Here भगवान् श्री कृष्ण is showing us the (weak) connection between कर्म and ज्ञानम् (knowledge).
Arjuna’s dilemma is~ should I do घोर (cruel) कर्म? i.e. कर्म that will cause a lot of deaths.
And it is not that Arjuna was a pacifist- he was a warrior and he had definitely tasted blood and had fought many battles unafraid. But here there is a hesitation to fight in this particular war.
Challenging situations are a good test for me to see if I do what is required of the situation, or if I withdraw. One’s initial tendency is to withdraw. I do not want to deal with conflict or suffering. I am not sure if I will be able to handle the situation, or if the other will be able to handle it. The reasons for not wanting to do something may be many. As in Arjuna’s case, the कर्म to be done may be long overdue. However, still I procrastinate, I want to buy time.
And then there is confirmation bias, where one’s clever mind looks only for that information that confirms my point of view, so I can feel happy about myself.
After भगवान् श्री कृष्ण talks of the 4-fold division that He created in society for its smooth functioning, He then switches our attention to the स्वरूप of भगवान् i.e. one’s own nature, which can never be negated nor defined.
भगवान् had previously given the example of King Janaka- despite being a king, and being busy, dealing with all problems; he was a wise person.
So, भगवान् says that despite all कर्म that I have done in creating this जगत्, I have not really done this. And it is not that भगवान् is abdicating His responsibility, but rather He is shifting one’s attention to the consciousness that one is.
Given that this is the case, people who want मोक्ष, did not abandon their responsibility in the name of this exalted pursuit of वेदान्त | They did what they had to do. Because at some prior point in time, they had made choices, and so now they fulfill their responsibilities in accordance with those choices that were made.
So, भगवान् says that even मुमुक्षु-s perform कर्म, therefore Arjuna may you please perform कर्म |
Now भगवान् श्री कृष्ण asks a question to Arjuna. And then goes on to answer it.
* श्लोक १६ *
किं कर्म किमकर्मेति कवयोऽप्यत्र मोहिता: ।
तत्ते कर्म प्रवक्ष्यामि यज्ज्ञात्वा मोक्ष्यसेऽशुभात् ॥ १६॥
किं कर्म? What is कर्म?
किं अकर्म? What is अकर्म?
Even कवय: i.e. people who are very bright and intelligent.
(कवि ~ poet.)
Here कवय: refers to the one who is मेधावि i.e. the one who uses one’s memory & intelligence; the one for whom learning is there; and anger/sadness does not cloud one’s faculty of reasoning.
For instance, we are often quite good at advising others, but not so good at following our own advice.
So, कवय: i.e. even people who are very bright and intelligent, these scholars/seers,
they are मोहिता: i.e. confused,
about what is कर्म & अकर्म (actionless-ness).
Therefore, I will tell you more about what कर्म is.
यत् ज्ञात्वा ~ once you know,
मोक्ष्यसे अशुभात् ~ you will be released from that which is अशुभात् i.e. that which is inauspicious, the cycle of suffering.
N.B. – भगवान् श्री कृष्ण does not say यत् ध्यात्वा (by meditating).
भगवान् says यत् ज्ञात्वा i.e. there is an emphasis on knowledge.
So, we should understand that meditation is not the answer to all suffering.
But, by knowing more about कर्म, and all that surrounds it, one will be released from suffering.
* श्लोक १७ *
कर्मणो ह्यपि बोद्धव्यं बोद्धव्यं च विकर्मण: ।
अकर्मणश्च बोद्धव्यं गहना कर्मणो गति: ॥ १७॥
बोद्धव्यम् implies that this should be done.
The वेद, and the श्रीमद् भगवद्-गीता in particular, talks of the कर्म that is to be done.
If one is confused, or one wants to continue to be confused, then, one does not want to do कर्म |
This is because it seems like कर्म is painful and requires a lot of effort.
This becomes obvious to one, when one looks around and sees the responsibilities that I have- one only has to look at one’s relations~ family, friends, colleagues, in order to understand this.
E.g. At home, situations require some actions to be done i.e. there is some लौकिक कर्म to be done.
And then, there is also कर्म related to the पञ्चमहायज्ञा i.e. how I relate to भगवान् through यज्ञा, दानम्, तप: |
So, the कर्म that the वेद talks of is important- it is to be known.
And the कर्म that is to be avoided must be known as well.
Two things that the वेद says NOT to do are-
1. Do not eat meat.
2. Do not drink alcohol.
So, if I do not eat meat, nor drink alcohol, then I am okay with this, and agree with these values.
But, if I am a social drinker, then I am challenged by this statement of the वेद |
I make excuses for myself and say- Well I never overdo it. I never regret my behaviour after I drink. Or, other people are addicted to tea and coffee, so what’s so wrong with a couple of drinks?
Or with respect to meat, one justifies meat-eating by misusing the example given in class of भगवान् वेदव्यास’s mother being a fisherwoman, and so He definitely must have eaten fish as a kid. Or, one incorrectly references the Ramayana and points to Lord Raama eating meat, in order to justify one’s misdeed.
The वेद teaches us not to eat meat from the standpoint of अहिंसा | But no value is absolute, E.g. There are exceptional circumstances given in Ayurveda.
And why should one not drink alcohol? Because one’s बुद्धि: becomes compromised. No great nor noble acts follow the drinking of alcohol.
In this way action-consequence is pointed out by the वेद |
So, it is also important to know what is to be avoided.
An important line in this श्लोक is- गहना कर्मणो गति: |
Once one starts digging into कर्म, it is difficult to understand its flow.
For instance, why did I marry Person X? How did I land up with this person?
कर्म may explain it to a certain extent, but the more one digs into it, one finds that everyone’s कर्म is interrelated- my parents, my partner’s parents, my friends, and so many more relationships.
So many things are related, so whose कर्म is primarily responsible? It is difficult to say.
So कर्म is difficult to understand.
After all, कर्म is the grandchild of अविद्या |
One can go digging, and Astrology may be able to give a peek into the कर्म pattern in one’s life, but this is not deterministic. Astrology can give a hint to the likely patterns that will emerge according to one’s personality, but everything is not predetermined.
This is because my choices also play a role.
So, the question is, if I take to वेदान्त or spirituality, should I stop doing what I normally do & enjoy?
Because, one may have romantic ideas that one should stop doing certain things.
So, with ज्ञानम् & कर्म, there are some questions that we have.
Recognizing our dilemma, भगवान् श्री कृष्ण says this verse-
++**श्लोक १८**++ very important verse++
कर्मण्यकर्म य: पश्येदकर्मणि च कर्म य: ।
स बुद्धिमान्मनुष्येषु स युक्त: कृत्स्नकर्मकृत् ॥ १८॥
The person who is युक्त: / a योगी / together as a person,
[ युक्त:/योग: share the same युज् धातु ].
कृत्स्नकर्मकृत् ~ completely, this person can say – been there, done that.
So, this is a part of one’s journey before संन्यास i.e. all open loops are closed, there is no unfinished business; whatever one wanted to do, it is expected that one has done that before taking संन्यास |
Because prior, one thinks that all the कर्म that one does, is for the sake of one’s fulfillment.
But when one is ready for संन्यास- there are no unfulfilled desires, no more to be achieved in this world, there is no more agenda, nothing to be gained.
Why? Because the mistaken notion that कर्म will give me complete fulfillment is no longer there.
The glory of कर्म is such that I have exhausted the possibilities that कर्म will give me complete fulfillment through the different roles that I play. It is not that responsibilities end.
Ritually, responsibilities may end with संन्यास | But, with संन्यास, one recognizes that no one owes me anything, and I don’t owe anyone anything. There is no sense of entitlement.
So, what are we talking of?
That relative fulfillment that comes with bringing in कर्म योग बुद्धि: into all areas of my life, so that there are no dark corners in my life.
And what about such a person?
This person who has done everything that has to be done has a particular vision i.e. कर्मण्यकर्म य: पश्येदकर्मणि च कर्म य: ।
But first, one has to see that in all roles that I play, that I remain as a simple person.
I relate to my mother as a daughter, to my partner as a wife, to my son as a mother. I relate to my colleagues, friends, as a citizen, as a group member.
So, I-the person am playing all these different roles, and in playing these different roles, I-the person fill the role up.
As mother, daughter, professional, I-the-person fill up the role. But, I-the-person am independent of the role.
Is there a physical distance between me-the person and me as the mother?
No- where the mother/role is, the person is.
So, how can I say that the person is independent of the role?
This is because I am not in any role 365-24/7. When I go to sleep, I am no longer the mother.
When I am interacting with my work colleague, I am not playing the role of mother.
So, I play the role of mother to my children, but not to my partner nor work colleague.
I have no confusion about this, I just relate accordingly in the different relationships, according to whatever I think is the purpose of the relationship.
But no one ever thinks about the purpose of a relationship.
Everyone marries, so I marry; everyone works, so I work; everyone has children, so I have children.
So, one should be clear about the purpose of every relationship.
In general, my role is to care for and support/contribute to the happiness of the other. And this love & support manifests differently according to the role I play. E.g. my love & support for my parent versus my child would manifest differently.
And this being so, if I have a problem with my boss at work, I should recognize that this is limited to this particular relationship only.
However, if I am not in touch with I-the-person who am filling up the role, then what happens is that though the distressing event/encounter is over, and I am out of that physical space; the suffering continues, as I continue to carry the experience with me.
A problem can travel with me all over the world, for many years if left unresolved.
But, if I recognize that this experience is only limited to this particular role, then I need not bring the foul mood into other interactions. Or else everyone gets a piece of my mind, and the whole world feels gloomy to me.
So, I should understand that this was only one experience in one of my many roles, and so this event should be isolated and kept to the role in that relationship. And so, I count my blessings of the people in my life in other relationships.
So, I recognize that I am that simple person, independent of all these roles.
The roles depend on me, but I do not depend on the role; though there may be emotional fulfillment from a role.
One should appreciate that the simple role-less neglected person fills up all roles.
If not for this person, there would be no role whatsoever.
A lot of one’s suffering is because I have confused the role to be me.
E.g. A mother describes all the wonderful meals that she prepares for each member of the family according to their preference. But, when asked- what do you like, she is at a loss for words.
So, one is so engrossed/identified with the provider/mother role, that mistakenly one may think that if that role is not there, then I am not there. I am decimated if the role is not there. I do not know who I am without the role.
And often my greatest sadness is because I have confused the role to be me.
I think that one specific role is me.
E.g. I think that I am only the work-professional, or only the partner, or only the parent.
And I move between one of these 3 roles.
And then thinking myself to be the role, there will be burn-out; and then I find myself wanting to be away from all these roles.
So, I should recognize that I am free from all roles; that the roles depend on me. The roles cannot exist without me. I fill up the roles, but I am independent of the roles.
I choose to play the roles. The roles are important to me, but they do not define me. The roles are not my defining reality.
It will take time for this understanding (that I am not the role) to sink in, because my greatest happiness & fulfillment comes from my roles.
And it is not that we are denying one’s roles. One can enjoy one’s roles. But one should also see this reality~ that I-the-person am free from all roles.
I can pick up the role, and I can drop it.
And this unnoticeably happens effortlessly for us-
E.g. If I go to a party, I interact with 4-5 different people, and I relate to each person differently. There is no confusion. I can relate to person A, and then temporarily suspend that role when I speak to person B.
The same happens when I am speaking to my partner, whilst also trying to address my son.
I pick up and drop roles effortlessly within fractions of a second.
So, in this seemingly innocuous action is a moment of great wisdom as it shows that I can relate to person A, and I do not decimate my role with person A when I relate to person B. But in my vision I have temporarily suspended my role with person A, as I relate to person B. There is no confusion. I can pick up & drop roles seamlessly.
This reveals that I am more than the role.
It is not that I am not the role. I fill up the role.
And there is no perfect role~ no perfect partner relationship, no perfect parent-child relationship, no perfect गुरु-शिष्य relationship.
If it is good enough~ okay. I enjoy and am contented with what is there.