Bhagavad Gita - Chapter III:
Karma Yoga

Text 1
Sanskrit working:

English Wording:

  • arjuna uvaca
  • jyayasi cet karmanas
  • te mata buddhir
  • janardana tat kim
  • karmani ghore mam
  • niyojayasi kesava.
English Translation:
Arjun said: O Janardana, O Keshava, why do You want to engage me in this ghastly warfare, if You that intellidence is better than fruitive work?

The Supreme Personality of Godhead Sri Krishna has very elaborately described the constitution of the soul in the previous chapter, with a view to delivering His intimate friend Arjun from the ocean of material grief. And the path of realization has been recommended: buddhi-yoga, or Krishna consciousness. Sometimes Krishna consciousness is misunderstood to be inertia, and one with such a misunderstanding often withdraws to a secluded place to become fully Krishna conscious by chanting the holy name of Lord Krishna. But without being trained in the philosophy of Krishna consciousness, it is not advisable to chant the holy name of Krishna in a secluded place, where one may acquire only cheap adoration from the innocent public.

Arjun also thought of Krishna consciousness or buddhi-yoga, or intelligence in spiritual advancement of knowledge, as something like retirement from active life and the practice of penance and austerity at a secluded place. In other words, he wanted to skillfully avoid the fighting by using Krishna consciousness as an excuse. But as a sincere student, he placed the matter before his master and questioned Krishna as to his best course of action. In answer Lord Krishna elaborately explained karma-yoga, or work in Krishna consciousness, in this Third Chapter.

Text 2

Sanskrit working:

English Wording:

  • vyamisreneva vakyena
  • buddhim mohayasiva
  • me tad ekam vada
  • niscitya yena
  • sreyo ham apnuyam.
English Translation:
My intelligence is bewildered by Your equivocal instructions. There- fore, please tell me decisively which will be most beneficial for me.

Purport: In the previous chapter, as a prelude to the Bhagavad-gita, many different paths were explained, such as sankhya-yoga, buddhi-yoga, control of the senses by intelligence, work without fruitive desire, and the position of the neophyte. This was all presented unsystematically. A more organized outline of the path would be necessary for action and understanding. Arjun, therefore, wanted to clear up these apparently confusing matters so that any common man could accept them without misinterpretation. Although Krishna had no intention of confusing Arjun by any jugglery of words, Arjun could not follow the process of Krishna consciousness-either by inertia or by active service. In other words, by his questions he is clearing the path of Krishna consciousness for all students who seriously want to understand the mystery of the Bhagavad-Gita.

Text 3

Sanskrit working:

English Wording:

  • sri-bhagavan uvaca
  • loke smin dvi-vidha
  • nistha pura prokta
  • mayanagha jnana-yogena
  • sankhyanam karma-yogena yoginam.
English Translation:
The Supreme Personality of Godhead said: 0 sinless Arjun, I have already explained that there are two classes of men who try to realize the self. Some are inclined to understand it by empirical, philosophical speculation, and others by devotional service.

In the Second Chapter, verse 39, the Lord explained two kinds of procedures-namely sankhya-yoga and karma-yoga, or buddhi- yoga. In this verse, the Lord explains the same more clearly. Sankhya-yoga, or the analytical study of the nature of spirit and matter, is the subject matter for persons who are inclined to speculate and understand things by experimental knowledge and philosophy. The other class of men work in Krishna consciousness, as it is explained in the 61st verse of the Second Chapter. The Lord has explained, also in the 39th verse, that by working by the principles of buddhi-yoga, or Krishna consciousness, one can be relieved from the bonds of action; and, furthermore, there is no flaw in the process. The same principle is more clearly explained in the 61st verse-that this buddhi-yoga is to depend entirely on the Supreme (or more specifically, on Krishna), and in this way all the senses can be brought under control very easily. Therefore, both the yogas are inter- dependent, as religion and philosophy. Religion without philosophy is sentiment, or sometimes fanaticism, while philosophy without religion is mental speculation.

The ultimate goal is Krishna, because the philosophers who are also sincerely searching after the Absolute Truth come in the end to Krishna consciousness. This is also stated in the Bhagavad-Gita. The whole process is to understand the real position of the self in relation to the Superself. The indirect process is philosophical speculation, by which, gradually, one may come to the point of Krishna consciousness; and the other process is directly connecting with everything in Krishna consciousness. Of these two, the path of Krishna consciousness is better because it does not depend on purifying the senses by a philosophical process. Krishna consciousness is itself the purifying process, and by the direct method of devotional service it is simultaneously easy and sublime.

Text 4
Sanskrit working:

English Wording:

  • na karmanam anarambhan
  • naiskarmyam puruso
  • snute na ca sannyasanad
  • eva siddhim samadhigacchati.
English Translation:
Not by merely abstaining from work can one achieve freedom from reaction, nor by renunciation alone can one attain perfection.

The renounced order of life can be accepted when one has been purified by the discharge of the prescribed form of duties which are laid down just to purify the hearts of materialistic men. Without purification, one cannot attain success by abruptly adopting the fourth order of life (sannyasa). According to the empirical philosophers, simply by adopting sannyasa, or retiring from fruitive activities, one at once becomes as good as Narayana.

But Lord Krishna does not approve this principle. Without purification of heart, sannyasa is simply a disturbance to the social order. On the other hand, if some- one takes to the transcendental service of the Lord, even without discharging his prescribed duties, whatever he may be able to advance in the cause is accepted by the Lord (buddhi-yoga). Even a slight performance of such a principle enables one to overcome great difficulties.

Text 5
Sanskrit working:

English Wording:

  • na hi kascit ksanam
  • api jatu tisthaty
  • akarma-krt karyate
  • hy avasah karma sarvah
  • prakrti-jair gunaih.
English Translation:
Everyone is forced to act helplessly according to the qualities he has acquired from the modes of material nature; therefore no one can refrain from doing something, not even for a moment.


It is not a question of embodied life, but it is the nature of the soul to be always active. Without the presence of the spirit soul, the material body cannot move. The body is only a dead vehicle to be worked by the spirit soul, which is always active and cannot stop even for a moment. As such, the spirit soul has to be engaged in the good work of Krishna consciousness, otherwise it will be engaged in occupations dictated by illusory energy. In contact with material energy, the spirit soul acquires material modes, and to purify the soul from such affinities it is necessary to engage in the prescribed duties enjoined in the sastras. But if the soul is engaged in his natural function of Krishna consciousness, whatever he is able to do is good for him. The- Srimad-Bhagavatam (1.5.17) affirms this:

"If someone takes to Krishna consciousness, even though he may not follow the prescribed duties in the sastras or execute the devotional service properly, and even though he may fall down from the stan- dard, there is no loss or evil for him. But if he carries out all the injunctions for purification in the sastras, what does it avail him if he is not Krishna conscious?" So the purificatory process is necessary for reaching this point of Krishna consciousness. Therefore, sannydsa, or any purificatory process, is to help reach the ultimate goal of becom- ing Krishna conscious, without which everything is considered a failure.

Text 6
Sanskrit working:

English Wording:

  • karmendriyani samyamya
  • ya aste manasa smaran
  • indriyarthan vimudhatma
  • mithyacarah sa ucyate.
English Translation:
One who restrains the senses of action but whose mind dwells on sense objects certainly deludes himself and is called a pretender.


There are many pretenders who refuse to work in Krishna conscious- ness but make a show of meditation, while actually dwelling within the mind upon sense enjoyment. Such pretenders may also speak on dry philosophy in order to bluff sophisticated followers, but accord- ing to this verse these are the greatest cheaters. For sense enjoyment one can act in any capacity of the social order, but if one follows the rules and regulations of his particular status, he can make gradual progress in purifying his existence. But he who makes a show of being a yogi while actually searching for the objects of sense gratification must be called the greatest cheater, even though he sometimes speaks of philosophy. His knowledge has no value, because the effects of such a sinful man's knowledge are taken away by the illusory energy of the Lord. Such a pretender's mind is always impure, and therefore his show of yogic meditation has no value whatsoever.
Text 7
Sanskrit working:

  • yas tv indriyani manasa
  • niyamyarabhate rjuna
  • karmendriyaih karma-yogam
  • asaktah sa visisyate.
English Translation:
On the other hand, if a sincere person tries to control the active senses by the mind and begins karma-yoga [in Krishna consciousness] without attachment, he is by far superior.


Instead of becoming a pseudo transcendentalist for the sake of wanton living and sense enjoyment, it is far better to remain in one's own business and execute the purpose of life, which is to get free from material bondage and enter into the kingdom of God. The prime svartha-gali, or goal of self-interest, is to reach Lord Vishnu. The whole institution of varna and dsrama is designed to help us reach this goal of life.

A householder can also reach this destination by regulated service in Krishna consciousness. For self-realization, one can live a controlled life, as prescribed in the sastras, and continue carrying out his business without attachment, and in that way make progress. A sincere person who follows this method is far better situated than the false pretender who adopts show-bottle spiritual- ism to cheat the innocent public. A sincere sweeper in the street is far better than the charlatan meditator who meditates only for the sake of making a living.

Text 8
Sanskrit working:

English Wording:

  • niyatam kuru karma
  • tvam karma jyayo hy
  • akarmanah sarira-yatrapi
  • ca te na prasiddhyed akarmanah.
English Translation:
Perform your prescribed duty, for doing so is better than not working. One cannot even maintain one's physical body without work.

There are many pseudo meditators who misrepresent themselves as belonging to high parentage, and great professional men who falsely pose that they have sacrificed everything for the sake of advance- ment in spiritual life. Lord Krishna did not want Arjun to become a pretender. Rather, the Lord desired that Arjun perform his pre- scribed duties as set forth for ksatriyas. Arjun was a householder and a military general, and therefore it was better for him to remain as such and perform his religious duties as prescribed for the house- holder ksalriya.

Such activities gradually cleanse the heart of a mundane man and free him from material contamination. So-called renunciation for the purpose of maintenance is never approved by the Lord, nor by any religious scripture. After all, one has to maintain one's body and soul together by some work. Work should not be given up capriciously, without purification of materialistic propensities. Anyone who is in the material world is certainly pos- sessed of the impure propensity for lording it over material nature, or, in other words, for sense gratification. Such polluted propensities have to be cleared. Without doing so, through prescribed duties, one should never attempt to become a so-called transcendentalist, renouncing work and living at the cost of others.

Text 9
Sanskrit working:

English Wording:

  • yajnarthat karmano nyatra
  • loko yam karma-bandhanah
  • tad-artham karma kaunteya
  • mukta-sangah samacara.
English Translation:
Work done as a sacrifice for Lord Vishnu has to be performed; otherwise work causes bondage in this material world. Therefore, 0 son of Kunti, perform your prescribed duties for His satisfaction, and in that way you will always remain free from bondage.

Since one has to work even for the simple maintenance of the body, the prescribed duties for a particular social position and quality are so made that that purpose can be fulfilled. Yajria means Lord Lord Vishnu, or sacrificial performances. All sacrificial performances also are meant for the satisfaction of Lord Lord Vishnu. The Vedas enjoin: yajno vai vifnuh. In other words, the same purpose is served whether one performs prescribed yajnas or directly serves Lord Lord Vishnu. Krishna consciousness is therefore performance of yq/na as it is prescribed in this verse. The varndsrama institution also aims at satisfying Lord Lord Vishnu. Varnasramdcaravald purusena parafi puman/ Lord Vishnur arddhyate (Lord Vishnu Purdna 3.8.8).

Therefore one has to work for the satisfaction of Lord Vishnu. Any other work done in this material world will be a cause of bondage, for both good and evil work have their reactions, and any reaction binds the performer. Therefore, one has to work in Krishna consciousness to satisfy Krishna (or Lord Vishnu); and while performing such activities one is in a liberated stage. This is the great art of doing work, and in the beginning this process requires very expert guidance. One should therefore act very diligently, under the expert guidance of a devotee of Lord Krishna, or under the direct instruction of Lord Krishna Him- self (under whom Arjun had the opportunity to work). Nothing should be performed for sense gratification, but everything should be done for the satisfaction of Krishna. This practice will not only save one from the reaction of work, but also gradually elevate one to transcendental loving service of the Lord, which alone can raise one to the kingdom of God.

Text 10

Sanskrit working:

English wording:

  • saha-yajnah prajah
  • srstva purovaca prajapatih
  • anena prasavisyadhvam
  • esa vo stv ista-kama-dhuk.
English Translation:
In the beginning of creation, the Lord of all creatures sent forth generations of men and demigods, along with sacrifices for Lord Vishnu, and blessed them by saying, "Be thou happy by this yajna [sacrifice] because its performance will bestow upon you everything desirable for living happily and achieving liberation."

The material creation by the Lord of creatures (Lord Vishnu) is a chance offered to the conditioned souls to come back home-back to Godhead. All living entities within the material creation are conditioned by material nature because of their forgetfulness of their relationship to Lord Vishnu, or Krishna, the Supreme Personality of God- head. The Vedic principles are to help us understand this eternal relation, as it is stated in the Bhagavad-gitd. The Lord says that the purpose of the Vedas is to understand Him. In the Vedic hymns it is said: patim visvasydtmes- varam. Therefore, the Lord of the living entities is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Vishnu. In the Srimad-Bhagavatam also (2.4.20) Srila Sukadeva Gosvami describes the Lord as pati in so many ways:

The praja-pati is Lord Lord Vishnu, and He is the Lord of all living creatures, all worlds, and all beauties, and the protector of everyone. The Lord created this material world to enable the conditioned souls to learn how to perform yajnas (sacrifices) for the satisfaction of Lord Vishnu, so that while in the material world they can live very comfort- ably without anxiety and after finishing the present material body they can enter into the kingdom of God.

That is the whole program for the conditioned soul. By performance of yajna, the conditioned souls gradually become Krishna conscious and become godly in all respects. In the Age of Kali, the sankirtana-yajna (the chanting of the names of God) is recommended by the Vedic scriptures, and this transcendental system was introduced by Lord Caitanya for the deliverance of all men in this age. Sankirtana-yajna and Krishna consciousness go well together. Lord Krishna in His devotional form (as Lord Caitanya) is mentioned in the Srimad-Bhagavatam (11.5.32) as follows, with special reference to the sankirtana-yajna:

"In this Age of Kali, people who are endowed with sufficient intelligence will worship the Lord, who is accompanied by His associates, by performance of sankirtana-yajna." Other yajnas prescribed in the Vedic literatures are not easy to perform in this Age of Kali. but the sankirtana-yajna is easy and sublime for all purposes, as recommended in Bhagavad-Gita..

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