Bhagavad Gita – Chapter 3, Sloka 5, part 3

Newsletter on Bhagavadgita by Dr. P.V. Nath

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Sloka 5:


No one can ever remain, even for a moment, without performing work. Everyone, without his will, is made to do work by the qualities born of prakriti.


***   continuation from last week   ***

The Lord is particularly referring to Arjuna in this instance. Arjuna had taken shelter under Krishna at the beginning of this war. He was confused. He was born as Kshatriya and had a duty to fight and protect but wanted to escape from his duties and give away the kingdom to Duryodhana who was a personification of “unrighteousness.”

If he had absconded from his duties and went away to the forest, his thought imprints would not have changed overnight. He would still carry the gunas of a kshatriya and his association with life in the forest would have made him conduct actions sooner or later that befit his qualities.

This is the summary of this verse. By stopping here, one may get a wrong notion that if it is so, that the nature determines all our actions, there is no room for change. We are what we are and we can do what our thought imprints dictate. This is the wrong notion. The human birth is associated with having the “Intellect”, the reasoning capacity. There is room for the better in the form of influence by the parents and the society in the early part of one’s life. The education provided by the society is supposed to assist the individual in modifying his actions for the benefit of the society. In Hindu philosophy and tradition prominent role is given to the “Guru”, a learned master of the scriptures. His role is to impart the scriptural knowledge into the seeker and assist him in the path of spiritual progress.

These are voluntary actions. Let us understand this clearly. Yes, it is true that the gunas we are born with dictate the type of work we conduct. At the same time, we have an opportunity to change the thought imprints in our mind. This is a slow process and by what we call as “Practice” (Abhyasa) it is possible to change. Starting from the time of birth into this world, there is a latent period before the baby can become a child and then an adult. During this early period of one’s life, the immediate family (mother, father etc) and the society outside the family has an opportunity to bring in a change in the quality of thoughts. It is a slow process but not an impossible task.

The Puranas tell us the story of Prahlada to highlight this point. He was born in a demonic family as the son of the demon Hiranyakashipu. Destiny made his mother, while he was still in the mother’s womb, to reside in the abode of sage Narada. She was given discourses on the Lord Vishnu, the Supreme. This changed Prahlada’s thought imprints while he was still in mother’s womb from a demonical one to a saintly nature.

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