doorena hyavaram karma buddhiyogaaddhananjaya |
buddhau sharanamanviccha kripanaah phalahetavaha || 49 ||

Selfish action is far lower than unselfish action, O Dhananjaya. Seek refuge in the knowledge of equanimity. Pitiable are those who are motivated by results.

doorena hi : far
avaram : lower
karma : selfish action
buddhiyogaat : unselfish action
dhananjaya : O Dhananjaya
buddhau : knowledge of equanimity
sharanam : refuge
anviccha : seek
kripanaah : pitiable
phalahetavaha : those motivated by results

So far, Shri Krishna described the performance of unselfish actions while maintaining equanimity of mind. In this shloka, he expresses his views on individuals acting with a selfish motive. To indicate his level of contempt for them, he calls them “pitiable”.

Lets say there is a large family living under one roof. Everyone has a part to play: some people work to bring in money, some are students, some take care of the house etc. Now, there is a large TV in the living room and anyone in the family can watch it. But, if one person starts monopolizing the TV and prevents others from watching it, what would you call that person? Wouldn’t you call him selfish and pitiable? Well, the world we live in is no different than this large family. Any selfishly motivated actions eventually causes more harm than good.

Now, all of us will agree that acting in an unselfish manner is a good thing, in theory. But we very rarely practice it in our lives. Why is this so? The most common argument is that if we become unselfish, other selfish people will take advantage of us and we will probably “lose” in life.

So how do we address this argument? Acting with an unselfish attitude does not mean that we become weak-minded wimps. If someone is obstructing us from performing our svadharma, we should deal with that individual in a firm manner appropriately. And if we truly practice equanimity of mind while performing actions, we will respond to the situation using our intellect and not our emotions. Therefore we will not do something rash and harmful to the situation at hand.

Therefore, the teaching of Karmayoga encourages us to slowly change our attitude to one of unselfish action, and maintain equanimity of mind while performing actions.