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Ch 3-Karma Yoga

Yoga Through the Principle of Action

When the jiva heard Shri Krishna's instructions, he understands that karma-yoga consists of endeavours perormed without selish desire (niskama-bhava), for the service of Shri Bhagavan. If the heart is full of desires for sense enjoyment, accepting the garb of a sannyasi is not actual sannyasa but hypocrisy, and can never bring auspiciousness.The jiva should perform his karma (activity) as service to Bhagavan, because performing karma for sense enjoyment does not produce any auspicious result. Performance of karma such as Vedic yajnas can award mundane sense pleasure, but such pleasure is temporary and mixed with distress. However, karma-yoga puriies the heart. It is therefore auspicious to give up all types of akarma, vikarma and sakama karma (karma performed with desires for material results), and to adopt only niskama-karma yoga offered to Bhagavan.

The Glories of Chapter Three (Mahatmya)

Lord Vishnu said, “My dear Lakshmi, in the town of Janasthan was a brahmana of the name Jada, who was born in the dynasty of Kaushik. That brahmana gave up the religious activities enjoined in the shastras to be followed by the brahmana class, and took to many irreligious activities. He was very fond of gambling and drinking, hunting, and visiting the prostitutes. In this way, he wasted his wealth. He went to the northern countries on a business trip. While there, he gained much wealth and decided to return to Janasthan. After having traveled a long distance he found himself in a very deserted place. One day, as the sun set, and everywhere became engulfed by darkness, he decided to take rest for the night under a tree. While resting, some robbers came and beat him to death, and stole his wealth. Because Jada had given up all religious activities and led a sinful life, after his death he attained the form of a ghost.

The son of Jada was very religious and learned in the Vedic shastras. When he saw that his father had not returned to Janasthan after a long time, he decided to go and search for him. For many days he traveled here and there, in search of his father, and whatever travelers he would meet, he would inquire from them, about his father. One day, he met one person who knew his father, and informed him of the events that had taken place. When the son of Jada heard the news of his father’s death, he decided to go to Kasi (Banaras) to offer pinda (worship) for the release of his father from his hellish condition. On the ninth day of his journey, he happened to take rest under the same tree under which his father had been killed. At that place, in the evening, he performed his daily worship to Lord Krishna, and he also recited the Third Chapter of Shrimad Bhagavad-gita. As he completed his recitation, a loud sound came from the sky. When he looked up, he saw his father there, and in front of his eyes, his father’s form changed into one of the most beautiful beings, who had four hands, and was wearing a yellow dhoti. His body was the color of a dark rain cloud and his bodily effulgence was lightening up all the directions. At that time, his father offered his blessing to him. The son inquired from the father, as to the meaning of these wonderful happenings. The father said, “My dear son, you recited the Third chapter of Shrimad Bhagavad-gita, and thus freed me from the ghost form which I had received, due to my sinful activities. Now you should return to your home, because the purpose for which you were travelling to Kasi (Banaras) has been achieved by your reciting the Third Chapter of Bhagavad-gita”.

When the son inquired from the father, if there were any further instructions from him, the father said, “My brother also had led a very sinful life and he is suffering some where in the darkest regions of hell. So if you wish to free him, and our other ancestors, who are suffering here and there, in different species in the material universe, then kindly, recite the Third Chapter of Shrimad Bhagavad-gita. And by that recitation they will all attain a form similar to Lord Vishnu’s, and go to Vaikuntha”.

When the son heard the father’s instructions he replied, “If that is the case, then I will recite the Third Chapter until all the souls, who are trapped in the hellish life, are freed” At that time his father blessed him with the words, “Let it be.” Then an airplane arrived from the spiritual world of Vaikuntha and took the father to his destination.

Thereafter, the son returned to Janasthan and sat in front of the Deity of Lord Krishna, and with a desire to free all of the conditioned souls in the hellish condition, started reciting the Third Chapter of Shrimad Bhagavad-gita. While his recitation was continuing, day after day, Lord Vishnu sent His messengers, the Vishnudutas, to the kingdom of Yamaraja, who is in charge of administering punishment to the sinful living entities. When the Vishnudutas arrived in front of Yamaraja, they informed him, that they had a message from Lord Vishnu, who is lying on the bed of Ananta-Sesa in the ocean of milk. They told him that Lord Vishnu was inquiring as to his welfare, and also was ordering him to free all of the conditioned souls, who were suffering in hell.

When Yamaraja heard this instruction from Lord Vishnu, he immediately had all of the conditioned souls released from hell and then personally went with those Vishnudutas to the ocean of milk, known as Svetadwipa, to have the darshan of Lord Vishnu. When he arrived there, he saw Lord Vishnu, lying on the bed of Ananta-Sesa. His body had the effulgence of suns, and Lakshmi-Devi, the Goddess of Fortune, was massaging His feet. He was surrounded on all sides by rishis, sages, and demigods, headed by Lord Indra, who were all singing the Praises of Lord Vishnu. Lord Brahma was also present, reciting the Vedas. Yamaraja fell down and offered his respects before Lord Vishnu, and offered the following praise, “My dear Vishnu, You are the well-wisher of all the conditioned souls. There is no Limit of Your glories. From You the Vedas have come, You are time. And in The course of time You will destroy all things. You are the cause and maintainer of the three worlds and You are the Supersoul in every one’s heart, who is directing their activities. You are the Guru of the whole universe, and the goal of all devotees. Oh, lotus-eyed one, please accept my obeisances again and again. Your glories are unlimited.”

In this way Yamaraja with folded hands offered his respects to Lord Vishnu. Yamaraja continued, “As per Your instructions, I have released all the conditioned souls from hell. So kindly instruct me, what work You wish me to perform now” Lord Vishnu replied in a voice as deep as thunder, and as sweet as nectar, “My dear Dharmaraja (Yamaraja), you are equal to every one, and I do not need to instruct you on your duties. Kindly return to your abode with my full blessings, and continue your duty”

At that time, Lord Vishnu disappeared from the vision of Yamaraja, and Yamaraja returned to his own abode. After that brahmana had successfully freed all of his ancestors and the rest of the conditioned souls from hell, the Vishnudutas came, and took him to the abode of Lord Vishnu, where he was able to engage in the service of the lotus-feet of the Supreme Personality of Godhead eternally.

Ch 3 Verse 1

arjuna uvaca
jyayasi cet karmanas te / mata buddhir janardana
tat kim karmani ghore mam / niyojayasi keshava

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arjuna uvaca---Arjuna said; janardana---O Janardana; cet---if; te---Your; mata---consideration; (is that) buddhih---intelligence; (is) jyayasi---better; karmanah---than fruitive work; tat--- then; kim---why?; keshava---O Keshava; niyojayasi---are You engaging; mam---me; ghore---in this ghastly; karmani---work.

Arjuna said: O Janardana, if You consider that intelligence related to bhakti, which is beyond the modes, is superior to action, then why, O Keshava, are You engaging me in this ghastly activity of fighting?


This Third Chapter gives a detailed explanation of action (karma) offered to Shri Bhagavan without expecting any material return (nishkama-bhava). It also describes the wisdom of a person who is willing to conquer lust, anger and so forth. From the shlokas in the previous chapter, Arjuna has understood that gunatita bhakti-yoga, which bestows freedom from the gunas (nistrai-gunya), is superior both to jnana-yoga and to nishkama-karma-yoga. Now, in the mood of a friend (sakhyabh ava), he reproaches Shri Bhagavan, who is eager to engage him in his prescribed duty of fighting, with the following words. "If that intelligence which is resolute (vyavasayatmika) and free from the gunas (gunatita) is superior, then why, O Janardana, are You engaging me in this ghastly warfare?"Jana means to Your own people and ardana means giving pain, so Janardana means by Your order You give pain to Your own people.

Arjuna also addresses Krishna as Keshava. "No one can transgress Your order, because You are Keshava, the controller of both Brahma and Mahadeva (ka means Brahma, isha means Mahadeva and va means controller)."


In this shloka there is a mysterious secret behind Arjuna's addressing Shri Krishna by the names Keshava and Janardana. Arjuna inquired, "O Janardana, first You said that resolute intelligence (vyavasayatmika buddhi), which is beyond the modes (gunatita) and fixed in bhakti, is superior to karma (action). Why, then, are You engaging me in this ghastly warfare? Learned men are right in calling You Janardana, for by Your order You give pain to Your own people who are dear to You and dependent on You. Janardana is a very befitting name for You because You killed the asura named Jana, which is another indication of Your cruel nature. Keshava is another appropriate name, because You killed the asura Keshi. Moreover, ka means Brahma, isha means Mahadeva and va means controller. Since You control them, You are called Keshava. How, then, can an insignificant person such as I transgress Your order? O Prabhu, be merciful to me!"

In Shri Harivamsha Shri Rudra (Shankara) says in relation to Shri Krishna and His name, Keshava:

ka iti brahmano nama / isho .ham sarva-dehinam
avam tavanga-sambhutau / tasmat keshava-nama bhak

Ka is Brahma and I am isha (Shankara), the controller of all living entities. Since both of us were born from Your limbs, You are called Keshava.

Ch 3 Verse 2

vyamishreneva vakyena / buddhim mohayasiva me

tad ekam vada nishcitya / yena shreyo .ham apnuyam

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mohayasi iva---You seem to bewilder; me---my; buddhim---intelligence; iva vyamishrena---by (Your) apparently equivocal; vakyena--- statements; tat---therefore; vada---please tell; ekam---one path; yena---by which; nishcitya---ascertaining; aham---I; apnuyam--- may have; shreyah---welfare.

My intelligence is somewhat bewildered by Your apparently ambiguous statements. Please, therefore, tell me decisively which path will be most beneficial for me.



Shri Bhagavan is telling His friend, "O sakhe Arjuna! It is a fact that gunatita bhakti is the most superior process because it is transcendental. But such bhakti can only be attained by the mercy of My maha-bhakta who is independent (transcendental to the gunas) and aikantika (one-pointed). It can never be attained by one.s own endeavour. Therefore, become nistrai-gunya (free from the gunas). I bless you that you will become nistrai-gunya by performing transcendental bhakti (gunatita bhakti) to Me. When this blessing fructifies, you will achieve gunatita bhakti by the mercy of an independent and aikantika-maha-bhagavat, but, as I have already said, at present your eligibility (adhikara) is to perform karma only." Arjuna then says, "If this is so, why don.t You definitively tell me to engage only in karma? Why are You drowning me in an ocean of doubts?" This is why Arjuna is speaking this shloka beginning with vyamishreneva, which has various implications. He is saying, "By such statements You are bewildering my intelligence. Moreover, initially You said: karmany evadhikaras te (Gita 2.47) .You only have the adhikara to perform karma, your prescribed duty.' Then You said: siddhyasiddhyo h samo bhutva samatvam yoga ucyate (Gita 2.48). "That equanimity in which one remains equipoised in success and failure is called yoga." Then again, You said: buddhi-yukto jahatiha ubhe sukrita-dushkrite tasmad yogaya yujyasva yogah karmasu kaushalam (Gita 2.50). "Intelligent persons abandon both pious and impious activities and, because buddhi-yoga is the highest goal of karma, they endeavour for nishkamakarma" . Here, by the word yoga, You are also referring to jnana. Then You say: yada te moha-kalilam buddhir vyatitarishyati (Gita 2.52). "When your intelligence crosses beyond the dense forest of delusion." Here again, You are simply speaking about jnana.

"In fact, the word iva ('like that' or 'it seems') implies that Your statement is not ambiguous. Since You are merciful, it is not Your desire to bewilder me. Besides, since I am not ignorant of these matters, it is appropriate for You to speak directly." The deep purport is that karma (action) in sattva guna is superior to karma in rajo-guna. Jnana is also in sattvagu na, but it is superior to karma in sattva-guna, and nirgunabhakti is far superior to jnana."If You think that it is impossible for me to engage in nirguna-bhakti, then please simply instruct me on sattvika jnana, by which I will become free from bondage to this miserable material world."


Action (karma) in sattva-guna is superior to action in rajogu na. Jnana is superior to karma in sattva-guna, although it is also in sattva-guna. Sattvat sanjayate jnanam. .From sattvagu na real jnana develops. (Gita 14.17). Superior to jnana in sattva-guna is nirguna-bhakti, which is defined as follows in Shrimad-Bhagavatam (3.29.11-12):

mad-guna-shruti-matrena / mayi sarva-guhashaye
mano-gatir avicchinna / yatha gangambhaso.mbudhau
lakshanam bhakti-yogasya / nirgunasya hy udahritam
ahaituky avyavahita / ya bhaktih purushottame

While Kapiladeva was instructing His mother, Devahuti in nirguna-bhakti, He said, "Just as the water of the Ganga flows naturally and without cessation towards the ocean, similarly that natural unbroken flow of the atma towards Me, who am situated within the cave of the heart of the living entity, merely hearing about My pastimes and qualities, which are blessed with extraordinary potency, is called nirguna-bhakti-yoga. Nirgunabhakti is anyabhilasha-shunya, devoid of the duality of the material world which arises from dvitiya-abhinivesha (forgetfulness of Krishna), and it absorbs the performer favourably in continuous service to Me, Purushottama."

To forget Krishna and become absorbed in maya is called dvitiya-abhinivesha, absorption in the second or false object (Shrimad-Bhagavatam 11.2.37). This gives rise to various separate interests, such as 'I,' 'mine,' 'you' and 'yours'.

Ch 3 Verse 3

shri bhagavan uvaca
loke.smin dvi-vidha nishtha / pura prokta mayanagha
jnana-yogena sankhyanam / karma-yogena yoginam

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shri bhagavan uvaca---Shri Bhagavan said; anagha---O sinless one; pura---previously; prokta---it was clearly said; maya---by Me; (that) asmin---this; loke---in the world; (there are) dvi-vidha--- two types of; nishtha---strong faith; (that) sankhyanam---of the analytical philosophers; jnana-yogena---through the linking process of philosophical speculation; (and that) yoginam---of the yogis; karma-yogena---through the yoga of nishkama-karma.

Shri Bhagavan said, "O sinless Arjuna, I have already explained clearly that there are two types of firm faith in this world. The faith of the sankhya-vadi jnanis is in the path of jnana-yoga and that of the yogis is in nishkama- karma-yoga."


In response to Arjuna's question, Bhagavan Shri Krishna says, "If I say that nishkama-karma-yoga and jnana-yoga, which are the sadhana performed to attain moksha, are independent of each other, you will again ask Me to speak decisively on one of them. But as I have explained, the two types of nishtha (staunch faith), karma-nishtha and jnana-nishtha, are actually two consecutive stages on the same path. In fact, I have not said that there are two types of people who are eligible to achieve moksha."

The two shlokas beginning with the present shloka, loke 'smin, are being spoken for this reason. As explained in the previous chapter, dvi-vidha indicates two types of nishtha. Regarding this nishtha, Krishna is saying that, since in the stage of jnana the heart of the jnani is pure, maryada (regulated discipline) can be established by the practice of jnana-yoga. Only such persons who accept maryada are well known in this world as jnanis.

In Gita (2.61) Shri Krishna says:

tani sarvani samyamya / yukta asita mat-parah
vashe hi yasyendriyani / tasya prajna pratishthita

Therefore, after controlling all of their senses, the yogis should remain under My shelter and devote themselves to Me. Only a person in control of his senses has fixed intelligence. Only he is sthita-prajna.

"On the other hand, there are those who lack the purity of heart to situate themselves on the path of jnana, but are searching for the means to attain that path. The maryada of such yogis is established by following the path of nishkamakarma- yoga which is offered unto Me. They are known as karmis. In Gita 2.31 it is said 'For a kshatriya there is no better engagement than to fight for religion' Therefore the terms'karmi' and 'jnani' are only two appellations. However, generally when karmis begin to purify their hearts by the process of nishkama-karma-yoga they, too, become jnanis who can in turn become liberated by the process of bhakti. This is the import of My statements."


The various processes of karma, yoga, jnana and tapasya cannot give their own results independently. They are only able to produce beneficial results by taking the support of bhakti. Nirguna-bhakti, however, can give krishna-prema independently without the help of these other processes. Bhakti-yoga mixed with jnana or karma is the sadhana for achieving moksha. There are two types of nishtha (staunch faith) related to this sadhana. The first is possessed by those with pure hearts, who ascend the path of bhakti-yoga through their steady faith in sankhya or jnana-yoga. The second is the faith of those whose hearts are impure, but who, by performing nishkama-karma offered to Shri Bhagavan, can also ascend the path of jnana-yoga and ultimately achieve bhakti.

Ch 3 Verse 4

na karmanam anarambhan / naishkarmyam purusho'shnute
na ca sannyasanad eva / siddhim samadhigacchati

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(it is) na anarambhat---not by refraining from; karmanam---prescribed duties; (that) purushah---a person; ashnute---attains; naishkarmyam---freedom from reaction; ca---and; (it is) na---not; eva---only; sannyasanat---by renouncing prescribed duties; (that a person whose heart is impure) samadhigacchati---attains; siddhim---perfection.

Without performing karma as prescribed in shastra, a person cannot attain knowledge in the form of naishkarmya, nor can a person with an impure heart attain perfection merely by renouncing action ( sannyasa).


In this shloka beginning with the word na, Shri Bhagavan is explaining that jnana will not appear in an impure heart. One cannot attain naishkarmya (freedom from karma and its reaction), without performing the karma (action) prescribed in shastra and consequently one cannot attain jnana. Those persons whose hearts are impure cannot attain perfection merely by accepting sannyasa, the renunciation of prescribed karma.


Jnana does not appear unless the heart is pure, and without jnana one cannot perfect sannyasa, which is a limb of the process of attaining moksha. Therefore, until one attains jnana by purity of heart one should, as stated in shastra, continue performing prescribed duties related to varnashramadharma.

Ch 3 Verse 5

na hi kashcit kshanam api / jatu tishthaty akarmakrit
karyate hy avashah karma / sarvah prakriti-jair gunaih

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hi---certainly; na kashcit---no one; jatu---at any time; tishthati--- can remain; akarma-krit---inactive; api---even; kshanam---for a moment; sarvah---everyone; hi---certainly; karyate---is engaged; avashah---helplessly; karma---in action; gunaih---through the modes; prakriti-jaih---born of one's nature.

No one can remain without performing action, even for a moment. Everyone is impelled to act under the influence of such qualities such as attachment, envy and so on which are born of his nature.


Those who have accepted sannyasa while their hearts are still impure become absorbed in mundane activities, and give up the karma prescribed to them in shastra. It is for this reason only that Shri Bhagavan speaks this shloka beginning with na hi. Anticipating Arjuna.s question, .By the acceptance of sannyasa does a person cease performing activities prescribed in the Vedas or activities which are related to the material world?. Shri Bhagavan responds by saying, karyate. "Being forcibly bound by his own nature, he must act."


Here, the word sannyasa means detachment from the fruits of karma. It does not mean completely giving up karma or becoming inactive, because it is not possible for the embodied soul to completely renounce activity. It is stated in Shrimad- Bhagavatam (6.1.44), dehavan na hy akarma-krit. "Those whose hearts are pure and who control their senses, remain engaged in that karma prescribed in shastra. However, persons whose hearts are impure and whose senses are uncontrolled remain attached to akarma (neglect of duty) and kukarma (sinful actions). It is therefore impossible for such persons to achieve sannyasa."

Ch 3 Verse 6

karmendriyani samyamya / ya aste manasa smaran
indriyarthan vimudhatma / mithyacarah sa ucyate

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sah vimudha-atma---a foolish person; yah---who; samyamya--- controls; karma-indriyani---the working senses; (yet) aste---remains; smaran---meditating; indriya-arthan---on sense objects; manasa---by means of the mind; ucyate---is called; mithya- acarah---one whose behaviour is false, a hypocrite.

A deluded person who forcibly controls his working senses while internally meditating on sense objects is to be known as a hypocrite.


One may argue, "It seems that, like the hypocrite, some sannyasis are seen with their eyes closed and devoid of bodily movements.. In response Shri Bhagavan says, "One who controls his working senses (karmendriyas) such as speech and hands, but who thinks of sense objects on the pretext of meditation, is a hypocrite and an imposter."


tvam padartha-vivekaya sannyasah sarva-karmanam
shrutyeha vihito yasmat tat-tyagi patito bhavet

This Vedic injunction from the dharma-shastra states that it is absolutely essential to renounce all fruitive actions in order to attain knowledge of the self (tvam padartha). Those who do not follow this injunction are fallen. Therefore, a man with an impure heart who accepts the dress of a sannyasi and who makes a display of sitting in an asana to meditate on Bhagavan is a pretender and is adharmika. To exhibit oneself in society as a devotee while being devoid of bhakti is pretentious. Such people are not only hypocritical but also arrogant.

Ch 3 Verse 7

yas tv indriyani manasa / niyamyarabhate.rjuna
karmendriyaih karma-yogam / asaktah sa vishishyate

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tu---however; arjuna---O Arjuna; sah yah---he who; asaktah--- without attachment; niyamya---controls; indriyani---the senses; manasa---through the mind; (and) arabhate---begins; karma-yogam---the process of nishkama-karma-yoga; karmaindriyai h---through the medium of the working senses; vishishyate---is superior.

O Arjuna, a person who performs action with his working senses ( karmendriyas), according to the injunctions of shastra, but who has controlled his senses by his mind, and who is free from all fruitive desires, is superior to the hypocrite who refrains from activity.


It is indicated here that, even a grihastha who acts according to shastra is recognised as superior to the false renunciant described in the previous shloka. Shri Bhagavan explains this by speaking this shloka beginning with yas tu' Here, karmayoga refers to action prescribed in shastra, and asaktah means without desire for the fruits of one.s activity. This means that the person who acts according to the instructions of shastra with no desire for the fruits of his activities attains a superior condition. Shri Ramanujacarya says: asambhavita-pramadatvena jnana-nishthad api purushad vishishtah. .A householder who has controlled his knowledge-acquiring senses (jnanendriyas) and his working senses (karmendriyas), is better than a so-called transcendentalist who makes a display of his knowledge. The pseudo-transcendentalist may deviate because his senses are uncontrolled, but there is no possibility that a householder who has controlled his knowledge-acquiring senses will deviate or be careless while performing his prescribed duties with his working senses..


In order to purify the heart, it is imperative to perform actions prescribed in shastra without attachment. Those sadhakas who, after controlling their jnanendriyas (such as the eyes, ears and tongue), perform karma-yoga with their karmendriyas (such as the legs, hands and speech) without desiring the fruits, and who are always careful and attentive, are qualified to attain purushartha, the supreme goal of human life. Such sadhakas who aspire for the transcendental goal are superior to those sadhakas who accept sannyasa impetuously and who forcibly control their working senses while enjoying sense objects through their knowledge-acquiring senses.

Ch 3 Verse 8

niyatam kuru karma tvam / karma jyayo hy akarmanah
sharira-yatrapi ca te / na prasidhyed akarmanah

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tvam---you; kuru---must perform; karma---duties; niyatam--- under regulation of shastra (sandhya and upasana); hi---certainly; karma---action; jyayah---is better; akarmanah---than inaction; ca---and; api---even; te---your; sharira---bodily; yatra---maintenance; na prasidhyet---can not be effected; akarmanah---without work.

Perform your prescribed duties such as sandhya and upasana, because action ( karma) is better than inaction ( akarma). If you refrain from action, you will not even be able to maintain your body.


"Therefore, O Arjuna, perform your nitya-karma (regulated duties) such as sandhya (morning, noon and evening prayers) and upasana (worship). It is better to do so than to renounce karma (akarmanah). If you give up all karma, you will not even be able to maintain your body."


The above statement is verified in Chandogya Upanishad (7.26.2):

ahara-shuddhau sattva-shuddhih
sattva-shuddhau dhruva smritih
smriti-lambhe sarvagranthinam vipramokshah

It is by the purity of food that one's mind becomes purified and sattvika. When the mind is purified, one attains a stable memory. When the memory is stable, all the knots of the heart are untied. Furthermore it is stated in Gita (3.13):

bhunjate te tv agham papa / ye pacanty atma-karanat

It is understood from this and other statements that for the perfection of one's sadhana, it is necessary to maintain and protect the body, which is essential for the performance of one's sva-dharma (prescribed duties). However, those who impetuously give up all action by taking sannyasa do not see the light of knowledge in their impure hearts. Moreover, if they perform no work at all, they can even leave their bodies due to lack of maintenance.

Ch 3 Verse 9

yajnarthat karmano.nyatra / loko'yam karma-bandhanah
tad-artham karma kaunteya / mukta-sangah samacara

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kaunteya---O son of Kunti; anyatra---other; karmanah---than nishkama-karma; yajna-arthat---for the sake of Shri Vishnu; ayam--- this; lokah---humanity; karma-bandhanah---has bondage through their work; (being) mukta-sangah---free from attachment; samacara---nicely perform; karma---work; tad-artham--- for His sake.

O Kaunteya, all actions other than nishkama-karma offered to Shri Vishnu are a cause of bondage to this world. Therefore, become free from all desires for the fruits of your actions, and perform appropriate action solely for His satisfaction.


Shri Bhagavan says, "O Arjuna, if you quote karmana badhyate jantuh from the smriti-shastra as evidence that a jivatma is bound by performing action, and if you think that you will also become bound, then listen carefully. This is not always the case. Karma offered to Parameshvara is not a cause of bondage." The present shloka beginning with yajnarthat is spoken to explain this. Nishkama-dharma, performance of one's prescribed duties wherein the fruits are offered to Shri Vishnu, is called yajna. All karma (action), except for that performed for the satisfaction of Vishnu, binds a person to the material world. Therefore, to attain perfection in dharma, one must perform such karma properly for the satisfaction of Shri Vishnu. If Arjuna again asks, "Will it be a cause of bondage to make an offering which is materially motivated, even though I am offering the results of my prescribed duties to Shri Vishnu?" Shri Krishna answers, mukta-sangah. "Perform action without any desire for the fruits." Shri Krishna instructed Uddhava in the same way:

sva-dharma-stho yajan yajnair / anashih-kama uddhava
na yati svarga-narakau / yady anyan na samacaret
asmil loke vartamanah / sva-dharma-stho.naghah shucih
jnanam vishuddham apnoti / mad-bhaktim va yadricchaya
Shrimad-Bhagavatam 11.20.10-11

O Uddhava, a person who performs his sva-dharma without desiring the fruits and who worships Shri Bhagavan by yajna, not engaging in the pursuit of any desirable sense object or any forbidden activity, attains neither heaven nor hell. Such a person, who is situated in his sva-dharma, who has given up all forbidden activities and who is free from all attachment and envy, attains vishuddha jnana, pure knowledge, even in his present condition in this world.


The Vedas say: yajno vai vishnuh. "Yajna is indeed Vishnu". Shri Krishna also tells Uddhava in Shrimad-Bhagavatam (11.19.39): yajno 'ham bhagavattamah."I, the son of Vasudeva, am yajna." The Tantra-sara also states yajna to be Shri Hari Himself:

yajno yajna-pumansh caiva yajnasho yajna-bhavanah
yajna-bhuk ceti pancatma yajneshv ijyo harih svayam

In the two shlokas of Shrimad-Bhagavatam (11.20.10-11), which Shrila Vishvanatha Cakravarti Thakura has cited in his commentary on the present shloka, the word sva-dharma-stha (situated in one.s prescribed duties) has been used twice. While commenting on these two shlokas, Shrila Vishvanatha Cakravarti Thakura says:

1) One does not go to hell if he is situated in his sva-dharma and does not transgress the activities prescribed in shastra, that is, he does not engage in forbidden activities. And, since he has no desire for the fruits of his activities, he does not go to Svarga (heaven) either.

2) A person who engages in nishkama-karma is called svadharma- stha.

When karma is performed in accordance with shastra, without any selfish motive and for the pleasure of Shri Vishnu, it purifies the heart. Sadhu-sanga then causes bhagavat-tattva to appear in the heart, allowing one to enter the path of nirguna-bhakti. Devarshi Narada has also said this in Shrimad-Bhagavatam (1.5.32):

etat samsucitam brahmams / tapa-traya-cikitsitam
yad ishvare bhagavati / karma brahmani bhavitam
O knower of brahma, that karma which is dedicated to the lotus feet of Shri Bhagavan, the controller and master of everyone, removes the three types of miseries. Shri Bhagavan also told the Pracetas: griheshv avishatam capi / pumsam kushala-karmanam mad-varta yata-yamanam / na bandhaya griha matah Shrimad-Bhagavatam 4.30.19

Those who know Me to be the enjoyer of the fruits of all activities offer all of their karma to Me alone. Such expert performers of action, as well as those who spend their time hearing and reciting My pastimes, do not become bound by their actions, even though remaining in household life.

Ch 3 Verse 10

saha-yajnah prajah srishtva / purovaca prajapatih
anena prasavishyadhvam / esha vo .stv ishta-kama-dhuk

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pura---in ancient times; srishtva---having created; prajah---progeny; saha-yajnah---together with brahmanas qualified to perform yajna; praja-patih---Prajapati Brahma; uvaca---said; anena---by this yajna; prasavishyadhvam---be more and more prosperous; astu---let; eshah---this yajna; (be) vah---your; ishta-kamadhuk--- fulfiller of cherished desires.

In the beginning of creation, Prajapati Brahma created brahmanas who were qualified to perform yajna, and also men, devas and all the other subjects. He then blessed them, saying, "May you prosper by this yajna, and may it fulfil all your desires."


Shri Bhagavan says, "A person with an impure heart should exclusively engage in nishkama-karma and not take sannyasa, but if in his present state he cannot become nishkama, then let him perform sakama-karma (fruitive action) and offer the results to Shri Vishnu." To explain this, Shri Krishna speaks seven shlokas, the first of which begins here with the word saha. Sahayaj na means along with sacrifice. In accordance with the sutavikalpe- upasarjana, saha has not been replaced with sa.

Pura implies that in the beginning of creation, Brahma produced progeny who would perform yajna in the form of dharmika activities offered to Shri Vishnu, and then blessed them, saying, anena dharmena prasavishyadhvam. .By this dharma may you become increasingly prosperous in terms of progeny and opulence.. Keeping in mind the tendency of the progeny to enjoy, Lord Brahma said, "Let this yajna fulfil all your desired ends."


Offering kamya-karma, fruitive action, to Shri Vishnu is better than akarma (non-action).

Ch 3 Verse 11

devan bhavayatanena / te deva bhavayantu vah
parasparam bhavayantah / shreyah param avapsyatha

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bhavayata---by pleasing; devan---the devas; anena---through this yajna; te---those; devah---devas; bhavayantu---must please; vah--- you; bhavayantah---may please (by bestowing the results); parasparam---one another; avapsyatha---you shall attain; param---supreme; shreyah---good fortune.

May you please the devas by this yajna, and may they please you in turn by granting you your desired fruits. Satisfying one another in this way, you will attain the supreme auspiciousness.

BY ShRILA VIShVANATHA CAKRAVARTI THAKURA In this shloka beginning with devan, Shri Krishna is explaining how yajna

can grant all the heart.s desires. He says, "May you please the devas by this yajna, may those devas also please you." In this context the word bhava means priti, pleasing.


In this shloka, Bhagavan instructs that, to please the devas, oblations of ghee are to be offered to them. This has a hidden meaning. Bhagavan is not instructing us to give up our devotional service and make sacrificial offerings to worship the devas, as if they are independent lords. They are not independent.

Shri Vishnu empowers qualified jivatmas and, giving them the post of protectors of the directions, He maintains the universe through them. Thus, these devas are like the limbs of Shri Bhagavan. It is said in Shrimad-Bhagavatam (1.11.26): bahavo loka-palanam. "The arms of Shri Krishna are the shelter for all of the administrative devas of the world." Again it is said in Shrimad-Bhagavatam (2.1.29): indradayo bahava ahur usrah. "Devas such as Indra are the arms of the virat-purusha, the Lord's universal form."

Regarding Indra-puja, it is seen in Shrimad-Bhagavatam that the residents of Vraja used to worship him every year, but Shri Krishna asked them to worship the mountain Giri Govardhana instead. When Indra.s arrogance was crushed, he accepted that it was due to pride in his aishvarya (opulence) that he considered himself an independent lord. Shri Bhagavan showed him great mercy by removing his false ego. Indra said, "Now, having realised that I am the servant of the servant of Your servants, I surrender to You." From this context it is evident that the devas who protect the various directions are the limbs of the virat-purusha (universal form).

Ch 3 Verse 12

ishtan bhogan hi vo deva / dasyante yajna-bhavitah
tair dattan apradayaibhyo / yo bhunkte stena eva sah

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yajna-bhavitah---being pleased by the performance of sacrifices; hi---indeed; devah---the devas; dasyante---will award; vah---unto you; ishtan---the desired; bhogan---pleasures; yah---he who; bhunkte---enjoys; dattan---ingredients given; taih---by them; apradaya---without offering; ebhyah---unto the devas; sah---he; (is) eva---certainly; stenah---a thief.

Being pleased by your yajna, the devas will award your desired goals. Therefore, a person who enjoys the ingredients given by the devas, without first offering them to the devas, is certainly a thief.


Failure to perform karma is certainly a defect. Shri Bhagavan is speaking this shloka beginning with the word ishtan to clarify this point. Grains and other products grow due to rain which is caused by the devas. After producing grains and other items, a person who enjoys them, without first offering them to the devas by performing panca-maha-yajna, is a thief.


In regard to panca-maha-yajna, it is stated in the Garuda Purana:

adhyapanam brahma-yajnah
pitri-yajnas tu tarpanam
homo daivo balir bhauto
nri-yajno .tithi-pujanam

1)Adhyapana, to give instructions from shastra to the disciple is brahma-yajna.

2)To offer oblations to the forefathers is pitri-yajna.

3)To perform homa-yajna (fire sacrifice) is deva-yajna.

4)To give in charity offerings of fruits, flowers, grains and so on to the living entities is bali or bhuta-yajna.

5)To receive guests warmheartedly is called nri-yajna.

Many persons think that the word bali in this shloka means to offer a yajna by killing animals and humans, but this is not the opinion of shastra.

loke vyavayamisha-madya-seva
nitya hi jantor na hi tatra codana
vyavasthitis teshu vivaha-yajna
sura-grahair asu nivrittir ishta
Shrimad-Bhagavatam 11.5.11

The true meaning of bali is to give grains, water, fruits, flowers and animals in charity for the satisfaction of the devas.

Ch 3 Verse 13

yajna-shishtashinah santo / mucyante sarva-kilbishaih
bhunjate te tv agham papa / ye pacanty atma-karanat

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santah---saintly persons; (are) ashinah---eaters; yajna-shishta---of the remnants of food of yajna; mucyante---they are freed; sarvakilbi shaih---from all sins; tu---but; te---those; papah---sinners; ye--- who; bhunjate---eat; atma-karanat---for their own sake; pacanti--- digest; agham---sin.

Saintly persons who accept the remnants of yajna become free from all sins, but those who cook grains and other foodstuffs for their own sake are sinful, and certainly partake of sin.


Those who accept the grain remnants of yajnas, such as vaishvadeva (a type of deva-yajna), become free from the sins incurred due to panca-suna. According to smriti-shastra, the five objects known to the householder as panca-suna are: the cooking fire, the grinding instrument, the mortar and pestle, the water-pot and the broom. The word suna means the place where animals are slaughtered. These five household objects are called panca-suna because they may inflict violence upon living entities. It is only because of panca-suna that householders do not attain Svarga.


Yajnas related with the worship of the devatas are called vaishvadeva.

vasu-sato kratu-dakshau kala-kamau dhritih kuruh
pururava madravash ca vishvadevah prakirtitah
Bharata Muni

Violence is caused unknowingly to living entities by the householders' use of the pestle, fire, grinding instrument, water-pot, and broom.

Those who cook food for themselves become implicated in such sins. Even if they properly perform their prescribed duties, they do not attain Svarga. Therefore, the smriti-shastras have prescribed the panca-yajna to nullify the sins from panca-suna: panca-suna kritam papam panca-yajnair vyapohati.


annad bhavanti bhutani / parjanyad anna-sambhavah
yajnad bhavati parjanyo / yajnah karma-samudbhavah

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bhutani---living beings; bhavanti---develop; annat---from grains; parjanyat---from rains; anna---food grains; sambhavah---are produced; yajnat---from the performance of sacrifice; parjanyah--- rain; bhavati---is produced; yajnah---sacrifice; samudbhavah---is born of; karma---prescribed duties.

All living beings are born from food grains, which are produced from rain. Rains are produced from yajna, and yajna is born of prescribed duties.


Shri Bhagavan says, "It is still desirable to perform yajna, because it maintains the cycle of action in this material world." To express this, Shri Bhagavan speaks the shloka beginning with the word annad. Living entities take birth from food grains, thus food grains are the cause of living entities. Grain is transformed into blood which then turns into semen, which in turn forms the body of the living entity. Clouds are the source of food grains, which are produced from rain. Yajna is the cause of the clouds, because when yajna is performed, sufficient rain clouds are produced. The cause of the yajna is karma (action), because a yajna is perfectly executed when the ritvik (priest) of the yajna and the yajamana (he on whose behalf the yajna is performed) both fulfil the prescribed karma.


Ritvik---Priests who perform yajna in different seasons are called ritvik:

agnedheyam paka-yajnan agnishtomadikan makhan
yah karoti vrito yasya sa tasyartvig ihocyate

There are four prominent ritviks in the performance of yajna. They are known as:

1) hota, one who chants the Rig Veda mantras;

2) adhvaryu, one who chants the Yajur Veda mantras;

3) brahma, one who chants the Atharva Veda mantras, and

4) udgata, one who chants the Sama Veda mantras.

Ch 3 Verse 15

karma brahmodbhavam viddhi / brahmakshara-samudbhavam
tasmat sarva-gatam brahma / nityam yajne pratishthitam

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viddhi---you should know that; karma---prescribed duties; udbhavam---originate; brahma---from the Vedas; (and that) brahma---the Vedas; samudbhavam---originate; akshara---from Acyute, the immutable Supreme Lord; tasmat---for this reason; sarva-gatam---the all-pervading; brahma---supreme brahma; (is) nityam---always; pratishthitam---situated; yajne---in sacrifice.

Know that prescribed duties are inspired by the Vedas and that the Vedas originate from Acyuta. The allpervading brahma is therefore always situated in yajna.


The Vedas are the cause of that karma (yajna), because yajna is performed only after hearing Vedic injunctions. Akshara-brahma, or Acyuta, the imperishable Absolute Reality, is the cause of the Vedas, because they originated from brahma. In this regard it is said in the Vedas (shrutis):

asya mahato bhutasya nihshvasitam etad
rig-vedo yajur-vedah samavedo .tharvangirasah
Brihad-aranyaka Upanishad 4.5.11

The Rig Veda, Yajur Veda, Sama Veda and Atharva Veda are the breath of the Mahapurusha. Therefore, sarva-gatam, the all-pervading brahma, is situated in yajna.

This statement also establishes that one can attain brahma by yajna. Although a connection of cause and effect has been shown here by linking food grains to brahma, in shastra, only yajna is described as the governing factor and only yajna is glorified. Manu-smriti also says: "Oblations offered in the fire reach Surya-deva, the sun-god. From the sun comes rain, from rain comes food grains, and from food grains progeny are born."


Udyamastha sada laksmih. "Wealth always resides in endeavour." Similarly, the all-pervading brahma is always situated in yajna. By engaging in yajna and righteous acts, the jiva not only becomes free from sin but can also attain brahma.

Ch 3 Verse 16

evam pravarttitam cakram / nanuvartayatiha yah
aghayur indriyaramo / mogham partha sa jivati partha.

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O Partha; iha---in this world; yah---one who; na anuvartayati---does not follow; cakram---the cycle; evam---thus; pravarttitam---set into motion; (is) indriyaaramah---attached to the senses; (and) aghayuh---a life of sin; sah---he; jivati---lives; mogham---in vain.

O Partha, in this world one who does not follow this cycle of karma, which is established by the Vedas, becomes attached to his senses and engaged in sinful activity. Thus he lives in vain.


By not engaging in this cycle, the fault of irregularity arises. The present shloka beginning with evam is spoken to give an understanding of this point. Cakra, or cycle, means an ordered series of events. For example, clouds and rain come from yajna, food grains come from rains, and from food grains come the living beings (men) who again perform yajna, which produces rain clouds and so on. One who does not engage in yajna to continue this cycle is aghayuh, a sinful person. Who does not go to hell? Only one who performs yajna does not go to hell.


Parameshvara has established the cycle of karma to fulfil the desires of the jivas. Consequently, one who does not perform yajna, which perpetuates the cycle of the universe, becomes implicated in sin and goes to hell.

Shrila Bhaktivinoda Thakura says, "O Partha, those who are qualified to engage in kamya-karma (action with fruitive desires), but who do not perform yajna to perpetuate the cycle of the universe, become servants of their senses, which engage them in sinful life. Thus they live in vain." The significance is that there is no consideration of sin or piety in nishkamakarma- yoga which is offered to Shri Bhagavan, because shastra has established this as the most suitable path to attain nirguna-bhakti of Bhagavan. A person following this path easily becomes pure at heart and free from material contamination. Those who have not acquired the adhikara to offer this nishkama-karma-yoga to Shri Bhagavan are always swayed by material desires and sensual urges and thus engage in sinful acts. The only way to reduce this sinful tendency is to perform punya-karma. Those who have acted sinfully should only take shelter of atonement. The provision of yajna is certainly dharma, pious activity. That which is auspicious for all jivas and conducive for the harmonious development of the cycle of the universe, is called punya, or pious deeds. The performance of punya destroys the unavoidable sins that are born of panca-suna. So long as the performer of yajna protects the interests and welfare of the universe, whatever can be accepted for his happiness and personal enjoyment becomes part of the yajna, and is counted as piety.

The unseen controllers who cause auspiciousness for the universe are the specific devas born from the shakti of Shri Bhagavan. By satisfying them with the offerings they desire and gaining their favour, one pleases these devas and all sins are destroyed. This is called the karma-cakra. Thus, karma, which is accepted in the form of worship of these devas, is called bhagavat-arpita kamya-karma, or sakama upasana (worship with fruitive desires). Some people falsely believe that they are righteous and religious, even though they do not offer their karma to Shri Vishnu, and are not devotionally inclined. They perform action, but disregard any form of deva worship, because they think that it is mundane. Such people are themselves simply following mundane morality. It is therefore auspicious for the jivas of the world who are thus eligible not to follow these deluded religionists, but to perform bhagavatarpita kamya-karma.

Ch 3 Verse 17

yas tv atma-ratir eva syad / atma-triptash ca manavah
atmany eva ca santushtas / tasya karyam na vidyate

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tu---however; eva---certainly; manavah---the man; yah---one who; atma-ratih---delighting in the self; ca---and; syat---is; atmat riptah---self-satisfied; ca---and; santushtah---satisfied; atmani--- in the self; eva---certainly; tasya---for him; karyam---duties; na--- do not; vidyate.exist.

However, a person who delights in the self, and who remains contented and satisfied in the self, has no duties to perform.


So far, it has been explained that those who are unable to perform nishkama-karma should perform sakama-karma. Those who are situated on the platform of jnana, realised knowledge, never engage in the routine of kamya-karma (sakama karma), because their hearts are pure. The next two shlokas, beginning here with yas tu, are spoken to explain this. Atma-ratih means atmarama, taking pleasure in the self. Atma-triptah refers to those who remain satisfied simply by realizing the pleasure of the self. If one is satisfied within the atma itself, would he be even slightly satisfied with external sense objects? In response Shri Bhagavan says, .One who is satisfied within has no need for external sense pleasures, and is therefore not obliged to perform prescribed duties..


Living entities who exist in the cycle of karma, which has been described above, perform karma, knowing it to be obligatory. However, those who can discriminate between the self and inert objects engage solely in the cultivation of the self. They remain content within the self, because they are atmarama (able to take pleasure in the self) and aptakama (able to satisfy all their desires in the self). Such maha-purushas are of two types: 1) the jnani-yogis who search for the atma and 2) the bhakti-yogis who cultivate the path of bhagavat-prema. Personalities like the four Kumaras (Sanaka, Sanandana, Sanatana and Sanat-Kumara) are considered to be in the first category, while personalities like Devarshi Narada fall in the second. They do not perform karma, although they know it is their obligatory duty, but perform actions which are favourable to bhakti simply to maintain their lives. Becoming free from the cycle of karma, they search for peace through bhagavatpr iti (affection for Bhagavan). Although they perform all sorts of karma, they do nothing. Therefore, their karma is not called karma. Their karma (activity) is called jnana or bhakti, depending on their adhikara. It is also said in Mundaka Upanishad (3.1.4): atma-krida atma-ratih kriyavan esha brahmavid am varishthah. "Those who take pleasure in the self, whose attachment is in the self, and who are active only in the self, are the best among the knowers of the Vedas."

Ch 3 Verse 18

naiva tasya kritenartho / nakriteneha kashcana
na casya sarva-bhuteshu / kashcid artha-vyapashrayah

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tasya---for him; (there is) na---no; arthah---purpose to be attained; kashcana---whatsoever; iha---in this world; kritena---by acting; ca---and; na---nor; eva---indeed; akritena---by not acting; asya--- he has; na---not; kashcit---any; artha---necessity; vyapashrayah--- to take shelter; sarva-bhuteshu---of any of the living beings.

One who is atmarama does not attain any virtue by performing action in this world, nor does he incur any fault through not acting, and nor does he need to depend on any jiva in the universe for attaining his purpose .


Krita refers to a person who neither has interest in performing actions nor has any desires to be fulfilled by such actions. Akrita means that he is not at fault by not performing action. To attain his purpose, there is no jiva in the universe, either moving or non-moving, who can act as a suitable shelter for him. The word vyapashrayah has been described in the Puranas as follows:

vasudeve bhagavati / bhaktim udvahatam nrinam
jnana-vairagya-viryanam / na hi kashcid vyapashrayah
Shrimad-Bhagavatam 6.17.31

A person endowed with bhakti for Bhagavan Vasudeva does not take shelter of jnana, vairagya or virya (powerful strength), nor is he interested in them.

Moreover, it is stated in Shrimad-Bhagavatam (2.4.18): yadap ashrayashrayah shudhyanti. "A living entity becomes purified merely by taking shelter of those who are surrendered to Shri Bhagavan."


A person who derives pleasure only within the self (atmarama) neither achieves piety by performing his prescribed duties, nor does he become implicated in sin by not performing them. Every jiva, both moving and non-moving, beginning with Brahma, remains absorbed in enjoying material happiness due to his misconception of identifying the body with the self. His every action is performed for sense enjoyment. He does not even care for jnana and vairagya, which are the shelter of the tyagis. This is because he has taken shelter of bhakti, the natural function of the self. Jnana and vairagya, which are both subordinate to bhakti, manifest in him as a matter of course.

In Shrimad-Bhagavatam (11.2.42), Shri Kavi speaks to Maharaja Nimi:

bhaktih pareshanubhavo viraktir
anyatra caisha trika eka-kalah
prapadyamanasya yathashnatah syus
tushtih pushtih kshud-apayo .nu-ghasam

With each mouthful of food that a hungry person takes, three effects are simultaneously accomplished: he obtains satisfaction, he is nourished and his hunger ceases. Similarly, surrendered souls who are engaged in the performance of bhajana simultaneously experience three effects: the awakening of bhakti which ultimately develops into prema, direct manifestation of Bhagavan.s beloved form, and detachment from material objects.

One may raise the following question: In the Vedas it is said: tasmad tan na priyam yad etan manushya viduh."The devas do not want human beings to attain knowledge of brahma." (Brihad-aranyaka Upanishad 1.4.10) It is also seen in Shrimad-Bhagavatam (11.18.14):

viprasya vai sannyasato / deva daradi-rupinah
vighnan kurvanty ayam hy asman / akramya samiyat param

Knowing that brahmanas will surpass them by taking sannyasa and obtaining brahma-tattva, the devas take birth to become their wives or children and to create obstacles in their path. Thus, is it proper to worship the devas to eliminate these obstacles?

In this regard, the shrutis state that, even though the devas present these obstacles, they are, in fact, unable to harm the spiritual aspirants, because the atma itself protects them. This atma is the atma of all atmas, Paramatma.

vasudeva-para veda / vasudeva-para makhah
vasudeva-para yoga / vasudeva-parah kriyah
Shrimad-Bhagavatam 1.2.28

According to this statement, Vasudeva Krishna is the original atma of all other atmas. By performing bhajana to Him one can gain the affection of everyone. All the devas are ultimately compelled to show affection and respect to those who have krishna-bhakti.

In addition it is stated: bhaktis tu bhagavad-bhakta-sangena parijayate. "One attains bhakti only by the association of bhaktas." According to this statement of shastra, just as Shri Bhagavan is the only suitable shelter for the bhaktas, it is similarly necessary to take shelter of His bhaktas if one desires bhakti. For this reason, Shvetashvatara Upanishad (6.23) states:

yasya deve para bhaktir / yatha deve tatha gurau
tasyaite kathita hy arthah / prakashante mahatmanah

All the essential purports of shastra are revealed only in the heart of a mahatma who has para bhakti to Shri Bhagavan and as he has devotion for Bhagavan similarly he has shuddha-bhakti for Shri Gurudeva.

Ch 3 Verse 19

tasmad asaktah satatam / karyam karma samacara
asakto hy acaran karma / param apnoti purushah

Click here to read Shrila Prabhupada's Bhagavad Gita As It Is 3.19 <>

tasmat---therefore; asaktah---without attachment; satatam--- always; samacara---perform nicely; karma---work; karyam--- which ought to be done; hi---certainly; acaran---performing; karma---prescribed duties; asaktah---without attachment; purushah---a man; apnoti---attains; param---moksha.

Therefore, always perform your prescribed duties without attachment By working in this way, a person attains moksha.


"O Arjuna, you are not qualified to be on the platform of jnana. But since you are a man of proper wisdom, your adhikara has surpassed the level of performing kamya-karma. Therefore, only perform nishkama-karma." This shloka beginning with tasmad is spoken for this reason. Karyam means that which is prescribed as an obligatory duty. After performing that prescribed duty, one attains moksha, supreme liberation.


By always performing nishkama-karma, the heart becomes purified. When the heart is purified, one attains jnana by which the sadhaka can attain moksha. Shrila Bhaktivinoda Thakura says, "That while engaging in karma, the transcendental bhakti which one attains as the mature state of karma yoga has been called liberation here."

Ch 3 Verse 20

karmanaiva hi samsiddhim / asthita janakadayah
loka-sangraham evapi / sampashyan kartum arhasi

Click here to read Shrila Prabhupada's Bhagavad Gita As It Is 3.20 <>

janaka-adayah---Janaka and other kings; hi eva---most assuredly; asthitah---became situated; samsiddhim---in supreme perfection; karmana---by performance of prescribed duties; eva---certainly; sampashyan---considering; loka-sangraham---the protection of the people; arhasi---you ought; api---also; kartum---to do (your prescribed duties).

Saintly kings such as Janaka attained supreme perfection by performing karma (prescribed duties). Therefore, in consideration of setting an ideal for people in general, you should perform your prescribed duty.


This shloka beginning with karmanaiva presents evidence about the importance of sadacara (proper conduct). Shri Bhagavan says, "Even if you consider yourself to have the adhikara to follow the path of jnana, you should still perform your prescribed duties with the purpose of instructing the people in general."For this purpose, Shri Krishna says: lokasa ngraham, 'the people in general'.


Shrila Shridhara Svami comments that Shri Bhagavan instructs Arjuna, "In order to engage people in their respective prescribed duties and to restrain them from their tendency to follow a degraded path, the performance of karma is necessary for you."

Ch 3 Verse 21

yad yad acarati shreshthas / tat tad evetaro janah
sa yat pramanam kurute / lokas tad anuvarttate

Click here to read Shrila Prabhupada's Bhagavad Gita As It Is 3.21 <>

eva---surely; yat yat---however; shreshthah---an exalted person; acarati---acts; tat tat---that very thing; itarah---a common; janah---person; sah---he; (follows) yat---whatever; pramanam--- standard; kurute---he sets; tat---that; lokah---the people; anuvarttate---follow.

Common people will follow the behaviour of a great man, and the whole world will emulate the standards that he sets.


In this shloka beginning with the words yad yad, Shri Bhagavan is explaining how ideals are established for the common people.

In order to establish an ideal for the people in general, great persons should perform their karma (prescribed duties). This siddhanta of Bhagavad-gita is also verified in many parts of Shrimad-Bhagavatam: (2.8.25), (3.16.23), (5.4.14) and (6.2.4).

Ch 3 Verse 22

na me parthasti karttavyam / trishu lokeshu kincana
nanavaptam avaptavyam / varta eva ca karmani

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partha---O Partha; me---for Me; asti---there is; na---not; kincana--- any; karttavyam---prescribed duty; trishu---in the three; lokeshu--- planetary systems; (there is) na---nothing; anavaptam---unattainable; (nor) avaptavyam---needed to be obtained; eva---still; varte---I am engaged; ca---also; karmani---in prescribed duties.

O Partha, I have no need to perform prescribed duties ( karma), because there is nothing within the three worlds that I cannot attain, nor is there anything that I desire to attain. Even so, I am always engaged in performing prescribed duties.


In this and the next two shlokas, Shri Bhagavan presents Himself as an example in order to instruct the common people of the world.

Ch 3 Verse 23

yadi hy aham na vartteyam / jatu karmany atandritah
mama vartmanuvarttante / manushyah partha sarvashah

Click here to read Shrila Prabhupada's Bhagavad Gita As It Is 3.23 <>

partha---O Partha; hi---certainly; yadi---if; jatu---at any time; aham---did I; vartteyam na---not engage; karmani---in prescribed duties; atandritah---with great care; manushyah---all men; anuvarttante---would follow; mama---My; vartma---path; sarvashah---in all respects.

O Partha, if I ever failed to engage vigilantly in My prescribed duties, common people would certainly imitate Me in all respects.


The word anuvartante means they will imitate.

Ch 3 Verse 24

utsideyur ime loka / na kuryam karma ced aham
sankarasya ca kartta syam / upahanyam imah prajah

Click here to read Shrila Prabhupada's Bhagavad Gita As It Is 3.24 <>

cet---if; na kuryam---I did not perform; karma---prescribed duties; ime---all these; lokah---people; utsideyuh---would become degraded; aham---I; syam---would be; kartta---the creator; sankarasya---of unwanted population; ca---and; upahanyam--- I would destroy; imah---all these; prajah---people.

If I did not perform karma, then everyone would become degraded and I would become the cause of promoting varna-sankara. In this way, I would be instrumental in the destruction of the entire population.


Utsideyuh means they will become degraded. "By following My example and not engaging in their prescribed duties, common people would become fallen. Consequently, I would be the cause of varna-sankara (unwanted population). By making humanity impure, I would be its destroyer."


Shri Bhagavan is saying, "If I did not perform duties as prescribed in the Vedas, people would imitate Me. In this way, I would be the cause of their deviating from the path of dharma and going to hell." Therefore, it is appropriate for the leaders of society to engage in that karma which is prescribed in the Vedas, and which promotes the people.s welfare. At the present time, most of the so-called religious, social, national and world leaders have fallen from the path of dharma, and consequently common men are also deviating from the proper path. This root problem of immorality, violence, envy and so forth is present everywhere. The only solution to this problem is the chanting of hari-nama and the cultivation of bhakti in the association of genuine sadhus.

Ch 3 Verse 25

saktah karmany avidvamso / yatha kurvanti bharata
kuryad vidvams tathasaktash / cikirshur loka-sangraham

Click here to read Shrila Prabhupada's Bhagavad Gita As It Is 3.25 <>

bharata---O Bharata; yatha---just as; avidvamsah---the ignorant; saktah---being attached; karmani---to their prescribed duties; kurvanti---perform (them); tatha---in the same way; vidvan---the learned; kuryat---should act; asaktah---without attachment; cikirshuh---desiring to effect; loka-sangraham---the protection of the people.

O descendant of Bharata, ignorant people perform karma with attachment. Those who are wise should also work, but without attachment, to set an ideal for the people in general.


Thus, even a person who is firmly situated on the platform of jnana must perform karma. Shri Krishna concludes this topic with this shloka beginning with the word saktah.


The ignorant perform karma with attachment both to the work and its fruits, but one who knows tattva performs karma without attachment. The activities performed by these two types of people appear to be the same, but there is a difference like heaven and hell between them. The difference lies in the nishtha (staunch faith) of those who are performing karma; one is attached while the other is detached.

Ch 3 Verse 26

na buddhi-bhedam janayed / ajnanam karma-sanginam
yojayet sarva-karmani / vidvan yuktah samacaran

Click here to read Shrila Prabhupada's Bhagavad Gita As It Is 3.26 <>

vidvan---the learned person; na janayet---should not create; buddhi-bhedam---confusion in the intelligence; ajnanam---of the ignorant; karma-sanginam---who are attached to fruitive work; (rather) yuktah---with a composed mind; samacaran--- while acting nicely; yojayet---he should encourage (them) to engage; (in) sarva---all; karmani---actions.

One who is learned and experienced in jnana-yoga should not bewilder the intelligence of ignorant people by inducing them to give up their prescribed duties ( karma) to engage in the culture of jnana. Rather, by properly performing all his own actions in a composed and detached state of mind, he should encourage them to engage in their own prescribed duties.


.O Arjuna, a man of knowledge should not bewilder the ignorant who are karma-sangi (attached to their actions) by saying, "There is no purpose in performing mundane activities, so become perfect like me by renouncing karma and cultivating jnana." The karma-sangi is especially attached to karma because his heart is impure. Although you may be perfect, by performing nishkama-karma you can encourage people to engage in their prescribed duties. You yourself become an ideal example by performing karma properly. If you say to Me, in Shrimad-Bhagavatam (6.9.50) You have said:

svayam nihshreyasam vidvan / na vakty ajnaya karma hi
na rati rogino .pathyam / vanchato .pi bhishaktamah

"A good physician does not prescribe a diet that is indigestible, even though the patient may desire it. Similarly, a person knowing the highest welfare does not instruct an ignorant person to engage in karma," so You therefore contradict Your own statements," then My response is, "This is correct, but I gave that instruction in relation to bhakti when the subject of instruction was bhakti itself. Now I am giving the instruction in relation to jnana, so there is no contradiction. Jnana depends on purity of heart, which in turn depends on nishkama-karma. But since bhakti is independently powerful, she does not depend upon purity of heart. If one is able to arouse shraddha in bhakti, then it is considerate to disturb the intelligence of a person who is attached to karma. Those who have developed faith in bhakti have surpassed the necessity to perform karma. It is said in Shrimad- Bhagavatam (11.20.9):

tavat karmani kurvita / na nirvidyeta yavata
mat-katha-shravanadau va / shraddha yavan na jayate
One should perform karma as long as he has not developed renunciation (from karma) or shraddha in hearing and reciting topics about Me.


dharman santyajya yah sarvan
mam bhajeta sa tu sattamah
Shrimad-Bhagavatam 11.11.32

Those who give up all varieties of varnashrama and perform My bhajana are indeed the most elevated sadhus.

sarva-dharman parityajya / mam ekam sharanam vraja
aham tvam sarva-papebhyo / mokshayishyami ma shucah
Gita 18.66

Give up all varieties of dharma and just surrender unto Me.

tyaktva sva-dharmam caranambujam harer
bhajann apakvo .tha patet tato yadi
Shrimad-Bhagavatam 1.5.17

One who gives up his sva-dharma because he is engaged in the service of Shri Hari.s lotus feet can never be unsuccessful, even if he falls down while in the immature stage.

One should deliberate upon all these statements.


The purpose of karma, action, is to attain that jnana which leads to bhakti. Those who do not know this fact are ajna (ignorant), and those who are attached to karma because of this ignorance are called karma-sangi. A jnani should only engage such karma-sangis in the karma prescribed in shastra, because, if the intelligence of such ignorant persons is bewildered, they will lose faith in karma. Under such circumstances even jnana will not be able to manifest in their hearts and thus they will deviate from the paths of karma and jnana. However, this does not apply to instructions on bhakti, because according to shastra, instructions on bhakti are auspicious for everyone under all circumstances. Therefore, by instructing bhakti, such a preacher of bhakti will make everyone perfect.

putramsh ca shishyamsh ca nripo gurur va
mal-loka-kamo mad-anugraharthah

ittham vimanyur anushishyad ataj-jnan
na yojayet karmasu karma-mudhan

kam yojayan manujo .rtham labheta
nipatayan nashta-drisham hi garte
Shrimad-Bhagavatam 5.5.15

Rishabhadeva said, "Only My abode and My mercy are worth praying for. Instructions on bhakti unto Me should be given by fathers to their sons, teachers to their disciples and kings to their subjects. One should not become angry with a person who receives instructions, but does not follow them. Even those who are ignorant of tattvaj nana and who are bewildered about the performance of proper duty should not be engaged in karma. What purushartha (destination) will be attained by engaging a person blinded by delusion in kamya-karma (fruitive activities), thus throwing him further into the dark well of this material world? Nothing will be achieved..

While commenting on this shloka of Shrimad-Bhagavatam, Shrila Shridhara Svami says, "If, instead of giving instruction on bhakti, someone instructs others about engaging in karma, he incurs sin."

According to Shrila Vishvanatha Cakravarti Thakura, the present shloka, (Gita 3.26): yojayet sarva-karmani, is not for those who are preaching the message of bhakti, but it is for the consideration of those who give instructions on jnana.

Ch 3 Verse 27

prakriteh kriyamanani / gunaih karmani sarvashah
ahankara-vimudhatma / karttaham iti manyate

Click here to read Shrila Prabhupada's Bhagavad Gita As It Is 3.27 <>

sarvashah---in every respect; karmani---activities; kriyamanani--- are performed; gunaih---by the modes of material nature; prakriteh---of material nature; ahankara-vimudha-atma---a person bewildered by false ego; manyate---thinks; iti---thus; aham---I; (am) kartta---the doer.

All aspects of material activity are performed by the modes of material nature but a person whose intelligence is bewildered by false ego thinks himself to be the doer.


If a learned man also has to perform karma, what is the difference between his work and that of an ignorant man? This doubt is being addressed. The difference is shown in two shlokas beginning with the present one, prakriteh kriyamanani. Ignorant people believe that they themselves perform all activity (karma), but in reality it is performed by the senses, which are impelled by the modes of material nature.

Ch 3 Verse 28

tattvavit tu maha-baho / guna-karma-vibhagayoh
guna guneshu varttanta / iti matva na sajjate

Click here to read Shrila Prabhupada's Bhagavad Gita As It Is 3.28 <>

maha-baho---O mighty-armed one; tu---but; tattva-vit---a knower of the science; vibhagayoh---of the distinctions; (between the atma) guna-karma---and the material modes and the laws of karma; matva---considering; iti---that; gunah---the senses; varttante---are engaged; guneshu---in their sense objects, like form etc---; na sajjate---does not become attached.

O Maha-baho Arjuna, one who is tattva-vit, who knows that the soul is aloof from the gunas and also knows the laws of karma (actions), does not falsely identify himself as the doer. Because he understands that the senses are engaged in their respective sense objects, he is aloof from them.


Those who know the distinctive characteristics of guna and karma are called tattva-vit, knowers of the truth. There are three categories of guna: sattva, rajas and tamas. The respective categories of karma are the different types of activities which are influenced by the gunas, the devas, the various prominent senses, and the objects of the senses. One who is tattva-vit knows the truth about both guna and karma. The devas or the gunas preside over the respective senses, such as sight, and also the sense objects, such as form. However, a learned person knows that he is not the gunas, nor is he the effect or activity of any guna. He has nothing to do with the gunas or their activities. Understanding this, a wise and learned person does not become attached to them.

Ch 3 Verse 29

prakriter guna-sammudhah / sajjante guna-karmasu
tan akritsna-vido mandan / kritsna-vin na vicalayet

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(persons) sammudhah---bewildered; guna---by the modes; prakriteh---of material nature; sajjante---become attached; gunakarmasu ---to the modes and karma; kritsna-vit---one who is in complete knowledge; na vicalayet---should not agitate; tan--- those; mandan---less intelligent persons; akritsna-vidah---of incomplete knowledge.

Those absorbed in the three gunas become attached to sense objects, but those who are complete in knowledge should not unsettle such uninformed and less intelligent persons.


One may raise the question, .If all jivas are distinct from the gunas and have no relationship with them and their activities, why are they seen to be attached to sense objects?" Shri Krishna answers with this shloka beginning with prakriteh." They become bewildered by the gunas. In other words, they become deluded because of their absorption in the gunas" Just as a man haunted by a ghost considers himself a ghost, so the jivas absorbed in the gunas identify themselves as the gunas. Thus influenced by the effect of the modes, they become attached to sense objects.

One who is kritsna-vit (a man of complete knowledge) should not unsettle those who are akritsna-vit (of incomplete knowledge). This means that a man of complete knowledge should not try to force these thoughts on ignorant persons by saying, "You are a jiva distinct from the gunas. You are not the modes." Just as a person who is haunted by a ghost will never understand that he is actually not a ghost but a human being, even if he is told hundreds of times. His conviction can only be removed by the medicine of mantras. Similarly, no amount of verbal instruction will help a bewildered jiva to stop identifying himself with the modes of material nature. Such people should simply be engaged in nishkama-karma, which automatically frees them from their absorption in the gunas.

Ch 3 Verse 30

mayi sarvani karmani / sannyasyadhyatma-cetasa
nirashir nirmamo bhutva / yudhyasva vigata-jvarah

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adhyatma-cetasa---with the mind fixed in the self; sannyasya--- giving up completely; sarvani---all; karmani---activities; mayi--- unto Me; bhutva---being; nirashih---free from desire; nirmamah--- without a sense of possessiveness; (and) vigata-jvarah---without lamentation; yudhyasva---fight.

With your mind fixed in the self and offering all your activities to Me, being freed from desire, possessiveness and lamentation, fight.


Therefore, O Arjuna, fight with your mind fixed in the self (adhyatma-cetah), offering all karma (actions) unto Me, and being free from all material hopes and desires. Do not let your mind dwell on the sense objects, and give up any sense of possessiveness towards them.


Shri Bhagavan makes Arjuna the instrument through which He instructs common men to perform their prescribed karma, free from the false ego of being the doer, and the desire for the fruits of their actions. Here the word karma refers to all types of karma, both laukika (mundane) and Vedic (as prescribed in the Vedas). Nirmamah indicates that one should perform action without any sense of possessiveness towards sense objects such as the body, house, son, wife and brother. Here yudhyasva (a fight) means one should engage in prescribed actions.

Ch 3 Verse 31

ye me matam idam nityam / anutishthanti manavah
shraddhavanto .nasuyanto / mucyante te .pi karmabhih

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te---those; manavah---human beings; ye---who; (are) anasuyantah---free from enmity or fault-finding; shraddha- vantah---who have complete faith; (and who) nityam---always; anutishthanti---abide by; idam---this; matam---teaching, opinion; me---of Mine; mucyante---are liberated; api---also; karmabhih---from the bondage of fruitive actions.

Those who are free from fault finding, who have complete faith in Me, and who always abide by this desire of Mine (to perform nishkama-karma- yoga), are liberated from the bondage of karma (fruitive activities).


Shri Bhagavan is speaking the present shloka beginning with ye me, in order to engage people in following His instructions.

Ch 3 Verse 32

ye tv etad abhyasuyanto / nanutishthanti me matam
sarva-jnana-vimudhams tan / viddhi nashtan acetasah

Click here to read Shrila Prabhupada's Bhagavad Gita As It Is 3.32 <>

tu---but; ye---those; abhyasuyantah---while fault finding; (who do) na anutishthanti---not follow; etat---this; matam---teaching; me---of Mine; viddhi---know; tan---them; acetasah---devoid of sense of discrimination; vimudhan---befooled; sarva-jnana---in all sorts of knowledge; (and) nashtan---ruined.

But know that those envious persons who do not follow these instructions of Mine are bereft of discrimination, devoid of all true jnana, and are ruined in all their endeavours for perfection.


In speaking this shloka beginning with the words ye tu, Bhagavan is explaining the ill-effect of not following His instructions.

Ch 3 Verse 33

sadrisham ceshtate svasyah / prakriter jnanavan api
prakritim yanti bhutani / nigrahah kim karishyati

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api---even; jnana-van---a wise man; ceshtate---endeavours; sadrisham---in accordance; svasyah---with his own; prakriteh--- disposition; bhutani---all beings; yanti---follow; prakritim--- (their) nature; kim---what?; nigrahah---suppression; karishyati--- can do.

Even a wise man acts according to his own acquired disposition, for all beings follow their respective natures. What can be achieved by repression?


One may raise the following question: "A person who does not obey the order of a king is punished, so if one does not follow the order of Parameshvara, is he not punished as well? Should he not fear punishment from Him?" In response, Parameshvara says, "Yes, this is true. However, those who are engaged only in satisfying their senses are unable to follow the order of the king or of Parameshvara, even though they have discrimination. Their nature has become like this." The present shloka beginning with sadrisham is spoken to explain this.

"People may know that sinful activity will lead to punishment from the royal court, or even going to hell, and may understand that this will bring infamy and criticism. Still, because of the nature that they have acquired over a prolonged period, they endeavour according to the temperament resulting from their sinful deeds, which brings only misery.

Such people only follow their own disposition. They can, however, be restrained by My discipline or that of a king. Samskaras (purifying impressions) can be made in a person with an impure heart by nishkama-karma-yoga and in a person of pure heart through jnana-yoga. Both types of people can be enlightened. It is true that neither of these processes can help a person whose heart is extremely impure, but bhakti, which appears by My mercy, can easily deliver even sinful people."

As it is said in the Skanda Purana:

aho dhanyo. si devarshe kripaya yasya te kshanat utpulako lebhe lubdhako ratim acyute

O Devarshi, all glories to you. Because of your mercy, this lowclass hunter has, in just one moment, attained rati for the lotus feet of Shri Bhagavan, and is manifesting the symptom of pulaka in which one's bodily hairs stand on end.


A person with uncontrolled senses may have discrimination, but cannot restrain his senses by knowledge of shastra.

stambhayann atmanatmanam / yavat sattvam yatha-shrutam
na shashaka samadhatum / mano madana-vepitam
Shrimad-Bhagavatam 6.1.62

After seeing the prostitute, the mind of Ajamila became agitated. He tried hard to control his mind by fortitude and knowledge of shastra but, being agitated by Cupid, he was unable to do so. All uncontrolled, degraded desires can be removed by the powerful influence of sadhu-sanga.

tato duhsangam utsrijya / satsu sajjeta buddhiman
santa evasya cchindanti / mano-vyasangam uktibhih
Shrimad-Bhagavatam 11.26.26

Saintly people can, by their powerful speech, completely cut asunder all the unfavourable attachments of the mind. Vyasanga means attachments which make one averse to Shri Bhagavan. Here, the word eva implies the powerful speech of saintly persons alone. Pious actions, holy places, devas and knowledge of shastra are by themselves not able to destroy unfavourable attachments. This should be understood. Shrila Bhaktivinoda Thakura quotes Krishna as saying, "O Arjuna, don't think that a man of knowledge will attain auspiciousness (liberation from bondage) if he simply deliberates on spirit and matter, and accepts the shelter of sannyasadharma by impetuously giving up material guna and karma.

Even after the baddha-jiva has become enriched with jnana, he should still endeavour according to his long-acquired disposition. It is not true that one can give up one.s nature by suddenly restraining it. All baddha-jivas should continue to endeavour according to the disposition they have naturally acquired over a prolonged period. The proper way to give up this nature is to carefully perform all karma (action) in accordance with that nature, while being situated in it. As long as vairagya enriched with the symptoms of bhakti-yoga does not appear in the heart, then the only means to attain selfauspiciousness is nishkama-karma-yoga offered to Shri Bhagavan. By this practice, a person can perform his prescribed duties (sva-dharma), and also benefit from the samskaras generated by them. Renunciation of one's svadharma will ultimately result in deviation from the path of perfection.

When, by My mercy or by the mercy of My bhakta, bhaktiyoga appears in the heart, there is no need to follow one.s sva-dharma, because this path of bhakti is superior to nishkama-karma-yoga. Otherwise, if bhakti-yoga has not awakened, to follow nishkama-karma-yoga offered to Me is auspicious in all cases.

Ch 3 Verse 34

indriyasyendriyasyarthe / raga-dveshau vyavasthitau
tayor na vasham agacchet / tau hy asya paripanthinau

Click here to read Shrila Prabhupada's Bhagavad Gita As It Is 3.34 <>

indriyasya arthe---within (each sense object); indriyasya---of (each) sense; raga---attachment; (and) dveshau---detachment; vyavasthitau---are situated; na agacchet---one should not become; vasham---controlled; tayoh---by them; tau---they (attachment and aversion); hi paripanthinau---are certainly obstacles; asya---for him (the spiritual practitioner).

All the senses are invariably controlled by attachment and aversion to their respective objects. Therefore, one should never come under their sway because such attachment and aversion impede auspiciousness for the sadhaka.


Since it is beyond the control of shastra to enforce injunctions on a person who has an extremely wicked nature, one should not allow his senses to wander wilfully. By regularly engaging in sinful activities, a person becomes depraved. Shri Bhagavan is speaking this shloka beginning with the word indriyasya to explain this. The repetition of the word indriya here indicates the sense objects of each respective sense. Although to look at another.s wife, touch her, or allure her by giving her gifts is forbidden in shastra, still an immoral man is attracted to such behaviour. On the other hand, although it is prescribed in shastra to see, touch, serve and offer charity to the guru, brahmanas, holy places and guests, an impious man is averse to such behaviour. To come under the influence of either of these mentalities is not proper. In other words, it is not proper either to develop attachment to a woman by seeing her, or to be malicious to someone who obstructs that attachment. Similarly, a sadhaka on the path of self-realisation should neither be attached to rich and palatable foodstuffs which are to his taste, nor averse to dry, unpalatable food items and objects which are not to his taste. In the same way, he should not be attached to seeing and hearing about his own son, nor should he be averse to seeing and hearing about his enemy.s son. It is inappropriate to come under the influence of such attachments and aversions. This has been explained.


The senses are of two types: jnanendriya (knowledge-acquiring senses) and karmendriya (working senses). There are five jnanendriyas: the eyes, ears, nose, tongue and skin, which accept form, sound, smell, taste and touch as their respective objects of gratification.There are also five karmendriyas: speech, hands, legs, anus and genitals, which perform the actions of speaking, accepting, moving, evacuating and procreating. The sadhaka of bhakti engages these eleven senses, including the mind, in various types of service for the pleasure of Bhagavan Shri Krishna, instead of enjoying the various sense objects himself. In this way, he can easily overpower the uncontrolled senses and, by the use of his controlled senses, he can attain the supreme goal of life.

Shrila Bhaktivinoda Thakura quotes Krishna as saying, "O Arjuna, if you think that the jivas. acceptance of sense objects will make most of them more addicted to worldliness and that liberation from the bondage of karma will thus become impossible, then listen to My words. It is not true that all objects are detrimental to the spiritual progress of the jivas. It is only the attachment and aversion to the sense objects which are the greatest enemies of the jiva. As long as you have this material body, you have to accept sense objects.

For this reason, you should accept sense objects, and at the same time control attachment and aversion towards them. If you act in this way, you can deal with sense objects without becoming bound to them. You will become detached from sense objects by gradually eliminating the attachment and aversion which develops when one falsely identifies the body with the self. In brief, you will develop yukta-vairagya. I have not instructed you to subdue attachment to objects and activities related to Me, Shri Bhagavan, which stimulate one's bhakti. Nor have I instructed you not to be averse to objects or activities which are obstacles to bhakti. Rather, I have only instructed you to control that attachment and aversion which is related to selfish pleasure and which promotes a temperament that is opposed to bhakti. This should be understood."

Ch 3 Verse 35

shreyan sva-dharmo vigunah / para-dharmat svanushthitat
sva-dharme nidhanam shreyah / para-dharmo bhayavahah

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shreyan---better; (to perform) sva-dharmah---one---s prescribed duties; vigunah---defectively; para-dharmat---than another---s duties; suanu shthitat---perfectly performed; nidhanam---death; shreyah---is better; sva-dharme---in (discharging) one---s prescribed duties; para-dharmah--- duties prescribed for others; bhaya-avahah---bring danger.

It is far better to execute one's sva-dharma, even though imperfectly, than to perform another's duty perfectly. It is better to die discharging one.s own duty in accordance with the varnashrama system than to engage in another's duty, for it is dangerous to follow another's path.


Shri Bhagavan sees that due to attachment and aversion, Arjuna is becoming unable to engage in his own prescribed duty of fighting. Instead, he considers it easier to engage in ahimsa (non-violence) which is para-dharma (the duty of others). Therefore, Shri Bhagavan is speaking this shloka beginning with the word shreyan. The word viguna means that, although one.s sva-dharma may have some defects and one may be unable to execute it properly, it is still superior to performing para-dharma, which may contain all good qualities and be executed correctly (sv-anushthitat). For this reason, this sloka, shreyan sva-dharme, is spoken. It is said in Shrimad-Bhagavatam (7.15.12):

vidharmah para-dharmash ca / abhasa upama cchalah
adharma-shakhah pancema / dharma-jno .dharmavat tyajet

The tree of adharma has five branches.vidharma (activities opposed to dharma), para-dharma (following another's dharmika principles), abhasa (making a show of dharmika principles), upama or upa-dharma (practising principles that only appear to be dharmika) and chala-dharma (cheating dharma). A knower of dharma (dharma-jna) will abandon all of them as forbidden acts.


Activities such as non-violence are prescribed for brahmanas situated in sattva-guna. For kshatriyas in rajo-guna, the prescribed duty is fighting. Therefore, the sva-dharma for kshatriyas is to engage in battle. Even if a kshatriya dies in battle he attains Svarga; therefore, it is better for him to fight.

Shrila Bhaktivinoda Thakura says, "One who follows svadharma may die before attaining a more elevated state of dharma (a higher adhikara). Still it is auspicious, because to perform para-dharma is always fearful and dangerous in any circumstance. This consideration, however, does not apply to nirguna-bhakti. When the stage of nirguna-bhakti is attained, one can give up sva-dharma without hesitation because at that time his nitya-dharma or svarupa-dharma (constitutional nature) manifests as his sva-dharma. Here sva means the real self and dharma means the jiva.s eternal function. In that stage the sva-dharma which one previously accepted in relation to the body and mind becomes para-dharma, that is, secondary to the duties of the awakened self..

devarshi-bhutapta-nrinam pitrinam
na kinkaro nayam rini ca rajan
sarvatmana yah sharanam sharanyam
gato mukundam parihritya kartam
Shrimad-Bhagavatam 11.5.41

Those who have taken exclusive shelter of Shri Mukunda, who is the only shelter, and who have renounced all varieties of karma, no longer remain indebted to the devas, sages, living entities, perfected persons and forefathers.

tavat karmani kurvita / na nirvidyeta yavata
mat-katha-shravanadau va / shraddha yavan na jayate
Shrimad-Bhagavatam 11.20.9

One who has not become fully detached from enjoying the fruits of his activities (karma), and whose faith in the process of bhakti and the hearing of My pastimes is not yet sufficiently developed, must certainly engage in karma (prescribed duties). Tyagis or bhaktas of Bhagavan, on the other hand, have no purpose to achieve by engaging in karma.

Ch 3 Verse 36

arjuna uvaca atha kena prayukto 'yam / papan carati purushah
anicchann api varshneya / balad iva niyojitah

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arjuna uvaca---Arjuna said; varshneya---O descendant of Vrishni; atha---then; kena---by whom?; ayampurushah---a person; prayuktah---is engaged; api---even; anicchann---unwillingly; (so that) carati---he performs; papam---sin; iva---as if; niyojitah--- engaged; balat---by force.

Arjuna said: O descendant of Vrishni, what is it that forcibly impels a person to engage in sinful activities, although he is unwilling to do so?


Earlier (in Gita 3.34) it was said: raga-dveshau vyavasthitau. "Even a man of discrimination can develop attachment to sensual activities such as the desire to enjoy another's wife, which are forbidden in shastra." In this connection, Arjuna asks this question beginning with atha. "What is it that impels a man to engage in sinful activities as if by force, even though he performs such activities unwillingly, well aware of the regulations as well as the injunctions of shastra? In other words, by whom is a person impelled to desire to engage in sinful activities?"


In this shloka Arjuna has addressed Shri Bhagavan, "O Varshneya." Krishna appeared in the Vrishni-vamsha (dynasty) of Arjuna.s maternal grandfather and grandmother. Shurasena was also born in the Vrishni-vamsha. His son was Vasudeva (Krishna.s father) and his daughter, Pritha, was Arjuna.s mother. The hidden indication in Arjuna.s prayer to Krishna is, "Since I belong to the same dynasty as You, You should not neglect me. At present I have fallen into a pit of doubts. You have just said that the atma is completely distinct from inert qualities or mundane relationships (Gita 2.13-31). Who, then, impels the jivas to engage in sinful acts, if such action is not their constitutional nature?"

Ch 3 Verse 37

shri bhagavan uvaca
kama esha krodha esha / rajo-guna-samudbhavah
maha-shano maha-papma / viddhy enam iha vairinam

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shri bhagavan uvaca---Shri Bhagavan said; (it is) eshah kamah---this desire to enjoy sense objects; (and) eshah krodhah---this wrath; samudbhavah---which is born of; rajah-guna---the mode of passion; (it is) maha-ashanah---all devouring; (and) maha-papma---extremely envious; viddhi---know; enam---this; (to be) vairinam--- the enemy; iha---in this world.

Shri Bhagavan said: This desire to enjoy sense objects, which indeed transforms into wrath, is born of passion. It is all-devouring and extremely formidable. Know it to be the primary enemy of the jivas in this world.


Kama, the desire for sense objects, invariably engages a person in sinful actions; impelled by it, he acts sinfully. Kama also appears differently and is seen directly as anger (krodha). When the desire for sense objects is obstructed, it transforms into krodha. Kama, which is born from rajo-guna, gives rise to anger which is in tamo-guna. If one asks, "Once a person's expectations are fulfilled, will the desire for sense objects be satiated?. then Shri Bhagavan responds by saying: maha- shanah, "It is all-devouring." In smriti it is said:

yat prithivyam vrihi-yavam / hiranyam pashavah striyah
nalam ekasya tat sarvam / iti matva shamam vrajet

All the grains, barley, gold, animals and women on earth cannot satisfy the kama of even one man. It is best to understand this and become content.

According to the above statement of smriti, it is beyond a person's ability to satisfy his kama. Again, if the question is raised, "If there is no possibility of controlling this lust by offering its desired ends as a truce, then do we have to control it by pacifying it?" then in response, Shri Bhagavan says, maha- papma. "It is extremely formidable and difficult to control".


Kama and krodha have been described as the prime enemies of the jivas on the path of liberation. Kama, the desire to enjoy sense objects, is specifically the original enemy; krodha, anger, is just its transformation. Kama has been described as mahat, or an enemy whose belly is never filled. In Shrimad-Bhagavatam (9.19.14) this is seen in the life history of Yayati Maharaja:

na jatu kamah kamanam / upabhogena shamyati
havisha krishna-vartmeva / bhuya evabhivardhate

By adding ghee to a fire, the fire becomes intensified. Similarly, by the fulfillment of kama, one.s desires are intensified. They do not disappear.

yat prithivyam vrihi-yavam / hiranyam pashavah striyah
na duhyanti manah-pritim / pumsah kama-hatasya te
Shrimad-Bhagavatam 9.19.13

All the grains, gold, animals, and women on earth cannot satisfy the kama of a lusty man.

An enemy is controlled by the four principles of sama (appeasement), dama (bribe), bheda (division) and danda (punishment). Here Shri Bhagavan is explaining that this formidable enemy, kama, cannot be controlled by the principles of sama, dama and bheda. He is thus indicating that one should use the principle of danda (a rod of chastisement) to control the desire for sense objects. This will be further clarified in the next shloka. The enemy, kama, can be destroyed when one acquires the weapon of atma-jnana, self-knowledge.

Ch 3 Verse 38

dhumenavriyate vahnir / yathadarsho malena ca
yatholbenavrito garbhas / tatha tenedam avritam

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yatha---just as; vahnih---fire; avriyate---is covered; dhumena--- by smoke; adarshah---a mirror; malena---by dust; ca---and; yatha--- just as; garbhah---an embryo; avritah---is covered; ulbena---by the womb; tatha---in the same way; idam---this (knowledge); avritam---is covered; tena---by that (lust).

Just as fire is covered by smoke, a mirror by dust, and an embryo by the womb, true knowledge of the jiva remains covered by degrees of lust.


Kama is the enemy of everyone, not just a particular person. This is explained through these examples. Although fire may be dirty and covered by smoke, it can still perform its function of burning; but when a mirror is covered by dust, it loses the characteristic of cleanliness and cannot perform its function of reflecting the image of the object in front of it. However, it is still accepted as a mirror. An embryo covered by the womb cannot move its hands and feet nor can it be recognised as a baby. One can remember the supreme goal only when kama is not very deep. When kama becomes intense, such remembrance is impossible and when it is very intense, the world itself appears to be devoid of consciousness.


The knowledge of those jivas averse to self-realisation is covered by three degrees of kama: mridu (mild), madhya (moderate) and tivra (intense). A person whose jnana is covered by mridu-kama can accept instruction on atma-tattva to a certain extent. When a person.s jnana is covered by madhya-kama, it is completely impossible for him to understand even a little tattva-jnana, and when jnana is covered by tivra-kama, jnana is not perceived at all.

Shrila Bhaktivinoda Thakura quotes Krishna as saying, "This whole world is covered by that very kama, in some places mildly, in some places deeply and in some places very deeply. I will illustrate this with an example. Please listen. A conscious jiva who is mildly covered by kama, just as a fire is covered by smoke, can perform activities such as bhagavatsmara nam. This is the situation of jivas who have taken shelter of nishkama-karma-yoga and whose consciousness is mukulita-cetana, a little open, as in the budding stage of a flower. Even if the conscious jiva has a human body, when his consciousness is deeply covered by kama, like a mirror covered by dust, it is not possible for him to remember Parameshvara. This is the condition of the extreme moralist and atheist, that is, a jiva whose consciousness is sankucitacetana, shrunken or contracted. They are like animals and birds. A jiva whose consciousness is covered by intense kama, like the embryo covered by the womb, has a consciousness like creepers, stones and trees and is acchadita-cetana, completely covered."

Ch 3 Verse 39

avritam jnanam etena / jnanino nitya-vairina
kama-rupena kaunteya / dushpurenanalena ca

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kaunteya---O Arjuna; jnanam---discrimination; jnaninah---of the wise (atma); (is) avritam---covered; etena nitya-vairina---by this eternal enemy; kama-rupena---in the form of lust; ca---also; dushpurena---never to be satisfied; analena---like fire.

O Kaunteya, the true knowledge of the wise is covered by the eternal enemy in the form of kama, which burns like fire and can never be satiated.


Kama is indeed ignorance for all jivas, as Shri Bhagavan is explaining in this shloka beginning with avritam. This desire to enjoy the sense objects has been described as the eternal enemy; therefore, it must be destroyed by all means. Kama-rupa means in the form of kama. It is indeed ignorance which envelops the real nature of the jiva. Here the word ca has been used to mean 'like'. Just as fire cannot be satiated by pouring ghee into it, similarly, kama cannot be fulfilled by enjoying the sense objects. It is said in Shrimad-Bhagavatam (9.19.14):

na jatu kamah kamanam / upabhogena shamyati
havisha krishna-vartmeva / bhuya evabhivardhate

Fire is not satiated by ghee, rather it increases. Similarly by enjoying sense objects, the thirst for sense enjoyment increases more and more. It does not become pacified.


Kama is the root cause of lamentation and distress, and has been compared to fire.

kamanalam madhu-lavaih shamayan durapaih
Shrimad-Bhagavatam 7.9.25

Kama can never be satisfied by enjoying the sense objects. It is like a fire which cannot be extinguished by drops of honey in the form of momentary satisfaction.

evam griheshv abhirato / vishayan vividhaih sukhaih
sevamano na catushyad / ajya-stokair ivanalah
Shrimad-Bhagavatam 9.6.48

The sage Saubhari Muni was not able to attain peace by profusely enjoying sense objects, just as fire is not pacified when drops of ghee are poured into it.

sevato varsha-pugan me / urvashya adharashavam
na tripyaty atma-bhuh kamo / vahnir ahutibhir yatha
Shrimad-Bhagavatam 11.26.14

Even after I had served the so-called nectar of the lips of Urvashi for many years, my lusty desires kept rising again and again within my heart and were never satisfied, just like a fire that can never be extinguished by the oblations of ghee poured into its flames.

Shrila Bhaktivinoda Thakura quotes Krishna as saying, "This kama is indeed avidya for the jivas and it is their only eternal enemy. It covers the conscious jivas like an irresistable fire. Just as I, Shri Bhagavan, am a conscious being, similarly the jiva is also a conscious entity. The difference between My nature and that of the jiva is that I am infinitely conscious and omnipotent, whereas the jiva is atomically conscious and can only act by the energy given by Me. The nitya-dharma, eternal occupation, of the jiva is to be My eternal servant. This is called prema or nishkama-jaiva-dharma, the eternal function of the jiva whose motivation is unalloyed. Every conscious being is, by his constitutional nature, endowed with free will, thus he is My eternal servant by his own free will. According to the degree to which he properly uses this free will, he can act as My eternal servant. The misuse of that pure free will is called avidya or kama. Those jivas who do not serve Me by correctly using their free will have to accept kama, an enjoying mood, which is the perverted form of the jivas. pure state, prema. Their svarupa becomes acchadita-cetana (covered consciousness) as they are covered more and more by kama. This is called karma-bandhana, the bondage of the jiva, or samsara-yatana, the sufferings of birth and death."

Ch 3 Verse 40

indriyani mano buddhir / asyadhishthanam ucyate
etair vimohayaty esha / jnanam avritya dehinam

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ucyate---it is said (that); indriyani---the senses; manah---mind; (and) buddhih---intelligence; (are) adhishthanam---the residences; asya---of this lust; etaih---by these; eshah---this lust; avritya--- covering; jnanam---his knowledge; vimohayati---bewilders; dehinam---the embodied being.

The senses, mind and intelligence are said to be the dwelling places of this desire to enjoy. With their help, this lust covers the knowledge of the jiva and completely bewilders him.


Where does this kama reside? In response to this question, Shri Bhagavan is speaking this shloka beginning with indriyani. The senses, mind and intelligence, which are like a great fort or capital city, are the abode of this enemy, kama. The sense objects, such as sound, are like the kingdom of the king. The embodied soul, dehi, is bewildered by all of them.


One can easily conquer one's enemy when one has discovered his hiding-place and destroyed it. The senses are the shelter or hiding place of kama. Therefore, by subduing the senses kama can be easily defeated. Bhagavan Shri Krishna has compared kama to a very powerful king, the senses to his capital which is protected by the great fort of the mind, intelligence and false ego, and the various sense objects to the kingdom and the subjects of the king.

Shrila Bhaktivinoda Thakura says, "When the pure cognisant jiva accepts a body, he is known as dehi (embodied). Kama keeps the jnana of the jiva covered as long as it dwells in the senses, mind and intelligence. The subtle state of kama is avidya (ignorance). It is this avidya only which originally offers the initial veil of ignorance in the form of material ahankara (false ego) to the jiva, who is an atomic conscious entity with pure ego. Material intelligence acts as a shelter for this kama or avidya. Later, when the ahankara develops, the material intelligence provides the mind as a second shelter. The mind, which runs after sense objects, then provides the senses as the third place of shelter for kama. Taking shelter of these three places, kama casts the jiva into worldy enjoyment. When a jiva turns towards Shri Bhagavan by his own will, it is called vidya, and when he wilfully becomes averse to Shri Bhagavan, it is called avidya."

Ch 3 Verse 41

tasmat tvam indriyany adau / niyamya bharatarshabha
papmanam prajahi hy enam / jnana-vijnana-nashanam

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tasmat---therefore; bharata-rishabha---O best of the descendants of Bharata; adau---first of all; niyamya---by regulating; indriyani---the senses; hi---certainly; tvam prajahi---you must destroy; enam---this; papmanam---evil; nashanam---destroyer; jnana---of knowledge; (and) vijnana---of realisation of Me.

Therefore, O best of the descendants of Bharata, first control your senses in order to completely slay this evil kama, which is the destroyer of both jnana (wisdom) and vijnana (realisation of Me).


By conquering the enemy's place of shelter, the enemy is conquered. This is the strategy. It is progressively more difficult to control the senses, the mind and the intelligence, which are the seats of kama (the desire to enjoy). It is very difficult to control the senses, but they are easier to control than the mind and intelligence. "Therefore, first conquer your senses." Shri Bhagavan speaks this shloka beginning with the word tasmat just to explain this point. Although the mind, which is very difficult to control, runs after enjoying another's wife and wealth, you should understand what is happening; this is only the work of the senses, such as the eyes, ears, hands and legs. One should control these senses by not allowing them to pursue their respective objects. Papmanam means to give up this ferocious desire to enjoy. In this way, if a person gradually controls his senses, his mind will also become free from kama in due course of time.


Assisted by the senses, this powerful kama uses the ropes of delusion to bind jivas who are averse to Shri Bhagavan. Therefore, it is imperative from the outset to control the senses such as the eyes. When the external senses are thus controlled, the mind, whose function is sankalpa (the determination to accept) and vikalpa (the choice to reject), will also be controlled.

Shri Bhagavan also spoke thus to Uddhava:

vishayendriya-samyogan / manah kshubhyati nanyatha
Shrimad-Bhagavatam 11.26.22

The mind becomes restless only when the senses come in contact with the sense objects, otherwise not.

asamprayunjatah pranan / shamyati stimitam manah
Shrimad Bhagavatam 11.26.23

Therefore, the mind of a person who has control over his senses becomes stable and peaceful.

Shrila Bhaktivinoda Thakura quotes Krishna as saying, "Therefore, best of the Bharatas, by first controlling the senses and mind, conquer this extremely formidable kama which destroys jnana and vijnana, devotion to Me. Destroying its distorted nature (lust), reinstate its own constitutional nature, prema. Thus take shelter of the inherent nature of prema. The first commendable duty of a baddha-jiva is to follow the principles of yukta-vairagya, genuine renunciation, and to pursue sva-dharma, prescribed duties. Thus, by gradually attaining sadhana-bhakti, he should perform sadhana to attain prema-bhakti. Nirapeksha-bhakti unalloyed bhakti independent of jnana, karma or personal endeavour, is attained by My mercy or by the mercy of My bhakta. Although it is very rare, in some cases it manifests without any cause."

Ch 3 Verse 42

indriyani parany ahur / indriyebhyah param manah
manasas tu para buddhir / buddher yah paratas tu sah

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ahuh---they (the sages) say that; indriyani---the senses; parani--- are higher than dull matter; manah---the mind; param---is higher; indriyebhyah---than the senses; buddhih---intelligence; tu para---is indeed higher; manasah---than the mind; tu---but; (it is) sah---he (the soul); yah---who; (is) paratah---still higher; buddheh---than intelligence.

The senses are said to be superior to inert matter, and the mind is superior to the senses. The intelligence is superior to the mind, and he, the atma, is superior even to the intelligence.


It is impractical to try to control the mind and intelligence in the initial stages; to do so is impossible. But to explain the process, Shri Bhagavan is speaking this shloka beginning with the words indriyani parani. He is saying, "The senses are more powerful than a courageous warrior who has conquered the ten directions. Indeed, they are superior to him, for even he cannot have control over his senses. The mind is more powerful than the senses, and superior to them, for it remains active even during dreams when the senses are dissolved. Intelligence which is endowed with realisation is still more powerful than and superior to the mind because resolute intelligence remains active even during deep sleep, when the mind is dissolved. Over and above this, the atma is more powerful than the intelligence and superior to it, for it continues to exist even when the intelligence is destroyed. It is this glorious soul alone that can conquer kama. This jivatma, which is more powerful than everything else, can definitely control kama, once it has controlled the senses, mind and intelligence. Of this you should have no doubt."


In shrutis it is also said:

indriyebhyah para hy artha / arthebhyash ca param manah
manasas tu para buddhir / buddher atma mahan parah
Katha Upanisad 1.3.10

Certainly, reason is superior to the senses, and mind is higher than reason. Higher than the mind is intelligence, and the great one, the atma (soul) is highest of all.

Shrila Bhaktivinoda Thakura quotes Krishna as saying, "I am explaining the gradation to you in brief. Your real identity is that you are a jiva. You have a constitutional function of rendering loving service to Me, but you have accidentally become bound by inert matter, so that you now identify yourself with the senses, mind and intelligence. This is delusion, and it is created by ignorance. The senses are superior to and more subtle than inert objects. Superior and more subtle than the senses is the mind. The intelligence is superior to and more subtle than the mind, and the atma, which is the jiva, is superior even to the intelligence."

Ch 3 Verse 43

evam buddheh param buddhva / samstabhyatmanam atmana
jahi shatrum maha-baho / kama-rupam durasadam

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maha-baho---O mighty-armed one; evam---in this way; buddhva--- knowing; (the soul to be) param---superior; buddheh---to intelligence; samstabhya---by firmly establishing; atmanam---the mind; atmana---through intelligence; jahi---destroy; durasadam---this difficult-to-vanquish; shatrum---enemy; kamar upam---in the form of the desire to enjoy.

O Maha-baho, in this way, knowing the jivatma to be superior to the intelligence, control the mind with the pure intelligence that is related to the true self, and destroy this insatiable enemy in the form of kama, the desire to enjoy.


Shri Bhagavan is concluding this chapter with this shloka beginning with evam. .Knowing the jiva to be superior to the intelligence and distinct from all mundane designations, and making the atma steady with the atma himself, destroy this kama which is very difficult to conquer..

In this chapter, the sadhana of nishkama-karma-yoga and the merits of jnana, which is its aim, have been described.

Thus ends the Bhavanuvada of the Sarartha-Varshini Tika, by Shrila Vishvanatha Cakravarti Thakura, on the Third Chapter of Shrimad Bhagavad-gita, which gives pleasure to the bhaktas and is accepted by all saintly persons.


Shrila Bhaktivinoda Thakura quotes Shri Krishna as saying, "In this way, with the help of transcendental knowledge of the jivatma, know yourself to be aprakrita-tattva, superior to all mundane identification with the senses, body, mind and in telligence, and also know yourself to be My eternal servant. Thus, become steady by the grace of My cit-shakti, and destroy this formidable kama by following the gradual steps of devotional practice."

Thus ends the Sarartha-Varshini Prakashika-vritti, by Shri Shrimad Bhaktivedanta Narayana Maharaja, on the Third Chapter of Shrimad Bhagavad-gita.