Gita 04.18 explained

Bg 4.18

karmaṇy akarma yaḥ paśyed
akarmaṇi ca karma yaḥ
sa buddhimān manuṣyeṣu
sa yuktaḥ kṛtsna-karma-kṛt

Synonyms: 

karmaṇi — in action; akarma — inaction; yaḥ — one who; paśyet — observes; akarmaṇi — in inaction; ca — also; karma — fruitive action; yaḥ — one who; saḥ — he; buddhimān — is intelligent; manuṣyeṣu — in human society; saḥ — he; yuktaḥ — is in the transcendental position; kṛtsnakarmakṛt — although engaged in all activities.

Translation: 

One who sees inaction in action and action in inaction is intelligent among men, and he is in the transcendental position, although engaged in all sorts of activities.

 

One who sees inaction in action and one who sees action in inaction, such a person is Budhiman and well situated. 

It is tongue twister and brain twister.

Karma can have four meanings:

  1. Action
  2. Reaction
  3. System of action-reaction
  4. One type of action – pious actions.

Similarly Akarma have two meaning:

  1. Inaction
  2. Action that produces no reaction.When we produce action on our behalf that produces reaction but when we do action on Krishna’s behalf that produces no reaction. E.g. soldier kills enemy in war filed soldier will not be punished but is rewarded but when the same soldier kills someone in his neighborhood he will be arrested and put under punishment. There are certain action which we do on behalf of Lord then there is no reaction but if we do on our behalf then we do get bound.

 

  1. Karmanyakarmayah pashyed(akarma: no karmic reaction)

See in external activity, no karmic reaction

E.g. Arjuna’s fighting leads to no karmic reaction.

E.g. Prabhupad being a Sanyasi going to west. In general sanyasis were restricted to go to west as there is a fear of being contaminated and develop material desire and bound by karma but Srila Prabhupad said I am not going there for any material senses enjoyment I am going there for the service of the Lord, I am going there to give Shri Krishna’s message and sharing Shri Krishna’s love with them. So going to America whether he became contaminated? Far from that he went to contaminated places and turn them into Vaikuntha, he manifested the spiritual world wherever he went.

  1. Akarmani ca karma yah (akarma: no external activity)

See in external inactivity, karmic reaction (here Karma means reaction)

Even when there is not external activity there can be reaction.

Eg. Arjuna’s silently meditating and not getting indulge in prescribed work leads to karmic reaction.

Krishna has told in start of 3rd ch that if a person give up the external world and if he is acting like a renouncer and if he is internally meditating on sense object then the person is getting into karmic bondage. In that verse Shri Krishna was talking from moral standard here He is talking from karmic reaction point of view.

Similarly Arjuna’s saying that he is going to forest will not cease him from karmic reaction as being a Kshetriya he will be inclined to do Kshetriya duty.

E.g. a patient is dyeing and a doctor didn’t give any medicine and doctor says what did I do I didn’t do anything but here not doing anything is offence. This is called guilt by negligence. 

Another e.g., thief’s are plundering and police is not doing anything police is legally culpable. 

Arjuna being a Kshetriya if he will not do his duty he will be culpable or he will be bound as internally he will be contemplating. If somebody is renounced but internally he is contemplating that will cause bondage as motivation is not truly renounced motivation is not truly pure therefore there will be fruitive activity happening at mental level which will lead to action at physical level which will lead to bondage.

So Shri Krishna’s message is to go beyond externals go beyond superficial and look deeper, see seriously what is actually happening and based on that vision take action. Such a person is wise.

Now Krishna will describe in next 5 verses how a Karma Yogi acts.

Author: Bhavin Kataria

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