kiṁ karma kim akarmeti
kavayo ‘py atra mohitāḥ
tat te karma pravakṣyāmi
yaj jñātvā mokṣyase ‘śubhāt
kim—what is; karma—action; kim—what is; akarma—inaction; iti—thus; kavayaḥ—the intelligent; api—also; atra—in this matter; mohitāḥ—are bewildered; tat—that; te—unto you; karma—work; pravakṣyāmi—I shall explain; yat—which; jñātvā—knowing; mokṣyase—you will be liberated; aśubhāt—from ill fortune.
Even the intelligent are bewildered in determining what is action and what is inaction. Now I shall explain to you what action is, knowing which you shall be liberated from all misfortune.
Action in Kṛṣṇa consciousness has to be executed in accord with the examples of previous bona fide devotees. This is recommended in the 15th verse. Why such action should not be independent will be explained in the text to follow.
To act in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, one has to follow the leadership of authorized persons who are in a line of disciplic succession as explained in the beginning of this chapter. The system of Kṛṣṇa consciousness was first narrated to the sun-god, the sun-god explained it to his son Manu, Manu explained it to his son Ikṣvāku, and the system is current on this earth from that very remote time. Therefore, one has to follow in the footsteps of previous authorities in the line of disciplic succession. Otherwise even the most intelligent men will be bewildered regarding the standard actions of Kṛṣṇa consciousness. For this reason, the Lord decided to instruct Arjuna in Kṛṣṇa consciousness directly. Because of the direct instruction of the Lord to Arjuna, anyone who follows in the footsteps of Arjuna is certainly not bewildered.
It is said that one cannot ascertain the ways of religion simply by imperfect experimental knowledge. Actually, the principles of religion can only be laid down by the Lord Himself. Dharmaṁ tu sākṣād bhagavat-praṇītam (SB 6.3.19). No one can manufacture a religious principle by imperfect speculation. One must follow in the footsteps of great authorities like Brahmā, Śiva, Nārada, Manu, the Kumāras, Kapila, Prahlāda, Bhīṣma, Śukadeva Gosvāmī, Yamarāja, Janaka, and Bali Mahārāja. By mental speculation one cannot ascertain what is religion or self-realization. Therefore, out of causeless mercy to His devotees, the Lord explains directly to Arjuna what action is and what inaction is. Only action performed in Kṛṣṇa consciousness can deliver a person from the entanglement of material existence.
karmaṇo hy api boddhavyaṁ
boddhavyaṁ ca vikarmaṇaḥ
akarmaṇaś ca boddhavyaṁ
gahanā karmaṇo gatiḥ
karmaṇaḥ—of work; hi—certainly; api—also; boddhavyam—should be understood; boddhavyam—should be understood; ca—also; vikarmaṇaḥ—of forbidden work; akarmaṇaḥ—of inaction; ca—also; boddhavyam—should be understood; gahanā—very difficult; karmaṇaḥ—of work; gatiḥ—entrance.
The intricacies of action are very hard to understand. Therefore one should know properly what action is, what forbidden action is, and what inaction is.
If one is serious about liberation from material bondage, one has to understand the distinctions between action, inaction and unauthorized actions. One has to apply oneself to such an analysis of action, reaction and perverted actions because it is a very difficult subject matter. To understand Kṛṣṇ a consciousness and action according to its modes, one has to learn one’s relationship with the Supreme; i.e., one who has learned perfectly knows that every living entity is an eternal servitor of the Lord and that consequently one has to act in Kṛṣṇa consciousness. The entire Bhagavad-gītā is directed toward this conclusion. Any other conclusions, against this consciousness and its attendant actions, are vikarmas, or prohibited actions. To understand all this one has to associate with authorities in Kṛṣṇa consciousness and learn the secret from them; this is as good as learning from the Lord directly. Otherwise, even the most intelligent persons will be bewildered.
karmaṇy akarma yaḥ paśyed
akarmaṇi ca karma yaḥ
sa buddhimān manuṣyeṣu
sa yuktaḥ kṛtsna-karma-kṛt
karmaṇi—in action; akarma—inaction; yaḥ—one who; paśyet—observes; akarmaṇi—in inaction; ca—also; karma—fruitive action; yaḥ—one who; saḥ—he; buddhi-mān—is intelligent; manuṣyeṣu—in human society; saḥ—he; yuktaḥ—is in the transcendental position; kṛtsna-karma-kṛt—although engaged in all activities.
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.
A person acting in Kṛṣṇa consciousness is naturally free from the bonds of karma. His activities are all performed for Kṛṣṇa; therefore he does not enjoy or suffer any of the effects of work. Consequently he is intelligent in human society, even though he is engaged in all sorts of activities for Kṛṣṇa. Akarma means without reaction to work. The impersonalist ceases fruitive activities out of fear, so that the resultant action may not be a stumbling block on the path of self-realization, but the personalist knows rightly his position as the eternal servitor of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Therefore he engages himself in the activities of Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Because everything is done for Kṛṣṇa, he enjoys only transcendental happiness in the discharge of this service. Those who are engaged in this process are known to be without desire for personal sense gratification. The sense of eternal servitorship to Kṛṣṇa makes one immune to all sorts of reactionary elements of work.
yasya sarve samārambhāḥ
tam āhuḥ paṇḍitaṁ budhāḥ
yasya—one whose; sarve—all sorts of; samārambhāḥ—attempts; kāma—based on desire for sense gratification; saṅkalpa—determination; varjitāḥ—are devoid of; jñāna—of perfect knowledge; agni—by the fire; dagdha—burned; karmāṇam—whose work; tam—him; āhuḥ—declare; paṇḍitam—learned; budhāḥ—those who know.
One is understood to be in full knowledge whose every endeavor is devoid of desire for sense gratification. He is said by sages to be a worker for whom the reactions of work have been burned up by the fire of perfect knowledge.
Only a person in full knowledge can understand the activities of a person in Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Because the person in Kṛṣṇa consciousness is devoid of all kinds of sense-gratificatory propensities, it is to be understood that he has burned up the reactions of his work by perfect knowledge of his constitutional position as the eternal servitor of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He is actually learned who has attained to such perfection of knowledge. Development of this knowledge of eternal servitorship to the Lord is compared to fire. Such a fire, once kindled, can burn up all kinds of reactions to work.