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THE SELECTED WORKS OF MAHATMA GANDHI > Vol. III - The Basic Works > DISCOURSES ON THE GITA > Chapter IV
The Lord says to Arjuna:
'The yoga of selfless action which I commend to you is an ancient truth; I am not propounding any new doctrine. I have declared it to you, as you are my devoted friend, in order to heal the conflict in your mind. Whenever goodness weakens and evil grows from strength to strength, I incarnate Myself and protect the good and destroy the wicked. Those who are aware of this power (maya) of Mine are confident that evil is bound to go under. I am always by the good man's side. He never strays from the straight and narrow path and comes to Me at last, for he meditates on Me and hides himself in Me and thus is delivered from passion and anger and is purified by austerity and wisdom. As a man sows, so he reaps. None can escape from the operation of the laws I have made. I established the four uarnas (classes, not castes) by the different distribution of qualities and actions. However I am not their author, for t do not desire the fruits of action and have nothing to do with the merit or demerit arising therefrom. This divine maya (course of action) is worth knowing. All Activities prevalent in the world are subject to divine Ws, and yet God is not defiled by them. Therefore He is and also is not their author. And a man who does likewise and acts in a spirit of detachment without being defiled by actions and by the yearning for their fruit is sure to be saved. In action he sees inaction and he understands at once what is wrong action. Wrong actions are all those that are inspired by desire and cannot be performed in the absence of desire, such for instance as theft, adultery and the like. These simply cannot be done in a spirit of detachment. Therefore those who do the duty that lies nearest without desire and scheming for the fruit of the action may be said to have burnt up their actions in the fire of wisdom (jnana). A man who has thus abandoned the attachment to the fruit of action is always contented, always independent. He has his mind under control. He gives up all his possessions. And his activity is natural like the bodily functions of a healthy individual. He is free from any pride or even consciousness that he is acting on his own. He has the realization that he is a mere instrument of the divine will. What does it matter whether he meets with success or with failure? He is neither elated by the one, nor unnerved by the other. All his work is done as a sacrifice (yajna), that is to say, as service to the world. He meditates upon God in all his actions and in the end comes to Him.
'There are many forms of sacrifice, the root of which lies in purity and service, such as, for instance, control of the senses, charity and pranayama (breath control) practised with a view to self-purification. Knowledge of these can be acquired from a wise teacher (guru) through humility, earnestness and service. If anybody indulges in various activities which he thinks are yajna, without any understanding of what yajna is, he will only do harm to himself and to the world. It is therefore necessary that all actions should be performed intelligently. This wisdom (jnana) is not mere book learning. In it there is no room for doubt. It begins with faith and ends in experience. It enables a man to see all beings in himself and to see himself in God so that everything appears to him to be actually informed by God. Such wisdom effects the salvation of the worse of sinners. It releases the seeker from the bondage of action, so that he is not affected by its results. There is nothing else in the world so holy as this wisdom. Therefore try to obtain it with a heart full of faith in God and with the senses under control, so that you will enjoy perfect peace of mind.'
The third, the fourth and the following fifth chapter should be read together, as they explain to us what the yoga of selfless action (anasakti) is and what are the means of practising it. If these three chapters are properly understood, the reader will have less difficulty in tackling what follows. The remaining chapters deal in detail with the ways and means of achieving anasakti. We should study the Gita from this point of view, and if we pursue this study, we shall find without much trouble a solution of the problems which confront us from day to day. This calls for daily practice. Let everybody try it. If for instance he is angry, let him remember the verse dealing with anger and subdue that enemy. Supposing we heartily dislike somebody, or are impatient or gluttonous or in doubt as to whether we should do or should not do something or other, all these difficulties can be solved with the help of Mother Gita if we have faith in it and give it constant study. Our daily recitation of the Gita as well as this series of letters is a means to this end.