Bhagavad Gita – Chapter 2, Sloka 47, part 1

Newsletter on Bhagavadgita by Dr. P.V. Nath

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Sloka 47


You have the right to work only
but never to its fruits.
Let not the fruits of action be your motive.
Nor let your attachment be to inaction.


This sloka has to be divided into four quarters to understand it fully and is one of the most important as it summarises the entire philosophy of “karma.” It demands that the seeker develops the knowledge of “right action.” Jnana and Karma have to mingle and together they take the seeker to higher planes of spiritual enlightenment.

a) Karmanye vadhikaraste:  you have a right to work only
b) Maa phaleshu kadachana:  no right for the fruits thereof.
c) Maa karma phla-heturbhuh:  let not the fruits be your motive.
d) Maa te sangostv akarmani:  let not be attached to inaction.

“Adhikara” is the most important word in this sloka and we must understand it clearly. It means “right”, “entitlement.”

The student who has gained entry into a school, paid the fees is entitled to enter the school and attend the prescribed classes. He has “adhikara” to be in the school during the classes.

The consultant at a particular hospital, selected by the panel, gets the right to enter the premises and work in the appropriate ward.

The M.P having won the confidence of the electorate has a right to enter the House of Parliament. He has the “adhikara” to do so.

On this basis, due to our past karmas, the Lord has given us the “Adhikara” to live as “humans” on this earth.

Each one of us, by His blessings, as a result of actions performed both in the past births and in this life, have attained a certain position in family/society we live in.

Like a director of a film/play, we have been given different roles to play.

“You have a right to work only” and “no rights for the fruits thereof” has to be understood in this context. We have to work according to the rules of the position we are given. Our sastras call it as “Ashrama dharma”. A child has to follow the rules of childhood and the student has to follow the rules of education. We have a duty to fulfil that role.

What we get from our work, as we will understand when we proceed to the other chapters is to share with family/society.

Life starts from being in debt from childhood itself.

We are in debt to our parents for the love and affection they put in our upbringing and for the sacrifices they undergo.

To the society who provide the basic needs like education, medical care, water supply, electricity etc during the period of education from kindergarten to university. (Our parents fee towards the education is a paltry sum in relation to the contribution by the society.)

When we understand this way, we realise that the pay packet we receive should include repayment to the society for the debts incurred. If we work out how much it costs the society to give full education to a child, the young adult from the time of graduation has to work without pay for the rest of his/her life.

So, what we really get from our work as pay/fee cannot be called as “my money”.

The second quarter of the sloka “no rights for the fruits thereof” has to be understood on this basis.

The word “adhikara” can be understood as “right of inheritance” also. Unless we are entitled to, we cannot inherit any property from our ancestors.

###  more on this follows next week   ###

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