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Karmanye Vadhikaraste Ma Phaleshu Kada Chana

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Karmanye Vadhikaraste, Ma phaleshou kada chana,

Ma Karma Phala Hetur Bhurmatey Sangostva Akarmani

कर्मण्येवाधिकारस्ते मा फलेषु कदाचन।
मा कर्मफलहेतुर्भूर्मा ते सङ्गोऽस्त्वकर्मणि॥

This verse is from the Bhagawad Gita, where Arjuna was not willing to fight the Epic war of Mahabhaarat and Krishna explains to him to perform his duties.

The hindi translation is as follows:

कर्म करना तो तुम्हारा अधिकार है, लेकिन उसके फल पर कभी नहीं|
कर्म को फल की इच्छा से कभी मत करो, तथा तेरा कर्म ना करने में भी कोई आसक्ति न हो|

Let’s see what does this mean:

Karmanye Vadhikaraste, Ma phaleshou kada chana – You have the right to perform your actions,but you are not entitled to the fruits of the actions.

Ma Karma Phala Hetur Bhurmatey Sangostva Akarmani – Do not let the fruit be the purpose of your actions, and therefore you won’t be attached to not doing your duty.

This message was from the Lord Krishna to Arjun during the Epic War of Mahabhaarat when Arjun was not willing to fight, given that he had opposite of him, all those persons he considers to be his own. Arjun says to Krishna, what’s the use of fighting against my own for just a piece of land. What happiness will I get by slaying my dear ones? The ones on the other sides are my own uncle, my cousin. Won’t I be committing a sin? What will I get by killing all of them. Instead I would have preferred that they kill me here itself.

Then Krishna explains to him about his duties. The above verse, which is among the most famous verse in Mahabhaarat, is one of those explanation he has given.

Let us study the context :

In this case Krishna tells Arjun that no matter what is the result of the war, he should not be worried about it. His duty is to fight, then he has to fight. He wins or loses that is not important. Even if he dies during the war, he will attain heaven because he has correctly performed his duty.

Now coming to the second phrase of the above verse, Krishna also advises Arjun that he should never let the fruit be the purpose of his action, in this case the action is his fight and the fruit is either he wins or loses. In other words he is not supposed to worry about victory or defeat. Either one wins or loses, he must be neutral about it.

In simple terms it means: Keep on performing your duties without being attached to the result of your actions. Either you get something or you don’t get anything, you should not worry about it. You should have a neutral behaviour.

Well let us relate that in our context as a human being:

As an example:

A student – His duty is to study, he passes or fails that’s not in his control. The student does not study just for the sake of passing his exams. When he studies, he learns. Whether he pases or fails he should not be too happy or too sad about it.

If ever a student studies for the sole purpose of passing his exams, in the end he has not learned anything even if he has passed. But if he studies because he considers learning and studying as his duty, he won’t even need to be worried whether he will pass or fail. And such a student as we have always seen they are most likely to pass their exams. Unless they are not able to reach their exam for some reason. But still he should not be sad about it. Why? Because the most important is at least he performed his duty well.

We can also relate this to selflessness:

When we help someone, we don’t do it for the sake of something in return, whether we are rewarded for our actions or not, this is not our concern. And when we help someone without worrying about our own gains, this is selflessness. We don’t think what are we going to get from that. The importance is that as a human being we have been able to help someone.

Note: In Bhagavad Gita, As It Is, By Swami Prabhupada, the part Ma Karma Phala Hetur Bhur means, never to consider ourselves to be the cause of the result of our activities.This is right too, because when we consider ourselves to be the cause of the result of our actions, we will be tempted to be attached to that result. So when we do something we are not supposed to take the credit for the fruit of our action. We consider that it is our duty, so we did it.

Today how many of us really believe in this principle? What does this verse means to us today?

For me this verse has a really great meaning in my life. Well I would like to know about my other friends here, really think about this verse.

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  • http://akiavelic.wordpress.com akiavelic

    great verse from the “BHAGAWAD GITA”. and i totally agree with what u’ve said. people are very narrow minded and think for short term happiness.. like another verse in BG which goes like this “The senses have been conditioned by attraction to the pleasant and aversion to the unpleasant: a man should not be ruled by them; they are obstacles in his path.” .. i think men are bound to be doomed for their foolishness.
    .-= akiavelic´s last blog ..I love i hate love storys’ music :) =-.

    • http://pramoduniverse.com/ Pramod

      Toi si to spiritual… Sa mamouuu :D

  • http://akiavelic.wordpress.com akiavelic

    spiritualism is within everyone but very few maintain its existence for the fact that many of them believe that its futile to use it in our daily life :)
    .-= akiavelic´s last blog ..I love i hate love storys’ music :) =-.

  • Akshay

    Love Love Love
    I Loved d meaning of these Sanskrit Stanza…..I found them on d wall of my college and I was searching for meaning of d same. Thnx for giving explanation. I will try to follow dis………………:)

  • The Half-Blood Geek

    I love this quote, but its really difficult to do it consistently..

    • http://pramoduniverse.com/ Pramod

      It does seem difficult in today's world. However it's all about our own strengths to stand by our beliefs or principles. :)

    • Debasis

      hey geek, dont be afraid….have tested it…from my personal experience of 18 years am telling…..if you set this motive in your mind then BETTER results are waitning for you at the end :) good luck.

  • Nand

    Its so true, and the day one is able to follow this path in complete sense, he or she would have reached Nirvana. Its the direction which everyone should strive towards. No matter how close we are, if are working towards the objective , which the verse says, we are on the right path….

  • V.S.THIRUMALAI

    Always Be in the present. this is the essence of this sloka.

  • Kanav

    Seriously??? You guys truly have no work.. Actually same with me. Get back to work and save India. If you want to do something, then do this. Stop wasting time, and get to work. It will help the country and fellow citizens alike!!!

  • sethu

    @Kanav,
    This is also a work which every person should do to improve the world. This is called as Personality development or Personality enlightening!

    If everyone understands the Geetha the world will itself will be a heaven!…

    • http://pramoduniverse.com/ Pramod

      I second this… ;)

  • Anand

    The Bhagavat Gita was written at a time (~ 5000 years ago) when the intellectual mind of the masses had not developed – hence it looks out of the world for its time ! It is still relevant for the masses who feel the esense of life is to eat – sleep – reproduce and live unconsiouly like in the animal kingdom. The path of devotion as precribed by Krishna as the ultimate & easiest vehicle for transformation puts belief before experinece and works best for child like minds not complex,questioning adult minds. On the other hand Bhudda, Shankaracharya et al and their message of self realization through yoga, pranayama & meditation etc is more relvant today for the kinds of minds we have evolved into.

    • Anu

      childlike minds?? and u believe that urs is some great questioning mind?? ..

    • http://pramoduniverse.com/ Pramod

      Yoga, Pranaayaam or Meditations are just actions, but for those actions to bear fruit, there needs to be a pure mind of selflessness and filled with the devotion. This message from Krishna, refers to the way we think, the way we live it's in our mindset, while Yoga and Pranaayaam refer to a physical medium for well being.
      If you do not have a pure heart, no matter how much of Yoga or Meditation you do, it won't bring you anything in the end.

      • Sairam

        Dude.. Theirs was a childish mind?? And ours is much developed.?? Why?? Bcoz we have invented new machines₹? Bcoz we have discovered the secrets of the universe? ₹ dude you’re so wrong… What we are discovering w was predicted by the ancients thousands of years ago… We are just rediscovering what had been lost… The ancients knew the full potential of the human mind and how it could affect us… And you’re telling that they were childish.. Go read your history dude

    • DjB

      lol.. that means you did not get the central unchanging meaning of the Gita.

    • P. Mathur

      Do you consider today’s people evolved? So all those reality shows are really evolved? or Degraded?

  • Shauvik Chaudhury

    I do not agree to Anand and more so to state that 5000 years ago intellectual minds had not evolved cannot be any further from the truth. Evolving is a relative term in itself which needs a base to evolve from hense comparing today to something which existed 5000 years ago displays our inadequacy in understanding the concept to begin with. I do agree with the verse as this is the base and basic fenet and foundation of the thought process. Off course on the superficial level if we choose to survive then most definitely we are furtherest from the truth or reality check.

  • shyam

    i agree

  • sudhir

    At present time people most of the work do with business deal thatswhy people be unhappy if people follow this verse meaning definately be happy.

  • shweta

    When we try to understand bhagwat gita. I think we really drift from -when was it told. It was told at the point when a king refuses to fight his battle because of many confusions in his brain about right and wrong.Primary purpose of Bhagwat Gita is to inspires us to work,perform our duty. I don't think it tells about selflessness … that is stretching the logic.

    • http://pramoduniverse.com/ Pramod

      To what you just said, the verse also means: "Continue to perform your duties without worrying about the end result." Well caring and getting worried about what might happen afterwards is a kind of selfishness of our own emotions. When Arjun refused to fight it was because he saw his own ones in the faces of his opponents and in a way fighting against them, he was going to lose his own ones. Thus in a way it was a kind of selfishness. :)

      • shweta

        Hi thanks for the reply but I really don't think it tells about being selfish or being selfless.It tells us to do our duty.I am not a believer of being selfless.
        God has given you 'the self' ,it is your duty to take care of self and always spread beauty in the world.A selfless life is like a drugged life where you don't know or understand anything and you are just doing something.

      • http://pramoduniverse.com/ Pramod

        This is because your definition of selflessness is different to what is being reflected in this verse.

        If u dnt understand or know anything then how can u do it? It's just being like a robot. First we understand, we know then we do. :)

      • Deepthi

        Oh I think you have misunderstood the word :) "Selfless" merely means you are not working just for your own gain :) When you say "spread beauty in the world", you are actually being selfless i.e you are working to make the world beautiful, not for your own good :) When you are selfless, life is somewhat like a pass time like listening to music or reading a novel :) You are doing something just becuase you like it, not because you expect to gain anything out of it :)

  • Soham

    The gita has been the solace of my life and will be my solace in death. I however prefer the jnana route to the bhakti route.

  • suraj

    It is totally true without doing karma we can expect from our destiny or result of work.

  • Ajoy

    The person who has understood and applied in his own life the meaning of this verse in its true sense has really achieved the purpose of this Human life. This Shloka tells us to work without any expecting a result. But many may ask “How” Thats not possible. If I don’t expect something, why should I work at all? and what would be my motivation to work?

    Well look at a mother. She would take every care for her child. Isn’t she? Why does she take as much rather more care for her child than even herself? Because She includes her child in her “I”. She has therefore expanded her “I” to mean more than herself. When a child is born, he is concerned with his own self. He really does not care whats happenning to others if he is getting his needs. But as he grows he adds others in his “I”. He adds his parents, then his siblings and so on. Vednata tells us to keep on expanding this “I”. Include others. Go help others, love all expand this “I” untill you are one with the eternity which vedanta calls as “Brahaman”.

    Once all others are also included in your “I”, you will do all work without thinking of results. Because whoever is the beneficiary it is you because you have included everyone in your “I”. Thats the state of a yogi. Krishna is actually whispering in everone’s ear “Yogi Vav” i.e. Be a yogi. Love all, serve all even animals & plants because essentially we are all one.

    • http://pramoduniverse.com/ Pramod

      A really nice comment Ajoy. You illustrated this Verse nicely!
      Thank You :)

      • tapan

        i really appreciate for such a crystal clear example.

  • Rajashree Dabke

    The meaning of the first line viz. “Karmanye Vadhikaraste, Ma phaleshou kada chana” is wrongly interpreted by many that one should perform the duty and not to expect the fruit of it. This interpretation is wrong. Every person who does karma will expect fruit means positive results. but Sholka doesnt talk about non expectations. If one reads it carefully it states that in Karma you have Adhikar (control) (karmanye va adhikaram astu) but not on the phal (result) (Ma= means not, phaleshu= on fruit /phal mei. kada chan= mean never ) So when one reads the whole line it says that you have adhikar on kama but not on result. (you can expect but whether it will be in your favour or not will not be decided by you).

    hence wrong interpretation that phal ki aashaa mat rakho should be corrected by the people who read it.

    • http://pramoduniverse.com/ Pramod

      I just updated the post regarding the second phrase:
      This part: Ma Karma Phala Hetur
      Ma meaning not, Karma = Action, Phala Hetu = For the sake of the fruit.
      Which means, "We should not perform the action just for the sake of the fruit"

      To understand the meaning of the fruit here: "Let's get back to the part when Arjun was refusing to fight the war stating his reasons that he is fighting against his own ones and he says that he does not want to win a war by killing anyone of those people he respects so much"

      Krishna then explains to him that He should not worry who is going to get killed, or what will be the end result of the war. Even if he gets killed during that war, he will get heaven. If he wins the war he will enjoy glory on earth.

      Sukh Dukhe Samey Kritwa, Labha Labhey Jayaa Jayey,
      Tato Yuddhaaya Yujyaswa, Neyvam paapa mavaapsyati.

      I will translate it literally in hindi:
      Sukh Dukh ko, Labh Hani Ko, Jai aur Haar Ko ek sa dekhte huwe hi yudha karo.
      Aisa karte huwe tumhe paap nahin milega.

      This is why I said more about expectation.

      Because today as human being, the moment we have an expectation, we get attached to it.

      I therefore do not consider it really wrong. Because the second phrase does state that we should not attach ourselves to the fruit of our actions. I will have to update my post to clarify this in more detail. Because using only this shloka we might end up getting out different meanings out of it. :)

      Thank you very much for your guidance Rajashree. :)

    • http://pramoduniverse.com/ Pramod

      Hello Rajashree, I will be removing the word expectation since I realised it can have different meanings and interpretations. I prefer to use the word attachment here. Thanks :)

      • http://twitter.com/ggpala @ggpala

        G G Nair: The interpretation given by Rajashree Dabke seems to be the more appropriate one. Bhagavat Gita says so and it is also true everyday that the performer is not the only input in any action. The object of action, the field in which the action is performed, the time or period like summerr, winter, peace treaty existing between the actors, the people opposing the course, like in the Telengana autonomy or the India – Pak istan peace efforts or a simple cricket match or even the example quoted of a student writing an examination. Instances are many when a good student failed and a weak student scored distinction may be the examinator felt giddy, or the papers went missing in Transit. "kaa kaala kaani mitRaaNi, koa daeSa kau vyayAgamau' say the ancients. Gita is all about doing duty as determined in the fire of knowledge and analysis and feeling happy about it irrespective of the outcome. The persona of 'tAe', karma, phala, rights and results all have been elaborated later in the Giita. By advising that the outcome of our actions is not in the actor's control, it sets the basis for later advising that you must not get too much attached to the possible results and that you as a part of the whole entity that is the Universe, you shall submerge your self in the Universe and work for the well being of your community. This is Bhagavata dharma the rajayoga for happy karma!

    • Satya

      I agree with Rajashree.. we should do work..we should hope for the best..without hope and expectaion..humans can't survive..at the same time we should have the understanding that final out come of event is controlled by god..not us..god will give result ad per his/her wish.

  • lekshmi

    I have got a different perspective on this..
    “Arjun was not willing to fight, given that he had opposite of him, all those persons he considers to be his own. Arjun says to Krishna, what’s the use of fighting against my own for just a piece of land. What happiness will I get by slaying my dear ones? The ones on the other sides are my own uncle, my cousin. Won’t I be committing a sin? What will I get by killing all of them. Instead I would have preferred that they kill me here itself”

    Arjun was not able to fight because of his love to his own people, and he prefer to die than attaining any material things like a piece of land or kingdom.. I find a greater selfelessness with Arjun..
    (I also understand Krishna, who made use of Arjun to conquer the evil)

    • http://pramoduniverse.com/ Pramod

      True this is a nice perspective as well. In any case he was not being selfish, it was simply his attachment towards his own ones who made it difficult for him to fight.

      However if we see the cause behind the war, it was not to win just to get the land and rule, but to save mankind. The point of view from which Krishna saw this war, was different from the point of view of Arjun. Maybe that was the only difference, where Arjun only thought what he will gain from it. But Krishna looked at what will humanity achieve from it?

  • Praveen

    expectionally truth has been written.

  • Ramkumar

    The sankrit word ‘adhikarah’ is different from hindi word ‘adhikar’. In hindi ‘mera adhikar’ means my rights whereas in sanskrit ‘adhikarah’ means choice. Once this difference is understood then the meaning of this sloka becomes clear. This sloka is not an advice but a statement of fact.

    “You have choice only in your action, not in the results. Do not try to be the author of the results. Don’t be attached to inaction”

    In another sloka in a later chapter, Krishna will tell Arjuna that He(Ishvara) himself is the author of the results.

    When I open my mouth to talk, when my tongue is able to produce the words that tumble out one after the other, it is all because Ishvara is at work. Karma I can do, but karma-phala is something that takes place because of the laws that are the Lord. Recognizing the fact I am not the author of results and the results follows certain order(Ishvara) is karma-yoga,

    Pandavas tried to avoid the war. Krishna too tried his best to avoid the war. But Duryodhana was not ready for any kind of negotiation. So the war situation was thrust forcefully on Arjuna. In life, situations are not always favorable to us but it is very important that we follow dharma. For Arjuna who is a warrior, running away from battlefield, avoiding the war would be pleasing but that will be against his dharma. The whole of Mahabharatha is about dharma and its intricacies.

  • neeta

    I am preparing for MBBS entrance exam. i will do my best to prepare well for the exam , weather I will suceed or not. The essence of the 4 lines in bhagavat geeta has taught me a small but a great meaning of life.
    thank you.
    ;)

    • http://pramoduniverse.com/ Pramod

      Best of luck for your exams… I am sure you are going to succeed in your life. God Bless You. :)

  • neeraj

    Really its A good Explanation. thanks

  • Gurpreet Kaur

    कर्मण्ये वाधिकारस्ते मा फलेषु कदाचन
    माँ कर्मफलहेतुर्भूर्मा ते संड्गो स्त्व्कर्म्नी।।

    हा दुर्भग्य सिखों का की माता इंदिरा जी मरी श्राप से, और नाम लगा सिखों का … क्या संयोग है गोपाष्टमी का !!

  • Pravin

    Hi Pramod, I reached this page while searching for the Geeta shloka. I have referred to your blog in my recent blog – Illusion of control. Thought to update you and inform.
    http://business2buddha.wordpress.com/2013/02/16/i

    Thank you for the wonrderful blog.
    My recent post Illusion of control

  • http://www.inspire2rise.com/ Aditya Nath Jha

    I have read the Shrimad Bhagwad Gita so many times. But this verse still intrigues me. It has so deep meaning and impact, that every time I read it somewhere, I am reminded of it's inherent meaning.
    My recent post Eccentricity – Why you need it ?

    • http://pramoduniverse.com/ Pramod

      It's true, take a look at the above comments you will notice how many different interpretations are there of this one verse. And all of them are right in their own way. :)

  • http://www.inspire2rise.com/ Aditya Nath Jha

    I have read the Shrimad Bhagwad Gita so many times. But this verse still intrigues me. It has so deep meaning and impact, that every time I read it somewhere, I am reminded of it's inherent meaning.
    My recent post Cross platform apps are the future

  • tapan

    one has to really go on searching the real meaning. well that’s also a karma. however a positive expectation, an expectation of getting the true meaning is also an harmless selfless karma. nothing wrong in this expectation i believe.

    • http://pramoduniverse.com/ Pramod

      Yes, a selfless expectation, an unattached expectation. :)

  • joha4321

    Reading this text on the Gita inspired me to think about religion and society in general. So, If I could, I would like to plainly place this query: is there a God and is this definition to "Is there a God" at any rate roughly being precise. With a Christian background some of these ideas seem really wonky but then on the other hand some of them are plain Christian certainties.

  • Amardeep

    Great!

  • Palak

    Whatever everyone say its their own perspective. If one realises the true meaning of Geeta and starts practising it he wont be worried about anything around him because everything has to perish one day only atman will stay. If one has to attain moksha practise the preaching while being in this material world. That is how even Lord Krishna lived. Time comes for everyone to realise. Its a ladder to reach God which he will provide and it is in our hands whether we want to be with him or get trapped in the cycle of attachment and birth life cycle !!!! One easy way to practise Nishkama karma is to devote every karma to Him so you will not get attached to your karma.
    Thanks for starting such a blog !!!

    • http://pramoduniverse.com/ Pramod

      Thanks for sharing! :-)

  • Mukti Sadhak

    The underlying message is NishkamKarma. If I (We the human race) can understand and practice this it will lead me to mukti.

  • Sachin Rajat Sharma

    I don’t think your interpretation is accurate. In this case Arjun is worried about the negative consequences of his actions, he is not interested in victory (fruits). Further Hindu philosophy also requires for people to take accountability for their good or bad actions. If your karma is bad you go to hell. So here the question in Arjun’s mind is weather his actions are good or bad. We can’t do bad actions and convince ourselves it’s our ‘duty’. If a soldier is ordered by his officer to kill innocents should he do it, just because its his duty ?

    • http://pramoduniverse.com/ Pramod

      Maybe that’s why not just anyone should become an officer? Just like the soldier, even the officer has his duties and principles to abide to. In case the officer gives the wrong instructions, the officer himself is the one who is accountable of the consequences since he gave the order. As for the soldier on the other hand his consequence is based on the decisions and actions of his own consciousness.

      Let’s take the case of Bhishma himself. He took the side of Duryodhan and he was defeated. Does it mean that he goes to hell because he killed the ones who were siding dharma during the battle?

      He had to take the side of Duryodhan because it was his duty to stand by his vow to protect his family even if he did not approve Duryodhan’s ways.

      During his death, he was blessed by lord Krishna himself and was given the honor of transferring his knowledge as a ruler to Yudhisthir. He attained Salvation which is even above heaven and hell.

      On the other hand, it is said that Yudhishthir had to pass through hell before reaching heaven because during the battle of Mahabhaarat, on the request of his brothers, he told a lie about the death of Ashwathama, when actually the elephant had died. His words had caused the defeat of Dronacharya.

  • bhattathiry

    If you can’t oblige at least talk obligingly
    -Give your forgiveness
    -Pray for everyone’s happiness-lokasamasta sukhino bhavantu
    The very act of giving will keep you healthy and happy- body & mind. Medical science has reiterated that when we work for a noble cause, our body secretes chemicals that are of healing nature and enhance health and longevity.

  • This verse is often wrongly translated, as it has been here. Most people say that the verse means what is said here: “You have the right to perform your actions, but you are not entitled to the fruits of the actions.” In reality, it means “You can *control* your actions, but you cannot *control* the fruits of your actions.” This makes a lot more sense because what you earn is what you earn, so saying you have no right over it contradicts the concept of “karma”. The misconception comes from the fact that “adhikaar” means “right/entitlement” in Hindi, but in Sanskrit it has different meanings, and the correct meaning in this case is “control”.

  • Gopi Nath

    1. the performer’s authority or ability to control is only on the action he performs.2. As explained earlier the progress of the act depends on many things and many actors. True the able manager will review and take course corrections to achieve the expected outcome. 3. It is not the right to claim the result for the actor himself that is under discussion, but the actor’s authority to control the future such that the desired result happens.4. The result of the action shall not be the cause of the action. Action is initiated to meet a situation that arose and hence the product of the action is not the cause of the action. While disassociating he results from the initiation of the action BG advises the actors to take action appropriate to the situation. 5.One shall not shy away from the action just because one does not have any control on the result. 6.The act itself is the remedy for the situation that arose. Ultimately all humans are only puppets dancing on the strings that are pulled by many forces collectively called God, fate , Nature, Destiny or what you like to term.

  • notimeforname

    This is what happens when an analytical mind reads bhagvad gita. If you are deveotee, and hence accept that the verse is transcendental, you wouldn’t put a vote button above … with so many conditions attached ! :)

  • Tej Mehta

    I really liked your explanation of the verses. It really is important that we focus on the act more than we focus on the results of the acts. We know that results always motivate us to do great things in future but it also put a wrong self ego towards out future acts. We start expecting great results, start focusing more on the end results and lose the interest in the efforts.

  • archana

    Nice verse and the meaning is very important for every one to follow.

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