Karma – in a generic sense refers to actions we perform. What actions to perform (or not), how to perform these such that it aides in our evolution – is the theme of this chapter.

Lord Krishna so far explained importance of performing duties, without any expectation of result. It is worth noting here that working without expectation of result – means not having a sense of entitlement, or expecting certain quantum of result. In other words, it is being focussed on meeting the purpose, rather than specifics of outcome. When you are thus not anxious about the result; and focus purely on the purpose – such actions will be of highest quality. This process, will naturally keep you calm, composed, and content, irrespective of what life throws at you! Developing such an attitude, requires one to renounce all desires that crave for material pleasure alone. And these are necessary steps in the evolution of our mind, to the state of wisdom – the absolute truth.

At this juncture, Arjuna is perplexed. He too wanted to renounce everything, but the Lord is asking him to pick his weapons and fight. So he asks the Lord to clarify.


What is the right approach? Path of Karma (action), or Path of Jnāna (knowledge)?

Lord Krishna explains – these are two paths, not exclusive to each other, but complement each other. It is only through path of action, one can tread the path of knowledge. From here on, the lord elaborates on the path of action.

He begins by striking down common misinterpretation about the two qualifiers explained earlier. Giving up expectation of result, and renunciation of material desires. At a surface level one may think then, not doing anything is the best option. To pre-empt such thoughts, the lord explains – not performing actions can’t ever lead to contentment, nor such acts of renouncing actions lead one to knowledge.

One cannot be without performing actions even for a moment, this is the law of nature – influenced by Prakriti, each being is forced to act.
Sitting idle, won’t make the mind idle – it will in fact be running amok behind various thoughts arising from unfulfilled desires – so assuming non-performance of action leads wisdom is hypocrisy.
The only way to control the mind, is by engaging it entirely on actions! So, performing actions is a necessity in life, even if it were to simply maintain our existence! Actions originate from desire, and these desires are tricky to handle.

Desires leads to actions; results of these actions lead to more desires. This is a never-ending loop, karma bandhana. How to break out of this loop?


Yajna – the way to liberate from Karma Bandhana!

The Lord introduces the concept of Yajna – a simple process that helps you to develop an attitude that curtails further desires from cropping up.
In simple terms, Yajna is the process of giving up something to get something; a selfless action performed as if it’s a bounden duty. Applying this ‘Yajna Spirit’ to all our actions is the prescription. Lord explains that, Yajna spirit is the foundational basis of this entire creation (universe) and existence. No being is entirely independent in this creation. We all are intricately dependent on so many other beings in nature, for our very existence.

Each being gives up something of it, to get something in return. For example, we give up the rupee notes in our wallet, to get some vegetables from a shop. Now that’s at a very high level of abstraction. Take a closer look – vegetables are grown by farmers. Farmers give up their time and energy, to grow those vegetable.
Now, if the farmer was to double the time and energy he spends in the farm – it does NOT automatically translate to doubling of fruits. It is not linear – there are many other factors that play in their role – rains, fertility of soil, the worms that keep the soil loose, the bees that help pollinate and so on. Or there might be insects that may harm the entire crop!

Only the farmer knows, he simply CANNOT demand returns! He is truly giving time and energy, leaving aside entitlement / attachment to the result. And even with the result – he just has to accept what comes his way! This giving up of expectation of result, and accepting the result as if blessing, makes the act equivalent to sacrifice. Such actions are what Yajnas are! Closer we look at nature, more we realise how in vain it is to cultivate the sense of entitlement!

Evolving through civilisations, humans began developing means to abstract and mitigate these risks, in turn cultivating sense of entitlement. But all these mitigation techniques can crumble down without any warning! Recall how Covid affected the mankind!

So, transform all your actions to be Yajnas, done with a spirit of sacrifice and without the sense of entitlement. By doing so, we learn to accept the outcome as it is – a blessing from the divine. This will automatically tone down the consequential flow of desires. This, is the ONLY way to break the loop of karma bandhana! How simple, yet powerful Yajnas are, aren’t they?


How do we evolve, to transform all our actions to Yajna?

Simple – yes. Powerful – yes. Practicing?

Sure, that’s difficult. But we should at least know what the ideal is, so we know what the goal is. In fact, Lord drops a word of caution to people of wisdom – not to suddenly unsettle others by these words of wisdom. If one were suddenly told about renouncing desires, turning actions to sacrifice – it will create chaos in the mind, disturbing their lives. It is not an overnight change, it is a gradual evolution of thought process, based on the actions performed. Understanding what our duties are, and performing them without any reluctance is most important aspect.

Cultivating the attitude of Yajna comes as the next stage of evolution. This evolution is often aided by small actions we perform on a daily basis. The practice of folding our hands in front of the lord every day, or performing Pooja, or doing bhajans – these help in cultivating the mindset of offering something to lord. What we offer could be material, our mind, our intellect – all have varied degrees of affect in transforming our mindset. Small actions – but very potent – we often don’t quite realise the underlying values in such practices!

The chapter ends with the Lord emphasising how rush of desires, and thus sense of entitlement, veils us from the supreme knowledge, the experience of the eternal bliss.

DISCLAIMER: This our sincere attempt to summarise the Gitōpadesha, via a series of short blogs. This is NOT the whole translation, or commentary of the divine book. We seek forgiveness of reader and the lord, for omissions which is inevitable to keep the blog short. The write-ups include both, writer’s personal opinion and summarised version of many shlokas from the Bhagavad Gita. Intent of blog was never to be a commentary of Bhagavad Gita, but simply inspire the reader to read Bhagavad Gita in it’s entirety. The writer is neither a scholar, nor a bummer, somewhere in between, with a firm belief that the lord gets him to do all the things he does. Being human, he still keeps erring. Forgive him for all such mistakes.

Sarvam Krishnarpanamasthu!