“One who sees inaction in action, and action in inaction, is intelligent among men, and he is in the transcendental position, although engaged in all sorts of activities.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.18)
कर्मण्य् अकर्म यः पश्येद्
अकर्मणि च कर्म यः
स बुद्धिमान् मनुष्येषु
स युक्तः कृत्स्न-कर्म-कृत्
karmaṇy akarma yaḥ paśyed
akarmaṇi ca karma yaḥ
sa buddhimān manuṣyeṣu
sa yuktaḥ kṛtsna-karma-kṛt
1. The materialists towards the devotees of the Supreme Personality of Godhead
“Look at those fools. They sit around and worship all day. It’s an excuse, if you ask me. They couldn’t make it in life so they’ve convinced themselves that this alternative lifestyle is superior. They think they are better than everyone else.
“I understand now why parents within that tradition keep the books hidden from their children. One look at a verse from Bhagavad-gita or Shrimad Bhagavatam and a person is prone to giving up the world. No more attention on advancing in life, in getting married, having a high-paying job, raising children, and the like.
“They end up rejecting everything. They turn into parasites. They beg from everyone else. They should get up and do something. Make a meaningful contribution. If everyone were to follow them, what would be left of society? The rogues and thieves would run wild. There would be no food to eat. No doctors to heal the sick. No public health officials to lock us in our homes during a pandemic.”
2. The devotees of the Supreme Personality of Godhead towards the materialists
“These people are in illusion. They think they are hard at work, engaged in karma, but really it is all inaction. Imagine building a house in a dream. You put in the effort, but in the morning the entire structure is gone. As soon as you wake up, the reality sets in.
“These people are finding different ways to pass the time. They think they are involved in important work at the office, but it is really no different than building sandcastles. That is why there is so much difficulty in retirement.
“Researchers have conducted studies. The consensus of conclusions is that those who retire early tend to not live as long. The reason is obvious. The occupation is more for their mental wellbeing than it is for any meaningful achievement. That is to say the person stuck at the office for forty years or more is really there because they have nothing else to do. Let that sink in. That screams of inaction to me.”
It is certainly an intricate subject. Shri Krishna covers inaction and action in Bhagavad-gita because even the wise person is unsure on occasion. Arjuna was prepared for action in battle, to save the world from the rise of adharma, but at the last moment he changed his mind.
He switched and considered inaction to be superior. Drop the weapons. Retreat for the forest. Be not a party to killing, especially with family members and teachers fighting for the opposing side. Arjuna thought he was being the bigger person.
Krishna highlighted that this was actually action. Arjuna would be responsible for an inauspicious outcome. Retreating here would be something like seeing a fire in the kitchen and doing nothing about it. Having the ability to protect others from danger and relinquishing responsibility.
Arjuna could engage in the fight and that could be considered inaction. The mentality and the beneficiary of the work determine the nature. Fight as being but an instrument for the origin of men, Shri Krishna.
तस्मात् त्वम् उत्तिष्ठ यशो लभस्व
जित्वा शत्रून् भुङ्क्ष्व राज्यं समृद्धम्
मयैवैते निहताः पूर्वम् एव
निमित्त-मात्रं भव सव्य-साचिन्
tasmāt tvam uttiṣṭha yaśo labhasva
jitvā śatrūn bhuṅkṣva rājyaṁ samṛddham
mayaivaite nihatāḥ pūrvam eva
nimitta-mātraṁ bhava savya-sācin
“Therefore get up and prepare to fight. After conquering your enemies you will enjoy a flourishing kingdom. They are already put to death by My arrangement, and you, O Savyasachin, can be but an instrument in the fight.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 11.33)
The lesson extends to everyday life, in any period of time. What exactly are my priorities? Why am I living? Why was I put in this human form? Should I play with sandcastles until the inevitable end or should I work in such a way that the fruits will remain with me forever, by my side so that I will feel eternal bliss no matter where I end up next?
Attachment to work displaying,
But really like with sandcastles playing.
As action considered,
But nothing lasting delivered.
Whereas even with arrows to fire,
As inaction could transpire.
Since to Almighty dedicated,
Not on karma reaction predicated.
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