eshaa tebhihitaa saankhye buddhiryoge tvimaam shrunoo |
buddhyaa yukto yayaa paartha karmabandham prahaasyasi || 39 ||

This discipline of knowledge has been stated to you. Now, listen to the discipline of action. Having equipped yourself with this understanding, O Paartha, you will cast of your bonds-of-action.

eshaa : this
te : for you
abhihitaa : has been stated
saankhye : Sankhya (discipline of knowledge)
buddhiryoge : discipline of action
tu : you
imaam : this
shrunoo : listen to
buddhyaa : understanding
yuktaha : equipped
yayaa : which
paartha : O Paartha
karmabandham : bonds of action
prahaasyasi : cast off

Shri Krishna uses this shloka to conclude the theoretical topic of correct logic and reasoning, and transition on to the means of attaining that knowledge. The remaining shlokas in the second chapter are extremely practical and can be immediately used in our daily lives. They will enable us to conduct our svadharma while always keeping the attitude specified in the prior shloka : treat any situation, joyful or sorrowful, with equanimity.

The word yoga comes twice in this shloka, so let’s examine it more closely. Usually, we think of yoga as an ancient art of physical exercise. However, the word yoga in the Bhagavad Gita has a different meaning. Translated into English, the meaning is a mix between the words technique and discipline. In fact, as we saw earlier, each chapter of the Gita is a yoga, or a technique and discipline, unto itself.

There is an interesting word in the last part of this shloka – “bonds of action”. It almost seems like a thick rope exists, one end tied to our leg and the other end tied to the action. What does is bondage?

An action that increases extreme attachment or hatred towards anything – an object, person or situation – “binds” us to that thing. It is similar to addiction. We may smoke a cigarette once, but unless we have high self control, we want to experience it again. This desire to repeat the experience eventually results in an addiction and we cannot live without it.

The important point here is that no action or object cannot bind us; it is the thought behind it that binds. For a non-smoker, a pack of cigarettes does not cause bondage. Conversely, for a smoker, just the mere sight of the pack of cigarettes prompts him to smoke. For things subtler than addiction, we can tell whether or not an action will cause bondage by checking whether it is for the service of one’s selfish ego or not.

Consider an executive making a presentation to her management team. One scenario could be that she makes the presentation with the motive of getting a promotion. Another scenario could be that she makes the presentation with the motive of increasing the sales of the corporation so that it benefits all the stakeholders. In the first case, the action binds her. In the second case, it doesn’t.

Alternatively, consider a musician performing on stage. If he performs with the sole motive to get applause and get nominated for an award, the action will bind him. But if he performs with the sole motive of entertaining the audience and honouring his craft, the action will not bind him.

Shri Krishna gently reveals the technique of cutting off these bindings in the rest of the chapter.