karmanaiva hi samsiddhimaasthitaa janakaadayaha |
lokasangrahamevaapi sampashyankartumarhasi || 20 ||

Only through action did many like king Janaka attain perfection. So, even from the viewpoint of societal welfare should you perform action.

karmanaa : through action
eva : only
hi : also
samsiddhim : perfection
aasthitaaha : attained
janakaadayaha : many like king Janaka
lokasangraham : welfare of society
eva : only
api : even
sampashyan : with a view
kartum : action
arhasi : perform

Having provided the rationale for karmayoga, Shri Krishna began to provide examples of individuals who gained liberation through karmayoga. He wanted to demonstrate that it indeed was the right path to follow. Providing an example would also eliminate any doubt in Arjuna’s mind that karmayoga was a proven methodology, not a new invention.

The first example that Shri Krishna provided was that of king Janaka, an apt example since he was a warrior just like Arjuna. Many of us familiar with the Ramayana epic would recognize the name Janaka as the father of Sita, and the king of the Videha kingdom. But the word Janaka here is a post or a title. It refers to any king that was appointed to the throne because of his non-attachment to all material objects, even to his body. This is apparent in the word meaning of Videha which is “one who has given up identification with his body”.

Why would a kingdom appoint a king that has given up attachments? It is because someone without any attachment would make the most fair, rational and unbiased decisions in favour of the kingdom. He would not come under the sway of emotion or prejudice of any kind. Such kings were known to be excellent administrators. In addition, they were also perfect karmayogis, i.e. they were “sthitha-prajna” or men of perfect wisdom.

With this example, Shri Krishna also assured Arjuna that it was perfectly possible to attain the ultimate goal of realization, yet be working in this world. Arjuna did not need to run away from the war or his responsibilities at all.

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