Chapter 3 Verse 39

Chapter 3 – Verse 39

Discriminative knowledge – viveka is covered the insatiable Kama.

āvṛtaṃ jñānam etena jñānino nityavairiṇā
kāmarupeṇa kaunteya duṣpūreṇānalena ca

kaunteya – O’ Arjuna
jnaninah – of the wise
nityavairina – by the constant enemy
kamarupena – whose form is desire
ca – and
duspurena – insatiable
etena analena – by this fire
jnanam – knowledge
avrtam – is covered

Knowledge is covered by this insatiable fire of desire, the constant enemy of the wise, Kaunteya.

The verse says that just as fire (anala) cannot be satisfied, so is the desire. If you put more fuel, the fire will grow bigger. Likewise, if you fuel the desire with unwanted thoughts, it will give rise to further desires. So desire here is referred to as anala.

Desires themselves are born out of apurnatva, one’s sense of being limited. Each desire is an expression of limitation. One who is discriminating knows only later that the binding desire is useless. For e.g. a person wants to make a huge amount of money on the stock market may say ‘I have a new scheme and I am going to make it work. In 1 months’ time, you will see how great my plan is’. But after the time has passed, all there to see is the person being broke.  The person then thinks that maybe I should have thought twice before doing such thing. So there is a discovery phase later. Sankara says that Kama is nityavairi i.e. it is a constant enemy.

Chapter 3 Verse 38

Chapter 3 – Verse 38

Krishna tells how Kama operates

dhūmenāvriyate vanhir yathādarśo malena ca
yatholbenāvṛto garbhas tathā tenedam āvṛtam

yatha – just as
vahnih – the fire
dhumena – by clouds of smoke
avriyate – is covered
adarsah – mirror
malena – by dust
ca – and
yatha – just as
garbah – foetus
ulbena – by the womb
avrtah – covered
tatha – so too
tena – by that (binding desire)
idam – this (knowledge)
avrtam – is covered

Just as the fire is covered by clouds of smoke, just as a mirror is covered by dust, and just as a foetus is covered by the womb, so too, knowledge is covered by binding desire.

There are two types of vivekas or buddhi required. – Dharma-adharma viveka and atma-anatma viveka. This two fold is required to conduct your life. If you have dharma adharma viveka, then the atma-anatma viveka will follow naturally. These two vivekas constitute jnana i.e. knowledge.

The mind, buddhi that has this knowledge is covered by Kama, just as fire can be covered by its own smoke. Like fire, jnana is also self-revealing but because it is covered we cannot know it. When Kama comes, it takes over you so completely that your wisdom is lost.

Krishna provides 2 examples here. A mirror covered by a coat of dust and a foetus covered by the womb. The mirror and the foetus are not seen simply because they are covered. You can see the mirror, but at the same time it is not clear i.e. you cannot see your face. Similarly, an unborn child is there, but you cannot see it because it has to yet to the see the light of the day. Of course, modern science shows the foetus growing, but without any such external objects, can we see the foetus? So too, in the first example, we know the fire is there because you see the smoke, but we cannot see the fire as it is engulfed with smoke.

The example of the unborn child shows the time factor as it takes nine months for a child to see the day. This also means that our mind needs time for maturity to understand the subtle things and control the desires. It cannot happen overnight.

Chapter 3 Verse 37

Chapter 3 – Verse 37 – Part 1

Krishna answers the question raised by Arjuna in Verse 36

Śrībhagavān uvāca

Kama eṣa krodha eṣa rajoguṇasamudbhavaḥ
mahāśano mahāpāpmā viddhy enam iha vairiṇam

esah – this
kamah – desire
krodah – anger
rajo guna samubhavah – born of the guna, rajas
mahasanah – a glutton
mahapapma – a great sinner
iha – here in this world
enam – this
vairinam – the enemy

Sri Bhagavan said

This desire, this anger, born of the guna rajas is the glutton and a great sinner. Know that to be the enemy here in this world.

The expression, ‘this desire’, esah kamah, indicates that is something known to everyone. Krishna was telling Arjuna, “you know this desire by looking into yourself’. There is no other devil, no separate satanic force, sitting there interfering with Bhagavan’s work. You are both the devil and the angel here and this desire is something that is well known to you”.

Desire is born out of rajoguna alone, whereas wisdom is born out of sattva. When rajas is predominant, there is desire. Because rajas is a force, Kama is also forceful.

Kama is said to be our enemy, ‘vairi’ an enemy being one who does what is not good for us. Kama is inimical to us and makes us go after things that you do not really want or need and things that you can afford to live without. Kama has also another form – Anger. Krodha is another stage of Kama. Arjuna knew well about this as he was born out of Indra’s grace and as such Indra was his father.

There is a story about Arjuna which is referred in the Mahabharata epic. When the Pandavas lost the kingdom, and every possession including themselves to a plot by Shakuni, they are banished for 12 years in the forest, plus 1 year of living incognito. During that time, Arjuna started doing penance invoking Shiva’s grace. He did an arduous tapas which lasted for a few years and deep inside him was a desire to take revenge on the treatment meted out to Draupadi.  While this penance was done, Indra thought that he would reward Arjuna by sending Urvashi. We all know that Urvashi was a beautiful damsel, an apsara from heaven and every men in the Indra loka was vying for her. So upon Indra’s request, Urvashi descended on earth and conveyed Indra’s wishes. Arjuna was so steadfast in what he wanted that he was not interested in Urvashi and he told her that his only desire to seek Shiva’s grace and receive the Pasupata Astra which is as devastating as the pralaya. Listening to this Urvashi got very angry as no one had ever turned down a proposal from her. She cursed him that he will lose his masculinity and will become a eunuch. Indra on listening to this curse intervened and asked Urvashi to modify the curse so that Arjuna could choose the time when the curse would start and the curse will last 1 year. During this time Arjuna also will imbibe all womanlike qualities and will be well versed in nritya, music.

Chapter 3 – Verse 37 – Part 2

This curse proved to be a blessing for Arjuna as he spent 1 year in incognito and no one could detect that he was Arjuna. So Arjuna had therefore experienced how the desire can turn into anger. When Urvashi’s desire for Arjuna was not fulfilled, it became anger. A person whose love is rejected can become even violent towards the object of his or her love. Rejected love means Kama that is still there.  Kama as Krodha or anger is referred as Mahapapma, a great sinner because it is the cause of those actions that a person regrets for his entire life time. Such actions have to be paid for and Kama is alone the cause.

There is also a mantra that is chanted by all Brahmana who have done upanayanam. During the Avani Avittam, the kamokarshit japam is chanted 1008 times.  The mantra is:

“Kamo karsit manyurakarsit namo namah” – Meaning ‘Desire did it, anger did it. Oh! Lord my salutations. The repetition of the mantra is to remind the student that it is lust and anger that are the root cause of all sins and the need to be ever vigilant against becoming prey to temptation and losing one’s composure. It is just not a prayer but carries a message too. It implies that ‘I did not do it’. The deeper I is not the one, but due to the rajo guna of the prakruti and us falling prey this anger came about.

As your enemy, Kama forces you to perform actions that you are improper and you do not really want to do. There is one more word given in the verse to describe ‘Kama mahasanah, one who is a great glutton. Kama never says ‘Enough’. It’s fulfilment may be enough for some time, but eventually the desire will start up again and just like a glutton who barely takes time to swallow the food being eaten before wanting more. This is the nature of want and any want is always replaced by further wants.

Like fire, Kama always want more and it will never say ‘Stop’. This is why we always have never ending wants and desires.

Chapter 3 Verse 36

Chapter 3 – Verse 36

Now Arjuna asks a question. The last time, he had asked a question was in verse 1 & 2 of this chapter where he had asked Krishna as to why he is being forced to fight when he does not want to. That triggers of a series of topics on Karma Yoga which we have seen so far.

This time Arjuna asks another question.

atha kena prayuktoyaṃ pāpaṃ carati pūruṣaḥ
anicchann api vārṣṇeya balād iva niyojitaḥ

varsneya – O’ Descendant of the Vrsnis (Krishna)
atha – now
anichan api – even though not desiring
ayam – this
purusah – person
kena – by what
prayktah – impelled
balat iva – as though by force
niyojitah – pushed
papam – sin
carati – commits

Varsneya! Impelled by what a person commits sin, as though pushed by some force even though not desiring to.

Previously we saw that there are likes and dislikes with reference to every object and we must not come under their spell. Better is to follow svadharma than follow another person’s dharma. Hearing all these, Arjuna now asks, why a person does a karma that he or she knows to be an improper action – (kena prayuktah papam carati purusah?)

Arjuna here addressed Krishna as Varsneya, one who is born in the family of Vrsnis. Vrsni is one of the name of the ancestors of Krishna by whose name the entire clan is known. Because he belongs to this clan, he is interpreted by Arjuna as Varsneya. This also has another interpretation. Varsneyah – that which showers on one the fullness of brahman is called Vrsni, the clear knowledge of Brahman, brahma vidya.

Arjuna still was not satisfied as to why when he does not want to, he is forced to do something which he knows has no intellectual value. Duryodhana was once asked, ‘ Why do you do all this papa karma? You come from a good family and have been brought up well. You are a prince. What impels you to do such things?’.

In a verse from Mahabharata attributed to him, Duryodhana responded, ‘ I know what is right, (janami dharmam) and I also know what is not right, (janami adharmam). My problem is not that I have any innoncence or confusion with reference to what is right or wrong. The problem is that I know Dharma, but I do not pursue it. And I know Adharma but I cannot refrain from it. Duryodhana then went on to day, ‘in whichever way I am impelled by the one sitting in my heart, in that way I do, (kenapi devena hrdi sthitena yatha niyukto ‘smi’ ‘ thatha karomi’. What this meant was that there is a person or a force, but I don’t know who it is.)

Thus Duryodhana and Arjuna had the same question, ‘Who or what is that sitting in the mind forcing the person to do what he or she knows to be wrong, even when the person does not want to do it’.

Arjuna is now more inquisitive and is doing retrospection to make sure that if he has to do this action, he has the right mind set and all his questions are answered.

Verse 37 onwards Krishna gives response to Krishna spread in 4 verses. We will see this verse tomorrow.

Om Namo Bhagavate Vasudevaya

Chapter 3 Verse 35

Chapter 3 – Verse 35

Following one’s svadharma, svakarma is the basis of karma yoga

śreyān svadharmo viguṇaḥ paradharmāt svanuṣṭhitāt
svadharme nidhanaṃ śreyaḥ paradharmo bhayāvahaḥ

su-anusthitat paradharmat – as compared to the well performed dharma of another
vigunah – imperfect
svadharmah – one’s own dharma
sreyan – better
svadharme – in one’s own dharma
nidhanam – death
sreyah – is better
paradharmah – the dharma of another
bhayavahah – is fraught with fear

Better is one’s own imperfectly performed dharma than the well performed dharma of another. Death in one’s own dharma is better. The dharma of another is fraught with fear.

If there is an awareness of Ishwara in your choice of action, it is Karma Yoga. Until, then it is simply the choice of a mature person. A mature person has ethics but need not have a religion. E.g. Bertrand Russell wrote a book called ‘Why I am not a Christian’ and he never claimed any religious leanings. Yet he was an ethical person and he was the first to raise his voice against the proliferation of nuclear weapons.

Ethics are born out of common sense and not of religion. One’s own experiences in life and understanding are enough to understand what is proper and improper. However, religious scriptures add something to ethical values. They say that if you perform an improper action, you cannot get away with it and will come and bite you back at some point of time. According to the Karma performed, a result is given to you.

A Karma Yogi is a bhakta, a devotee who does not look upon one’s possession as one’s own. For such a person, a physical body is given, mind is given, world is given, opportunities are given, resources are given, skills are given, time, place is given. Everything is given. Only when one appreciates the given and also the giver there is karma yoga. We saw this earlier by the thanks giving to the various devatas who bless us in various forms.
The concept of svadharma needs to be understood in the spirit of this verse. What this says is that doing one’s own karma is far better than doing the karma of another person. Do only what you have to do. E.g. in a soccer game, if a goal keeper also decides to run like other players, it would be a disaster. It is his job to protect the post and it is better for him to do just that. If the ball comes to the keeper, the does the action otherwise, he is just standing there.

Another example can be given of a bolt in a piston. The role of a bolt is to stay tight and hold things when the piston moves. The job of a piston is to move and if the bolt is watching silently and mutters ‘why is the piston moving? Why I can’t’. Suppose the bolt decides to move and starts wriggling, the whole piston will collapse. Likewise, each person has set duty and should be done only by that person. E.g. a father, mother has a role and each person should act accordingly.

Chapter 3 Verse 34

Chapter 3 – Verse 34 – Part 1

Likes and dislikes are there towards every object

indriyasyendriyasyārthe rāgadveṣau vyavasthitau
tayor na vaśam āgacchhet tau hy asya paripanthinau

indiryasya arthe – with reference to the object of every sense organ
raga dvesau – attachment and aversion
vyavasthitau – are there
tayoh – of these two
vasam – spell
na agacchet – may not one come under
hy – because
tau – these two
asya – one’s
paripathinau – enemies

There are longing and aversion in every sense object. May one not come under the spell of these two because they are one’s enemies.

The verse tells us that in every sense object, there are 2 factors present. I.e. raga and dvesa (likes and dislikes). This verse is the key to everything we have seen so far and contains the most contents of the gita. The senses themselves do not have an aversion or attachment to the sense objects. They are just reporters.

With reference to the sense object e.g. sound, touch, form or colour, taste, smell there are likes and dislikes. Everyone has his or her own likes and dislikes and this is natural as this belongs to prakruti. E.g. when you tell that ‘I love you’ to a person and the person asks ‘Why’, you can only invent an answer. You do not really know why you love a person but there is definitely a reason. So if you look at the psyche, you will understand that there are certain things you like or don’t like about person which determines this. So many people came before you , yet you picked this single person. All that can be said is that you love someone because of your svabhava which can be called as subconscious. The subconscious also belongs to prakruti which may be the result of one’s own past.  If a person has to live with someone however miserable the other person is, then there is some reason for that though we don’t know why. Only the Lord knows why. E.g. if you met at a Pizza Hut store or some other place, that place is not responsible for making you love someone.  There is something deep in your subconscious which gets triggered. That which connects two people in this way is called Karma.

Adi Sankara says that karma, prarabdha-karma plays a role in everyone. This is why one person likes another person. In this life too, one picks up a lot of likes, dislikes from childhood which is unknown to oneself. It is like a submarine and is submerged and will emerge when it has to and there is a trigger.

Chapter 3 – Verse 34 – Part 2

Krishna in the previous verse said that everyone acts in accordance with his or her own nature. One’s nature is comprised of likes and dislikes and what he says here is that don’t come under its spell. He is not saying that you should not have likes and dislikes, but asks us to understand that they can control and asks us to be careful. The mind behaves according to its own logic. It is meaningless to tell someone not to entertain a particular thought. The more person is told that don’t think about it, he or she will think about it. E.g. If you were told that every time you chant the mantra, do not think like a monkey, what happens? The person now starts thinking about the monkey instead of the mantra as he thinks that he should avoid thinking like a monkey first. So his thought is disturbed. Such strange is our mind. 

To tell someone not to think about a particular object is useless. This is where the free will comes. Some people spend their life time trying to avoid certain thoughts because they are told like that. In the process, they get stuck with with the very thoughts that they are trying to avoid.  In fact, these thoughts have got nothing to do with you, but it belongs to prakruti. Thoughts come and go and they are never constant.

Therefore, what can you do about thoughts? If a common man sees a princess and develops an interest in her what can he do? The palace guard would not even let him in and he has to take extreme trouble if he wants to take rhat thought further which can go terribly wrong as well. But there is a free will about his thought. Either if he is confident he will take the plunge or he will not. In both cases, he is the decider and he can decide how he should go about.  Will is not to determine what you should and not think, but how far you should go with the thoughts that arise. Your activities are not caused by the likes and dislikes appearing in the mind, but by your identification with them.

The raga dvesas themselves are not the problem, but us coming under the spell and that creates problems for us. Therefore, without worrying about what happens in the mind, simply go by what is to be done and not to be done using your free will but in conformity with the dharma.

Chapter 3 Verse 33

Chapter 3 – Verse 33

Whatever one does is in keeping with One’s svabhava alone.

sadrsam cesate svasyah prakrerjnanavanapi
prakrtim yanti bhutani nigrahah kim karisyati

jnanavan – a wise person
api – even
svasyah – ones’s own
prakrteh – of nature
sadrsam – in keeping with
cestate – acts
bhutani – beings
prakrtim – one’s own nature
yanti – follow
nigrahah – control
kim – what
karisyati – will do

Even a wise person acts in keeping with his or her own nature. Becuase all beings follow their own nature.

Action in keeping with one’s own svabhava applies to all living beings, including trees. If a tree is a sandalwood tree
the whole tree will have a particular aroma, not just its flowers alone. Every tree, flower, plant, insect bird, animal and human being including the jnani behaves and acts according to prakrti-prakrtim-yanti-bhutani.

Prakrti being what it is neither the doer of the action nor anyone else can control. Krishna himself cannot control it as
sankara says in his commentary. This is because the person has been given free will which gives him or her
the capacity to say ‘No’ to anything. If something is mentioned in the scripture, how a guru or someone can control
the person to either follow or not to follow. E.g the Vedas says not to eat meat, drink alcohol, or hurt another
person. These are all mandates of the shastram. But they are not simply arbitrary mandates and they are explained
with the negative aspects of each of them in conformity with the work being done by the person. e.g. a Brahmana
does not ever have the necessity to eat meat, drink alcohol as he uses his intellect and these habits tend to make
him Mandatva.

The animals do not have a dharma sastra because they do not have free will. E.g. If you ask a tiger nicely not to eat you
do you think it will understand and let you go? It is the nature of the tiger to see anything as prey and it will
attack you. Where is the free will? Likewise a dog always barks and even if you tell it to keep quiet, it will
start again in a few minutes. It is the nature and does the dog does any reasoning?

When Krishna says that he himself sometimes cannot control what is dictated by the prakruti he means that everyone
here acts according to their longing and aversion to certain things. We will see more of what he says here in
the next verse.

Chapter 3 Verse 31

Chapter 3 – Verse 31 Part 1

Those who follow the teaching attain Moksha

ये मे मतमिदं नित्यमनुतिष्ठन्ति मानवाः ।
श्रद्धावन्तोऽनसूयन्तो मुच्यन्ते तेऽपि कर्मभिः

ye me matam idam nityam anutisthanti manavah
sraddhavanto nasuyanto mucyante te pi karmabhih

sraddhavantah – people who have faith
anasuyantah – those who do not find fault (with the teaching or teacher)
ye – those
manavah – people
me – my
idam – this
matam – teaching
nityam – constantly
anutisthanti – follow
te – they
api – too
karmabhih mucyante – are freed from the hold of the karmas (karma phalas)

Those people who constantly follow this teaching of mine, full of faith, without finding fault with the teaching or the teacher (anasuya), they too are free from the hold of the karma phalas (They gain Moksha)

The verb in this verse is anuthishtanthi, meaning ‘follow’, ‘practice’, or ‘live according to’. Manavah means those who come under the mandate of Manu, the ordainer of the law that is Ishwara (manu smriti). They live like this always (nityam). The people follow the teaching in the bhagavad gita with one vision (me matham) and they follow with sraddha-sraddavantah-anasuyantah and with no intolerance towards the lord, his vision or the Karma Yoga that is advised as a means of getting Moksha.

The sraddha mentioned here is looking upon the words of the shastram, the Veda as unfolded by teacher as true. Whether one understands these words to be true or not, one at least accepts them in good faith. This sraddha extends to the words of the bhagavad gita as well, since the gita does not say anything other than what is said in the Veda.

If you already know everything, you don’t need a teacher of guru. If you already know who you are and the mahavakyam like ‘tat tvam asi’, ‘aham brahma asmi’ and the reason for your birth and what as a human you are going to achieve, then for such person vedantic study is not useful. If a person wants to know the real meaning, then sraddha is required and a good teacher will unfold the vision. It is not a simple matter as without having sraddha, any study will not have effect. Vedanta can never be a subject matter of academic pursuit. It is not a degree that you try to get or mastery over language, but really to understand the self and how you are connected with this universe.

Chapter 3 – Verse 31 Part 2

For e.g. the Veda says that you are not a jiva, and your individuality is a notion. It says you are param brahma, a statement that simply cannot be dismissed. It is to be understood. That is why sraddha in sruti or pramana is important and also trust in guru or the teacher. We might say that if a teacher knew, I can also figure it out. Why do I need someone to teach me?  But the teacher came to know about this because someone taught this to him or her. He or she also had a guru. Like this, it goes on right back to the first teacher. Lord Krishna says in Chapter 4 that he first taught this to Vivaswan and then Manu etc. Arjuna also asks a question in that chapter as to how can you say that you taught Vivaswan when your birth is after him. For that Krishna gives an elaborate answer which we will see in next chapter. But the crux of this verse is that you should have sraddha in any person who is a teacher, guru or anyone who has taught you.

Here we are talking about paravidya and not aparavidya. Paravidya is higher knowledge that by which everything else is known (atman, brahman). aparavidya is all knowledge related to materialistic pursuits, including prayers, karmas, rituals etc. These do help but unless one understands higher knowledge, there is bondage for that person and he is eternally in samsara.

Those who have sraddha are also described as anasuyantah. To understand this there are 2 Sanskrit words we need to look at – asuya and matsarya. Matsarya in English is jealousy. Suppose someone has gained something, skill, wealth, knowledge and seeing the achievement another person may become unhappy.  Asuya (criticizing mentality) means intolerance when a person tries to find a defect in a person who has virtues, some blemish in a teacher, teaching. In fact, the person has a long list of things as counter arguments. Krishna says that this is not due to the Ahankara of the person, but the lack of sraddha or proper knowledge about what is satyam and what is mitya. e.g. a proof reader as a profession looks for mistakes as it is his job, but if you start proof reading your life, scriptures, or a teacher then it is not going to help. Due to this mentality the scripture, nor the lord nor the teacher is going to lose. Only the person is going to lose.  Should I have a blind faith or if I find a defect in scripture what you should do. Let’s assume there is a defect in the guru or the scripture. What we should do is to leave the defective part if we know it is not correct, but embrace the good things that are useful to us. E.g. when you dig gold, you will find that gold comes with its own impurities and is not pure. But we don’t find defect in gold and we try to purify and get the gold part leaving the impurities part. If you dig a ton, you could probably get a gram of gold.

If you feel that there are certain defects, it also means that we have not understood that part of the scripture properly. It is a very important virtue and Krishna keeps stressing the qualities required for a person to learn this knowledge.

Chapter 3 Verse 29

Chapter 3 Verse 29 – Part 1

People are bound in terms of guna and Karma

प्रकृतेर्गुणसंमूढाः सज्जन्ते गुणकर्मसु ।
तानकृत्स्नविदो मन्दान्कृत्स्नविन्न विचालयेत्

prakrteh guna sammudhah sajjante gunakarmasu
tan akrstnavido Mandan krtsnavinna vicalayet

prakrteh –guna-sammudhah – those who are deluded by the modifications of the prakruti; guna- karmasu – in terms of the body mind sense complex (gunas) and actions
sajjante – become bound
tan – those people
akrtsnavidah – those who do not know
mandan – those who are not discriminative
krtsnavit – one who knows
na vicalayet – should not disturb

Those who are deluded by the modifications of the prakruti become bound in terms of the body mind sense complex (gunas) and actions. One who knows (the self) should not disturb those who do not know (the self), who are not discriminative.

Prakruti guna is anatma which contains the 24 components. This is identified as ‘I’ the self. Having the ‘I’ sense in the body sense complex there by claiming the anatma to be the atma, such people are sammudaha. Why people get attached because the notion is there that I am the doer. For them atma is the same as body and such people have no viveka in terms of inseparability of atma and anatma. e.g. can we separate physically water and wave ? What is the satyam there? Is the wave satyam or the water? Wave is a nama rupa for water whereas water is the satyam. The teaching here is about understanding who the real person is or what I am living this life for. Am I living this life for just enjoyment of material aspects, (e.g. artha, kama and dharma) or I am living this life to understand why I am born a human and not any other species. What is that that differentiates us between us and other species. So the person here who is a vimudha or not a viveki is someone who has no clear goal as to what he or she is striving to achieve. If the objective is to achieve artha and kama and dharma then these are materialstic and such person should be allowed to continue pursuing by encouraging him to do karma and as per the rules of nature i.e. dharma.

Krishna says that the people who are associated with the body mind and sense complex think that they are the doers and such people become bound, attached (sajjante) and with reference to the karma they do. The verse tells us a little more about people who are bound in terms of gunas and karma. They are described by Krishna as “mandas” or those who have no viveka in terms of atma gyanam. Mandatva means dullness and it is the feeling you have when you have indigestion and do not feel like eating or doing anything. You develop a complete dispassion even towards food that you like and it lasts long as the discomfort lasts. And if this mandatva happens in our thinking, nothing ignites in the brain sometimes even though the person is physically strong, able bodied.  The word ‘mandatva’ is associated only with reference to the mind and it is not a criticism of the person. It only tells that the person who has no viveka cannot distinguish between what is atma and anatma (krstnavit is another term to describe a wise person).

Krishna’s point here is that even a person who is a mumukshu and who has viveka should not be told to take sannyasa. For someone who has still has raga dvesas, even sannyasa will not work and it will only be abused. Such a person should be told to perform action as Karma Yoga which we shall see in the next verse. That’s why even Arjuna when asked for sannyasa, Krishna flatly told him that he is not ready and he should fight as that is what will help him get ready for the knowledge. Even a person like Arjuna who was virtuous, who knew dharma and did karma, had a lot of raga dvesas (likes and dislikes) left in him.

Chapter 3 Verse 28

Chapter 3 – Verse 28 – Part 1

How a person gets attached to Karma

प्रकृतेः क्रियमाणानि गुणैः कर्माणि सर्वशः
अहंकारविमूढात्मा कर्ताहमिति मन्यते

prakrteh kriyamanani gunaih karmani sarvasah
ahankaravimudathma kartaham iti manyate

prakrteh gunaih – by the gunas of prakruti
sarvasah – in various ways
karmani – actions
kriyamanani – are performed
ahankara-vimudhatma – one who is deluded by the ‘I’ notion
aham karta – Iam the doer
iti – thus
manyate – thinks

Actions are performed in various ways impelled by the gunas of prakruti, the body, mind and senses. Deluded by the I-notion, one thinks, ‘I am the doer’.

There are 2 aspects to an individual. i.e purusa (the atma) and prakruti (maya or avidya). Our body, mind and senses are modifications, creations born of prakruti which in turn depends upon the purusa (atma). Prakruti being the cause, anything born out of it is called prakruti guna. Guna is a technical term for sattva, rajas and tamas which indicate certain conditions of the mind as well as constituents of maya or avidya.

A virtue is a guna. E.g. a person of ethics, one who has stately qualities is called gunavan or a woman who is of good character and has good qualities is called gunavati.  The person who thinks he or she is doer of the various actions is referred to in this verse as Ahankara-vimudhatma meaning one who is deluded by the notions he or she has about the I, the atma. The I notion has all the attributes. When we say ‘ I am so and so, the physical body, mind and senses are an integral part of our Ahankara alone. Ahankara implies many notions beginning with ‘I am a mortal’. The I notion is connected to many notions about oneself. E.g. I am tall,  I am big, fat, rich, poor, I am feeling tired etc. All these are personifying the I and is related either to our mind, body. The atma inside is not tired or fat, rich or poor as it has no attributes. In fact, our whole life we always have an opinion on ourself and this is our Ahankara. Such a person is called a vimudha in this person.

Prakriti is further subdivided into the following 24 components:

1. 5 elements : space, air, fire, water, earth
2. 5 mediums : sound, touch, form, taste, smell
3. 5 sense organs : ear, skin, eye, tongue, nose
4. 5 organs of actions : speech, grasp, movement, generation, excretion
5. 4 internal organs : mind, intellect, memory, ego

Chapter 3 – Verse 28 – Part 2

Prakriti is also known as Maya. If we look at this, we can see that there is an attribute to each of these components and they are connected. E.g. when we see a rose, what happens is that our mind sends a signal to the power which resides in the eye (called golakam). Once the power in the eye is actioned, we see the rose. Next the mind sends a signal to the smell the rose and a similar power is sent to the physical nose. At the same time, other parts of the body e.g. hand, fingers etc are also active due to the mind powering the various golakams. Thus we complete the action. But if we step back and see, actually the mind is getting illumined by the atma and the real light is that. Without the atma, even the mind will not work. That’s why when we are dead, the mind leaves the body and because of that all our physiological functions, sensory functions stop functioning. But the subtlest of the sukshma along with the impression of the person is carried over just like a wind carries the scent. The person is pronounced dead once the mind departs.

Another example is of the bulb and electricity. We know that by turning on a switch the bulb produces light, but really what is that powers the bulb. It is electricity and do we see it? No. But we know that electricity is there, so we see the bulb and then all objects get illumined. Otherwise all objects are opaque in darkness and nothing gets illumined.
Can the bulb say I’m the light?

Likewise, here we need to understand that we as the body, mind and senses do not really perform the action, but it is done by the gunas which is part of prakruti. Prakruti is part of the Ishwara which is the self.

This vimudhatma or the aham karta  who does not think like this and thinks that he is performing the action, whereas the actions are done due to the nature of the prakruti. As long as one thinks that he is doing karma, this notion of I am the doer will exist and moksha will be difficult. The understanding that all the actions are not done by the person but due to the forces of prakruti and I am just a mere instrument, then this is gyanam and he is freed from karma phala. This leads to his moksha.