Om Namo Bagavathe Vasudevaaya
3rd Chapter – karmayogaḥ
न हि कश्चित्क्षणमपि जातु तिष्ठत्यकर्मकृत्।
कार्यते ह्यवशः कर्म सर्वः प्रकृतिजैर्गुणैः॥ ५॥
na hi kaścitkṣaṇamapi jātu tiṣṭhatyakarmakṛt |
kāryate hyavaśaḥ karma sarvaḥ prakṛtijairguṇaiḥ || 5 ||
Meaning: Because no one can remain actionless even for a moment. Everyone is driven to action, helplessly indeed, by the Gunas of nature. (3.05)
न/na = nor; हि/ hi = certainly; कश्चित्/ kaścit = anyone; क्षणं/ kṣaṇaṁ = a moment ; अपि/ api = also; जातु/ jātu = at any time; तिष्ठति/ tiṣṭhati = remains; अकर्मकृत्/akarmakṛt = without doing something; कार्यते/ kāryate = is forced to do; हि/ hi = certainly; अवशः/avaśaḥ = helplessly; कर्म/karma = work; सर्वः/sarvaḥ = all; प्रकृतिजैः/prakṛtijaiḥ = born of the modes of material nature; गुणैः/ guṇaiḥ = by the qualities.
Explanation: The Lord further talks about inaction to Arjuna. Here the Lord is making an emphatic statement “that no one can claim to be inactive”. Everyone will be helplessly active because it is one’s nature as driven by the three sets of characteristics.
Lord says that no one can claim to be inactive. Let us see why he says so. Let us visualize that someone claims that they are not doing any action and are not seen to be physically doing any action. They are sitting in one place without any movement so much so no one can claim that they are active. In this scenario, think about this, wouldn’t they be breathing (if not talking) while sitting like that? They would be and breathing is also an action. Further, will their mind be having various thoughts? Yes it would have and the very thinking is an activity. Therefore, in effect, mere absence of physical activity can’t be termed as being inactive.
Everyone will be performing these basic actions, without a choice. No one can be inactive even for a moment. The Lord further says that one will be helplessly active due to the gunas (characteristics) which is born of nature (prakriti). Elaborate analysis of the Gunas is done by the Lord in the chapter 14. We will analyze it here as required for this shloka.
Everything that exists in the nature is resonating with the world around all the time. Even if we were to look at any object say gold, it has its properties such as malleable, rust proof, bright etc., like this every object has its properties natural to them and such properties are expressed in the world around, naturally. Such natural expressions are the resonance of that object with the nature. As we saw, it is the property of the object and is inherent in that object. Such inherent expressions can be that of benevolence, active and passive and they are responsible for anyone to be active, without a choice.
We all would have experienced a character in our home. Old aged grandparents, who claim to be not active (inactive) and sitting in one corner without any hindrance to anyone (may be sitting in the thinnai). However, they will be involved in everything right from something is burning in the kitchen, to why the neighbor’s girl has not gone to school, why the newspaper was late etc.,. Any one claiming to be inactive can’t be so because, it is in one’s nature to be active, including the creatures like a worm or insect, they would always be in motion.
So what message is the Lord giving here? Since inaction is not possible, then one should be active and as one is active should try to bring about awareness about the action one is performing. Action alone produces a result, therefore, any want has to be preceded by action. The point he is highlighting here is that inaction is not a choice available in the field of spiritual growth.
The key is to add moderation in one’s acting and achieve actualization with the help of the action. Lord continues this topic in the next shloka too.