mayi sarvaani karmaani sannyasyaadhyaatmachetasaa |
niraasheernirmamo bhootvaa yudhyasva vigatajvaraha || 30 ||

Dedicate all your actions to me, using your intellect. Without expectation or sense of my-ness, fight without mental distress.

mayi : to me
sarvaani : all
karmaani : actions
sannyasya : dedicate
adhyaatma-chetasaa : with intellect
niraasheeh : without expectation
nirmamah : without sense of I
bhootvaa : make
yudhyasva : fight
vigatajvaraha : without mental distress

Shri Krishna provides the essence of the entire chapter in this shloka, one of the most important shlokas in this chapter. It can be considered “karmayoga in a nutshell”. In this shloka, he covers the following 3 topics:
1. What should be our attitude while performing actions?
2. What kinds of actions should we perform?
3. How do we make our actions more efficient?

First, he talks about the attitude that one should maintain while performing actions. He says that before, during and after the action, one should continuously dedicate the action to a higher ideal. It can be any higher ideal like our family, employer or nation, but we should consider it pure and divine, indicated by the word “me” in the shloka.

What is important here is never get out of tune with the higher ideal – it is like talking to a friend constantly on a handsfree telephone while performing all actions. We can use the ritual of a “pooja” to practice this act of dedication, but the key is to do it constantly, not just during the pooja. Furthermore, we will know whether the action was in service of a higher ideal or of our ego by the feeling we get once the action is complete. If we find that we have a deep sense of peace and contentment after the action was performed, it was in the service of a higher ideal.

Secondly, he asks us to use our intellect to guide us so that only correct actions, those that are our duties, are performed by us. Actions that are unethical or illegal should be discarded by the intellect. He urges us to strengthen and reinforce the intellect’s power of discrimination, or viveka.

Finally, Shri Krishna gives us a formula to make actions extremely efficient. He explains that our mental energy and focus “leaks” out of our system through three sources: brooding over the past, becoming anxious about the future, and becoming overly excited in the present. How does this leakage happen?

“Aashaa” or harbouring expectations is akin to living in the future because it gives rise to anxiety. It is as if we are insulting the present moment. “Mamatva” or my-ness implies that we are giving undue importance to our past achievements. In other words, we are living in the past. No matter what happened in the past usually gives rise to sorrow if we brood over it. And “jvarah” or extreme excitement and agitation in the present has the effect of destabilizing our mind and intellect.

All of these three tendencies ultimately take attention away from the present moment, strengthen our ego and diminish our efficiency. So therefore, a true karmayogi always lives in the present moment and gives complete and undivided attention to the task at hand, no matter what kind of task it is. Shri Krishna urges us to give up expectation for the future (“niraasha”), anxiety over the past (“nirmamah”) and overexcitement in the present (“vigatajvarah”).

1. Eckhart Tolle has written an entire book on the topic of acting in the present moment called “The Power Of Now”.