Chapter 54 — Krishna Admonishes Arjuna: Do Your Duty with Detachment

Lord Krishna continued:—

Listen moreover, O mighty armed Arjuna, to the enlightening speech which I am about to deliver to you for the sake of your lasting good and welfare.

Know, O child of Kunti, that the perception of the senses, the feelings conveyed to our minds by the physical senses, such as those of cold and heat and the like, cause our physical pleasures and pains. But as these are transitory, coming to us and passing away by turns, you must remain patient under them. Knowing neither pleasure nor pain to be uniform and monotonous, what is it that you call real pleasure or pain? A thing having no form or figure of its own can have no increase or decrease in it.

Those who have suppressed the feelings of their senses by knowing the illusory nature of sense perceptions are content to remain quiet with an even course of action their minds, both in their prosperity and adversity. They truly are the men who taste the ambrosial nectar of immortality in their mortal state. 5 Knowing the soul to be the same in all states, alike in all places and times, they view all differences and accidents of life with detachment. Being sure of the unreality of unrealities, they retain their endurance under all the varying circumstances of life. Never can joy or grief take possession of the one soul which, being universal in its nature, can never be exceptional or otherwise.

The unreal has no existence. It is not positive or negative at anytime, so there can be nothing that is a positive joy or lack of joy in any place when God himself is present everywhere. Abandon the thoughts of joy or lack of joy of the world. Seeing there is no such difference in the mind of God, stick fast in a state of indifference to both.

Though the intelligent soul and external phenomena are closely situated inside and outside the body, yet the inner soul is neither delighted nor depressed by the pleasures or pains that envelop the external body. 10 All pleasures and pains relate to the physical body. They touch the mind which is situated in it, but no bodily hurt or debility affects the soul which is seated beyond it. 11 The assumption that the soul participates in the pleasures or pains that affect the gross body is caused only by error arising from our ignorance. 12 The material is no reality. Its feelings of pain or pleasure are never real ones that touch the intangible soul. Who is so senseless as not to perceive the wide separation between soul and body?

13 The full understanding of what I am telling you, O descendant of Bharata, will surely destroy the error arising from ignorance. 14 As knowledge removes the error and fear arising from one’s ignorance of a snake in a rope, so our misconception of the reality of our bodies and their pleasures and pains is dispelled by our knowledge of truth.

15 Know that the entire universe is identical with uncreated Brahman. It is neither produced nor dissolved by itself. Knowing this as a certain truth, believe only in Brahman as the most supreme source of the tree of all knowledge. 16 You are only a little wave in the sea of Brahman’s essence. You rise and roll for a little while, then subside to rest. You foam and froth in the whirlpool of Brahman’s existence, a drop of water in the endless ocean of Brahman.

17 As long as we are in action under the command of our general, we act our parts like soldiers in the field. We all live and move in Brahman alone, and there is no mistake of right or wrong in this. 18 Abandon your pride and haughtiness, your sorrow and fear, and your desire of pain or pleasure. It is bad to have any duality or doubt in you. Be good with your oneness and integrity at all times. 19 Think this about the destruction of these multitudes of forces under your arms, that all these are evolved out of Brahman and you are reducing them to Brahman himself. 20 Do not care for your pleasure or pain, your gain or loss, or your victory or defeat. Rely only on the unity of Brahman. Know the world as the vast ocean of Brahman’s existence.

21 Being alike and unchanged by your loss or gain, and thinking yourself as nobody, go on in your proper course of action, just as a gust of wind takes its own course. 22 Whatever you do, whatever you eat, whatever sacrifices you make, or any gift that you give to anyone, commit them all to Brahman and remain quiet in yourself. 23 Whoever thinks of becoming anything in earnest, he undoubtedly becomes that in process of time. Therefore, if you wish to become like Brahman himself, learn in all your thoughts and deeds to assimilate yourself to the nature of Brahman.

24 Let one who knows the great Brahman be employed in doing his duties as they occur to him without any expectation or reward. As God does his works without any aim, so should the godly do their works without any object. 25 He who sees the inactive God in all his active duties and sees all his works in the inactive God, that man is called the most intelligent among men. He is said to be the readiest discharger of his deeds and duties. 26 Do not do your works in expectation of their rewards, or engage yourself to do anything that is not your duty or improper for you. Do your duties as your yoga of fixed meditation and not in connection with others or their rewards. 27 Do not be addicted to active duties or decline your inactivity either. Never remain ignorant or negligent of your duties in life, but continue in your work with an even temper at all times.

28 Though employed in business, a man is said to be doing nothing at all who does not foster the hope of a reward for his acts, and who is ever content in himself, even without a patron or refuge. 29 The addiction of one’s mind to anything makes it his action, and not the action itself. Ignorance causes this tendency to believe actions are one’s own. Therefore ignorance is to be avoided by all means.

30 A great soul settled in divine knowledge, freed from need or desire for anything, may be employed in all sorts of works without being reckoned as the doer of any. 31 He who does nothing is indifferent about its result. This detachment amounts to his equanimity, which leads to his endless joy, which is next to the state of Godhead. 32 Believe in the unity of the Supreme Spirit by avoiding the dirt of duality and plurality of beliefs. Whether or not you do your ceremonial acts, you will not be accounted as the doer.

33 The learned consider a man to be wise whose acts in life are free from desire or some object of desire, and whose ceremonial acts are burned away by the fire of spiritual knowledge. 34 He who remains peaceful, calm, quiet and tranquil in his soul, without any desire or greed for anything in this world, may be doing his duties here without any disturbance or anxiety in his mind. 35 A man who does not argue with anyone but is always settled with calm and quiet rest of his soul, united with the Supreme Soul without ceremonial observances, and who is satisfied with whatever is obtained of itself, such a man is considered as a decoration of this earth.

36 They are called ignorant hypocrites who, having repressed their organs of actions, still indulge themselves in pleasures of the senses by recalling their memories in their minds. 37 He, who by the power of his wise mind has governed his outer and inner senses and employs his organs of action to perform his physical work and ceremonial acts without addiction to them, is quite different from the one described before.

38 As the overflowing waters of rivers fall into the profound and motionless sea, so the souls of holy men enter into the ocean of eternal God where they are attended with a peaceful bliss never to be obtained by those who are greedy and worldly.