Sunday, April 3, 2011

Lecture (Chapter) 3: Of Works


If, according to thy opinion, the use of the understanding be superior to the practice of deeds (15), why then dost thou urge me to engage in an undertaking so dreadful as this?

(15 The practice of deeds.—The performance of religious ceremonies and moral duties, called Kărmă-Yōg.)

Thou, as it were, confoundest my reason with a mixture of sentiments; wherefore choose one amongst them, by which I may obtain happiness, and explain it unto me.


It hath before been observed by me, that in this world there are two institutes: That of those who follow the Sānkhyă, or speculative science, which is the exercise of reason in contemplation; and the practical, or exercise of the moral and religious duties.

The man enjoyeth not freedom from action, from the non-commencement of that which he hath to do; nor doth he obtain happiness from a total inactivity. No one ever resteth a moment inactive. Every man is involuntarily urged to act by those principles which are inherent in his nature. The man who restraineth his active faculties, and sitteth down with his mind attentive to the objects of his senses, is called one of an astrayed soul, and the practiser of deceit. So the man is praised, who, having subdued all his passions, performeth with his active faculties all the functions of life, unconcerned about the event. Perform the settled functions: action is preferable to inaction. The journey of thy mortal frame may not succeed from inaction. This busy world is engaged from other motives than the worship of the Deity. Abandon then, O son of Kŏŏntēē, all selfish motives, and perform thy duty for him alone.

When in ancient days Brăhmā (16), the lord of the creation,

(16 Brăhmā.¬—The Deity in his creative quality.)

had formed mankind, and, at the same time, appointed his worship, he spoke and said: "With this worship pray for increase, and let it be that on which ye shall depend for the accomplishment of all your wishes. With this remember the Gods, that the Gods may remember you. Remember one another, and ye shall obtain supreme happiness. The Gods being remembered in worship, will grant you the enjoyment of your wishes. He who enjoyeth what hath been given unto him by them, and offereth not a portion unto them, is even as a thief. Those who eat not but what is left of the offerings, shall be purified of all their transgressions. Those who dress their meat but for themselves, eat the bread of sin. All things which have life are generated from the bread which they eat. Bread is generated from rain; rain from divine worship, and divine worship from good works. Know that good works come from Brăhm, whose nature is incorruptible; wherefore the omnipresent Brăhm is present in the worship."

The sinful mortal, who delighteth in the gratification of his passions, and followeth not the wheel, thus revolving in the world, liveth but in vain.

But the man who may be self-delighted and self-satisfied, and who may be happy in his own soul, hath no occasion (17).

(17 Hath no occasion.—Hath no occasion to perform the ceremonial parts of religion.)

He hath no interest either in that which is done, or that which is not done; and there is not, in all things which have been created, any object on which he may place dependance. Wherefore, perform thou that which thou hast to do, at all times, unmindful of the event; for the man who doeth that which he hath to do, without affection, obtaineth the Supreme.

Jănăkă and others have attained perfection (18) even by works.

(18 Attained perfection.—That degree of perfection which is necessary to salvation.)

Thou shouldst also observe what is the practice of mankind, and act accordingly. The man of low degree followeth the example of him who is above him, and doeth that which he doeth. I myself, Ărjŏŏn, have not, in the three regions of the universe, any thing which is necessary for me to perform, nor any thing to obtain which is not obtained; and yet I live in the exercise of the moral duties. If I were not vigilantly to attend to these duties, all men would presently follow my example. If I were not to perform the moral actions, this world would fail in their duty; I should be the cause of spurious births, and should drive the people from the right way. As the ignorant perform the duties of life from the hope of reward, so the wise man, out of respect to the opinions and prejudices of mankind, should perform the same without motives of interest. He should not create a division in the understandings of the ignorant, who are inclined to outward works. The learned man, by industriously performing all the duties of life, should induce the vulgar to attend to them.

The man whose mind is led astray by the pride of self-sufficiency, thinketh that he himself is the executor of all those actions which are performed by the principles of his constitution. But the man who is acquainted with the nature of the two distinctions of cause and effect, having considered that principles will act according to their natures, giveth himself no trouble. Men who are led astray by the principles of their natures, are interested in the works of the faculties. The man who is acquainted with the whole, should not drive those from their works who are slow of comprehension, and less experienced than himself.

Throw every deed on me, and with a heart, over which the soul presideth, be free from hope, be unpresuming, be free from trouble, and resolve to fight.

Those who with a firm belief, and without reproach, shall constantly follow this my doctrine, shall be saved even by works; and know that those who, holding it in contempt, follow not this my counsel, are astrayed from all wisdom, deprived of reason, and are lost.

But the wise man also seeketh for that which is homogeneous to his own nature. All things act according to their natures, what then will restraint effect? In every purpose of the senses are fixed affection and dislike. A wise man should not put himself in their power, for both of them are his opponents. A man’s own religion, though contrary to, is better than the faith of another, let it be ever so well followed. It is good to die in one’s own faith, for another’s faith beareth fear.


By what, O Krĕĕshnă, is man propelled to commit offences? He seems as if, contrary to his wishes, he was impelled by some secret force.


Know that it is the enemy lust, or passion, offspring of the carnal principle, insatiable and full of sin, by which this world is covered as the flame by the smoke, as the mirror by rust, or as the fœtus by its membrane. The understanding of the wise man is obscured by this inveterate foe, in the shape of desire (19), who rageth like fire, and is hard to be appeased.

19 Desire.—The will, as presiding over the organs, the heart and the understanding.

It is said that the senses, the heart, and the understanding are the places where he delighteth most to rule. By the assistance of these he overwhelmeth reason, and stupifieth the soul. Thou shouldst, therefore, first subdue thy passions, and get the better of this sinful destroyer of wisdom and knowledge.

The organs are esteemed great, but the mind is greater than they. The resolution (20) is greater than the mind,

(20 The resolution.—In this place resolution means the power of distinguishing the truth of a proposition: the understanding.)

and who is superior to the resolution is he (21).

(21 He.—The soul, or universal spirit, of which the vital soul is supposed to be a portion.)

When thou hast resolved what is superior to the resolution, and fixed thyself by thyself, determine to abandon the enemy in the shape of desire, whose objects are hard to be accomplished.

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