THOU whom all mortals praise, Janârdana!

If meditation be a nobler thing

Than action, wherefore, then, great Kesava!

Dost thou impel me to this dreadful fight?

Now am I by thy doubtful speech disturbed!

Tell me one thing, and tell me certainly;

By what road shall I find the better end?


I told thee, blameless Lord! there be two paths

Shown to this world; two schools of wisdom. First

The Sânkhy's, which doth save in way of works

Prescribed〖I feel convinced sânkhyânân and yoginân must be transposed here in sense.〗 by reason; next, the Yôg, which bids

Attain by meditation, spiritually:

Yet these are one! No man shall 'scape from act

By shunning action; nay, and none shall come

By mere renouncements unto perfectness.

Nay, and no jot of time, at any time,

Rests any actionless; his nature's law

Compels him, even unwilling, into act;

[For thought is act in fancy]. He who sits

Suppressing all the instruments of flesh,

Yet in his idle heart thinking on them,

Plays the inept and guilty hypocrite:

But he who, with strong body serving mind,

Gives up his mortal powers to worthy work,

Not seeking gain, Arjuna! such an one

Is honorable. Do thine allotted task!

Work is more excellent than idleness;

The body's life proceeds not, lacking work.

There is a task of holiness to do,

Unlike world-binding toil, which bindeth not

The faithful soul; such earthly duty do

Free from desire, and thou shalt well perform

Thy heavenly purpose. Spake Prajâpati—

In the beginning, when all men were made,

And, with mankind, the sacrifice—“Do this!

Work! sacrifice! Increase and multiply

With sacrifice! This shall be Kamadûk,

Your ‘Cow of Plenty,’ giving back her milk

Of all abundance. Worship the gods thereby;

The gods shall yield ye grace. Those meats ye crave

The gods will grant to Labor, when it pays

Tithes in the altar-flame. But if one eats

Fruits of the earth, rendering to kindly Heaven

No gift of toil, that thief steals from his world.”

Who eat of food after their sacrifice

Are quit of fault, but they that spread a feast

All for themselves, eat sin and drink of sin.

By food the living live; food comes of rain,

And rain comes by the pious sacrifice,

And sacrifice is paid with tithes of toil;

Thus action is of Brahmâ, who is One,

The Only, All-pervading; at all times

Present in sacrifice. He that abstains

To help the rolling wheels of this great world,

Glutting his idle sense, lives a lost life,

Shameful and vain. Existing for himself,

Self-concentrated, serving self alone,

No part hath he in aught; nothing achieved,

Nought wrought or unwrought toucheth him; no hope

Of help for all the living things of earth

Depends from him.〖I am doubtful of accuracy here.〗 Therefore, thy task prescribed

With spirit unattached gladly perform,

Since in performance of plain duty man

Mounts to his highest bliss. By works alone

Janak, and ancient saints reached blessedness!

Moreover, for the upholding of thy kind,

Action thou should'st embrace. What the wise choose

The unwise people take; what best men do

The multitude will follow. Look on me,

Thou Son of Prithâ! in the three wide worlds

I am not bound to any toil, no height

Awaits to scale, no gift remains to gain,

Yet I act here! and, if I acted not—

Earnest and watchful—those that look to me

For guidance, sinking back to sloth again

Because I slumbered, would decline from good,

And I should break earth's order and commit

Her offspring unto ruin, Bharata!

Even as the unknowing toil, wedded to sense,

So let the enlightened toil, sense-freed, but set

To bring the world deliverance, and its bliss;

Not sowing in those simple, busy hearts

Seed of despair. Yea! let each play his part

In all he finds to do, with unyoked soul.

All things are everywhere by Nature wrought

In interaction of the qualities.

The fool, cheated by self, thinks, “This I did”

And “That I wrought;” but—ah, thou strong-armed Prince!—

A better-lessoned mind, knowing the play

Of visible things within the world of sense,

And how the qualities must qualify,

Standeth aloof even from his acts. Th' untaught

Live mixed with them, knowing not Nature's way,

Of highest aims unwitting, slow and dull.

Those make thou not to stumble, having the light;

But all thy dues discharging, for My sake,

With meditation centred inwardly,

Seeking no profit, satisfied, serene,

Heedless of issue—fight! They who shall keep

My ordinance thus, the wise and willing hearts,

Have quittance from all issue of their acts;

But those who disregard my ordinance,

Thinking they know, know nought, and fall to loss,

Confused and foolish. ‘Sooth, the instructed one

Doth of his kind, following what fits him most;

And lower creatures of their kind; in vain

Contending 'gainst the law. Needs must it be

The objects of the sense will stir the sense

To like and dislike, yet th' enlightened man

Yields not to these, knowing them enemies.

Finally, this is better, that one do

His own task as he may, even though he fail,

Than take tasks not his own, though they seem good

To die performing duty is no ill;

But who seeks other roads shall wander still.


Yet tell me, Teacher! by what force doth man

Go to his ill, unwilling; as if one

Pushed him that evil path?


Kama it is!

Passion it is! born of the Darknesses,

Which pusheth him. Mighty of appetite,

Sinful, and strong is this!—man's enemy!

As smoke blots the white fire, as clinging rust

Mars the bright mirror, as the womb surrounds

The babe unborn, so is the world of things

Foiled, soiled, enclosed in this desire of flesh.

The wise fall, caught in it; the unresting foe

It is of wisdom, wearing countless forms,

Fair but deceitful, subtle as a flame.

Sense, mind, and reason—these, O Kunti's son!

Are booty for it; in its play with these

It maddens man, beguiling, blinding him.

Therefore, thou noblest child of Bharata!

Govern thy heart! Constrain th' entangled sense!

Resist the false, soft sinfulness which saps

Knowledge and judgment! Yea, the world is strong,

But what discerns it stronger, and the mind

Strongest; and high o'er all the ruling Soul.

Wherefore, perceiving Him who reigns supreme,

Put forth full force of Soul in thy own soul!

Fight! vanquish foes and doubts, dear Hero! slay

What haunts thee in fond shapes, and would betray!

Here endeth Chapter III. of the Bhagavad-Gîtâ

entitled “Karma-Yôg,” or “The Book

of Virtue in Work”

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