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Bhagavad Gita Chapter Three: The Yoga of Action

The Bhagavad Gita, the Song of God
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Arjuna said:

If it is your conviction that knowledge is better than action, then why do you urge me to engage in this terrible action? (3:1)

With speech that seems equivocal you confuse my mind. Tell me surely this one thing: How should I attain the highest good? (3:2)

The Holy Lord said:

In this world there is a two-fold path taught by me long ago: knowledge, the yoga of the Sankhyas, and action, the yoga of the yogis. (3:3)

Not by abstaining from actions does a man attain the state beyond action, and not by mental renunciation alone does he approach to perfection. (3:4)

Truly, no one for even a moment exists without doing action. Each person is compelled to perform action, even against his will, by the gunas born of prakriti. (3:5)

He who restrains action’s organs while yet revolving in his mind thoughts of objects of the senses, is deluded, a hypocrite. (3:6)

He who by the mind controls the senses, and yet is unattached while engaging action’s organs in action, is superior. (3:7)

Perform your duty, for action is far better than non-action. Even maintaining your body cannot be done without action. (3:8)

The world is bound by the actions not done for sake of sacrifice. Hence for sacrifice you should act without attachment. (3:9)

In the beginning along with mankind Prajapati created sacrifice and said: “By this shall you increase: this shall be the granter of desires. (3:10)

“May you foster the gods by this, and may the gods then foster you. Then, each the others fostering, you shall attain the highest welfare. (3:11)

“The gods, fostered by sacrifice, will give you desired enjoyments. But he who enjoys the gods’ gifts without offering to them is a thief.” (3:12)

The good who eat the sacrificial remains are freed from all evils. The wicked eat their own evil who cook food only for themselves. (3:13)

From food all beings are produced, and from rain all food is produced. From sacrifice there comes down rain. From action is born sacrifice. (3:14)

Understand that action arises from Brahma, Brahma arises from the Imperishable. Hence the all-pervading Brahma is eternally established in sacrifice. (3:15)

He who here on the earth turns not the wheel thus set in motion, lives full of sense delights, maliciously and uselessly. (3:16)

He who is content only in the Self, who is satisfied in the Self, who is pleased only in the Self: for him there is no need to act. (3:17)

He has no purpose at all in action or in non-action, and he has no need of anyone for any purpose whatsoever. (3:18)

Therefore, constantly unattached perform that which is your duty. Indeed by unattached action man attains the Supreme. (3:19)

Indeed, perfection was attained through action alone by King Janaka and others. For the maintenance of the world, as an example you should act. (3:20)

Whatever the best of men does–this and that–thus other men do. Whatever the standard that he sets, that is what the world shall follow. (3:21)

I have no duty whatsoever in the three worlds, nor anything that must be attained, nevertheless I engage in action. (3:22)

Indeed, if I did not tirelessly engage at all in action, then mankind everywhere would follow my example. (3:23)

If I did not perform action these worlds would perish, and I would be the cause of confusion. I would destroy these people. (3:24)

As the unwise act, attached to action, so the wise should act, unattached, intending to maintain the welfare of the world. (3:25)

One should not unsettle the minds of the ignorant attached to action. The wise should cause them to enjoy all actions, himself engaged in their performance. (3:26)

In all situations actions are performed by the gunas of Prakriti. Those with ego-deluded mind think: “I am the doer.” (3:27)

But he who knows the truth about the gunas and action thinks: “The gunas act in the gunas.” Thinking thus, he is not attached. (3:28)

Those deluded by the gunas of prakriti are attached to the actions of the gunas. The knower of the whole truth should not disturb the foolish of partial knowledge. (3:29)

Renouncing all actions in me, intent on the Supreme Spirit, free from desire and “mine,” free from the “fever” of delusion and grief: fight! (3:30)

Those who constantly follow this teaching of mine, full of faith, not opposing it, they are released from the bondage of their actions. (3:31)

But those opposing and not practicing my teaching, confusing all knowledge, know them to be lost and mindless. (3:32)

One acts according to one’s own prakriti–even the wise man does so. Beings follow their own prakriti; what will restraint accomplish? (3:33)

Attraction and aversion are inherent in the contact of the senses with sense-objects. One should not come under the power of these two–they are indeed his enemies. (3:34)

Better is one’s swadharma, though deficient, than the swadharma of another well performed. Better is death in one’s own swadharma. The swadharma of another brings danger. (3:35)

Arjuna said:

Then by what is a man impelled to commit evil, against his own will, as if urged by some force? (3:36)

The Holy Lord said:

This force is desire and anger born of the rajo-guna, the great consumer and of great evil. Know this to be the enemy. (3:37)

As fire is enveloped by smoke, as mirrors are covered by dust, as wombs cover embryos, in the same way (3:38)

Knowledge is covered by this, the constant enemy of the wise, having the form of desire which is like insatiable fire. (3:39)

The senses, mind, and intellect are said to be its abode. With these it deludes the embodied one by veiling his innate wisdom. (3:40)

Therefore, controlling the senses at the outset, kill this evil being, which destroys ordinary knowledge and supreme knowledge. (3:41)

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 much superior to the intellect is (3:42)

The supreme intelligence. Having learned this, sustaining the lower self by the higher Self, kill this difficult-to-encounter enemy which has the form of desire. (3:43)

Om Tat Sat

Thus in the Upanishads of the glorious Bhagavad Gita, the science of the Eternal, the scripture of Yoga, the dialogue between Sri Krishna and Arjuna, ends the third discourse entitled: The Yoga of Action.

Read Chapter Four: The Yoga of Wisdom

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Chapters for The Bhagavad Gita–The Song of God

Introduction: The Bhagavad Gita–The Book of Life

  1. Bhagavad Gita Chapter One: The Yoga of the Despondency of Arjuna
  2. Bhagavad Gita Chapter Two: Sankhya Yoga
  3. Bhagavad Gita Chapter Three: The Yoga of Action
  4. Bhagavad Gita Chapter Four: The Yoga of Wisdom
  5. Bhagavad Gita Chapter Five: The Yoga of Renunciation of Action
  6. Bhagavad Gita Chapter Six: The Yoga of Meditation
  7. Bhagavad Gita Chapter Seven: The Yoga of Wisdom and Realization
  8. Bhagavad Gita Chapter Eight: The Yoga of Imperishable Brahman
  9. Bhagavad Gita Chapter Nine: The Yoga of the Royal Science and Royal Secret
  10. Bhagavad Gita Chapter Ten: The Yoga of Divine Glories
  11. Bhagavad Gita Chapter Eleven: The Yoga of the Vision of the Cosmic Form
  12. Bhagavad Gita Chapter Twelve: The Yoga of Devotion
  13. Bhagavad Gita Chapter Thirteen: The Yoga of the Distinction Between the Field and the Knower of the Field
  14. Bhagavad Gita Chapter Fourteen: The Yoga of the Division of the Three Gunas
  15. Bhagavad Gita Chapter Fifteen: The Yoga of the Supreme Spirit
  16. Bhagavad Gita Chapter Sixteen: The Yoga of the Division between the Divine and the Demonic
  17. Bhagavad Gita Chapter Seventeen: The Yoga of the Division of Threefold Faith
  18. Bhagavad Gita Chapter Eighteen: The Yoga of Liberation by Renunciation

Also: The Bhagavad Gita Arranged for Singing

  1. The Bhagavad Gita—Chapter 1: The Yoga of the Despondency of Arjuna
  2. The Bhagavad Gita—Chapter 2: Sankhya Yoga
  3. The Bhagavad Gita—Chapter 3: The Yoga of Action
  4. The Bhagavad Gita—Chapter 4: The Yoga of Wisdom
  5. The Bhagavad Gita—Chapter 5: The Yoga of Renunciation of Action
  6. The Bhagavad Gita—Chapter 6: The Yoga of Meditation
  7. The Bhagavad Gita—Chapter 7: The Yoga of Wisdom and Realization
  8. The Bhagavad Gita—Chapter 8: The Yoga of Imperishable Brahman
  9. The Bhagavad Gita—Chapter 9: The Yoga of the Kingly Science and Kingly Secret
  10. The Bhagavad Gita—Chapter 10: The Yoga of Divine Glories
  11. The Bhagavad Gita—Chapter 11: The Yoga of the Vision of the Cosmic Form
  12. The Bhagavad Gita—Chapter 12: The Yoga of Devotion
  13. The Bhagavad Gita—Chapter 13: The Yoga of the Distinction Between the Field and the Knower of the Field
  14. The Bhagavad Gita—Chapter 14: The Yoga of the Division of the Three Gunas
  15. The Bhagavad Gita—Chapter 15: The Yoga of the Supreme Spirit
  16. The Bhagavad Gita—Chapter 16: The Yoga of the Division between the Divine and the Demoniacal
  17. The Bhagavad Gita—Chapter 17: The Yoga of the Division of Threefold Faith
  18. The Bhagavad Gita—Chapter 18: The Yoga of Liberation by Renunciation

Read about the meanings of unfamiliar terms in A Brief Sanskrit Glossary

Read the Bhagavad Gita for Awakening, a full commentary on the Bhagavad Gita by Abbot George Burke (Swami Nirmalananda Giri).

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