Chapter 2 Verse 38 to 51

This is the seed mantra of karma yoga

sukha duhkhe sameh krtva labalabhau jayajayau

tatho yuddhaya yujyaswa naivam papam avapyasi

sukha duhkhe – pleasure and pain
labalabhau – gain and loss
jayajayau – victory and defeat
sameh – same or equanimity
krtva – having made
tatho – then
yuddhaya – for battle
yujyaswa – prepare
evam – thus
papam – sin
na avapyasi – you will not incur

Taking pleasure and pain, gain and loss , victory and defeat to be the same prepare for battle. Thus you will gain no sin.

Gita is based on the psychology of raga dvesas I.e likes and dislikes. We should not fight just because we don’t like someone nor we should fight because we like to.

raga dvesas can be linked to dharma and adharma. Arjuna was not fighting because of raga dvesas but duryodhana had raga for Kingdom and dvesas towards the pandavas. Krishna says that this battle is not for raga dvesas but for dharma and adharma.

Do what needs to be done and let raga dvesas don’t be part of it.

Verse 40

nehaabhikramanaso sti pratyavayo na vidyate

svalpam apyasya dharmasya trayate mahato bhayat

iha- in this
abhikrama nasah- waste of effort
na asti – is not
pratyavayo – production of opposite results
na vidyate – is not
asya dharmasya – of this dharma
svalpam api – even very little
mahato bhayat – from great fear
trayate – protects

In this there is no waste of effort nor are the opposite results produced. Even very little of this karma yoga protects one from great fear.

Karma yoga not karma itself is involved in the pursuit of moksha. Here abhikrama indicates the
of an undertaking and nasah means destruction.

Any karma you undertake has numerous obstacles but karma yoga has none. It is a prayer and itself is the result as it does antha karana shuddhi.

Karma yoga is an attitude and not just action. If it was just action there could be omissions. E.g. If you did not do something correctly there would be no result at all. This is not the case in karma yoga because you are not interested in the result.

The discipline called karma yoga this attitude even in the smallest degree, svalpam api , protects you from great fear, the fear of samsara. Once you have started living the life of karma yoga you have started a different journey.

You might ask how a smallest degree can help to remove samsara bhaya. It is because of the shift in attitude you have already started the reversing process.

Previously you were doing karma as just a ritual or action with some expectation of result. Now you are doing the same karma but your attitude has changed from karma phala to an offering without getting attached to result. So if the karma is successful or not you are not bound and because if this you don’t accrue any punya or papah. So if there is no punyams or papam where is the question of rebirth?

Even if the person dies doing karma yoga in this life it does not take time for him or her to take birth again and complete the moksha marga. This is talked in detail in chapter 6. So there is no waste of effort as we take birth again to complete the atma vichara and understand what is our real self.

In isavasya upanishad a reference is made as ‘na karma lipyate nare’. This means that he is not bound by any karma. Hence he gets liberation. na lipyate means not getting entangled.

Verse 42 and 43

yamimam pushpitam vacam pravadantya avipascitah
vedavadaratha partha nanyad astiti vadinah

kamatmanah svargapara janma karma phala pradam
kriyavisesabahulam bhoga ishwara gatim prati

partha – O Arjuna

avipascitah – the non discriminating people

veda vada ratah – those who remain engrossed in the karma kanda portion of veda

anyat- anything else

na asti – is not

iti – thus

vadinah – who argue

kamatmanah – those who are full of desires

Svargapara – those with heaven as their highest goal

bhoga Aishwarya gatim praptir – for the attainment of pleasure and power

janma karma phala pradam – leading to a better birth as a result of their actions

kriyavisesabahulam – many special rituals

yamimam – these
puspitam – flowery
vacham – words
pravadantya – utter

The non discriminating people who remain engrossed in karma enjoined by veda and who argue that there is nothing other than this , who are full of desires with heaven as their highest goal, utter these flowery words that talk of many special rituals meant for the attainment of pleasures and power and of results in the form of better births.

The word birth here means that you are born again and again with a person of desires. E.g if you are desirous of a new car you do anything to get that car. Hence you are known as car desirous person. By that time another desire comes and this time you want to buy a mansion. So the previous desire dies and another desire takes its place. You think your future is secure by cultivating performed with results attached is not karma yoga but just karma. Karma should be performed but with attitude. If you don’t have anything to do at least do karma as it will give you some punya at least.

Verse 45

trigunayavisaya veda nistraigunyo bhavarjuna

nirdvandvo nityasattvastho niryogaksema atmavan

veda – the Vedas

trigunayavisaya – have their subject matter related to 3 qualities.

nistraigunyo – one free from the hold of three fold qualities.

nirdvandvo – one free from the sorrow or the opposite.

nitya Sattva – one ever established in Sattva guna

nir yogakshema – one free from the anxieties of acquiring and protecting.

atmavan – one who is a master of himself.
bhava – be

The subject matter of the Vedas is related to the three variable qualities. Be one who is free from the hold of these three fold qualities. From the pairs of opposites be one who is established in sattva guna, who is free from the anxieties of acquiring and protecting and who is a master of himself.

What is meant here is that people who are committed to bhoga Aishwarya the scriptures will be trigunayavisaya only. It is like going to a hardware store and picking an item that you need. Like wise there are number of topics in scriptures and you need to pick what you want.
For the people who are interested in the karma kanda part that part relates to satva rajas and tamasic qualities. Sattva will give you happiness, rajas will give you agitation and tamasic will give you dullness and sorrow. Samsara means that which is in the fold of three gunas.

In this verse krishna advised arjuna straight away not to be the one for whom samsara is an end to be accomplished. In fact we are already having it and we want to be free. A drowning man does not require more water. He is already drowning and don’t want to get into ocean. As explained in previous verses just like the season changes so are these gunas. If these don’t affect you then you are at peace.

Yoga means gaining something you don’t have. E.g earning money is a yoga. Getting married is yoga.
Kshemam means protecting. E.g you can earn money but you also have to protect it. You get married but you have to make it work. This is Kshemam.

Our problems will always be related to yoga or Kshemam. From the hair in the head onwards there are hundreds of things that you are worried about. The whole idea is that those people who ate only worried about getting what they want and hanging on to it, moksha will be difficult to attain. Krishna does not sat that we shouldn’t have yogakshemam nut he says that let there be no concern born our of yogakshema. If you gain it is Ok. If you lose it is Ok. This is attitude.

In other words ‘May you be free’.

Verse 46

yavanartha udapane sarvatah samplutodake

tavan sarvesu vedesu brahmanasya vijanatah.

sarvartah – every where
sampluta – udake – when there is flood
udapane – in a pond or well
yavan – as much
arthah – use
tavan – that much
vijanitah brahmanasya – for the brahmana who knows the self
sarvesu – in all
vedesu – in vedas

For the brahmana who knows the self, all the Vedas are of only so much use as a small reservoir is when there is flood everywhere.

The reason why krishna asks arjuna to go beyond those karma kanda parts of veda is explained in this verse. The word brahmana means one in which the satva is predominant. Therefore brahmana is a discriminating person who duscrimnates between karma and karma yoga.

For an enlightened person the portion if veda relating to samsara is like a water from a well when the while countryside is flooded. The wise person is one who knows that he is limit less, param brahma. When a person is already in ananda why he keeps searching for it. Just as sugar crystal does not require any sugar to make it sweeter. In the same way you are ananda by nature.

Krishna builds up for presenting karma yoga in the next few verse and the next chapter

Verse 48

yoga-stham kuru karmani
sangham tyaktva dhananjaya
siddhy-assidhyo samo bhutva
samatvam yoga ucyate

yoga-sthah- equipoised;
kuru- perform;
karmani -your duties;
sangam – attachment;
tyaktva – giving up;
dhanajaya -O Arjuna;
siddhi-asiddhyoh -in success and failure; samah -equipoised;
bhutva – becoming;
samatvam – equanimity;
yogah – yoga;
ucyate – is called.

Do your duties without getting attached to results. Accept result with equanimity whether it is victory or failure.

Yoga has many meanings. In this context anything and everything that prepares the mind for knowledge alone is yogah. Anything you do if it contributes for antha karana shuddhihi it is yoga. If you practice asanas it is mere exercise. When you know the value of knowledge then only you will think of preparing your mind. Knowledge is the only means of moksha i.e freedom from all limitations because knowledge itself is freedom. They are identical.

Karma eva yoga bhavati – The very performance of action becomes yoga as it is done for mental preparation. All duties from morning to evening till you sleep are karmas, whatever you do to fulfil your responsibilities is karma, praying is karma, worshipping is karma, shardham, asanas, all are karmas. But without knowing the value of knowledge or simply practicing or doing action will not contribute as yoga. But these are not useless and are required to be done, but if it has to qualify as yoga, then it has to contribute towards purification of mind and done with the right attitude. Then it is called yoga.

What about meditation? It is also a mental activity. Activity is karma which will produce phalam but will not contribute for chitta shuddhihi.

Samatvam yogah uchyate – Having equanimity towards, sameness of mind in whatever comes in life. Ishwara prasadah buddhi is the message here. Samatvam means equanimity.

Karmani kuru – Do all your duties. Don’t shirk your duties.

Yogasthaha – remaining steadfast in yoga. Do all your duties in conformity with dharma. Have discretion in action. If it is against dharma, refrain from it. If it is keeping with dharma fulfil it. Having discretion in action is yoga. Then before doing also have ishwarpana buddihi. Result is definite and I am not worried about it and I will take it with equanimity.

Sangam tyaktva -How you should do the action? Giving up the attachment to fruits of action. No one can do action without any expectation of results. But don’t get attached to results if the result does not go in your favour.

What does attachment mean here? If there is prasadah buddhi, you won’t be anxious about results of the action. If the attitude is there, then where there is a question of anxiety? If your son is prasadah to you then you are also prasadah to your parents. Our physical body is not only prasadah to you but yo others as well. Our house, cooked food offered to the lord then eaten is also prasadah. Thus prasadah buddhi is an integral part of karma yoga.

A mature person will not deny fact and the fact is that there are natural laws that are pre-ordained and the results are determined already. They are manifest as part and parcel of the whole universe. Every law for us is ishwara. Why the fire burns my finger? Because it is the nature of fire to burn and your action is put your finger into fire. The result is already pre-ordained i.e. burn.

Siddhihi asiddihi samaha bhutva – whether victory or failure comes I remain the same in all situations. I cannot undo them, change them or escape from them. It comes and goes and nothing stays forever.

Verse 49

durena hy avaram karma
buddhi-yogat dhananjaya
buddhau saranam anviccha
krpanah phala-hetavah?

dhananjaya – Oh Arjuna
hy – therefore
buddhi-yogat -as compared to buddhi yoga (the yoga of proper attitude)
karma -action
durena avaram – is far inferior
buddhau – in the buddhi-yoga (of proper attitude)
saranam – refuge
anviccha -seek
phala-hetavah – those who perform action only for results
krpanah – misers

Action based on desire is therefore, far inferior to that performed with the proper attitude of karma-yoga. Seek refuge in this buddhi-yoga (of proper attitude) O Arjuna. Those who perform action only for the results are misers.

Buddhi yoga means karma-yoga, the attitude of sameness towards all results. It is OK to do an action expecting results, but if the result does not come your way, you should have the samatvam attitude to accept both good and bad as prasadah. If you do karma only with the raga dvesas and not with samatva buddhi, such action is far inferior to karma yoga.

Sankara defines misers referring to them as Dinah, helpless weaklings. Misers are those who have money but do not have the heart to spend it, either on themselves or others. Those who have no money are not misers because they have no money to spend. Those who do have money and spend when there are occasions are also not misers. A miser cannot spend because he is so afraid that his money is going, going, going. Therefore he always saving, saving for the winter of his life, retirement. The person even dies before retirement without enjoying why he earned money in the first place. Such people are not clear about what the money is for.

The meaning of the word miser (krpana) is extended here to the disuse of the buddhi ( wealth). Why is such a person a miser? Because he or she was given an intellect, and does not use it. The buddhi is a discriminative power and one endowed with it is the greatest wealth, the greatest treasure that one can have. Therefore its primary use should be for gaining self-knowledge. Even though everyone has a good chance for gaining knowledge, a miser hoards or fritters it away and dies not having made proper use of this wealth. What the money misers leave can be enjoyed by others, but no one can enjoy their buddhi after they are gone.

Misers are people whose aims are only small results not moksha. Therefore for them there is no karma yoga or sannyasa. In Veda there are only two possibilities. Either you are a karma yogi or sannyasi. There is no accommodation for a third kind of person. Such people do not have proper attitude as only phala is what he has in mind such karma is nikrushtam (inferior). Anything which prepares you for gyanam is utkrushtam (superior). Nikrushtam will leave you in bondage forever and will not let you know your own swarupam.

Krishna praises karma yoga here saying that we should do any karma ultimately knowing that knowledge is the end goal.

Verse 51

Karmajam buddhiyukta hi phalam tyaktva manisinah
Janmabandhavinirmuktah padam gacchantyanamayam

buddhi yuktah -those who are endowed with proper attitude of karma yoga
manisinah – the wise
karmajam – that which is born of karma
phalam – result
tyaktva – giving up
janmabandhavinirmuktah -free from birth and death
anamayam -free from all afflictions
padam – the end that is accomplished by knowledge
hy -indeed
gacchanti – go to

The wise endowed with the attitude of karma yoga having given up the results of action, free from the bondage of birth and death indeed accomplish the end that is free from all afflictions.

Suppose a karma yogi gains knowledge and gives up all karma phalas, does it mean that there is nothing more for him, or the person is empty possessing nothing. This assumption is refuted in this verse.

People who are endowed with karma yoga first attain antha karana shuddhi i.e purification of mind or eligibility to gain further knowledge of the self. Then knowledge takes place thereby giving punyas and papams and he gains moksha through knowledge only.A karma yogi is a wise person and having given up the attachment to results he becomes a gyani and thereby gets freedom from the bondage of birth.When the doership is not there, there also will not be any karma phala i.e punyam and papams. The result of punyam and papam itself is birth.

You cannot say that you are bound only after birth. Infact we are bound for 9 months inside the womb of the mother . Thus bound you are born. After you are born, you have to wait 18 years or more to get your first freedom. After that you get married, then you are bonded to your husband, wife. Once you have children, then you are bonded to them and their children etc. So the entire life is full of bondage and as long as you have this attachment, you will accrue punyam and papam which will cause us to take birth again. That does not mean that we must not neglect our duties towards husband or wife, or children. What this means is that we don’t get attached to the results that accrue due to our performing our duties. E.g. You go out of your way to please your husband or wife, and you do everything possible to get some attention. But if he or she does not reciprocate you feel bad about it and your emotions take over and your raga, dvesas come into play. You enter into another action to counter the original action which did not give any result and you expect a better result and so on. So there is endless cycle of action, results which brings punyam and papams as the karma phala attachment is there.

Sankara makes It very clear that liberation does not happen after death. In fact it happens when you are living this life. Unless you are liberated now in this life, you will take another birth and will start the same process all over again. What is mentioned is that we should practice karma yoga to the best we can and leave the results for it to come as it is ordained and not to get too worried about it.

Any kind of affliction is upadrava and anamaya is defined as upadrava rahita (that is free from all afflictions). I am afflicted is the notion that every one of us have and it is only knowledge that I am that Brahman and there is no other world that is outside of me will cure that affliction.