3.8 niyatham kuru karma thvam

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Chapter 3

<< Chapter 3 verse 7

SlOkam – Original

niyatham kuru karma thvam karma jyAyO hyakarmaNa: |
SarIrayAthrApi cha thE na prasidhyEdh akarmaNa: ||

word-by-word meaning (based on puththUr krishNamAchArya swAmy’s thamizh translation)

niyatham – That which has become a habit since time eternal

karma – karma yOga

thvam – you

kuru – perform

hi – because

akarmaNa: – than gyAna nishtA (gyAna yOga)

karma – karma yOga

jyAya: – superior;

akarmaNa: – not performing any action

thE – for you (who is gyAna nishtan)

SarIra yAthrA api – even sustaining/conducting the body (which is required for gyAna nishtA)

na prasidhyEth – will not be possible

Simple Translation (based on puththUr krishNamAchArya swAmy’s thamizh translation)

You perform karma yOga which has become a habit since time eternal because karma yOga is superior to gyAna nishtA (gyAna yOga); when not performing any action even sustaining/conducting the body (which is required for gyAna nishtA) will not be possible for you (who is [aspiring to be] gyAna nishtan).

Rendering based on ALkoNdavilli gOvindhAchArya swAmy’s English translation of gIthA bhAshyam

‘Action is inherent. Do it then. Action verily is superior to non-action (a-karma). Without action, you shalt not be able even to sustain bodily existence.’

Niyatam=extended1, pervading, therefore inherent. An act is pervading or co-extensive2 because it is a product of the union (or ātmā) with matter. Union with matter (pṛakṛiti) is a persisting inheritance of the unknown past. To do therefore comes as an easy natural accomplishment, and not subject to dangers (attending the Path of Knowledge). Therefore do work. That is superior to non-action, viz., the mental course, Jñāna.

A-karma, non-action, means jñāna, -knowledge,- and is the same as naish-karmya, occurring in such verses as:-

“None can attain the actionless (naish-karmya) state” (iii-4), and elsewhere.

Even to the follower of the jñāna-Path, karma-Path is superior, for the former is one to which he is not accustomed, and which does not flow to him as an inherent tendency, and is therefore difficult to practice, and attended with risk.

Further on it will be shown how even one possessed of the real ātmā-knowledge, may work and yet look upon himself as no agent of (i.e., not responsible for) the act3. Thus even ātmā-knowledge is a part and parcel of (or involved in) Work. Hence Work is superior. What is said about the superiority of Work, above Knowledge, will be evident to him who is actually engaged in Jñāna-Yoga.

Again supposing you resign all action, and embark on the jñāna-course alone, then how do you expect to support your bodily existence, which is necessary and helpful to you in your practice of jñāna-yoga, when you have taken that course up and retired from all activity? The maintaining of the body is a sine qua non as long as one has to finish the particular method he has adopted, and till he reaches the end he has in view. The way that one has to maintain the body is, by labor, to acquire money in rightful ways; then perform, by its means, the Mahāyajnas4, partake of the residue of food offered at these holy ceremonials, and sustain existence by such food alone. For, the Śruti declares:-

‘From pure food, mind becomes pure; when mind is pure, (the continued stream of) memory (on ātmā) acrues etc.’5 Also in the Gītā itself it will be shown:

‘They, the sinful who cook food for themselves eat sin’ etc., (iii-13).

Hence to the postulant of Jñāna-Yoga, -when he desists from all work,- what is the manner by which he must necessarily support his body? (consider)

Hence, because (1) that the jñāna-candidate also has to keep up the body, and has to continue performing the daily and occasional duties6 such as the mahā-yajñas7 etc., till the end of his course is accomplished; because (2) that in the Karma-Yoga path, also, the contemplation of the reality of ātmā-nature is included, -that contemplation involving the conception that the worker is no agent etc-; because also, (3) that the Karma-Yoga is easiest done and with no prospect of dangers (such as that do attend Jñana-Yoga practice), Karma-Yoga is preferably recommended even to the Jñāna-Yogi.

The decision on the whole is:- ‘Do you therefore practice Karma-Yoga.’

But if it be argued that work, such as the acquiring of money etc., involves the vanities of ‘I-ness’ and ‘my-ness’ etc., demanding the vexatious exercise of all the sense-faculties, and that this procedure must eventually cause bondage to the person, it is said:-

>> Chapter 3 verse 9

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  1. Vedāntāchārya explains that extension is co-extension; the co-extension or co-existence of action with substance, or matter with inherent motion or energy. Hence embodies souls must act.
  2. Vedāntāchārya explains that extension is co-extension; the co-extension or co-existence of action with substance, or matter with inherent motion or energy. Hence embodies souls must act.
  3. Compare: III-27 and XIII-20.
  4. The five Great Sacraments or Acts of Divine Worship ordained for every holy man are:- 1. Adhyāpana = The teaching of the Sacred Scriptures, etc., called Brahma-yajña. 2. Tarpaṇa = The oblation of water, food, etc., called Pitṛi-yajña. 3. Homa = The offering of clarified butter, etc., into fire, called Deva-yajña. 4. Bali = The distribution of food to creatures in general, called Bhūta-yajña. 5. Athiti-pūjana = entertainment of holy guests, called Nṛi-yajña. Vide Manu, III 69 to 73.
  5. ‘Āhāra-śuddhau satva-śuddhih, satva-śuddhau dhṛivā-smṛitih, smṛiti-lambhe sarva-granthīnām vipra-mokshaḥ’ Chh: Up: VII-26-2.
  6. The daily duties (nitya) are Snāna, Sandhyā, Vaiśvadeva-brahma-yajña, Deva-ṛshi-pitṛi-tarpaṇa, and Aupāsana. The occassioned (naimittika) are the Śrāddhās, Tarpaṇas, etc., performed on the Eclipse-day, Saṇkranti, Mahālaya, etc., Pūrva-Mīmāmsa says: ‘nitya naimittika karmācharaṇe phalam nāsti; akaraṇe pratyavāyaḥ’.
  7. The five Great Sacraments or Acts of Divine Worship ordained for every holy man are:- 1. Adhyāpana = The teaching of the Sacred Scriptures, etc., called Brahma-yajña. 2. Tarpaṇa = The oblation of water, food, etc., called Pitṛi-yajña. 3. Homa = The offering of clarified butter, etc., into fire, called Deva-yajña. 4. Bali = The distribution of food to creatures in general, called Bhūta-yajña. 5. Athiti-pūjana = entertainment of holy guests, called Nṛi-yajña. Vide Manu, III 69 to 73.

2 thoughts on “3.8 niyatham kuru karma thvam

  1. Gopalakrishnan. M

    Swamin,

    A minor correction. Instead of Puthur Krishnamacharya, Krishnaswami Iyengar will fit good.
    Translation is a summum bonum effort which in my knowledge has no stain on any part.

    Adiyen Dasan

    Reply

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