shall you propagate; let this be the milch cow of your desires—the cow that yields all the desired objects."
Verse 11
With this, nourish the gods, and may the gods nourish you; thus, nourishing each other, you shall attain the highest good.
Verse 12
The gods, nourished by the sacrifice, will give you the desired objects. So, he who enjoys the objects given by the gods without offering anything in return is indeed a thief.
Verse 13
The righteous who eat the remnants of the sacrifice are freed from all sins; but those sinful ones who cook food solely for their own sake indeed consume sin.
Verse 14
From food come forth beings; from rain, food is produced; from sacrifice arises rain, and sacrifice is born of action.
Verse 15
Know that action comes from Brahma, and Brahma comes from the Imperishable. Therefore, the all-pervasive Brahma ever rests in sacrifice.
Verse 16
He who does not follow the wheel thus set in motion, who is of sinful life, rejoicing in the senses, lives in vain, O Arjuna.
Verse 17
But for that man who rejoices only in the Self, who is satisfied with the Self and is content in the Self alone, indeed there is nothing to do.
Verse 18
For him, there is no interest whatsoever in what is done or not done; nor does he depend on any being for any purpose.
Verse 19
Therefore, without attachment, always perform the actions that should be done; for by performing actions without attachment, one reaches the Supreme.
Verse 20
Janaka and others attained perfection indeed through action alone; even with the intention of protecting the masses, you should perform action.
Verse 21
Whatever a great man does, others also do; whatever he establishes as the standard, the world follows.
Verse 22
There is nothing in the three worlds, O Arjuna, that needs to be done by Me, nor is there anything unattained that needs to be attained; yet I engage Myself in action.
Verse 23
For, should I not ever engage myself in action, unwearied, people would in every way follow my path, O Arjuna.
Verse 24
These worlds would perish if I did not perform action; I would be the author of confusion of castes and destruction of these beings.
Verse 25
As the ignorant act out of attachment to action, O Bharata, so should the wise act without attachment, wishing for the welfare of the world.
Verse 26
Let no wise man unsettle the minds of ignorant people who are attached to action; he should engage them in all actions, himself fulfilling them with devotion.
Verse 27
All actions are wrought in all cases by the qualities of Nature alone. He whose mind is deluded by egoism thinks, "I am the doer."
Verse 28
But he who knows the Truth, O mighty-armed Arjuna, about the divisions of the qualities and their functions, knowing that the Gunas, as senses, move amidst the Gunas, as the sense-objects, is not attached.
Verse 29
Those deluded by the qualities of Nature are attached to the functions of the qualities. The man of perfect knowledge should not unsettle the foolish one who is of imperfect knowledge.
Verse 30
Renouncing all actions in Me, with the mind centered on the Self, free from hope and egoism, and from mental fever, fight thou.
Verse 31
Those who constantly practice this teaching of Mine with faith and without caviling, they too are freed from actions.
Verse 32
But those who criticize My teaching and do not practice it, deprived of all knowledge and lacking discernment, know them to be doomed to destruction.
Verse 33
Even a wise man acts in accordance with his own nature; beings will follow their nature; what can restraint do?
Verse 34
Attachment and aversion for the objects of the senses abide in the senses; let no one come under their sway; for, they are his enemies.
Verse 35
Better is one's own duty, though devoid of merit, than the duty of another well discharged. Better is death in one's own duty; the duty of another is fraught with fear.
Verse 36
Arjuna said, "But what compels man to commit sin, even against his wishes, O Varshneya (Krishna), as if constrained by force?"
Verse 37
The Blessed Lord said, "It is desire and it is anger, both of the quality of Rajas, all-devouring and all-sinful; know this as the foe here in this world."
Verse 38
As fire is enveloped by smoke, as a mirror is covered by dust, and as an embryo is surrounded by the amniotic sac, so is this enveloped by that.
Verse 39
O Arjuna, wisdom is enveloped by this constant enemy of the wise, in the form of desire, which is insatiable like fire.
Verse 40
The senses, the mind, and the intellect are said to be its seat; through these, it deludes the embodied one, veiling their wisdom.
Verse 41
Therefore, O best of the Bharatas, control your senses first and then kill this sinful thing, which destroys knowledge and realization.
Verse 42
They say that the senses are superior to the body; the mind is superior to the senses; the intellect is superior to the mind; and He (the Self) is superior even to the intellect.
Verse 43
Thus, knowing Him who is superior to the intellect and restraining the self by the Self, slay thou, O mighty-armed Arjuna, the enemy in the form of desire, hard to conquer.