BhagavadGita: Week 5 — Reflections

Sriram Subramanian
Feb 10 · 2 min read
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Last week, we discussed the most quoted and probably the most important verse of the BhagavadGita (2.47), along with few more.

Verses Discussed

Chapter 3, 1–3

arjuna uvaca
jyayasi cet karmanas te
mata buddhir janardana
tat kim karmani ghore mam
niyojayasi kesava

vyamisreneva vakyena
buddhim mohayasiva me
tad ekam vada niscitya
yena sreyo ‘ham apnuyam

sri-bhagavan uvaca
loke ‘smin dvi-vidha nistha
pura prokta mayanagha
jnana-yogena sankhyanam
karma-yogena yoginam

Chapter 2, 47

karmany evadhikaras te
ma phalesu kadacana
ma karma-phala-hetur bhur
ma te sango ‘stv akarmani

Knowledge or Action?

Arjuna appears to be lost between the path of knowledge and the path of action. Lord Krishna talks a lot about what knowledge is, how only consciousness is real, and attributes of the realized. This confuses Arjuna further, and he is now conflicted between the reality of Oneness, and the immediacy of action at hand — gruesome war.

I can relate to his state: often this question pops up — how does the day to day life matter when the reality is something else? I am beginning to realize this is a hypothetical question and can only be meaningfully raised after having realized the Oneness. Until then, it is just an academic exercise; at times even an excuse for inaction. Just like what Arjuna appears to be making.

Adhikara

Verse 2.47 roughly translates to

“You have a right to perform your prescribed duty, but you are not entitled to the fruits of action. Never consider yourself to be the cause of the results of your activities, and never be attached to not doing your duty.”

The word ‘right’ doesn’t appear to capture the sense of Sanskrit word — Adhikara and has resulted in anti-socialist interpretations of this verse (and BhagavadGita in general). Does one not have the right to the results of one’s actions? Or one should not seek the fruits of one’s actions?

What does it mean?

I interpret ‘adhikara’ as ‘sphere of concern’. I can influence my actions — say I study, practice, and perform well for an exam. But my sphere of concern doesn’t include the results of the action — good grades or not. If I worry about the results of the exam, I may become anxious, which in turn might affect my performance.

One of the colleagues brought up the example of NFL players. They practice hard and give their best to win the game. If they lose, they shake it off and get ready for the next game. This exemplifies this verse succinctly.

Next

How practical is it to be concerned only about the actions and not the results? Is that event possible?

Sriram Subramanian

a fellow Student of Yoga

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