Bhagavad-gītā 4.17 , Bombay , 1974-04-06

Prabhupāda: [Chants jaya rādhā-mādhava] [break]


Pradyumna: [leads chanting of verse, etc.] [Prabhupāda and devotees repeat, etc]

karmaṇo hy api boddhavyaṁ
boddhavyaṁ ca vikarmaṇaḥ
akarmaṇaś ca boddhavyaṁ
gahanā karmaṇo gatiḥ

[break] [02:38]

Translation = "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."


karmaṇo hy api boddhavyaṁ
boddhavyaṁ ca vikarmaṇaḥ
akarmaṇaś ca boddhavyaṁ
gahanā karmaṇo gatiḥ

The same principle of working order is being discussed by Kṛṣṇa again in this verse. The beginning was cātur-varṇyaṁ mayā sṛṣṭaṁ guṇa-karma-vibhāgaśaḥ [Bg. 4.13]. We should remember the same principle always. Four classes are divided according to quality and karma. Therefore Kṛṣṇa says, karmaṇo api boddhavyam, what is actually work. Boddhavyaṁ ca vikarmaṇaḥ. Vikarmaṇaḥ means forbidden. This is the human life's business. He should know what is actual work and what is forbidden work. Just like a good citizen knows what is lawful work and what is unlawful work. Lawful work is executed by intelligent citizens, and unlawful work is executed by the criminals. So he has to suffer. You can cheat the man-made government by hiding yourself, so-called hiding. You cannot hide yourself from---any vikarma, or unlawful work---from the eyes of the Supreme Lord. That is not possible. You can hide yourself from the eyes of the police, man-made law, but it is not possible to hide yourself from the eyes of the Supreme. That is not possible.

Because the Supreme is sitting within your heart. Īśvaraḥ sarva-bhūtānāṁ hṛd-deśe 'rjuna tiṣṭhati [Bg. 18.61]. And He is sitting as anumantā and upadraṣṭā. He is simply seeing what you are doing, and He is giving sanction also. Even a thief who is going to act something criminally, without the sanction of the Supersoul, who is sitting within everyone's heart, he cannot do that. That you have got experience. Suppose you are doing..., going to do something which is not very good. The conscience is beating, "No, no, you should not do this. You should not do this." But because without the sanction of the Supreme I cannot do anything, so if we persist to do something, then the sanction is given, "At your risk." That is going on. God does not give you sanction for doing anything criminal. But if we persist to do something criminal, then God gives sanction, "All right, do. Do it at your risk." That is going on. Karmaṇā daiva-netreṇa [SB 3.31.1].

Now, when we act something on account of my persistence by the sanction of the Lord, then I become subjected to the fruits of such resultant action, and we get a different type of body. That is going on. In the śāstra it is said, karmaṇā daiva-netreṇa jantur dehopapattaye [SB 3.31.1]. Jantuḥ, of the living entity... We are getting different types of bodies. Just like we are sitting, so many people, ladies and gentlemen. Everyone's bodily feature is different from the other. So why there are different features? We are all human being. Why we have got different types of bodies? Not only in human society; the animal society, the bird society... It is all karmaṇā, by our personal fruitive action. Karmaṇā daiva-netreṇa. This law we do not know. We work irresponsibly, without knowing the result of our work. Therefore we are getting different types of bodies, different types of situation, different type of occupation, so many things.

Therefore people should be trained, as Kṛṣṇa said in the beginning, that cātur-varṇyaṁ mayā sṛṣṭaṁ guṇa-karma-vibhāgaśaḥ [Bg. 4.13]. The four classes of men, according to quality, they should be engaged in different types of occupation, guṇa-karma. First of all, guṇa. Guṇa means quality. In the material world also, practically we see, if we want to work in a certain type of occupation, first of all it is examined whether I have got the quality. Suppose if I want to work as an engineer, so I must possess the quality first of all, whether I can act as an engineer. Similarly, if I want to work as a lawyer, then I must have the quality, qualification. Similarly, different type of quality, different type of qualification, and then different type of work. Guṇa-karma-vibhāgaśaḥ.

So that requires guidance. And who is the guide? The father is the guide, the king, the government is the guide, the elderly guru is the guide. There must be guide. Gurur na sa syāt pitā na sa syāj jananī na sā syāt [SB 5.5.18]. In this way... Sva-jano na sa syāt na mocayed yaḥ samupeta-mṛtyum. These laws are unknown at the present moment in this age. There are so many gurus, so many fathers, so many relatives, so many husbands. There are so many guides, but they do not know what is the aim of life. Therefore śāstra says that "If you do not know what is the aim of life, you should not become a guru, you should not become a father, you should not become a mother." Jananī na sā syāt.

So what is the aim of life? The aim of life... Na mocayed yaḥ samupeta-mṛtyum. Samupeta-mṛtyum. We have got this disease, mṛtyu: we have to die. We are making so many plans for our happiness, but where is the plan for stopping your death? That is the ultimate goal of life, but they do not know it. Na mocayed yaḥ samupeta-mṛtyum. Kṛṣṇa says... Everything is explained in the Bhagavad-gītā. Therefore we are repeatedly asking everyone to study Bhagavad-gītā as it is. Don't become a learned scholar and interpret foolishly or differently from Bhagavad-gītā. That is not meaning. As it is, as Kṛṣṇa says, try to understand Bhagavad-gītā. Everything is there.

So Kṛṣṇa says that our real problem of life is janma-mṛtyu-jarā-vyādhi-duḥkha-doṣānudarśanam [Bg. 13.9]. That is the problem, repetition of birth, bhūtvā bhūtvā pralīyate [Bg. 8.19]. We take one body according to karma, karmaṇā daiva-netreṇa jantur dehopapattaye [SB 3.31.1]. We get a body according to karma, daiva-netreṇa. That is not in your hand. Suppose if you are living like cats and dogs, the nature's way is that you get next life the dog's body, cat's body or hog's body. And if you are working just like a god, godly, with good qualification, godly qualification, then you become next life demigod. You get your situation in the higher planetary system. These are all explained in the Bhagavad-gītā. How do you know? Ūrdhvaṁ gacchanti sattva-sthāḥ [Bg. 14.18]. If you act just like a qualified brāhmaṇa, sattva-sthā---sattva-sthā means brāhmaṇa---then you get your promotion in the higher planetary system, ūrdhvam. Ūrdhvaṁ gacchanti sattva-sthāḥ. If you act like a brāhmaṇa, then get your promotion to the higher planetary system, Janaloka, Maharloka, Tapoloka, Brahmaloka, Siddhaloka. There are so many planets. The people do not know. There is no such education. But we have got this knowledge from the Vedic literature. Ūrdhvaṁ gacchanti sattva-sthā madhye tiṣṭhanti rājasāḥ. If you have got the qualification of rajo-guṇa, creative energy, then you remain in the middle planetary system, Bhūr, Bhuvar, Svar. Those who are brāhmaṇas, know gāyatrī-mantra, oṁ bhūr bhuvaḥ svaḥ. And jaghanya-guṇa-vṛtti-sthā adho gacchanti tāmasāḥ. Tāmasāḥ, tamo-guṇa, jaghanya, abominable, nasty, unclean, eating nasty things.Then jaghanya-guṇa-vṛtti-sthā adho gacchanti tāmasāḥ, they go to the lower planetary system, Tala, Atala, Vitala, Pātāla, Rasātala, Talātala---there are so many planets---or in the animal kingdom.

So we are creating our next body, karmaṇā, by our work. Therefore Kṛṣṇa says, karmaṇo api boddhavyam. You must know, because you have to accept next body. You can talk foolishly, "No, there is no body." Bhasmī-bhūtasya... That is the atheistic theory, that after the body is burned into ashes, everything is finished. Big, big professors, big, big learned scholars, so-called scholars, they say like that, "Oh, there is no life. Everything is finished after this body is finished." But that is not a fact. If we have to accept the authority of Bhagavad-gītā... We have to accept it. If we don't accept, that is our foolishness. Bhagavān says, tathā dehāntara-prāptiḥ. Dehino 'smin yathā dehe kaumāraṁ yauvanaṁ jarā, tathā dehāntara [Bg. 2.13]. Dehāntara-prāptiḥ is there, as we are getting dehāntara. We have got experience every day. Just like in daytime we have got this body. At night, when we dream, we have got a different body; we go elsewhere; we're working differently, forgetting this body. And again, daytime, we forget our body which was seen in the dream. That is also dream; this is also dream. This is daydream, and that is night dream. But the seer, the soul, is permanent. He is in the daytime and he is also nighttime.

So this is our position. We are changing our body. Just like I was a child, you were a child, but that we have forgotten. But that does not mean I did not have. Similarly, in the past I had a body, in the present I have got a body, so why not in the future? This is common sense. In future you must have a body. Tathā dehāntara-prāptiḥ [Bg. 2.13]. Kṛṣṇa says, authority. I may say, "There is no body," but Kṛṣṇa says, "There is body." And how this body is manufactured? Karmaṇā, by your work. If you work foolishly in the tamo-guṇa, then you get the body of ignorance, ugly body, abominable body, poor body, without any education, without any knowledge. These things are there. And if you work sattva-guṇa, then you get better body. And rajo-guṇa, then in the middle-class body. These are stated in the śāstra. You have to accept it.

Therefore Kṛṣṇa says, karmaṇo hy api boddhavyaṁ boddhavyaṁ ca vikarmaṇaḥ [Bg. 4.17]. Vikarmaṇaḥ means forbidden work = "You should not do this." Just like we are forbidding our students, "No illicit sex." This is forbidden. "No intoxication." This is forbidden in the śāstra. Yatra pāpaś catur-vidhāḥ, four kinds of sinful activities. These are the basic pillars, four pillars of sinful activities = illicit sex life and intoxication, meat-eating and gambling. Striya-sūnā-pāna-dyūta yatra pāpaś catur-vidhāḥ [SB 1.17.38], the four kinds of sinful activity. So if we act sinfully, then we get a body which is result of sinful action. By pious activities, we get janmaiśvarya-śruta-śrīḥ [SB 1.8.26]. Janma, first-class family, first-class nation, janma. That is very important thing, to get birth in first-class family, enlightened family, brāhmaṇa family. Śucīnāṁ śrīmatāṁ gehe yoga-bhraṣṭo 'bhijāyate [Bg. 6.41]. These are all explained in the Bhagavad-gītā. Yoga-bhraṣṭaḥ. Suppose one has taken to Kṛṣṇa consciousness, bhakti-yoga. So if he can execute properly, then,

bhaktyā mām abhijānāti
yāvān yaś cāsmi tattvataḥ
tato māṁ tattvato jñātvā
viśate tad-anantaram

Then he will understand what is God, what is kingdom of God. And after death, he shall enter into the kingdom of God. Tyaktvā dehaṁ punar janma naiti [Bg. 4.9].

So this is the only shelter. If you take to bhakti-yoga, even if you fail to execute it properly, then still, you are guaranteed your next life śucīnāṁ śrīmatāṁ gehe, in the family of nice brāhmaṇa or very rich man. You will get birth. Śucīnām means first-class brāhmaṇa, Vaiṣṇava. Śuci. Yaḥ smaret puṇḍarīkākṣaṁ sa bāhyābhyantara-śuciḥ [Garuḍa Purāṇa]. Śuci means brāhmaṇa, and muci means cobbler. Muci means cobbler. There is a Bengali verse, śuci haya muci haya yadi kṛṣṇa tyaje. The first line is muci haya śuci haya yadi kṛṣṇa bhaje: "One who takes to Kṛṣṇa consciousness, even he is born in the family of cobbler, muci..." Everyone knows, Indians. So muci haya śuci haya, although he is born in the family of a muci, cobbler, he becomes śuci, a brāhmaṇa, by..., yadi kṛṣṇa bhaje, if he is a devotee of Kṛṣṇa, if he is in Kṛṣṇa consciousness. And muci haya śuci haya yadi kṛṣṇa bhaje or śuci haya muci haya yadi kṛṣṇa tyaje: "If one is born of a brāhmaṇa family but gives up Kṛṣṇa bhajana, devotional life, he becomes a muci." Karmaṇā. Because he's changed his karma.

Therefore cātur-varṇyaṁ mayā sṛṣṭaṁ guṇa-karma-vibhāgaśaḥ. So this education should be introduced. Guṇa. First of all, everyone should be educated to accept the sattva-guṇa, sāttvika, goodness. Everyone should be trained up, the first-class good man. Satyaṁ śamaḥ damaḥ titikṣā ārjava, jñānaṁ vijñānam āstikyaṁ brahma-karma svabhāva-jam [Bg. 18.42]. Everyone should be taught...

[break] ...if he remains like an animal, eating, sleeping and mating and dying like cats and dogs, that is not right. Therefore Kṛṣṇa says that what type of karma should one execute? Karmaṇo hy api boddhavyam. One should learn, not foolishly do anything and anything. Like the śūdras. Śūdras also have got their duty, particular duty. I have explained several times. But if we take to Kṛṣṇa consciousness, it doesn't matter whether one is possessing the brahminical qualification or the kṣatriya qualification or vaiśya qualification or śūdra qualification. It doesn't matter. If one is taken to the service of Kṛṣṇa consciousness, he is above all these brāhmaṇa, kṣatriya, vaiśya, śūdra. That type of karma should... Therefore it is called karma-yoga.

Karma... You have certain type of tendency to work. So you work in that. Sva-karmaṇā tam abhyarcya [Bg. 18.46]. That is the recommendations, that according to your qualification, you work, but by the result of your work you worship Kṛṣṇa, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. That is required. That is Kṛṣṇa consciousness. It is not that everyone is expected to become first-class brahminical culture. It doesn't matter. The same example. This example are given in the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam:

puruṣasyāśramaiḥ saha
catvāro jajñire varṇā
viprādayaḥ guṇair pṛthak

Viprādayo guṇa-pṛthak. If we understand what is the meaning of becoming brāhmaṇa, what is the meaning of becoming kṣatriya, what is the meaning of become a vaiśya and what is the meaning of becoming śūdra... That is described in the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. Mukha-bāhūru-pādebhyaḥ. Mukha means the face, bāhu means the arms, ūru means the waist, and pāda, these legs. So mukha-bāhūru-pādebhyaḥ. These brāhmaṇa and the kṣatriya and the vaiśya and the śūdra, it should be taken as the different parts of the body of the virāṭ-puruṣa, Kṛṣṇa. Of the virāṭ-puruṣa.

So the brāhmaṇa's business you can understand---mouth. You have got the tongue. Brāhmaṇa's business is to eat and to chant Vedic mantras. Therefore to give eatables to the Supreme Lord, according to our Vedic principle, the brāhmaṇas are called and they are given foodstuff, that "You eat. By your eating, Kṛṣṇa will eat." But that has been misused now, but actually that is the meaning. In the Vedic literature they do not say that "For some pious activities you call some poor men." No. Brāhmaṇas. Brāhmaṇa-bhajana. Because the brāhmaṇa is supposed to be the mouth of God. Similarly, kṣatriya is supposed to be the arms of God, the vaiśyas, the waist of the God, and the śūdras, the legs of the God.

But God is Absolute. Therefore there is no distinction between mouth or the leg. If you offer flowers and tulasī on the lotus feet of God, Kṛṣṇa, and if you decorate the mouth of Kṛṣṇa, it is the same bhakti. Because there is no difference of the mouth and leg, provided the mouth is working as mouth and the leg is working as leg for satisfying the Supreme. Then there is no such distinction. As soon as Kṛṣṇa consciousness is absent, a so-called brāhmaṇa is puffed up = "Oh, I am born in brāhmaṇa family. I am bigger than the śūdras," that is falldown. The real purpose is that either you be mouth or hand or waist or leg, the real purpose is to maintain the body very perfectly. That is real purpose.

Similarly, either you become brāhmaṇa or you become kṣatriya or you become śūdra or vaiśya, real purpose is how to satisfy Kṛṣṇa. That is explained in Bhāgavatam.

ataḥ pumbhir dvija-śreṣṭhā
svanuṣṭhitasya dharmasya
saṁsiddhir hari-toṣaṇam

The real purpose is whether you are satisfying Kṛṣṇa. If your that aim is lost, that you do not require to satisfy Kṛṣṇa, you simply satisfy your senses, then it has no meaning.

ya eṣāṁ puruṣaṁ sākṣād
ātma-prabhavam īśvaram
na bhajanty avajānanti
sthānād bhraṣṭāḥ patanty adhaḥ

Sthānād bhraṣṭāḥ... I claim... It is very simple to understand. Suppose this hand, my hand, but how long it is hand? So long it is attached to the service of the body. If this hand is cut off from this body, it may be called hand, but it has no meaning. Similarly, head also. The head is head so long it is attached to the body. If the head is cut off from the body, then what is the meaning of this head? It has no meaning. Similarly, either you become brāhmaṇa or you become kṣatriya or you become vaiśya or śūdra, if you are not attached to the service of the Supreme Whole, then you are useless brāhmaṇa, useless kṣatriya, useless vaiśya. This is the purpose.

Therefore Kṛṣṇa has begun that cātur-varṇyaṁ mayā sṛṣṭaṁ guṇa-karma-vibhāgaśaḥ [Bg. 4.13]. Therefore one has to understand that what is the meaning of these different types of activities. Karmaṇo hy api boddhavyaṁ boddhavyaṁ ca vikarmaṇaḥ. Vikarmaṇaḥ means if you cannot work which will satisfy Kṛṣṇa, that is vikarma. That is vikarma, forbidden. Because the real purpose of working is to satisfy Kṛṣṇa. He is the center. He is the center of all activities. Sva-karmaṇā tam abhyarcya saṁsiddhiṁ labhate nara [Bg. 18.46]. Simply by satisfying the central point, Kṛṣṇa, then you get saṁsiddhi. It doesn't matter whether you are a śūdra or a brāhmaṇa or engineer or lawyer. The real point is how to satisfy Kṛṣṇa. But that education is lacking.

So our Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement is teaching how to serve Kṛṣṇa from any position. It doesn't matter. Whether you are a brāhmaṇa, kṣatriya, vaiśya, śūdra, lawyer, engineer or film actor or anything, it doesn't matter, but whether you are trying to satisfy Kṛṣṇa. That is the point. If you have no such sense, "I have to satisfy Kṛṣṇa," then it is śrama eva hi kevalam.

dharmaḥ svanuṣṭhitaḥ puṁsāṁ
viṣvaksena-kathāsu yaḥ
notpādayed ratiṁ yadi
śrama eva hi kevalam

This is simply labor. It has no meaning, because you are creating, your own formation, next body, another body, that out of your responsibility you are acting like a hog, you get the body of a hog; you are acting like a monkey, you get the body of a monkey; if you are acting like a god, demigod, you get your body. Karmaṇā daiva-netreṇa [SB 3.31.1]. Therefore one should know, "What class of work I shall be engaged in?" So the easy process is... It doesn't matter. According to your qualification, you engage yourself in any work, but try to satisfy Kṛṣṇa. Then your life is successful. Otherwise it is śrama eva hi kevalam.

Therefore Kṛṣṇa says, karmaṇo hy api boddhavyaṁ boddhavyaṁ ca vikarmaṇaḥ. Vikarmaṇaḥ means sense gratification. I explained this verse from Bhāgavatam last night = nūnaṁ pramattaḥ kurute vikarma [SB 5.5.4]. This vikarmaṇaḥ is explained in the Bhāgavatam. Nūnaṁ pramattaḥ kurute vikarma yat... What is that vikarmaṇaḥ? Yad indriya-prītaya āpṛṇoti. Anything which is done for sense gratification, that is vikarma. So people are engaged in vikarma. Everywhere, all over the world, the education, the scientific advancement, culture, everything... Now culture means some dancing. Now it has become a culture. And what is that dancing? Sense gratification. Boys and girls, dancing ball dance, sense gratification. That is vikarma. But here, the same dancing before the Deity is bhakti. The same dancing. You dance in a theatrical performance, in a platform, that is also dancing. And here, in this stage, before the Deity, if you are dancing with Hare Kṛṣṇa mahā-mantra, then you are making bhakti, progress. And that dancing means you are becoming entangled in your karma, because that dancing is sense gratification, vikarmaṇaḥ,

nūnaṁ pramattaḥ kurute vikarma
yad indriya-prītaya āpṛṇoti

So Ṛṣabhadeva says, na sādhu manye: "This is not good." Yata ātmano 'yam asann api kleśada āsa dehaḥ. Asann api, this body is not permanent. Still, asann api, although it is not permanent, for a few years only, it kleśada, simply full of miserable condition. Because you have committed, executed vikarma, therefore you have got this body. It doesn't matter whether it is rich body or poor body, everyone has to undergo the threefold miserable condition of life. When typhoid is there, it does not discriminate that "Here is a rich body. I shall give him less pain." No. When the typhoid is there, either your body is rich body or poor body, you have to suffer the same pain. When you are within the womb of your mother, you have to suffer the same pain, either you become in the queen's womb or in the cobbler's wife's womb, that packed-up situation. But they do not know. Janma-mṛtyu-jarā. There are so many sufferings in the process of birth. There are so many sufferings in the process of birth and death and old age. A rich man or poor man, when we are old, we have to suffer so many invalidity. Similarly, janma-mṛtyu-jarā-vyādhi [Bg. 13.9]. Jarā, jarā and vyādhi and mṛtyu. So we are not conscious about the suffering position of this material body. The śāstra says, "Don't accept again any material body." Na sādhu manye: "This is not good, that you are repeatedly getting this material body." Na sādhu manye yata ātmanaḥ. Ātmanaḥ, the soul, is encaged in this material body. Yata ātmano 'yam asann api. Although temporary, I have got this body. Kleśada āsa dehaḥ.

So if we want to stop this miserable condition of getting another material body, then we must know what is karma, what is vikarma. That is Kṛṣṇa's proposal. Karmaṇo hy api boddhavyaṁ boddhavyaṁ ca vikarmaṇaḥ, akarmaṇaś ca boddhavyam. Akarmaṇa means there is no reaction. Reaction. Karma, if you do nice work, it has got reaction. It has nice body, nice education, nice family, nice riches. This is also nice. We take it as nice. We want to go to the heavenly planet. But we do not know that even in the heavenly planet there is the janma-mṛtyu-jarā-vyādhi [Bg. 13.9]. Therefore Kṛṣṇa does not recommend that you go to the heavenly body. He says, ā-brahma-bhuvanāl lokāḥ punar āvartino 'rjuna [Bg. 8.16]. Even if you go to the Brahmaloka, still, the repetition of birth and... Yad gatvā na nivartante tad dhāma paramaṁ mama [Bg. 15.6]. Yad gatvā na nivartante. But we do not know that there is a dhāma. If we somehow or other, if we can promote ourself to that dhāma, then na nivartante, yad gatvā na nivartante tad dhāma paramaṁ mama. In another place says, tyaktvā dehaṁ punar janma naiti mām eti [Bg. 4.9].

So people have no information that Kṛṣṇa, or the Supreme Lord, He has got His place and anyone can go. How one can go?

yānti deva-vratā devān
pitṝn yānti pitṛ-vratāḥ
bhūtejyā yānti bhūtāni
mad-yājino 'pi yānti mām

"If one becomes devoted to My worship, My business, bhakti-yoga, he comes to Me." In another place He says, bhaktyā mām abhijānāti yāvān yaś cāsmi [Bg. 18.55]. So therefore our only business is to understand Kṛṣṇa. Yajñārthe karma. This is akarma. Here it is said, akarmaṇa..., akarmaṇaḥ api boddhavyam, akarmaṇaś ca boddhavyam. Akarma means without reaction. Here, if we act for our sense gratification, the reaction is... Just like a soldier is killing, he is getting gold medal. The same soldier, when comes home, if he kills one man, he is hanged. Why? He can say in the court, "Sir, when I was fighting in the battlefield, I killed so many. I got gold medal. And why you are hanging me just now?" "Because you have done for your own sense gratification. And that you did for government sanction."

Therefore any karma, if you do it for Kṛṣṇa's satisfaction, that is akarmana; it has no reaction. But if you do anything for your own sense satisfication, you will have to suffer the resultant action, good or bad. Therefore Kṛṣṇa says,

karmaṇo hy api boddhavyaṁ
boddhavyaṁ ca vikarmaṇaḥ
akarmaṇaś ca boddhavyaṁ
gahanā karmaṇo gatiḥ

It is very difficult to understand what kind of action you should do. Therefore we have to take direction from Kṛṣṇa, from the śāstra, from guru. Then our life will be successful.

Thank you very much. Hare Kṛṣṇa.

Devotees: Haribol. [end]