niyatam kuru karma tvam karma jyaayo hyakarmanaha |
shareerayaatraapi cha te na prasiddhyedakarmanaha || 8 ||
You should perform prescribed actions, since action is superior to inaction. Also, even the journey of the body cannot be accomplished through inaction.
niyatam : prescribed
kuru : perform
karma : actions
tvam : you
karma : action
jyaayah : superior
hi : since
akarmanaha : inaction
shareera-yaatraa : journey of the body
api : even
cha : also
te : your
na prasiddhyet : not accomplished by
akarmanaha : inaction
Having covered the topic of why one should perform action, Shri Krishna now speaks about what kind of action should be performed. He urges Arjuna to only perform “niyatam” or prescribed actions. What does this term mean?
Scriptures classify actions into several categories. Let us look at the two main ones: “niyatam” or prescribed actions, and “nishiddha” or forbidden actions . Prescribed actions are those that are enjoined in the Vedas. But in today’s context, we can interpret this as one’s duties. These include performing one’s svadharma, serving one’s parents, family, and nation etc. Forbidden actions are the “thou shalt not” actions such as killing another being, stealing, cheating and so on. So here, Shri Krishna urges Arjuna to perform prescribed actions, but without any trace of attachment to the action or to the fruit.
Now one may say “I like to watch a movie and enjoy a good meal. Those do not seem like prescribed duties. How should we think about those?”. Shri Krishna does not advocate repressing anything, as we saw earlier. But we should to define boundaries to any action, as well as minimize attachment or selfish motive. The best way to do so is to share.
If you want to watch TV, watch it collectively with your family and friends. Or share your meal with them. Doing so will ensure that our previously self-serving actions lose any trace of selfishness or ego. The best example here is a mom that always cooks what the family members like, and puts her preferences on a lower priority.
In addition, Shri Krishna reiterates the notion that one should never resort to inaction, He says that if one does not act, one cannot even perform maintenance of one’s body.
Our body is an important tool in our spiritual journey. Nowhere in the Gita has Shri Krishna asked us to neglect it. In fact, here he is saying that one should absolutely perform action to maintain the body, including bathing it, feeding it, keeping it strong and fit, and going to the doctor if it is not working properly. It is an extremely practical teaching.