yajnashishtaashinah santo muchyante sarvakilbishaih |
bhunjate te tvagham paapaa ye pachantyaatmakaaranaat || 13 ||

Those wise individuals who consume the remains of yajna, they are liberated from all sins. But those sinful ones who cook only for themselves, they consume only sin.

yajnashishtaashinah : remains of yajna
santah : wise individuals
muchyante : are liberated
sarva : from all
kilbishaih : sins
bhunjate : consume
te : they
tu : but
agham : sin
paapaah : sinful ones
ye : those
pachanti : cook
aatmakaaranaat : for themselves

In the previous shloka, Shri Krishna began the topic of the three levels of action. We saw that in the first level, the individual does not perform any action and only consumes. In this shloka, Shri Krishna explains the second and third levels of action.

Selfish action is the second level of action. In this level, the individual only thinks about himself. His vision is very narrow and limited. When this individual works in a team, his only thought is : how much of the result can be kept for myself? He also treats everyone he works with as his competitors. For him to win, they have to lose. Shri Krishna says that such individuals “cook only for themselves” and “consume only sin”.

The third level and highest level of action is that of selfless action. The individual who works selflessly seldom thinks about himself. His vision is broad : he is always thinking about how to act such that his family will benefit, his employer will benefit, his nation will benefit and so on. He always treats others with respect, and as partners in collectively achieving the highest possible goal. Shri Krishna says that by working in this highest level of action, such “wise individuals” are “liberated from all sins”.

Another mark of this individual that he treats everything that he possesses as materials to be used in a yajna. Which means that he does not consider anything as “mine” – everything belongs to the higher ideal (family, company, nation etc). So therefore, he is more than happy to partake in what’s left after everyone else has consumed their share of the fruits of the yagna. Our natural tendency is to make a grab for our share and then let others worry about theirs. But this individual, keeping sight of the higher ideal at all times, ensures that others are taken care of before taking care of himself.

So what does this mean for us? When we perform any action every day, let us make an attempt to gauge the level of the action being performed by us. Is it selfish? selfless? or are we so lazy that we are not acting at all?