tyaktvaa karmaphalaasanga nityatripto niraashrayaha |
karmanyabhipravrittopi naiva kinchitkaroti saha || 20 ||

Having given up attachment to the result of action, always content and depending on nothing, he never does anything, though engaged in action.

tyaktvaa : having given up
karma-phala-asanga : attachment to result of action
nityatriptah : always content
niraashrayaha : depending on nothing
karmani : in action
abhipravrittaha : engaged in action
api : even when
na : not
eva : ever
kinchit : any
karoti : do
saha : he

“When this project ends, will it give me everlasting happiness?” is the question that we ask, explictly or implicitly, whenever we commence any new endevour. In this shloka, Shri Krishna says that everlasting happiness and contentment is a natural byproduct of karma yoga itself, not of any one particular project. Contentment becomes part of our personality. The word used to describe this state is “nityatriptah”.

As we grow up, we are programmed and conditioned by the world to believe that happiness is something that is outside of us. This conditioning goes deep inside our psyche and causes us to run after a better job, more money, a bigger house and so on. Now, it is absolutely alright to pursue growth while performing one’s svadharma. Wealth follows naturally if one follows svadharma sincerely. But constant seeking of happiness from external objects makes us slavishly dependent upon the world.

What is so wrong about this seemingly normal tendency to look outside oneself for happiness? Because any happiness gained from the world will be finite and temporary. But Shri Krishna says here that if one dependent on the eternal essence instead, he becomes ever content. As the second chapter says: “naabhaavo vidyate sataha”. The self is infinite and eternal.

Through karmayoga, we lose our attachment to the results of our actions. In doing so, we become less dependent on external world for happiness. Shri Krishna asks us to use our discrimination to examine the source of our happiness. We should train our mind to check daily whether we have gone outside ourselves to search for happiness, or is it coming from within.

Furthermore, if we are attached to the result of our action, we generate a expectation for the future. Which means that we identify ourselves with the process of time, which is also a part of prakriti. Identification with time accumulates karma or negative reaction from the universe.

So therefore, one who does not create expectation of a result in the future does not accumulate karma. This is what is meant by the phrase “never does anything” in the shloka.