Mahabharata Bhishma Parva Chapter 27:2

Mahabharata Bhishma Parva (Bhagavat-Gita Parva) Chapter 27:2
Bhagavad Gita Chapter III

The man who performeth work without attachment, attaineth to the Supreme. By work alone, Janaka and others, attained the accomplishment of their objects. Having regard also to the observance by men of their duties, it behoveth thee to work.

Whatever a great man doth, is also done by vulgar people. Ordinary men follow the ideal set by them (the great).[1] There is nothing whatever for me, O Partha, to do in the three worlds, (since I have) nothing for me which hath not been acquired; still I engage in action.[2] Because if at any time I do not, without sloth, engage in action, men would follow my path, O Partha, on all sides. The worlds would perish if I did not perform work, and I should cause intermixture of castes and ruin these people. As the ignorant work, O Bharata, having attachment to the performer, so should a wise man work without being attached, desiring to make men observant of their duties. A wise man should not cause confusion of understanding amongst ignorant persons, who have attachment to work itself; (on the other hand) he should (himself) acting with devotion engage them to all (kinds of) work. All works are, in every way, done by the qualities of nature. He, whose mind is deluded by egoism, however, regards himself as the actor.[3] But he, O mighty-armed one, who knoweth the distinction (of self) from qualities and work, is not attached to work, considering that it is his senses alone (and not his self) that engage in their objects.[4] Those who are deluded by the qualities of nature, become attached to the works done by the qualities. A person of perfect knowledge should not bewilder those men of imperfect knowledge.[5] Devoting all work to me, with (thy) mind directed to self, engage in battle, without desire, without affection and with thy (heart's) weakness dispelled.[6] Those men who always follow this opinion of mine with faith and without cavil attain to final emancipation even by work. But they who cavil at and do not follow this opinion of mine, know, that, bereft of all knowledge and without discrimination, they are ruined. Even a wise man acts according to his own nature. All living beings follow (their own) nature. What then would restraint avail? The senses have, as regards the objects of the senses, either affection or aversion fixed. One should not submit to these, for they are obstacles in one's way.[7] One's own duty, even if imperfectly performed, is better than being done by other even if well performed. Death in (performance of) one's own duty is preferable. (The adoption of) the duty of another carries fear (with it).

Arjuna said, 'Impelled by whom, O son of the Vrishni race, doth a man commit sin, even though unwilling and as if constrained by force?

The Holy One said,—'It is desire, it is wrath, born of the attribute of passion; it is all devouring, it is very sinful. Know this to be the foe in this world.[8]



  1. The example set by the great is always catching. Itaras, here, is Vulgar and not "other". Kurute which I have rendered as "maketh" is used in the sense of "regardeth." Pramanam, however, may not necessarily mean something else that is set up as an ideal. It may refer to the actions themselves of the great men set up by them as a standard.
  2. Sreedhara would connect "in the three worlds" with what follows. I follow Sankara and the natural order of words.
  3. The word rendered "nature" is prakriti. It really implies "primal matter.
  4. The second line, literally rendered, is "deeming that qualities engage in qualities." The first "qualities" imply the senses, and the second, the objects of the senses. The purport is that one knowing the distinction referred to, never thinks that his soul is the actor, for that which is work is only the result of the senses being applied to their objects.
  5. Guna-karmashu is explained by Sankara as works of the qualities, or works done by them. Sreedhara explains the compound as "qualities and (their) works."
  6. Devoting all work to me, i.e., in the belief that all you do is for me or my sake.
  7. The senses, as regards their diverse objects in the world, are either drawn towards them or repelled by them. These likes and dislikes (in the case of men who, of course, only act according to their nature) stand in the way of their emancipation, if men submit to them.
  8. Desire, if not gratified, results in wrath. Thus say the commentators.