Bhagvad-Gita: Treatise of self-help

By BS Murthy

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Chapter -3: Theory of Action

This chapter of 42 slokas, known as karma yoga, Theory of Action, covers the whole gamut of action. It is apparent that not all slokas here could be originals. It is pertinent to note that Lord Krishna was unequivocal, in s 42- s45, and s53 of the previous chapter, about the fallacy of the Vedic rituals, and the lack of wisdom in those that clamour for ceremonies, which promise rewards here and in hereafter.

Given that postulation and going by the contextual nature of this chapter that emphasizes action, the s9 -s16 that eulogize the benefits of ritualistic sacrifices should be viewed. In this context, it is pertinent to note that while describing the Omnipresence of Supreme Spirit in chapter 10, it is postulated that among the Vedas, the Supreme Spirit is Sama Veda, symbolizing music (s22), and not Rig Veda or Yajur Veda, both associated with ritualism. And again, in (s25) of the same chapter, it is averred that among the sacrifices, the Lord is tapo yagjna, prayer muted, and not Asvamedha, the horse sacrifice. Thus, these eight slokas seem to be clear interpolations. However, in this interpretative verse, yagjna (sacrifice) is taken as selfless effort, a synonym anyway. Besides, s17,s18 and s35  are not only out of context  but also break the continuity of the discourse. S24 is but an analogy of  s23 and thus is an interpolation. However, the readers may note that these slokas, if interpreted in the ritualistic sacrificial sense, would broadly convey that:

9.   Man is not attached to his actions performed in ritualistic sacrifices but all other actions bind him.

10. The Creator wanted mankind to prosper through sacrifices, which shall be the milch cow of manís desires.

11. Foster the gods through sacrifices

12. Fostered by sacrifices, gods would bestow desired enjoyments, but they are thieves who do not  return anything to them (gods).

13. Those that partake the remnants of sacrificial food are sinless.

14. Food that sustains mankind comes from rains, which are but the outcome of sacrificial ceremonies.

15. Brahma is seated in sacrifice.

16. Who follow the above regimen would attain moksha.

To appreciate the background for these interpolations, one might refer to ĎAll about Interpolationsí of this book. Such interpolative slokas in this and other chapters of  the text bear asterisks for ready identification. In what could be a fascinating experience for the readers, these earmarked verses, wherever they crop up, would bring them face to face with the logical disconnect in the discourse. In the end, bypassing these would tend them on the path of sequential thinking outlined by the Lord for the enlightenment of man. 



Thus spoke Arjuna:

Capping wants, if betters action

How come Thou then push for war!


Find I hard to grasp all this

Thou be forthright, what is right.                                      


Thus spoke the Lord:

Apply knowledge ín be freed

Or thou make tango, with forgo

Precepts these yore, I fashioned.


Work-shy being, is no freedom

Dormant being, makes no living.


None like for man, non-action 

Keeps him nature ever engaged.


Refrains if one, ever craving 

Restraint itís but misleading.


Reins as carnal, tucked in mind

Strive who doth in deeds excel.


Lest thee should stake survival. 

Turn thy back not on thy work


Ever thee act at par duty

Let that be thy goal of life.


Lead mankind in Janakaís route

To moksha en route deeds selfless.


As and when thou prove thy worth

Emulates world then acts all thine. . 


Left with none to gain or prove

Keep I Myself ever engaged.


Were I to fail to self-exert 

Man might follow suit as well.


Strive as wise to act freely

Get bound unwise ever restrained.   


Waste not breath, ill-informed with

Wise show ways through their own deeds.    


Gloat as egotists of their deeds

Sourced are acts in oneís nature


Those that see the senses lie

Behind the deeds are truly freed. 


Let go wise, who swear by

Joys of life that nature tends.    


Act not with fear ín favour

Unto Me leave, right ín wrong.


Whoso takes this advice 

Feels no burden ever engaged.


Who this lets go mindlessly 

Gropes in darkness ever in life.


Beings as by nature ruled

In spite of their self-restraint

Wise too tend to lose their way.


Pays it to see grips avarice

Senses those thine nature tends. 


Thus spoke Arjuna:

Why should one with right intent

Stray ever on the wayward ways!


Thus spoke the Lord:  

Well, it's passion, lust ín wrath

Drag that man on path painful.


Flame ín mirror as shrouded

Without let by smoke ín dust 

As well embryo in the womb

Wisdom is by wants clouded.


Wise all tend to cap all wants

Which like fire all burn to core.


Veiled off wisdom sees not man

Mind and body steeped in wants.


Rein in matter with thy mind

Thus thou nip thy wants in bud. 


Score over senses sensuous feelings 

Betters that mind, bettered by knowing

But above all Spirit that reins supreme.


Let thy Spirit

Rule the roost,

Restrain thou

Thy mind mischievous.


Ends thus:

Theory of Action,

The Third Chapter 

Of Bhagavad-Gita

Treatise of self-help.


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Introduction  Chapter 1   Chapter 2    Chapter 3    Chapter 4   

Chapter 5    Chapter 6  Chapter 7  Chapter 8    Chapter 9  

Chapter 10 Chapter 11   Chapter 12 Chapter 13 Chapter 14 

Chapter 15  Chapter 16  Chapter 17  Chapter 18

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