Bhagavad Gita Chapter 3 Verse 5

Chapter 3 – Verse 5 – Part 1

न हि कश्चित्क्षणमपि जातु तिष्ठत्यकर्मकृत् ।
कार्यते ह्यवशः कर्म सर्वः प्रकृतिजैर्गुणैः ॥

na hi kascit ksanamapi jatu tisthayakarmakrt
karyate hyavasah karma sarvah prakrtijairgunaih

jatu – ever
ksanam – for a second
api – even
kascit – someone
akarmakrt – without performing action
na – not
hi – indeed
tisthati – remains
hi – because
prakrtijaih gunaih – by the three gunas born of prakruti
sarvah – everyone
avasah – being helpless
karma – action
karyate – is made to do

Indeed, no one ever remains even for a second without performing action because everyone is forced to perform action by the three gunas (sattva, rajas and tamas) born of prakruti.

The meaning of this verse is that this prakruti or nature contains the 3 gunas which force us to do action all the time. There is not a single moment in our life where we do not do an action. E.g. we bat an eyelid, breathe, chant, etc. There is always an action or other and our body or our mind cannot keep quiet unless we go to sleep. Even in sleep when you have a dream, your mind is working as it is projecting an image of something where you are the actor, the stage and the experience itself. Sometimes if we get a good dream, we want to stay in that dream. If we get a bad dream, then we wake up, may be drink some water or do something. We realize that it is just a dream and go to sleep.

So there is not a single second in our life where don’t do any karma literally. Even Krishna was doing karma by talking to Arjuna. If Arjuna was not there or there was no Mahabharata war, Krishna could have done something. Say play his flute, do raaslila with his gopis or something. So even for a Lord who has taken avatara as a Manushya janma he is also not absolved of doing karma.

One may ask what if I keep quiet and don’t say anything. That also is an action as there is a verb called “Keep” and you are exercising the option of not saying anything. What if a person asks you when you are in maun vrat about something? Either you bat an eyelid, use your eyes, nod your head or do something.  So the entire body is always doing some activity or the other. If our body does not do any work, our mind wanders. Likewise, cooking, walking, bathing are all Karmas. The list is endless. We have no way of stopping this until we die. Even then after death depending upon our praradbha karma, an action is created by taking birth again and we go through this cycle.

Chapter 3 – Verse 5 – Part 2

We saw prakruti earlier as the manifest of the material cause of the world from the unmanifest. Our mind is also part of prakruti and has three qualities, Sattva, rajas and tamas. Being qualities of the prakruti, these 3 qualities will also be in every product that is created. E.g. let’s take the example of gold and the ornaments. Now we know that the gold, the ornaments i.e. the name and form is not separate and is already present in the gold. The goldsmith did not create, but just got manifest when he used his creativity and created different types of ornaments. We saw this earlier.

Now gold also has other qualities, e.g. it is rust proof, it is malleable, it shines, it is strong etc. These are the qualities of the gold and it is part of prakruti. Likewise, the mind also contains the 3 gunas. Because each of the gunas act differently, they produce different desires and results e.g. a sattvic activity of reading Bhagavad Gita every day or reading other texts where ishwara is in the center, your mind is engrossed in a good cause and you feel in a different mood. Now the same mind also thinks another time about having pleasure e.g. drinking alcohol, or bombardment of our senses through e-mailing, texting, etc. These produce another activity. E.g. when you text somebody, you feel an urge to respond and it is natural. Sometimes, the topic is good but other times it is fun and pleasure, or other things which kindle your thoughts in a different way. These are rajasic activities.

Tamasic activities are generally that make you lethargic and tired e.g. watching television, lack of energy and enthusiasm, eating fast food, eating processed foods and also eating heavily over and above what your body needs. We feel sometimes that we are lazy and want to doze off or just unwind. These are tamasic in nature.

There is nothing wrong in having any of these activities as all are required and have a role to play but there should be a balance in them. A gyani does mostly sattvic activity and the general people contain a mixture of all the 3 gunas.

We saw before that for our antha karana shuddhi (or purification of mind), we need to develop a sattvic attitude and engage ourselves mostly in these types of activities. Even though we are rajasic and tamasic, we need to move towards the sattvic style of living. We will see in later chapter about the food that we eat also comes from the prakruti and contains the 3 gunas. E.g. our older folks do not eat onions, garlic or certain type of vegetables or consume etc.  Because that type of food generate a tamasic feeling inside and our desires are also aroused due to that. E.g. if you drink alcohol, you have the courage to say anything and even a cat becomes a tiger. But it is not your natural feeling and the alcohol has spurred you to do this. Likewise, there are foods that arouse rajasic desires in us e.g. eating beef, meat, eat too spicy or salty, putrefied food. So we perform different actions depending upon what our mind is made up of and consume the food that fall under the 3 gunas.

The verse is related to Verse 4 where without doing any action will not lead to liberation. In this verse, Krishna says that due to the nature of prakruti, we are forced to do some action or other. By doing good karma and with the proper attitude, we reduce the possibility of future actions in subsequent births. Once gyanam happens, all karmas disappear and hence there is no more births as even the deepest Ahankara of the ‘I’ is resolved. So there is nothing here that you perform as a doer, everything is done by the prakruti and its nature. The doer ship is gone.

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