Daily Readings from the Works of Swami Venkatesananda

Bhagavad Gita - Song of God - Chapter 18: 23-25

December 3, 2023

™niyataṁ saṅgarahitam arāgadveṣataḥ kṛtaṁ
aphalaprepsunā karma yat tat sāttvikam ucyate (XVIII-23)
™yat tu kāmepsunā karma sāhaṁkāreṇa vā punaḥ 
kriyate bahulāyāsaṁ tad rājasam udāhṛtaṁ (XVIII-24)
™anubandhaṁ kṣayaṁ hiṁsām anavekṣya ca pauruṣaṁ
mohād ārabhyate karma yat tat tāmasam ucyate  (XVIII-25)

XVIII/23. An action which is ordained, which is free from attachment and
which is done without love or hatred by one who is not desirous

XVIII/24. But that action which is done by one longing for the fulfilment of
desires or gain with egoism or with much effort – that is declared
to be rājasa (passionate).

XVIII/25. That action which is undertaken out of delusion, without a regard
for the consequences, loss, injury and (one’s own) ability – that
is declared to be tāmasa (dark).

Swamiji's Commentary

      Lord Krishna’s path is one of ‘adventure with calculated risk’. He does not encourage weak-heartedness or impotence. Nor does he encourage self-destructive foolhardiness. The third of the above verses warns us that we should calculate the consequences, not with pessimistic withdrawal but in order that the effort may be matched with the task, that unnecessary loss and injury may be avoided, and that we may not try to jump on to our own shoulders. It should not be misconstrued as cowardice. Many there are who waste precious talent and life battling with impossible situations. I have seen a young man whose only spiritual sādhana was to develop powers to endure the severe Himālayan cold! His motive: to be acclaimed by the public as a great yogi. He did not live long enough to enjoy that renown. What a waste! Our Master, on the contrary, gave such practices a lesser value, realizing their doubtful spiritual consequences. If your body cannot endure the cold, put on a coat. But then study the first of the three verses and act on it. Such action will promote sattva (divinity, purity or light within).

     Gītā-action is a fine art: finer than the best dancing, the most delicate painting or the most soulful music. We should know what to do (our duty) and what not to do (useless task); yet we should do what we do without an eye to its reward (‘usefulness’), without attachment (which a sense of duty might lead to) and without egoism.

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