Bhagavad Gītā 4:17
Bhagavad-gītā kiñcitadhītā” One śloka a day – 4.17
कर्मणो ह्यपि बोध्दव्यं बोध्दव्यं च विकर्मणः |
अकर्मणश्र्च बोध्दव्यं गहना कर्मणो गतिः || १७ ||
karmaṇo hyapi boddhavyaṁ boddhavyaṁ ca vikarmaṇaḥ|
akarmaṇaśca boddhavyaṁ gahanā karmaṇo gatiḥ || 17 ||
Action (enjoined by the scriptures) is to be known. Forbidden action and actionlessness must also be known. (This is) because the nature of karma is difficult (to understand).
Don’t think: “Work is well known in the world. Exertion of body etc., is work, while non-work is its absence or immobility. What is there to know about them?” Why? Listen:
Indeed, one ought to know about the work enjoined by the śāstra, of bad or forbidden work, and keeping quiet or immobility. Because the ways of “work” is profound – hard to understand.
Arjuna: That action consists of functioning of the body, organs etc. and inaction is sitting quiet is well-known. What have You to say in this regard?
Kṛṣṇa: there is something to be known about the true nature of action (enjoined by scriptures), prohibited action, and inaction. For the ways of action, inaction and prohibited action are inscrutable.
Pūjya Swami Dayananda Saraswati
Kṛṣṇa says what is to be done, what is not to be done, and what is the meaning of inaction – all of these are to be known. Why is this analysis needed? Because one should not take karma in a simplistic way. Nor is it easy to understand.
Here the knowledge of karma does not mean simple do’s and don’ts. It means the knowledge of the very nature of karma. If one understands the nature of karma, one has to understand Brahman, everything being connected as it is.
My take home points
- PSDSji’s commentary puts the matter in perspective. This śloka is not about do’s and don’ts, as it is commonly misunderstood. It is about understanding the very nature of karma, which means the karta also has to be understood. Without understanding the karta, there is no understanding of karma.
- If we take this śloka to mean the do’s and don’ts of karma, then there is no end to knowing about them.
- It is also interesting to note that both Śaṅkara and MS have interpreted karma as śāstra vihitam, that which is prescribed by śāstra; they regard as karma only that which is prescribed by the scriptures.