Daily Readings from the Works of Swami Venkatesananda

Song of God (Bhagavad Gita) - Chapter III: 20-21

March 13, 2018

karmaṇai ’va hi saṁsiddhim ᾱsthitᾱ janakᾱdayaḥ
lokasaṁgraham evᾱ ’pi saṁpaśyan kartum arhasi (III-20)
™yad-yad ᾱcarati śreṣṭhas tat-tad eve ’taro janaḥ
sa yat pramᾱṇaṁ kurute lokas tad anuvartate  (III-21)

III/20. Verily, Janaka and others attained perfection by action
only. Even with a view to the protection of the masses thou
should perform action.

III/21. Whatsoever a great man does, that other men also do.
Whatever he sets up as the standard, that the world follows.

Swamiji's Commentary

     Yet another reason why one should not abandon one’s duty is given here. People are fond of imitation and a sinful action is more readily copied than a virtuous one! Even a sage like  King  Janaka,  therefore, persisted in  the performance  of  his  duties. People blindly follow their leader and if the leader is even slightly negligent in his duties, the followers totally abandon theirs!

     So, then, firstly as a kind of reciprocity in return for the benefits that the yogi enjoys in this world, and secondly in order to set the right example for others to emulate, one should engage oneself in the performance of one’s duty, even though he has nothing to achieve thereby. This is a double-edged sword and has to be handled wisely. If the only motivation is to be an exemplar, it might give rise to hypocrisy; but rightly understood, even an initial hypocritical example might lead to right action.

     Again, the sage who has cut off all attachment and who lives in complete dissociation of even his own body, will let the body exhaust its own karma and the past momentum. He does nothing; it is the body and mind that function in the world of matter. Why will he prevent them from doing so if he is unattached to them? True, he will not supply them with fresh fuel to gain more momentum. He is unattached, desireless and egoless, but if he even forcibly restrains them, he comes into contact with them and identifies the self with them. The worldly man is a slave of the senses, the ascetic holds them back, but they are both in contact with them. The sage is not.

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