Bhagavad Gita with Commentaries of Ramanuja | Discourse 3 verse 25-32

saktāḥkarmaṇy-avidvāṃso yathākurvanti bhārata |
kuryād-vidvāṃs-tathāsaktāś-cikīrṣu loka-saṅgraham || 25 ||

25. Just as the ignorant act with attachment their work, O Arjuna, so should the wise act without any attachment, and only for the welfare of the world.

na buddhi-bhedaṃjanayed ajñānāṃkarma-saṅginām |
joṣayet sarva karmāṇi vidvān yuktaḥsamācaran || 26 ||

26.  The wise should not confuse the minds of the ignorant who are attached to work; rather himself performing work with devotion, he should inspire others to do likewise.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

The word avidvamsah means ignorant, the ignorance referred to is all those who are not knowledgeable of ātma-tattva or soul realisation.

Those who have desires and are attached to performing actions to obtain the fruits of such desires are unable to approach the jñāna yoga or the cultivation of spiritual knowledge.

Others being more sober are only fit to follow karma yoga the path of prescribed Vedic actions as their means to achieve ātma- tattva.

Let the wise act and behave like one performing karma yoga performing prescribed Vedic actions even if they have no interest in the results of their actions and are qualified for jñāna yoga and even if they have knowledge of ātma-tattva.

For such a person is naturally great and is looked up to by all the world and should always conduct themselves in an exemplary manner by performing prescribed Vedic activities according to qualification.

By this mankind will be cognisant of what is proper and improper in society. Actions of this nature can only be accomplished by one performing karma yoga.

The ignorant are conditioned to desires of fruitive activities being fully attached to gaining results and are incapable of adopting the path of jñāna yoga or the cultivation of spiritual knowledge.

A person of wisdom should not unhinge the minds and disturb the equilibrium of ordinary people pursuing their dreams of material acquisitions in karma yoga by preaching the superior path of jñāna yoga which they are incapable of following.

What a person of wisdom must do is set an example by their actions and perform prescribed Vedic activities in karma yoga showing the ignorant by their example that without desire and being unattached to the results it is sufficient to achieve ātma-tattva.

By setting the example in this manner the great souls inspires the whole society to perform righteous activities so that eventually their minds will become purified of all dross and they will become competent to advance in spiritual life and attain ātma-tattva.

The difference between how a person of wisdom performs karma yoga and how the ignorant acts in karma yoga and the reason why will be explained in the next verse.

prakṛteḥkriyamāṇāni guṇaiḥkarmāṇi sarvaśaḥ|
ahaṅkāra vimūḍhātmākartā’ham-iti manyate || 27 ||

27. All actions are being performed in every way by the Gunas of Prakṛti. One whose mind is deluded by the notion of individuality, thinks, 'I am the doer.'

tattva-vittu mahābāho guṇa-karma-vibhāgayoḥ|
guṇāguṇeṣu vartanta iti matvāna sajjate || 28||

28. But he who knows the truth about the divisions of the Gunas and their functions, O mighty-armed one, through his awareness that the Gunas operate on their products, is not attached.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

It is the Gunas of Prakṛti —Sattva, Rajas & Tamas, that perform all their respective activities.

That person who is blinded by false ego and bewildered by material nature believes they themselves are the root cause and sole determining factor of all actions they engage in.

In the previous verse the word ahaṁkāra means bewildered by ego identification or misidentifying the body to be the ātma or soul.

Such a person is situated in nescience thinking that the interactions of the three gunas in the physical body are the actions of the ātma, such a one foolishly considers that they are the doer of their actions.

But the tattva- vi or knower of the truth is competent in discerning in all activities the properties and influences of the three gunas as they manifest themselves through one's actions.

Whoever becomes proficient in discerning the manifestation of the three gunas in all actions will not commit the error of thinking that they through their body are the doer.

prakṛter-guṇa saṃmūḍhāḥsajjante guṇa-karmasu |
tān-akṛtsna vido mandān kṛtsnavinna vicālayet || 29 ||

29. Those who are deluded by the Gunas of Prakṛti are attached to the functions of the Gunas, but one of perfect knowledge should not unsettle the ignorant who do not know the whole truth.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

The misinformed make attempts for ātma-tattva or soul realisation but due to their ignorance of the true nature of the ātma or soul and because of their acute identification with the physical body and the senses

they are obstructed in their attempts by the influences of the three gunas being the mode of goodness, passion and nescience.

Such a person is quickly brought under the control of the gunas by their association with sense objects and cannot divert these natural tendencies towards ātma-tattva.

Thus they are not qualified for jñāna yoga or the cultivation of knowledge but are only competent for karma yoga or performing prescribed Vedic activities.

The person situated in Vedic wisdom in jñāna yoga after observing the meagre capacities of the ignorant masses with their sluggish understanding should not attempt to convert them to jñāna yoga from their easy to perform path of karma yoga.

This is because it would be dangerous for the ignorant to give up the path of karma yoga to follow the path of jñāna yoga when they are in no way qualified to do so.

Leaving the path of karma yoga and unable to follow the path of jñāna yoga they would have nothing and be at a loss in their lives.

The conclusion is that one situated in Vedic wisdom and who is a prominent leading figure in society should also perform prescribed Vedic activities in karma yoga even though such a person is a knower of ātma-tattva.

By acting in this way and performing Vedic activities without attachment lesser men will follow his example and perform in a like manner.

It has been shown earlier in this chapter that even for jñāna yogis the path of karma yoga is preferable, hence persons of Vedic wisdom who are leaders in society should also tread the path of karma yoga as beacons of light for the masses in the world.

The method of performing karma yoga by understanding that the ātma is distinct from the physical body and thus ascribing the activities of the senses to be from the influences of the gunas has been thoroughly described.

One should contemplate and reflect on the ātma and its essential nature which is purely spiritual. The ātma performs no material activity but has association with actions through the gunas due to the conjunction with prakṛti.

Thus in association with prakṛti there is doership with the ātma and without association there is none.

The next verse will explain the relationship between the senses and the gunas in regards to the Supreme Lord who is omniscient and omnipresent.

Paramātmā who is the Supreme Soul of all living entities evidenced by the fact that every individual soul constitutes His eternal, transcendental, spiritual body and are His eternal parts and parcels.

mayi sarvāṇi karmāṇi sanyasyādhyātma-cetasā|
nirāśīr-nir-mamo bhūtvāyudhyasva vigata-jvaraḥ|| 30 ||

30.  Dedicating all your actions to Me with a mind centred in the Self, free from desire and selfishness, free from hot-headedness, do you engage in battle.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

Dedicate thy mind and all activities to the Supreme Being in the heart represented by the eternal ātma or soul within all living beings.

The word nirasih means desireless, being free from desires and free from hankering for the rewards of all actions while evicting all vanity.

The word nirmamah means without a sense of ego. Prohibiting all ego constructs of I- ness and my-ness and relieved from the fever of mental delusion,

discharge the injunctions of the Vedic scriptures according to your qualification at once as a matter of duty without attachment.

In this Lord Krishna is instructing the warrior prince Arjuna how he should fight his enemies.

The words adhyātma-cetasa means with the mind absorbed in the ātma within the heart. One's thoughts should be focused on the nature of the soul, its attributes and qualities as delineated previously in chapter two, verses 13 - 25.

There are many scriptures that reveal some of the attributes of the ātma. In the Taittirīya Upaniṣad we find:

'He who has entered within, is the ruler of all beings and is the Self of all’ (Tait. Ar. 3.11)

'Him who has entered within and is the doer' (ibid 3.23.)

In the Brihadaranyaka Upaniṣad we find:

'He who, dwelling in the Self is within the Self, whom the Self does not know, whose body  the  Self  is,  who  controls  the  Self  from  within —he is your Internal Ruler and immortal Self' (Br. Up. 3.7.22)

Smṛti texts also state the same thing —

'Him who is the ruler of all' (Manu, 12.122).

Sri Krishna will teach later on:—

'And I am seated in the hearts of all; from Me are memory, knowledge and the faculty of reason' (Gita 15,15);

'The  Lord,  O  Arjuna,  lives  in  the  heart  of  everything  causing  them  to  spin  around  and around by His power, as if set on a wheel.’ (Gita 18.61).

Therefore we see that by inference that the Supreme Lord Krishna is revealing that since He is the ātma within all living beings and that also the ātma within all created beings constitute His eternal, transcendental body and derive all their energy from Him;

then it is natural that one should dedicate all their actions to Lord Krishna, the Supreme Being as an act of yajña  or worship.

One should very reverently reflect that one's ātma is a part of the Supreme Lord and therefore He is within me and I am within Him.

The Supreme Lord Krishna is the Lord and Master of all. It is He alone who causes acts of yajña to be performed by me to Him and therefore I am His instrument.

Therefore no conceptions of I-ness or my-ness, or authorship can be accepted by me for any actions that are performed. Thus I will be free from the fever of mental delusion fuelled by the fire of illusion.

The Parama Puruṣa is the Supreme Being and Sarveśvara is the Supreme Controller.

In the Śvetāśvatara Upaniṣad VI.VII we find:

Let us take complete shelter of the Omnipotent Supreme Lord, the Supreme Lord over all lords, the Supreme Ruler of all rulers, the Supreme Master of all masters.

The word Īśvaratva means lordship and the word niyantritva means ruler and the word patitva means master denoting the relationship between the Supreme Lord and His servitors.

In the Nārāyaṇa Upaniṣad we find: He is the Supreme Lord of the universe.

In the Brahma Saṁhitā V.I we find isvarah parama krishna which means that Lord Krishna is the Supreme Controller.

Arjuna was also reflecting on how he would become free from the myriad's of sins about to be committed by him in the battle for all the warriors he would be slaying.

Now he is being instructed to cheerfully begin the fray performing his prescribed duties as yajña  or worship in karma yoga or the path of prescribed Vedic activities without attachment according to the injunctions of the Vedic scriptures.

By dedicating oneself according to the edicts of the Vedic scriptures one is actually worshipping the Supreme Being

and the person who performs their activities in this ordained manner is automatically exempt from all reactions as the Supreme Being Himself accepts their actions of offerings as His own and accepting complete responsibility of His surrendered devotee factually frees them from bondage.

Thus the quintessence of all the Upaniṣads has been duly given.

ye me matam idaṃnityam anu-tiṣṭhanti mānavāḥ|
śraddhāvanto’nasūyanto mucyante te’pi karmabhiḥ|| 31 ||

31. Those people who, full of faith ever practice this teaching of Mine and those who receive it without cavilling —even they will be released from Karma.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

The word mānavāḥ means men. It is derived from Manu the father of mankind, who wrote the Manu Samhitā which are the guidelines for the human race. Thus all mankind as the descendants of Manu are followers of Vedic scriptures.

The great personalities like Manu contemplating and reflecting on the Vedas determine what is the main import of the Vedas, which is precisely the formulised will of the Lord to act accordingly to this inner directive.

There are persons who although unable to practice the prescribed injunctions enjoined in the Vedic scriptures still have faith and believe in the tenets inculcated therein.

There are others who although not fully understanding and believing still do not doubt the veracity and authority of the Vedic scriptures.

All these three classes of mankind shall be redeemed and delivered from the vast aggregate of past sins accumulated since time immemorial that keeps one locked in bondage to the material existence.

Lord Krishna uses the words te api meaning they also to emphasise that these even those not fully believing if they remain passive and do not blaspheme they are also entitled to absolution from past sins which is the cause of bondage and gradually attain mokṣa or deliverance from the cycle of birth and death.

The next verse tells the fate of the blasphemers and non-observers of this edict.

ye tvetad abhyasūyanto nānutiṣṭhanti me matam |
sarva jñāna vimūḍhāṃstān viddhi naṣṭān acetasaḥ|| 32 ||

32. But those who carp at My teaching and those who do not practice this teaching of Mine — know them to be seriously deluded and devoid of reasoning, and therefore lost.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

Lord Krishna is revealing the eternal truth that He is the ātma or soul within all beings in existence, be they human, animal, aquatic, plant, demi- gods or any other species of life that was not cloned.

He is the maintainer, sustainer and monitor of all beings through the medium of the ātma and all of its impulses come from Him. All souls emanate from the Supreme Lord and because of Him are completely spiritual and eternal.

All the souls of all the living beings in creation everywhere in creation as a total aggregate comprise the form of the Supreme Lord's eternal, transcendental spiritual body.

Whoever does not avail themselves and conformably act to this eternal truth, or take this eternal truth seriously in earnest, or who deems unnecessary and not worth the effort,

this person should be understood to be completely destitute of knowledge and unable to evolve spiritually and are incapable of achieving ātma tattva or knowledge of the soul, become lost.

Spiritual intelligence is what determines the light of knowledge in the material existence. In the absence of spiritual knowledge, darkness and ignorance prevails and knowledge becomes erroneous and defective.

Thus it has been illustrated that doership transpires due to the union of prakṛti or material nature and the physical body being influenced by the gunas or modes of goodness, passion and nescience and this is dependent ultimately upon the Supreme Lord.

Reflecting in this manner it can be ascertained that karma yoga or the path of performing prescribed Vedic actions is appropriate for one performing jñāna yoga or the path of cultivating Vedic knowledge as well.

Karma yoga is appropriate on account of it being easy to perform, exempt from the danger of failure and requires no assistance from other methods in its application.

Contrarily jñāna yoga is difficult to practice, susceptible to failure and must perform some karma yoga anyway in order to maintain health and vigour which is essential for body maintenance if one is to perform any yoga at all.

Also it has been pointed out how it is necessary for a person of distinction situated in Vedic wisdom to set an example to inspire the common man for the benefit and welfare of the world.

What difficulties and dangers are fraught for the performers of jñāna yoga are now explained in the remainder of this chapter.