BG Ch 3 – Karma Yoga (21 – 31)

Everyone must engage in some sort of activity in this material world. But actions can either bind one to this world or liberate one from it. By acting for the pleasure of the Supreme, without selfish motives, one can be liberated from the law of karma (action and reaction) and attain transcendental knowledge of the self and the Supreme.

Radhika Raman Das
By Radhika Raman Das 2.9k Views Add a Comment 26 Min Read

TEXT 21

yad yad ācarati śreṣṭhas
tat tad evetaro janaḥ
sa yat pramāṇaṁ kurute
lokas tad anuvartate

SYNONYMS
yat yat—whatever; ācarati—he does; śreṣṭhaḥ—a respectable leader; tat—that; tat—and that alone; eva—certainly; itaraḥ—common; janaḥ—person; saḥ—he; yat—whichever; pramāṇam—example; kurute—does perform; lokaḥ—all the world; tat—that; anuvartate—follows in the footsteps.

TRANSLATION
Whatever action a great man performs, common men follow. And whatever standards he sets by exemplary acts, all the world pursues.

PURPORT
People in general always require a leader who can teach the public by practical behavior. A leader cannot teach the public to stop smoking if he himself smokes. Lord Caitanya said that a teacher should behave properly before he begins teaching. One who teaches in that way is called ācārya, or the ideal teacher. Therefore, a teacher must follow the principles of śāstra (scripture) to teach the common man. The teacher cannot manufacture rules against the principles of revealed scriptures. The revealed scriptures, like Manu-saṁhitā and similar others, are considered the standard books to be followed by human society. Thus the leader’s teaching should be based on the principles of such standard śāstras. One who desires to improve himself must follow the standard rules as they are practiced by the great teachers. The Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam also affirms that one should follow in the footsteps of great devotees, and that is the way of progress on the path of spiritual realization. The king or the executive head of a state, the father and the schoolteacher are all considered to be natural leaders of the innocent people in general. All such natural leaders have a great responsibility to their dependents; therefore they must be conversant with standard books of moral and spiritual codes.

TEXT 22

na me pārthāsti kartavyaṁ
triṣu lokeṣu kiñcana
nānavāptam avāptavyaṁ
varta eva ca karmaṇi

SYNONYMS
na—not; me—Mine; pārtha—O son of Pṛthā; asti—there is; kartavyam—prescribed duty; triṣu—in the three; lokeṣu—planetary systems; kiñcana—any; na—nothing; anavāptam—wanted; avāptavyam—to be gained; varte—I am engaged; eva—certainly; ca—also; karmaṇi—in prescribed duty.

TRANSLATION
O son of Pṛthā, there is no work prescribed for Me within all the three planetary systems. Nor am I in want of anything, nor have I a need to obtain anything—and yet I am engaged in prescribed duties.

PURPORT
The Supreme Personality of Godhead is described in the Vedic literatures as follows:

tam īśvarāṇāṁ paramaṁ maheśvaraṁ
taṁ devatānāṁ paramaṁ ca daivatam
patiṁ patīnāṁ paramaṁ parastād
vidāma devaṁ bhuvaneśam īḍyam

na tasya kāryaṁ karaṇaṁ ca vidyate
na tat-samaś cābhyadhikaś ca dṛśyate
parāsya śaktir vividhaiva śrūyate
svābhāvikī jñāna-bala-kriyā ca

“The Supreme Lord is the controller of all other controllers, and He is the greatest of all the diverse planetary leaders. Everyone is under His control. All entities are delegated with particular power only by the Supreme Lord; they are not supreme themselves. He is also worshipable by all demigods and is the supreme director of all directors. Therefore, He is transcendental to all kinds of material leaders and controllers and is worshipable by all. There is no one greater than Him, and He is the supreme cause of all causes.

“He does not possess a bodily form like that of an ordinary living entity. There is no difference between His body and His soul. He is absolute. All His senses are transcendental. Any one of His senses can perform the action of any other sense. Therefore, no one is greater than Him or equal to Him. His potencies are multifarious, and thus His deeds are automatically performed as a natural sequence.” (Śvetāśvatara Upaniṣad 6.7-8)

Since everything is in full opulence in the Personality of Godhead and is existing in full truth, there is no duty for the Supreme Personality of Godhead to perform. One who must receive the results of work has some designated duty, but one who has nothing to achieve within the three planetary systems certainly has no duty. And yet Lord Kṛṣṇa is engaged on the Battlefield of Kurukṣetra as the leader of the kṣatriyas because the kṣatriyas are duty-bound to give protection to the distressed. Although He is above all the regulations of the revealed scriptures, He does not do anything that violates the revealed scriptures.

TEXT 23

yadi hy ahaṁ na varteyaṁ
jātu karmaṇy atandritaḥ
mama vartmānuvartante
manuṣyāḥ pārtha sarvaśaḥ

SYNONYMS
yadi—if; hi—certainly; aham—I; na—do not; varteyam—thus engage; jātu—ever; karmaṇi—in the performance of prescribed duties; atandritaḥ—with great care; mama—My; vartma—path; anuvartante—would follow; manuṣyāḥ—all men; pārtha—O son of Pṛthā; sarvaśaḥ—in all respects.

TRANSLATION
For if I ever failed to engage in carefully performing prescribed duties, O Pārtha, certainly all men would follow My path.

PURPORT
In order to keep the balance of social tranquillity for progress in spiritual life, there are traditional family usages meant for every civilized man. Although such rules and regulations are for the conditioned souls and not Lord Kṛṣṇa, because He descended to establish the principles of religion He followed the prescribed rules. Otherwise, common men would follow in His footsteps, because He is the greatest authority. From the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam it is understood that Lord Kṛṣṇa was performing all the religious duties at home and out of home, as required of a householder.

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Raman (Radhika Raman Das) joined ISKCON in 2003 and got initiated by HH Bhakti Caitanya Swami Maharaj in 2011. As the Editor in Chief at "The Vaisnava - Online Magazine", he helps readers around the world hone in their Spiritual Curiosity, express their unique realizations as aspiring Vaisnava writers and enthusiasts, as well as to spread the digital seed of Srila Prabhupada's mission to spread Krishna Consciousness all around the globe.
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