Hello and welcome to Truth Amid Chaos, Chapter 3 of the Bhagavad Gita. The Gita represents a foundation of Hindu philosophy. Like the Bible and all the great books, the Gita is beloved by millions because it describes the Laws of Nature and shows a clear path to ascension.
Once upon a time, in a faraway land, Gods ruled the Earth, and all learning took place in the form of stories and sacred verses, that people remembered and passed down with each generation.
Hindu legends assume 14 levels of being or awareness: 7 Higher God realms, and 7 Hellish realms. While on earth you must try to move upward, not fall downward, to balance your 3d duties with your ultimate goal of Moksha or spiritual freedom, which means your earthly lessons are finished, and you finally merge with God, ending the cycle of death and rebirth.
The Gita takes place as a huge battle is about to break between the virtuous Pandava brothers and their evil Kaurava cousins. Thousands of warriors from both sides stand poised for battle. The hero Arjuna looks at both sides and sees his beloved relatives, cousins, uncle. It is his righteous duty to his brothers and his branch of the family to kill them all. But confusion floods Arjuna’s mind. He falls into despair and refuses to fight. His best friend and chariot driver just happens to be the God Krishna, who come to the rescue.
The battle of the Bhagavad Gita symbolizes the internal struggle of the mind, everyday choices between Good and Evil, Desire vs. Wise action. Krishna shows the path to ascended states of joy. The entire story is a conversation between Krishna and Arjuna about the secrets of Life and Death in 18 chapters in suspended time as the two armies stand poised for battle. Arjuna ultimately decides to fight, he and his brothers win, and they all achieve a virtuous ascension to the heavenly realms.
Every character and concept is symbolic.
- Arjuna is your physical self as you face choices in 3d life.
- God Krishna represents your higher Self that knows all.
- Dritarashtra the blind king, Arjuna’s uncle, father of the evil Kauravas, represents your blind ego full of desire.
- Sanjaya is his clairvoyant servant, who narrates what he sees for the blind king. He is that part of you sees and knows everything.
Arjuna is confused. He asks how a higher path of action requires any action at all. Krishna says life demands that you engage in action, you cannot do nothing. Right action is a form of honoring Truth, a pathway to Heaven. He reminds Arjuna to take the ego “I” out of his actions and avoid the trap being attached to the results or thinking “I made this happen”. If you do an action offering your best to God, you are free. But if you do any action out of anger, fear, or any other emotional state, then you are creating more Karma for yourself. He introduces an important concept, of the three modes of Nature, called gunas.
There are three levels of physical energy.
- Sattva is pure intelligence with no polarity, it is symbolized by the color white.
- Rajas is the law of motion, action, change, velocity, represented by the color red. Rajas exists opposite the quality Tamas.
- Tamas represents inertia, heaviness, ignorance, rest, and darkness, hence the color black.
One could also call these 3 levels, Sacred and Active vs. Passive.
The three Gunas are always in dynamic wave interaction with each other in the world around us, as well as inside each of us, one quality rising and then collapsing into each other, always maintaining an overall balance.
He said the 14 worlds function in a harmonious cycle of actions, sacrifices and offerings of gratitude by humans. Otherwise, the universe is lost. Krishna makes a famous penetrating statement that “It is better to do your own duty badly, than to do another’s duty perfectly.” It is the senses, experiencing preferences and aversions that create desire, twist our perceptions, and make people take wrong action. The solution is to practice positive actions with a selfless state of mind, so that over time you become established in a higher state of equanimity.
They discuss the question of Duty or Dharma, a cultural and individual expression of one’s highest path. Krishna says it is Arjuna’s duty to uphold his family both in this life and in the hereafter. That is why he should vanquish all desire and fight this virtuous battle.
They use several names for each other. Arjuna calls Krishna by Janardan, descendent of Vrishni (ancestral heroes). Krishna calls Arjuna scion of Bharat, meaning Shoot of India, and Best of the Bharatas or the best lineage of India.
As you hear the verses I invite you to ponder these questions. See if you can integrate the ideas from Chapter 3.
- What are the three physical levels of polarity? How does each quality express itself in your life?
- How does action with desire for a particular outcome create Karma?
- How does action without emotion or attachment to the results eliminate suffering in life?
- What are your favorite quotes from Chapter 3 to remember for life lessons?
- What parallel events in the modern world illustrate these concepts?
Now let’s hear the verses of Chapter 3.
Bhagavad Gita 3.1
Arjuna said: O Janardan, if you consider knowledge superior to action, then why do you ask me to wage this terrible war?
Bhagavad Gita 3.2
My intellect is bewildered by your ambiguous advice. Please tell me decisively the one path by which I may attain the highest good.
Bhagavad Gita 3.3
The Blessed Lord said: O sinless one, the two paths leading to enlightenment were previously explained by me: the path of knowledge, for those inclined toward contemplation, and the path of work for those inclined toward action.
Bhagavad Gita 3.4
One cannot achieve freedom from karmic reactions by merely abstaining from work, nor can one attain perfection of knowledge by mere physical renunciation.
Bhagavad Gita 3.5
There is no one who can remain without action even for a moment. Indeed, all beings are compelled to act by their qualities born of material nature (the three guṇas).
Bhagavad Gita 3.6
Those who restrain their external actions, while continuing to dwell on sense objects in the mind, certainly delude themselves and are called hypocrites.
Bhagavad Gita 3.7
But those karma yogis who control their senses with the intelligent mind, O Arjuna, and engage the senses to work without attachment, are certainly superior.
Bhagavad Gita 3.8
You should thus perform your prescribed duties, since action is superior to inaction. By ceasing activity, even your bodily maintenance would cease.
Bhagavad Gita 3.9
Work must be done as a sacrifice to the Supreme Lord. Otherwise, work causes bondage in this material world. Therefore, O son of Kunti, perform your duties, without being attached to the results, for the satisfaction of God.
Bhagavad Gita 3.10
In the beginning of creation, the great God Brahma created humankind along with their duties, and said, “Prosper in the performance of these yajñas (sacrifices), for they shall bestow upon you all you wish to achieve.”
Bhagavad Gita 3.11
By your sacrifices the celestial gods will be pleased, and by cooperation between humans and the celestial gods, prosperity will reign for all.
Bhagavad Gita 3.12
The celestial gods, being satisfied by the performance of sacrifice, will grant you all the desired necessities of life. But those who enjoy what is given to them, but fail to make offerings in return, are verily thieves.
Bhagavad Gita 3.13
The spiritually-minded, who eat food that was first offered in sacrifice, are released from all kinds of sin. Others, who cook food for their own enjoyment, verily eat only sin and misunderstanding.
Bhagavad Gita 3.14
All living beings subsist on food, and food is produced by rains. Rains come from the performance of sacrifice, and sacrifice is produced by the performance of prescribed duties. (cycle image)
Bhagavad Gita 3.15
The duties for human beings are described in the Veda scriptures, and the Vedas are created by God himself. Therefore, the all-pervading Lord is eternally present in acts of sacrifice.
Bhagavad Gita 3.16
O Parth, those who do not accept their responsibility in this cycle of sacrifice established by the Vedas are sinful. They live only for the delight of their senses. Indeed, their lives are in vain.
Bhagavad Gita 3.17
But, one who revels only in the eternal essence, and is happy and satisfied in the eternal essence, no duty exists for him.
Bhagavad Gita 3.18
Such self-realized souls have nothing to gain or lose by either carrying out or renouncing their duties. Nor do they have to depend on others to fulfill their needs.
Bhagavad Gita 3.19
Therefore, giving up attachment, perform actions as a matter of duty, for by working without being attached to the fruits, one attains the Supreme.
Bhagavad Gita 3.20
By performing their prescribed duties, King Janak and others attained perfection. You should perform your work to set an example for the good of the world.
Bhagavad Gita 3.21
Whatever actions great persons perform, common people follow. Whatever standards they set, all the world pursues.
Bhagavad Gita 3.22
There is no duty for me to engage in all the three worlds, O Parth, nor do I have anything to gain or attain. Yet, I am engaged in prescribed duties.
Bhagavad Gita 3.23
For if I did not carefully perform the prescribed duties, O Parth, all men would follow my path in all respects.
Bhagavad Gita 3.24
If I ceased to perform prescribed actions, all these worlds would perish. I would be responsible for the pandemonium that would prevail, and would thereby destroy the peace of the human race.
Bhagavad Gita 3.25
As ignorant people perform their duties with attachment to the results, O scion of Bharat, so should the wise act without attachment, for the sake of leading people on the right path.
Bhagavad Gita 3.26
The wise should not create discord in the intellects of ignorant people, who are attached to fruitive actions, by inducing them to stop work. Rather, by performing their duties in an enlightened manner, they should inspire the ignorant also to do their prescribed duties.
Bhagavad Gita 3.27
All activities are carried out by the three modes of material nature. But in ignorance, the soul, deluded by false identification with the body, thinks itself to be the doer.
Bhagavad Gita 3.28
O mighty-armed Arjun, illumined persons distinguish the soul as distinct from guṇas and karmas. Hence, they are not beguiled by appearance, and instead attribute every activity to the movements of the three guṇas, thus they do not get entangled in them.
Bhagavad Gita 3.29
Those who are deluded by the operation of the guṇas become attached to the results of their actions. But the wise who understand these truths should not unsettle such ignorant people who know very little.
Bhagavad Gita 3.30
Performing all works as an offering unto me. Constantly meditate on me as the Supreme. Throw off desire and selfishness. Now free of mental grief, fight!
Bhagavad Gita 3.31
Those who abide by these teachings of mine, with profound faith and free from petty complaints, are released from the bondage of karma.
Bhagavad Gita 3.32
But those who find faults with my teachings, being bereft of knowledge and devoid of discrimination, they disregard these principles and bring about their own ruin.
Bhagavad Gita 3.33
Even wise people act according to their natures, for all living beings are propelled by their natural tendencies. What will one gain by repression?
Bhagavad Gita 3.34
The senses naturally experience attachment or aversion to the sense objects. But do not be controlled by likes and dislikes, for they are foes that ambush the mind.
Bhagavad Gita 3.35
It is far better to perform one’s natural prescribed duty poorly, than to perform another’s prescribed duty perfectly. In fact, it is preferable to die in the discharge of one’s duty, than to follow the path of another, which is fraught with danger.
Bhagavad Gita 3.36
Arjuna asked: Why is a person impelled to commit sinful acts, even unwillingly, as if by force, O descendent of Vrishni (Krishna)?
Bhagavad Gita 3.37
The Supreme Lord said: It is desire alone, which is aroused by passion of Rajas, and later transformed into anger. Know this as the most sinful, all-devouring enemy in the world.
Bhagavad Gita 3.38
Just as a fire is covered by smoke, a mirror is masked by dust, and an embryo is concealed by the womb, similarly one’s clear knowledge is veiled by desire.
Bhagavad Gita 3.39
The mind of even the most discerning person is covered by this perpetual enemy in the form of insatiable desire, which is never satisfied and burns like fire, O son of Kunti.
Bhagavad Gita 3.40
The senses, mind, and intellect are said to be breeding grounds of desire. Through them, desire clouds one’s mind and deludes the embodied soul.
Bhagavad Gita 3.41
Therefore, O best of the Bharatas, in the very beginning bring the senses under control and slay this enemy called desire, which is the embodiment of sin, destroying mind and realization of the Supreme.
Bhagavad Gita 3.42
The senses are superior to the gross body, and the mind is superior to the senses. Beyond the mind is the intellect, and even beyond the intellect is the soul. (layer)
Bhagavad Gita 3.43
Thus, knowing the soul to be superior to the material intellect, O mighty armed Arjun, vanquish the small self (senses, mind, and intellect) by the larger Self (strength of the soul), and kill this formidable enemy called desire.