The Despair of Arjuna


1.1
King Dhritarashtra said:
Tell me, O Sanjaya, what happened when the sons of my people and the sons of Pandu assembled on Kurukshetra, the holy field of righteousness, arrayed for battle?

1.2
Sanjaya the Poet said:
Upon looking out upon the army of the Pandavas
in attack formation, Prince Duryodhana addressed his great spiritual teacher, Drona, and spoke these words:

1.3
“Behold, O Revered Teacher, this powerful army of the Pandavas, expertly arrayed for battle by your gifted disciple, the son of King Drupada.

1.4
Among them are great archers, equal in prowess to their leaders, Bhima and Arjuna, and great fighters like Yuyudhana, Virata and Drupada.

1.5
In their army are famous heroes like Dhrishtaketu, Purujit, Kuntibhoj, Shaibya, and Chekitan, the gallant king of Kashi — all of them the best among men.

1.6
Among their ranks are the courageous Yuyudhamanyu, the gallant Uttamauja son of Subhadra, and the sons
of Draupadi — all great warrior chiefs, and expert charioteers.

1.7
Now hear also, O Noblest Among the Reborn, the names of the distinguished captains who lead my army, so that you may locate them during battle
and remember them after the war.

1.8
First of all there is you, great teacher, then Bhishma, Karna, Kripa, Ashwaththama, Vikarna, and the son of Somadhatta — all of whom are ever victorious in battle.

1.9
And thousands of other heroic soldiers, equipped with many weapons and skilled in the art of war, who are prepared to lay down their lives for my sake.

1.10
Yet our forces, commanded by Bhishma, seem the weaker, while their forces, commanded by Bhima, seem stronger.

1.11
Therefore, I call upon you, my captains, and all those you command, to defend and protect general Bhishma, even as you perform your other battle assignments.”

1.12
Hearing this, the valiant Bhishma, great grandsire of the Kuru dynasty, grandfather of the soldiers arrayed before him, roared like a lion to give joy and confidence to Prince 
Duryodhana, then blew his conch shell with great power.

1.13
Immediately thereafter, the army’s entire array of conchs, horns, bugles, and kettledrums erupted with tumultuous, deafening intensity.

1.14
Then from the other side, amidst the Pandava army, standing in a glorious chariot drawn by white stallions, Lord Krishna and Arjuna blew their conch shells, and their sound echoed with the transcendent timbre of the Divine.

1.15
Lord Krishna blew his conch shell called “Panchajanya.” Arjuna blew his conch shell called “Devadatta,” and Bhima, the voracious eater
and performer of herculean deeds, blew his conch shell called “Paundra.”

1.16
King Yudhisthira, son of Kunte, blew his conch shell Anantavijaya, and Nakula and Sahadeva blew their shells Sughosa and Manipuspaka.

1.17 / 1.18
And the king of Kashi, a great archer, and Shikhandi, a great soldier, and Dhrishtayumna, and Virata,
and Satyaki the Invincible, and Drupad,
and the five sons of Draupadi, and the mighty-armed Abhimanyu, son of Subhadra, all blew their conch shells, O Ruler of the Earth.

1.19
And the thunderous sound of these powerful conchs echoed across the earth and sky
and weakened the hearts of your sons, O Dhritarashtra.

1.20
Then, O Lord of the Earth, seeing Dhritarashtra’s army at the ready and the arrows about to fly, Arjuna, son of Pandu, whose chariot flew the flag of
Hanuman the Monkey God, took up his bow and addressed his charioteer, Lord Krishna.

1.21 / 1.22
“O Infallible One, draw up our chariot between these two great armies so that I can see both those who fight with me, and those who fight against me
in this great trial of combat.

1.23
Let me see those who have come to fight for the sinful son of Dhritarashtra so that they might please him.”

1.24
Sanjaya said:
Then, O Dhritarashtra, upon hearing Arjuna’s request, Lord Krishna drove their luminous chariot
to the exact middle of the battlefield.

1.25
There he pointed to Bhishma, Drona and all
the other kings and princes and said: “Behold, Arjuna, the Kuru dynasty has gathered.”

1.26
As Arjuna looked out upon the armies, he saw his father, grandfathers, teachers, uncles, brothers, cousins, sons, nephews, grand-nephews, father-in-law, and friends
and well-wishers on both sides.

1.27
And seeing all his relatives arrayed for battle against each other, Arjuna was overwhelmed with sadness and compassion.

1.28 / 1.29
He turned to Lord Krishna in despair, saying, “O Lord, as I gaze upon all my kinsmen assembled here, so eager to do battle with each other, my limbs quiver and my mouth has dried up. My whole body trembles and the hairs on my neck stand on end.

1.30
Gandiva, my bow, slips from my hand, and my skin burns all over. My mind is reeling, and my knees will not hold me up.

1.31
I see only bad omens, O Krishna. What good can come of killing my kinsmen?

1.32 / 1.33

I do not desire victory, kingdom, nor any pleasures that may come with it. What good is kingdom, pleasure, or even life itself, when the very ones with whom we desire to experience these things stand against us ready to kill or be killed?

1.34
Teachers, fathers, sons, grandfathers, fathers-in-law, uncles, grandsons, brothers-in-law, and many other relatives are gathered for battle against us, prepared to lose their wealth and lives.

1.35
I do not want to kill them, even if it means I will
be killed. I do not want to kill them even for the three worlds, let alone for any earthly powers or pleasures.

1.36
What pleasure can there be in killing the sons
of Dhritarashtra? By slaying these desperate men we only create sin for ourselves.

1.37
Are we not more noble than to kill our kinsmen? How can killing our own bring happiness?

1.38 / 1.39
Even though the sons of Dhritarashtra, their minds poisoned with greed, see no sin in killing family, should not we who see the wrong in this
refrain from taking part?

1.40
When a dynasty is vanquished, the traditions
of its lineage, both ancestral and spiritual, are lost. The entire family descends into disorder and impiety.

1.41
When virtue is lost, the women of the family become unchaste, resulting in unwanted children and intermingling of casts.

1.42
An increase in unwanted children leads to a hellish life for the family, and for the destroyers of the family
as well. The souls of the ancestors of these families
also languish, being now deprived of ceremonial offerings of rice and water.

1.43
By the misdeeds of those who destroy families
and cause the mixing of blood, the virtue of the family and the dharma of the entire community is devastated.

1.44
O Krishna, is it not said by the wise that those who destroy the spiritual traditions of families shall
live in hell for an indefinite period of time?

1.45
Alas, how strange that, knowing all this, we are still prepared to commit such great sin. Driven by the desire for royal pleasures, we stand ready to slay our kinsmen.

1.46
Much better for my eternal welfare if I be killed, unarmed and unresisting, by the weapons
of the sons of Dhritarashtra.”

1.47
Sanjaya said:
Having thus spoken these words in the middle of the battlefield, Arjuna dropped his bow and sank down on the seat of his chariot, his mind in despair.

The Yoga of Action


2.1
Sanjaya said:
Seeing Arjuna thus overwhelmed with grief, his eyes full of tears and his mind stricken with confusion, the Charioteer spoke to him.

2.2
Lord Krishna said:
Dear Arjuna, from where do these impurities of mind arise at such a critical juncture? Such despondency is unworthy of an Aryan who claims to know the higher values of life. It does not lead to greater realms, but to infamy and disgrace.

2.3
Do not indulge in unmanly impotence. It does not befit you. Confront the cowardice in your heart and stand up! You are the terror of your enemies! Act as such!

2.4
Arjuna said, “O Krishna, how can I shoot arrows into Bhishma and Drona, men who are worthy
of my worship?

2.5
Better to live in this world as a beggar than to enjoy royal life by killing these noble teachers. Though they yet lust after worldly things, they are my superiors. If I kill them, all future pleasures will be tainted with their blood.

2.6
I do not even know which outcome is better — to conquer them or be conquered by them. If I kill the sons of Dhritarashtra I would not wish to live, yet it is they who stand facing me, eager for battle.

2.7
My mind is conflicted about duty, and weakness
has claimed my composure. In this miserable condition I beg you, O Lord, please tell me for certain
what is best for my spirit. I am your disciple
and I am surrendered to you. Please instruct me.

2.8
For even if I should attain an unrivaled kingdom on earth, or more so, become a sovereign divinity in heaven, it would not dispel the sorrow
that now paralyzes my senses.”

2.9
Sanjaya said:
Having spoke thus to Krishna, Lord of the Senses, Arjuna, conqueror of sleep and destroyer of foes, said, “I shall not fight,” then fell silent.

2.10
O Dhritarashtra, it was then that Lord Krishna, with a gentle smile, spoke these words to
the despondent Arjuna as they stood poised between two armies of kinsmen.

2.11
Lord Krishna said:
You speak learned words, Arjuna, but you grieve for that which warrants no grief. The wise grieve neither for the living nor the dead.

2.12
There is no past in which I did not exist — nor you, nor any of these soldiers and kings — and there is no future in which we will cease to be.

2.13
Just as the Soul experiences infancy, youth, and old age in one body, so does it pass into another body when one dies. One who realizes he is the Soul, not the body, is undaunted by this.

2.14
Experiences of pain and happiness, hot and cold, are fleeting. They come and go like winter and summer. Accept them with courage, Son of Kunte, knowing they shall pass.

2.15
O Noblest of Men, that hero who remains steadfast and undisturbed by both joy and sorrow, he is one who can realize Liberation.

2.16
That which is unreal is ever changing
and does not endure. That which is real
neither changes nor ever is not. To those who perceive Truth, this is self-evident.

2.17
That which pervades All is indestructible. Nothing can destroy That Which Is.

2.18
It is the physical body only that perishes, not the eternal Soul that is You. Therefore, fight!

2.19
That which you truly are neither kills nor can it be killed. To believe otherwise is ignorance.

2.20
That which you truly are was never born, nor can it ever not be. You are eternal, immortal, primeval, everlasting. When the body dies, You are untouched, unmoved, unconcerned. 

2.21
How can one who knows the Soul to be imperishable, eternal, immutable, unborn, believe that man has the power to kill
or cause others to kill?

2.22 
Just as a person discards old clothes and puts on new clothes, so does the Soul-Self leave
spent bodies and enter fresh ones.

2.23
The Self cannot be pierced by weapons, burnt by fire, made wet by water, nor dried out by wind.

2.24
Self is unbreakable, incombustible, insoluble, all-pervading, timeless, ancient, immovable, eternal.

2.25
Self is unmanifest, unchanging, formless, imperishable. Knowing this about Self, why grieve for the body?

2.26
Even if you believe that Supreme Self is subject to birth and death, still there is no reason to grieve.

2.27
That which is born is certain to die, and that which has died will manifest as new life. Why lament the inevitable?

2.28
All beings arise from the unmanifested void, and for a short time they appear
as manifested forms. Then they die
and become again unmanifested. Where in this cycle is cause for grief?

2.29
Upon being instructed about Self, one person in three will be amazed, one will pretend to understand, and one will not even comprehend the teacher’s words. Rare is the one who has realized Self in his body. He knows It cannot be known.

2.30
The Soul that indwells all bodies is eternally indestructible. There is no reason to grieve the death of any earthly creature.

2.31
Besides, you are a warrior. It is your dharma. There is no higher calling for warriors
than to fight a righteous war. To waver
in the face of duty is unworthy, Arjuna.

2.32
Blessed are the warriors who are given such an opportunity! It is an open invitation to heaven!

2.33
If you refuse to fight, if you disregard your dharma and abandon your duty, you will bring upon yourself dishonor and great sin. You will be
called a traitor,you’re your reputation as a warrior will dissolve into infamy.

2.34
Your people will tell stories to generations of children about the cowardice and disgrace of Arjuna. And to the once-honored, dishonor is worse than death.

2.35
The great generals who now hold you in such high esteem, will think you deserted the battle in fear, and will lose all respect and regard for you.

2.36
Your enemies will scorn your abilities, mock your cowardice, and in every way defame you. To a warrior, what could be worse than that?

2.37
If you are killed in this battle you will enter the kingdom of heaven. If you are victorious, you will enjoy a kingdom on earth. Arise and fight, Son of Kunte! You cannot lose!

2.38
Fight for the pure sake of fighting, without any regard for right or wrong, good or bad, loss or gain, victory or defeat. Do this and you will incur no sin!

2.39
Up until now I have been speaking to you with the yoga of knowledge. Listen then as I describe the yoga of action, through which you can break the bondage of action, and transcend karma.

2.40
On this path, effort is never wasted, lost or diminished, and adverse results are not possible. Even very little practice of this yoga releases
the hold of fear and protects you from danger.

2.41
Those who walk this path are one-pointed in focus and resolute in purpose. The minds of the masses are irresolute, and stray onto many forking paths.

2.42
Men of small minds and superficial knowledge delight in using oratory to revere the scriptures, saying, “There is nothing higher than this!”

2.43
Guided by their own selfish desires, they glorify the portions of the scriptures that please them
and construct their own heaven, then perform pompous rituals for attaining wealth, power, sensual pleasure, and elevation to heavenly realms. For such as these, rebirth is the only remedy.

2.44 
With their minds ever bewildered by desire for pleasure and power, they have no capacity for the one-pointed determination necessary for Samadhi.

2.45
The Vedic scriptures deal mainly with the three forces of the material world. Go beyond these three gunas. Transcend the duality of opposites. Become free of fear, established in Truth and centered in Self.

2.46
A skilled theologian can twist any scripture to serve his narrow purpose. To one who has realized Brahman, the scriptures are like a pond in a flood.

2.47
You have the duty to work, Arjuna, but not the claim to any fruits that may result. Understand that your actions do not cause the results, but do not let this lead to inaction.

2.48
Perform your duties with grace and equanimity, without any attachment to success or aversion to failure. Such equipoise is the yoga of action.

2.49
Action performed with attachment is far inferior to action performed with equanimity of mind. Only petty misers work for reward.

2.50
One who routinely practices the yoga of work without attachment frees himself from karmic consequences in this life. Dedicate yourself
to yoga, Arjuna. Yoga is the art of action!

2.51
Sages who engage in this practice, who release attachment to the fruits of action, become liberated from the cycle of birth and death, and transcend the bonds of illusion.

2.52
When consciousness becomes un-entangled from illusion, you become indifferent to all
the philosophies you’ve heard, and un-curious about those you have not heard.

2.53
When consciousness, un-bewildered by scriptures, stands still in tune with the Infinite,
this is Samadhi.

2.54
Arjuna said, “O Lord, how do we recognize a sage in this state? How does he look? How does he act? How does he sit and walk?”

2.55
Lord Krishna said:
When a man has surrendered all the desires of his heart and is established in Self alone, he is in the highest state.

2.56
One who is undisturbed by adversity, indifferent to happiness, unattached to outcomes, free of fear and anger — such a one is a sage of stable vision.

2.57
He who is not attached to any person or place, who is not delighted by good fortune nor dejected by tribulation, who does not praise good nor despise evil, he is surely immersed in the Infinite.

2.58
The sage who can withdraw his senses from the world of sense-objects as a tortoise withdraws his limbs into his shell, is surely deeply rooted in consciousness.

2.59
Sense-objects may fall away from the life of one who practices restraint and abstinence, but the taste for them remains until Truth is realized.

2.60
Indeed, Arjuna, the senses are so strong
and impetuous they will forcibly carry away
the mind of even the most dedicated practitioner of discrimination and restraint.

2.61
Yet one who is steadfast in practice, who takes control of his senses and meditates on Me,
the Supreme — such a one shall come to realize the perfect state.

2.62
He who does not control his senses develops attachments to sense-objects. Attachment causes desire, and unfulfilled desire causes anger.

2.63
Anger distorts perception. False perception feeds delusion. Delusion causes loss
of discernment and confusion of memory. When reason and intelligence flounder, one becomes lost again in the material quagmire, and falls inevitably into ruin.

2.64
But one who is self-controlled — who can move among sense-objects without attachment
or aversion — is freed from anger and desire, and walks in divine tranquility.

2.65
For one who lives in divine consciousness, the threefold miseries of material existence no longer hold sway. In this happy state, true Intelligence is firmly established.

2.66
One who has not realized the divine Self has no connection to Intelligence. Peace and happiness are not possible.

2.67
For one whose thoughts follow in the wake of his senses, the mind is carried off
like a rudderless boat in high wind.

2.68
Therefore, one whose senses have no attachment whatever to sense-objects, is surely
a sage who sees clearly.

2.69
What others call the light, he sees to be dark ignorance. In the darkness others fear, he awakens to the Light.

2.70
Rivers flow endlessly into oceans, but the ocean, always full, barely notices. Desires, like rivers, flow endlessly into consciousness, but for one who pays them no mind, peace is undisturbed.

2.71
Truly, he who moves through the world without desire or ambition, who is free of pride and claims nothing as his own, he alone will find peace.

2.72
This is Self-Realization. One who realizes Truth never again falls into delusion. Even if Realization occurs at the last moment of life, that soul is taken into the arms of God.

The Act of Sacrifice


3.1
Arjuna said, “O Lord, you say that wisdom
and restraint are superior to blind action, yet you encourage me to engage in terrible acts of war.

3.2
I am confused by your conflicting statements. Please tell me clearly what is best for my spiritual welfare.”

3.3
Lord Krishna said:
O Innocent One, there are indeed two paths
to enlightenment — the path of knowledge, for those inclined to solitude and meditation, and the path
of action for those who move about in the world.

3.4
One does not become free of karma
by refusing to act. Neither does renouncing activity alone lead to Samadhi.

3.5
Indeed, it is not possible for anyone to be truly inactive even for a moment. The three gunas, and the qualities of one’s nature, compel a person helplessly to action whether he intends it or not.

3.6
One who remains motionless, refusing to act while still desiring sense-objects, is a hypocrite, a self-deluded pretender.

3.7
The earnest yogi, whose mind controls his senses, who dedicates his capacity for action to selfless service and sincere devotion, is far superior.

3.8
Perform your duty and excel at your prescribed work. Action is necessary,
and superior to inaction. You cannot even maintain your physical body without work.

3.9
Yet know that work binds one to the material world unless performed as a sacrifice. Whatever work you do, do it for God,
and you will not be bound to the world.

3.10
In the beginning, the Lord of Creation brought forth generations of men and demigods,
and bestowed upon men the capacity for sacrifice. And he said to them, “Be thankful for your ability to make sacrifices. Through sacrifice you shall prosper and attain all that you desire.

3.11
“The demigods, being nourished by your sacrifices, will nourish you in return. When gods and men cooperate, prosperity reigns for all.”

3.12
Indeed, the gods of the natural world are
the keepers of all luxuries and necessities of life. 
These they freely give to those who offer
their works to them as sacrifice. Men who work only for themselves and accept the gifts of the gods without sacrifice are nothing but thieves.

3.13
The practitioner who consumes what food remains after offering it in sacrifice, gathers no karma. But he who prepares food for himself alone
and consumes it for his own sense pleasure, eats only sin.

3.14
All beings need food to live. Food comes from rain. Rain comes through sacrifice. Sacrifice is the selfless performance of duty.

3.15
Know that all action arises from
the God of Creation, who in turn arises from the Supreme Self. Therefore all acts of sacrifice are performed by God in service of Self, which are not two.

3.16
He who does not pass on what he is given through the revolving wheel of sacrifice — who gathers only unto himself the pleasures of the world — truly lives in vain.

3.17
Yet for one who has realized Self, who abides illumined in Self, who is content in Self alone,
for him there are no duties or sacrifices.

3.18
One who has realized Self has nothing to gain or lose by doing or not-doing. He has no obligations or purpose, and depends on no one.

3.19
Therefore, do what needs to be done without regard for reward. Make offerings without expectation of blessings. The Supreme Self will make itself known.

3.20
King Janaka lived a life of action and duty,
and he became enlightened. Many spiritual aspirants have profited by his example. Therefore, even if only for the benefit of others, do your duty and act!

3.21
For whatever a great man does, others will emulate. The path his actions prescribe, others will walk.

3.22
O Arjuna, in all the Universe there is nothing I want, nothing I have to gain by any action. There are no obligations before me, no greater purpose beckoning, no reason even to move. Still, I do my work.

3.23
For if did not, others would point to my example and feel justified in not doing their work.

3.24
If I did not, the three worlds would fall into chaos and disorder. The population would swell with unrighteous beings and societies would crumble. Peace would be destroyed.

3.25
The ignorant perform their actions with attachment to results and hope for personal reward. The sage acts selflessly, hoping only
that others might somehow benefit. His example lights the path of righteousness.

3.26
The sage does not to disturb the sleeping minds of those attached to the rewards of their actions. Rather, he merely performs his own actions with unattached equanimity, and lets them draw what conclusions they will.

3.27
The sage knows that it is the forces of nature, the three gunas, that cause all action, and that it is only the bewildered mind of man that thinks, “I am doing this!”

3.28
The sage sees that these three forces both stimulate the senses and activate the sensory world, thus he avoids entanglement.

3.29
The sage sees that the ignorant masses
are transfixed by the interplay of these forces, and compelled by desire for reward, but he does not interfere.

3.30
Fix your mind on the Supreme, Arjuna, and surrender your actions to Me. Without attachment or expectation, without ownership or self-interest, without desire or fear, fight!

3.31
Those who earnestly follow My teachings with faith and surrender, become liberated from the bondage of karma.

3.32
But those who hear these teachings I speak, yet ridicule and decry them
and do not put them into practice — who choose instead delusion and bondage — such as these bring about their own ruin.

3.33
Everyone acts in accordance with his own nature, even a man of knowledge. There is no point trying to change this.

3.34
The senses dictate whether one is attracted to, or repulsed by, a sense object. Do not let this control you. The senses are an obstacle to Self-Realization.

3.35
It is far better to perform your own duties, though they seem modest, than to covet another’s duties that seem grand. Better to die
performing that which is given to you. It is dangerous to live another’s life.

3.36
Arjuna said, “O Krishna, what compels a man to sin against his own will, as if under the control of some unseen force?”

3.37
Lord Krishna said:
That force is desire, Arjuna, which gives rise to aversion, envy, anger and lust. Desire is man’s greatest enemy.

3.38
As a flame is enveloped by smoke, as a mirror is obscured by dust, as an embryo is wrapped by the womb, so is the mind of man enshrouded by desire.

3.39
All of consciousness is infused with this enemy, which countermands reason and burns like fire.

3.40
Its seats of power are the senses, mind, and ego, through which it veils timeless wisdom, creates its own illusion, and bewilders the soul.

3.41
Therefore, before all else, control the senses and slay the enemy of desire — which destroys equanimity and prevents Self-Realization.

3.42
Superior to the body are senses. Superior to the senses is mind. Superior to mind is Intelligence. Superior to Intelligence is Self.

3.43 
Knowing Oneself to be superior to intelligence, mind, body and senses, use your spiritual power to subdue this enemy called desire.

The Realization of Truth


4.1
Lord Krishna said:
I taught this science of yoga to the sun god Vivasvan, who then taught it to Manu, the father of mankind, who in turn taught it to King Ikshvaku.

4.2
Thus the divine science was handed down to successions of royal sages, who knew the truth of it, for it had become their tradition. But over the long passage of time, this tradition was lost to the world.

4.3
It is this same yoga that I impart to you today, Arjuna, because you have declared yourself to be my disciple as well as my friend,
and I believe that you will understand this transcendental science — the supreme secret.

4.4
Arjuna said, “You were born long after Vivasvan’s death. How could you have instructed him
in this science?”

4.5
Lord Krishna said:
I have lived many lives, Arjuna. So have you. I am aware of all of mine, but you remember none of yours.

4.6
I am the unborn Lord of All That Is, and That Which I Am never perishes.
Yet I choose to appear mortal from time to time, and self-manifest into a world of my own creation.

4.7
Whenever and wherever spirituality decays and materialism reigns, I Will myself into form.

4.8
To protect the righteous, destroy the wicked, and reestablish the principles of divine science, I incarnate in every age.

4.9
Those who grasp the secret of my transcendental nature and manifest appearances, need never take another birth, but will become as Me.

4.10
Freeing themselves of desire, fear and anger, taking refuge in Me, being fully absorbed in Me, many souls have become as I Am.

4.11
In whatever way men seek me, I will meet them there. Any path they take in worship,
is My path back to them.
Whatever road they travel, leads to Me at last.

4.12
Those desiring worldly success through their actions do well to make sacrifices to the demigods and align with the forces of nature. In this way, material rewards manifest quickly.

4.13
In accordance with the three gunas of nature
and the karma of birth, I have described the four categories of worldly activity — spiritual teacher, soldier, merchant, and servant.
Though I am the author of these divisions,
I myself do nothing and am eternally changeless.

4.14
My actions happen without doing
and I am untouched by them. I desire nothing and am unattached to outcomes. One who divines the Truth of Me, does not become entangled in the web of action and reward.

4.15
In ancient times, seekers of salvation understood this, and following my example realized Liberation. Therefore, perform your actions with the same knowledge as the ancient sages.

4.16
What is action and what is non-action? Even the wise are unsure. But I will now explain it to you, and understanding the nature of action and non-action, you can
free yourself from the evil of bondage.

4.17
Indeed, the law of action is mysterious. You must understand first that there are three kinds of action: right action, vain action, and the action of non-action. Though he engages in activities, he is not involved. 

4.18
One who sees the action in non-action, and the not-doing of action, is among the wisest of men.

4.19
One whose every undertaking is free of the desire for reward, whose actions are purified
by the fire of wisdom, is rightly called a sage.

4.20
Having relinquished desire for the fruits of action, the sage depends on nothing and is always content. Though he may be engaged in great activity, he does not do a thing.

4.21
Acting without desire or expectation, claiming no possessions, the sage enjoys the necessities of life without incurring sin.

4.22
Exerting no effort, the sage is content
with whatever comes or does not come to him
of its own. He does not covet what others have
or envy their achievements. He is equally unmoved by success and failure, and in every way is free of the delusion of opposites. Though he performs actions, he claims no ownership of the results.

4.23
One who is unattached to outcomes moves freely about the world, his mind transcendent
and at peace. Performing his work as an
offering only, his actions leave no trace.

4.24
The act of sacrifice is God. The sacrificial offering is God. The sacrificial fire is God.
The one who makes the sacrifice is God. He who sees everything is God, cannot miss Him.

4.25
Some yogis offer sacrifices to the demigods, seeking their blessings. Others, in perfect worship, offer themselves to the fire of Truth.

4.26
Some offer the enjoyment of sense-objects, such as music and sound, to the sacrificial fire of restraint. Others offer the senses themselves, such as hearing, to the fire.

4.27
Those who are interested in Self-Realization, offer not only the senses, but the mind
and the breath of life to the fire.

4.28
Sacrifice for some means surrendering
wealth and possessions. For others it means performing austerities or practicing
the eightfold path of yoga. Others take strict vows and endlessly study scriptures.

4.29
There are even those who offer the movement of breath as a sacrifice, stopping between
an outgoing breath and an incoming breath and remaining in a breathless trance. Still others curtail eating and offer the process of food becoming life-energy as a sacrifice.

4.30
All these practitioners, though different in approach, are acting in understanding of the principle of sacrifice, and are thus cleansing themselves of that which keeps them from God-ness.

4.31
Those who know the secret of sacrifice — and perform it — feast on the nectar of its remnants and realize the Eternal State. Those who refuse to make offerings
are not fit even for this world, let alone the next.

4.32
All these various forms of sacrifice are described in the Vedas, and they all arise from different types of karma. Understanding the whole of this leads to Liberation.

4.33
Understand, Arjuna, that sacrifices made with full knowledge are far superior to mechanical sacrifices rooted only in belief. All actions become perfect when performed by the wise.

4.34
To realize Truth, find a spiritual master. Question him respectfully and render him service. A Self-Realized soul can guide you to Truth because he embodies Truth.

4.35
When Truth makes itself known, Arjuna,
you will never again descend into ignorance.
You will see for yourself that every living being — and the whole of creation — is but an illusion swirling in Yourself, in Me, in the Supreme.

4.36
Even the greatest of sinners can be carried across the ocean of ignorance on the divine ferryboat of Truth.

4.37
Just as fire turns wood into ashes, so does Truth turn sin into vapor.

4.38
Nothing in this universe purifies like Truth. One who has been purified by Truth
sees that Truth is Himself.

4.39
A sincere aspirant who is in control of his senses, whose mind is fixed on the Divine, is ripe for a direct experience of Truth.
The experience of Truth brings great peace.

4.40
But the ignorant and faithless, whose doubt prevents effort, shall not know God Consciousness. Those who ignore the whisperings of Truth
find no happiness, in this world or beyond.

4.41
One who knows the fruits of effort are not his, whose doubts take him deeper into the yoga of knowledge, whose actions are born of meditation — such a one no longer creates karma.

4.42
Therefore, Arjuna, slash with the sword
of knowledge the doubts in your heart engendered by your own ignorance. Armed with the yoga of knowledge and action, stand up and fight!