Chapter III, Verse 1
Sri Nerode’s Translation:
THE THIRD DISCOURSE
YOGA OF ACTION
Most commentators and translators forget that the Gita is written in verse. In verse, the composer cannot exactly put the philosophical word down and is compelled to put down the word that fits with the rhythm, even though sometimes there is exaggeration, hyperbole, and hiddenness of meanings.
For example, take the word “jahi” or destroy, in 43. It cannot mean “destroy”. No one can kill a desire; it can be sublimated, suppressed, or repressed. The Gita always follows the golden Path. Why then, would the composer desire to destroy desire completely? Rather it should mean “discipline” which is in rapport with the very philosophical strain of the book.
Or again, consider the verses, 17 and 18, where most translation and commentators safely commend “non-action” as if a holy man does not need to act or has no duty to perform. To me, it is ridiculous to include such a theory in the chapter called Yoga of Action. Therefore, it must mean that he has no “selfish or personal axe to grind”. He acts impersonally.
O Krishna! If thou deemest meditation as a more noble thing than action, why, then, doest thou plunge me in this dreadful fight?
“If wisdom is better than action, why is action necessary at all? Why not just pursue wisdom?”
The devotee’s excuses turn argumentative as he reasons using the blind intellect regarding how to achieve the state of consciousness that cannot be described.
This verse sets the tone for the entire chapter. Arjuna challenges Krishna who is described as both Janardana, the “agitator of humankind”, and as Keshava, “the aloof observer of sense experiences”. Chapter III addresses a series of paradoxes presented by the intellect when it rules the human consciousness versus the soul being in control. The first of these paradoxes is “if wisdom is supreme, why is action necessary?”
Answers and recommendations and insights into correct (helpful for achieving liberation) actions are covered in the upcoming verses and commentaries.
I disagree with Sri Nerode’s statements. The Bhagavad Gita was originally created in Sanskrit when Sanskrit was a spoken tool versus a written language. The Bhagavad Gita serves humankind in many ways. One way, God willing, that I hope to prove in this lifetime is that the Bhagavad Gita is a basic primer for correct Sanskrit application.
Easter Eggs (hidden references to deeper meanings) in the original version of this this verse include:
Note that this chapter is call “Yoga of Action” and signifies that the active aspects of the three gunas (qualities).
Janardana – The One who instigates the troubles of mankind.
Janardana is the aspect of Vishnu that grants the prayers of mankind. Most prayers are either for protection, or for preserving the status quo in a world where change is the only constant. In other words, most prayers are selfish and when granted only create additional troubles for humankind.
Expanded Explanation of Janardana
Janardana is the form of Vishnu that manipulates the three qualities (or gunas)
The three qualities are: positive (Sattwa), negative (Tama) and neutralizing (Raja). Additional notes about each quality follows:
Existence, truth, bears witness to the truth; illumines, ascertains, soothes, and uplifts by causing an equilibrium. Makes real happiness devoid of excitement. Has no motion of its own. Gives the power to will and to know. Induces the quality in a flame which makes it burn upwards. “Intelligence” on an abstract plane of consciousness. No pure physical example. Related to white blood cells. Closest mental example is the period of transition from dreaming to waking states. Milk, rice and wheat contain aspects of this quality. It is symbolized by pure white and “Dawn”.
“To please” or “to color.” Activates, produces motion, causes change in anything it influences. Gives matter its force and impetus; causes desire and endeavor in the mind. Imparts motion to air and fire. Pure abstract example is ego and on the physical plane, energy. Found in the red corpuscles of the blood. Related foods are red peppers, onions, liquor. Symbolized by the color red. In the daily cycle it is “Noon”.
“To cover” or “to darken.” This quality covers or hides “neutral” qualities and obstructs “positive” qualities. Surface, skin, outer cover. Makes it possible to feel invisible air. Produces tendency for water to descend. Responsible for gravity. Causes resistance, halts motion. Pure abstract example is lethargy. Physical example is solid earth. It is the carbon in venous blood. Influence is strongly felt in sleep and laziness. Related foods are stale meat, poisons and certain suffocating gases. In the daily cycle it is “Night”.
Keshava – One whose hair is “handsome” or well-ordered while contemplating the senses.
Keshava is another nickname for Vishnu, whose primary qualities are to preserve and protect creation. The use of Keshava in the Bhagavad Gita indicates full awareness of the senses at hand with neither a call to engage nor to destroy that sense. Keshava is the perspective of wisdom regarding the senses. While Hrishikesha indicates the need for a defensive battle, Keshava indicates a time for contemplation. This is separate and different from “Keshinisudana” though some may group the two together.
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