Mahabharata Bhishma Parva Chapter 27

Mahabharata Bhishma Parva (Bhagavat-Gita Parva) Chapter 27
Bhagavad Gita Chapter III

Arjuna said,—'If devotion, O Janardana, is regarded by thee as superior to work, why then, O Kesava, dost thou engage me in such dreadful work? By equivocal words thou seemest to confound my understanding. Therefore, tell (me) one thing definitely by which I may attain to what is good.

The Holy One said,—'It hath already been said by me, O sinless one, that here are, in this world, two kinds of devotion; that of the Sankhyas through knowledge and that of the yogins through work. A man doth not acquire freedom from work from (only) the non-performance of work. Nor doth he acquire final emancipation from only renunciation (of work). No one can abide even for a moment without doing work.[1] That man of deluded soul who, curbing the organs of sense, liveth mentally cherishing the objects of sense, is said to be a dissembler. He however, O Arjuna, who restraining (his) senses by his mind, engageth in devotion (in the form) of work with the organs of work, and is free from attachment, is distinguished (above all). (Therefore), do thou always apply yourself to work, for action is better than inaction. Even the support of thy body cannot be accomplished without work.[2] This world is fettered by all work other than that which is (performed) for Sacrifice. (Therefore), O son of Kunti, perform work for the sake of that, freed from attachment.[3] In olden times, the Lord of Creation, creating men and sacrifice together, said,—flourish by means of this (Sacrifice). Let this (Sacrifice) be to you (all) the dispenser of all objects cherished by you. Rear the gods with this, and let the gods (in return) rear you. Thus fulfilling the mutual interest you will obtain that which is beneficial (to you).[4] Propitiated with sacrifices the gods will bestow on you the pleasures you desire. He who enjoyeth (himself) without giving them what they have given, is assuredly a thief. The good who eat the remnant of sacrifices are freed from all sins. Those unrighteous ones incur sin who dress food for their own sake.—From food are all creatures; and sacrifice is the outcome of work.[5] Know that work proceeds from the Vedas; Vedas have proceeded from Him who hath no decay. Therefore, the all-pervading Supreme Being is installed in sacrifice.[6] He who conformeth not to this wheel that is thus revolving, that man of sinful life delighting (the indulgence of) his senses, liveth in vain, O Partha.[7] The man, however, that is attached to self only, that is contented with self, and that is pleased in his self,—hath no work (to do). He hath no concern whatever with action nor with any omission here. Nor, amongst all creatures, is there any upon whom his interest dependeth.[8] Therefore, always do work that should be done, without attachment.



  1. Prakritijais Gunas is explained by Sreedhara as qualities born of one's nature such as Ragadveshadi. Sankara thinks that they are the qualities or attributes of primal matter (which enters into the composition of every self) such as Satwa, Rajas, and Tamas.
  2. "Apply to work", i.e. to work as prescribed in the scriptures. Thus says Sankara. "To morning and evening prayers, etc." says Sreedhara.
  3. Sacrifices Vishnu's self as declared by the Srutis; work for sacrifice, therefore, is work for Vishnu's sake or gratification. For the sake of that i.e., for sacrifice's, or Vishnu's sake. So say all the commentators.
  4. Bhavaya is explained by both Sankara and Sreedhara as Vradhaya or make grow. Perhaps, "rear" is the nearest approach to it in English. K. T. Telang renders it, 'please.' The idea is eminently Indian. The gods are fed by sacrifices, and in return they feed men by sending rain. The Asuras again who warred with the gods warred with sacrifices.
  5. Parjjanya is explained by both Sankara and Sreedhara as rain. It means also the clouds or the origin of rain.
  6. The word in the original that is rendered in the Vedas is Brahma. It may mean the Supreme Soul. Of course, in Brahmanic literature, the Vedas are Brahma and Brahma is the Vedas, but still in the second line of 15 there is no necessity of taking Brahma as equivalent to the Vedas. I do not think Telang is accurate in his rendering of this line.
  7. The wheel referred to is what has been said before, viz., from the Vedas are work, from work is rain, from rain is food, from food are creatures, from creatures again work and so back to the Vedas.
  8. The sense seems to be, as explained by the commentators, that such a man earns no merit by action, nor sin by inaction or omission. Nor is there anybody from the Supreme Being to the lowest creature on whom he depends for anything.