Gita: You can do your duty, but we're not promising anything,

Rohit Khare (
Mon, 05 Oct 1998 23:56:41 -0700


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

karmani--in prescribed duties; eva--certainly; adhikarah--right; te--of you;
ma--never; phalesu--in the fruits; kadacana--at any time; ma--never;
karma-phala--in the result of the work; hetuh--cause; bhuh--become;
ma--never; te--of you; sangah--attachment; astu--there should be;
akarmani--in not doing prescribed duties.

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

There are three considerations here: prescribed duties, capricious work, and
inaction. Prescribed duties are activities enjoined in terms of one's
acquired modes of material nature. Capricious work means actions without the
sanction of authority, and inaction means not performing one's prescribed
duties. The Lord advised that Arjuna not be inactive, but that he perform
his prescribed duty without being attached to the result. One who is
attached to the result of his work is also the cause of the action. Thus he
is the enjoyer or sufferer of the result of such actions.

As far as prescribed duties are concerned, they can be fitted into three
subdivisions, namely routine work, emergency work and desired activities.
Routine work performed as an obligation in terms of the scriptural
injunctions, without desire for results, is action in the mode of goodness.
Work with results becomes the cause of bondage; therefore such work is not
auspicious. Everyone has his proprietory right in regard to prescribed
duties, but should act without attachment to the result; such disinterested
obligatory duties doubtlessly lead one to the path of liberation.

Arjuna was therefore advised by the Lord to fight as a matter of duty
without attachment to the result. His nonparticipation in the battle is
another side of attachment. Such attachment never leads one to the path of
salvation. Any attachment, positive or negative, is cause for bondage.
Inaction is sinful. Therefore, fighting as a matter of duty was the only
auspicious path of salvation for Arjuna.