Chapter 3 – Verse 21 -23-24 and Part 1
यदि ह्यहं न वर्तेयं जातु कर्मण्यतन्द्रितः
मम वर्त्मानुवर्तन्ते मनुष्याः पार्थ सर्वशः (verse 23)
yadi hyaham na varteyam jatu karmanyatandritah
mama varmanuvartante manusyah partha sarvasah
hi – because
partha – o Arjuna
jatu – ever
yadi aha na varteyam – should I ever not engage myself
atandritah – without being lazy
Karmani – in action
manusyah – human beings
mama – my
vartma – path (example)
sarvasah – in every way
anuvartante – would follow
For, should I not ever engage myself I action, without being lazy, Partha, people would follow my example in every way.
Here Krishna says that if he ever became inactive, all human beings would follow him in every respect. They may not have followed what other things he must have done, but if he remained inactive, the human beings would have stated that ‘look even Krishna is not doing anything, so why should I do any activity, karma?’ What is the use of doing anything? Can I just not sit and do nothing? All that is achieved by this line of thinking is that we become worse. Everyone who has some issues with someone, so I should not talk. To decide not to talk, simply because when you talk, it causes problems does not really solve the problem. You may not be talking externally, but you will definitely will be talking internally. Previously, you talked to people and now you talk to yourself.
So abstaining from not doing an action is not good outcome.
Krishna knew that if he did nothing, everyone would follow him because doing nothing is always easy. Activity definitely implies certain will. Thus, there is a tendency to go for the convenient or pleasant and to avoid anything that is painful. If, however we decide to keep this course, life eventually will become full of painful situations because you have done only the pleasant things and have avoided what is painful. Krishna continued this with the next verse.
Chapter 3 – Verse 21-23-24 and Part 2
यद्यदाचरति श्रेष्ठस्तत्तदेवेतरो जनः
स यत्प्रमाणं कुरुते लोकस्तदनुवर्तते
Because whatever noble persons do, others follow. Whatever standard they set up, the world follows. This is the meaning of this verse. So Krishna was saying here that whatever the leaders did, the devotees or people below will follow. So the leader has to set up an example. Krishna asked Arjuna, why should I come here and talk to you in a battle field? I can have nice fun with my flute, etc. I am here as a charioteer for you in the battle field, and giving you the knowledge and convincing you to fight. I personally have nothing to accomplish but I am doing this for loka sangrahaha i.e. for the well-being. I am fullness personified and there is nothing for me to achieve yet, I am active and involve myself in activities. So Arjuna, you will have to expand your vision of not just looking at yourself but what you have to do for community at large. That’s what I am doing here by being a messenger to you, a charioteer, a guide to you and also explaining the values to you so that general mankind will benefit from my teaching.
By the responsibility of maintaining the social order, upholding dharma, and not to mislead people, I am doing this karma even though I am above all this. I am the lord myself and my role is to preserve and bless the beings, how can I not indulge in an activity where I know that dharma is not steady, the order is not there. Even as a man of vision, there is no necessity to do anything because he or she is a wise person. But for the atma nothing is to be done, even then the activity is to be done for blessing others and not just for one’s own purpose.