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Arjuna said: 

3.1 O Janardana (Krishna), if it be Your opinion that wisdom is superior to action, why then do you urge me to horrible aciton, O Kesava ?

O Janardana, cet, if it be; te, Your; mata, opinion, intention; that buddhih, Wisdom; jyayasi, is superior; karmanah, to action-.

If the combination of Wisdom and action be intended (by the Lord), then the means to Liberation is only one. [The path combining Wisdom and action.] In that case, Arjuna would have done something illogical in separating Wisdom from action by saying that Wisdom is superior to action. For, that (Wisdom or action, which is a constituent of the combination) cannot be greater than that (Combination, even) from the point of view of the result. [Since what is intended is a combination, therefore, the separation of Knowledge from action, from the point of view of the result, is not justifiable. When Knowledge and action are considered to form together a single means to Liberation, in that case each of them cannot be considered separately as producing its own distinct result. Arjuna's question can be justified only if this separation were possible.] Similarly, what Arjuna said by way of censuring the Lord, as it were, in, 'It has been stated by the Lord that Wisdom is superior to action, and He exhorts me saying, "Undertake action," which is a source of evil! What may be the reason for this?', and also in, 'Tatkim, why then, O Kesava; niyojayasi, do You urge; mam, me; to ghore, horrible, cruel; karmani, action; involving injury?'-that (censure) also does not become reasonable.

On the other hand, [If the opponent's view be that Knowledge is to be combined with rites and duties sanctioned by the Vedas and the Smrtis in the case of the householders only, whereas for others those sanctioned by the Smrtis alone are to be combined with Knowledge...., then....] if it be supposed that the combination (of Knowledge) with action sanctioned only by the Smrtis has been enjoined for all by the Lord, and Arjuna also comprehended (accordingly), then, how can the statement, 'Why then do you urge me to horrible action', be rational?


3.2 You bewilder my understanding, as it were, by a seemingly conflicting statement! Tell me for certain one of these by which I may attain the highest Good.

'Though the Lord speaks lucidly, still, to me who am of a dull understanding, the Lord's utterance appears to be conflicting.' 'Mohayasi, You bewilder; me, any; buddhim, understanding; iva, as it were; vyamisrena iva, by that seemingly conflicting; vakyena, statement! You have surely undertaken to dispel the confusion of my understanding; but why do You bewildered (it)? Hence I say, "You bewildered my understanding, as it were."'

However, if You [In some readings, 'tvam tu, however, you', is substituted by 'tatra, as to that'.-Tr.] think that it is impossible for a single person to pursue both Knowledge and action, which can be undertaken (only) by different persons then, that being the case, vada, tell me; niscitya, for certain; tadekam, one of these, either Knowledge or action: "This indeed is fit for Arjuna, according to his understanding, strength and situation"; yena, by which, by one of either Knowledge or action; aham, I; apnuyam, may attain; sreyah, the highest Good.'

Even if Knowledge had been spoken of at all by the Lord as being subsidiary to steadfastness in action, how then could there be the desire in Arjuna to know of only one of them, as expressed in 'Tell me one of these two?' Certainly the Lord did not say, 'I shall speak of only one among Knowledge and action, but surely not of both', owing to which, Arjuna, considering it impossible for himself to acquire both, should have prayed for one only!

The answer was in accordance witht the question:

The Blessed Lord said:

3.3 O unblemished one, two kinds of steadfastness in this world were spoken of by Me in the days of yore-through the Yoga of Knowledge for the men of realization; through the Yoga of Action for the yogis.

Anagha, O unblemished one, O sinless one; [This word of address suggests that Arjuna is qualified to receive the Lord's instruction.] dvividha, two kinds of ; nistha, steadfastness, persistence in what is undertaken; asmin loke, in this world, for the people of the three castes who are qualified for following the scriptures; prokta, were spoken of; maya, by Me, the omniscient God, who had revealed for them the traditional teachings of the Vedas, which are the means of securing prosperity and the highest Goal; pura, in the days of yore, in the beginning the creation, after having brought into being the creatures.

Now then, which is that steadfastness of two kinds? In answer the Lord says: The steadfastness jnanayogena, through the Yoga of Knowledge-Knowledge itself being the Yoga [Here jnana, Knowledge, refers to the knowledge of the supreme Reality, and Yoga is used in the derivative sense of 'that (Knowledge) through which one gets united with Brahman'.]-; had been stated sankhyanam, for the men of realization-those possessed of the Knowledge arising from the discrimination with regard to the Self and the not-Self, those who have espoused monasticism from the stage of Celibacy; itself, those to whom the entity presented by the Vedantic knowledge has become fully ascertained (see Mu. 3.2.6)-,the monks who are known as the parama-hamsas, those who are established in Brahman alone. And the steadfastness karma-yogena, through the Yoga of Action-action itself being the Yoga [Yoga here means 'that through which one gets united with, comes to have, prosperity', i.e. such actions as go by the name of righteousness and are prescribed by the scriptures.] had been stated yoginam, for the yogis, the men of action (rites and duties). This is the idea.

Again, had it been intended or stated or if it will be stated in the Gita by the Lord-and if it has also been so stated in the Vedas-that Knowledge and action are to be practised in combination by one and the same person for attaining the same human Goal, why then should He here tell His dear supplicant Arjuna, that steadfastness in either Knowledge or action is to be practised only by different persons who are respectively qualified? If, on the other hand, it be supposed that the Lord's idea is, 'After hearing about both Knowledge and action, Arjuna will himself practise them (in combination); but, to others, I shall speak of them as being meant to be pursued by different persons', then the Lord would be imagined to be unreliable, being possessed of likes and dislikes! And that is untenable.

So, from no point of view whatsoever can there be a combination of Knowledge and action. And what has been said by Arjuna regarding superiority of Wisdom over action, that stands confirmed for not having been refuted; and (it also stands confirmed) that steadfastness in Knowledge is suitable for being practised by monks alone. And from the statement that they (Knowledge and action) are to be followed by different persons, it is understood that this has the Lord's approval.

Noticing that Arjuna had become dejected under the impression, 'You are urging me to that very action which is a source of bondage', and was thinking thus, 'I shall not undertake action', the Lord said, 'Na karmanam anarambhat, not by abstaining from action,' etc.

Or:-When steadfastness in Knowledge and steadfastness in action become incapable of being pursued simultaneously by one and the same person owing to mutual contradiction, then, since it may be concluded that they become the cause of attaining the human Goal independently of each other, therefore, in order to show-that the steadfastness in action is a means to the human Goal, not independently, but by virtue of being instrumental in securing steadfastness in Knowledge; and that, on the other hand, steadfastness in Knowledge, having come into being through the means of steadfastness in action, leads to the human Goal independently without anticipating anything else-,the Lord said:

3.4 A person does not attain freedom from action by abstaining from action; nor does he attain fulfilment merely through renunciation.

Purusah, a person; na does not; asnute, attain; naiskarmyam, freedom from action, the state of being free from action, steadfastness in the Yoga of Knowledge, i.e. the state of abiding in one's own Self which is free from action; anarambhat, by abstaining; karmanam, from actions-by the non-performance of actions such as sacrifices etc. which are or were performed in the present or past lives, which are the causes of the purification of the mind by way of attenuating the sins incurred, and which, by being the cause of that (purification), become the source of steadfastness in Knowledge through the generation of Knowledge, as stated in the Smrti (text), 'Knowledge arises in a person from the attenuation of sinful acts' [the whole verse is:

Jnanam utpadyate pumsamksayatpapasya karmanah;

Yathadarsatalaprakhye pasyatyatmanamatmani.

'Knowledge arises....acts. One sees the Self in oneself as does one (see oneself) in a cleaned surface of a mirror'.-Tr.] (Mbh. Sa. 204.8). This is the import.

From the statement that one does not attain freedom from action by abstaining from actions, it may be concluded that one attains freedom from action by following the opposite course of performing actions. What, again, is the reason that one does not attain freedom from action by abstaining from actions? The answer is: Because performing actions is itself a means to freedom from action. Indeed, there can be no attainment of an end without (its) means. And Karma-yoga is the means to the Yoga of Knowledge characterized by freedom from action, because it has been so established in the Upanisads and here as well. As for the Upanisads, it has been shown in the texts, 'The Brahmanas seek to know It through the study of the Vedas, sacrifices, (charity, and austerity consisting in a dispassionate enjoyment of sense-objects)' (Br. 4.4.22), etc. whch deal with the means of realizing the goal of Knowledge under discussion, viz the Realm of the Self, that the Yoga of Karma is a means to the Yoga of Knowledge . And even here (in the Gita), the Lord will established that, 'But, O mighty-armed one, renunciation is hard to attain without (Karma-)yoga' (5.6); 'By giving up attachment, the yogis undertake work....for the purification of themselves' (5.11); 'Sacrifice, charity and austerity are verily the purifiers of the wise' (18.5), etc.

Objection: Is it not that in such texts as-'Extending to all creatures immunity from fear' (Na. Par. 5.43), (one should take recourse to freedom from action)-, it is shown that attainment of freedom from action follows even from the renunciation of obligatory duties? And in the world, too, it is a better known fact that freedom from action follows abstention from actions. Hence also arises the question, 'Why should one who desires freedom from action undertake action?'

Reply: Therefore the Lord said: Na ca, nor; samadhi-gacchati, does he attain; siddhim, fulfilment steadfastness in the Yoga of Knowledge, characterized by freedom from action; sannyasanat eva, merely through renunciation-even from the mere renunciation of actions which is devoid of Knowledge.

What, again, is the reason that by the mere giving up of actions which is not accompanied with Knowledge, a person does not attain fulfulment in the form of freedom from actions? To this query seeking to know the cause, the Lord says:

3.5 Because, no one ever remains even for a moment without doing work. For all are made to work under compulsion by the gunas born of Nature.

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