Chapter 3 Verse 23-24

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.

उत्सीदेयुरिमे लोका न कुर्यां कर्म चेदहम्
संकरस्य च कर्ता स्यामुपहन्यामिमाः प्रजाः (Verse 24)

aham – i
karma – action
na kuryam cet – if (I) were not to do
time – these
lokah – people
utsideyuh – would perish
ca – and
sankarasya – of confusion
karta – author
syam – would be
imah – these
prajah – beings
upahanyam – I would destroy

If I were not to perform action, these people would perish. I would be the author of confusion and I would destroy these beings.

If people have innumerable likes and dislikes and they do no perform the action that will fulfil them, what will happen? Because, they don’t have viveka or discrimination, they will become insane which is what destruction meant here. There is no better destruction for a human than become an insane.

A sane person is one who has some objectivity while an insane person is more subjective. Even a person who is very objective can have subjective at times. Therefore, Krishna when he mentioned the word lokah he meant the people who were in these 3 loka and other if it existed. If Krishna did not do any action, no one needs to do anything and all would have got moksha and there would be no one doing anything on any loka. Because Ishwara itself turned lazy so moksha is guaranteed for everyone. So krishna says;

Everything must be in order and to preserve that order I also have to do something. People do not have the vision of me because I am myself fullness and until a person reaches fullness through knowledge he or she cannot really see who my real swarupam is. People will just see my form, know that I did ras leela, played flute, eating butter, etc etc. They would have misunderstood me completely and will not know what to do.

Arjuna thought that if he fought the battle, he would create utter confusion in the society and incur sin which is why he did not want to fight. However, Krishna was saying to him that by not fighting which is the duty of a Kshatriya, Arjuna would be creating confusion as people would not know what to do when such a situation presented. Arjuna was a very wise person and dharma shrestha and he was fighting the war because he ran out of options to stop Duryodhana and the Kuru vamsa from giving him and his brothers something reasonable. If Arjuna ran away, people also would have said that he ran away and got scared by the battle. So Arjuna, you have to fight the battle and you have to overcome your emotions. Just like that Krishna was saying that if I did not do anything, people will follow the same example.