Om Namo Bagavathe Vasudevaaya
3rd Chapter – karmayogaḥ
नियतं कुरु कर्म त्वं कर्म ज्यायो ह्यकर्मणः।
शरीरयात्रापि च ते न प्रसिद्ध्येदकर्मणः॥ ८॥
niyataṁ kuru karma tvaṁ karma jyāyo hyakarmaṇaḥ |
śarīrayātrāpi ca te na prasiddhyedakarmaṇaḥ || 8 ||
Meaning: Perform your obligatory duty, because action is indeed better than inaction. Even the maintenance of your body would not be possible by inaction. (3.08)
नियतं = prescribed; कुरु = do; कर्म = duties; त्वं = you; कर्म = work; ज्यायाः = better; हि = certainly; अकर्मणः = than no work; शरीर = bodily; यात्रा = maintenance; अपि = even; च = also; ते = your; न = never; प्रसिद्ध्येत् = is effected; अकर्मणः = without work.
Explanation: The Lord is now explaining to Arjuna about why action has to be done and the Lord will do that from four stand points. In this shloka he is going to look at it from the stand point of “DUTY” (Niyatam). Niyatam here means what? It means prescribed. Prescribed by what? Prescribed by “Sastras” or “scriptures”. Let us dwell on this term a bit more.
Till some years ago, in India, we all would have heard people refer going to office as going to duty. Many would have been saying, I will go to duty and come, or I didn’t go to duty today etc.,. By saying “Duty”, what did they refer? They referred to going to office. What had been the recognition given to that action? Going to work in office is without a choice because, it sustains the family, provides for the basic necessities and more. The intonation is on the choice. It becomes a duty as there can’t be a choice (of course the accentuation is for providing for the family). Keeping in mind the need of the family/self satisfying the bare necessities, an individual considered going to work as a DUTY. Individual choice of likes and dislikes were not added to such actions. This goes to prove that as humans we understand that there are going to be actions that need to be carried out where one can’t exercise their individual likes and dislikes.
Lord Krishna is telling now here, that one should do scripture enjoined actions considering them as duty. This means that it should be done without likes and dislikes and that it should be DONE. Let us analyze what are those types of actions that should be done as duty, a bit more. We can look at this from few angles which are as below:
As enjoined by the sastras – Doing the pancha maha yajnas (we saw in shloka 7 explanation for type of action) – Deva yajna, Pitru yajna, Brahma yajna, Manushya yajna and Bhootha Yajna.
As required by the role one plays – duties unto the wife as husband or vice versa; duties unto the children as a parent; duties unto the parents as their child; duties unto the siblings; duties unto the friends; duties unto the society, duties as employee; duties as employer; duties as citizen of the country; etc.,
The key point that should be kept in the mind is, that the primary goal of one is to gain liberation. Gaining liberation is preceded by the requirement of a prepared mind, intellect and senses. The process of preparation involves actions and hence the actions that are being done should be towards getting prepared. Therefore, the type of actions that are being performed and the attitude with which it has to be performed is what is highlighted by the Lord by using the word “niyatam”. Lord is telling, perform action, perform those actions which are enjoined by scriptures, perform those actions as a duty.
He affirms that doing action is better than inaction. He uses a nice example to highlight this point. He says that even to maintain the body one has to perform action. Imagine, not taking care of personal hygiene, how one will be received by the world. It is impossible to be inactive at all; one can’t but attend nature’s call. By doing that basic action, one becomes clean physically.
Action is better than Inaction; Action enjoined by scriptures and done as a duty is better than mere action.
Lord will continue to discuss Karma Yoga from other standpoints in the next shlokas.