“The bewildered spirit soul, under the influence of the three modes of material nature, thinks himself to be the doer of activities, which are in actuality carried out by nature.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 3.27)
गुणैः कर्माणि सर्वशः
कर्ताहम् इति मन्यते
guṇaiḥ karmāṇi sarvaśaḥ
kartāham iti manyate
“God works in mysterious ways. No one knows what the good Lord has in store. Man proposes, God disposes. These are different sayings to highlight the relative helplessness of the individual in shaping their destiny. In other words, try as we might, sometimes things don’t go our way.
“I may be an expert at fixing cars. It is my family business. You describe a problem to me and in under sixty seconds I have a pretty good idea where to look for a solution. I can hopefully get you on your way, barring the need for ordering parts that aren’t readily available.
“But sometimes even I am befuddled. I can’t figure out the issue. Failure. This is one way to know that not everything is in my hands. Some other factor is at play. We should be proud of our accomplishments, but also realize the good fortune necessary for success.
“Bhagavad-gita provides the most clarity. Shri Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, states unequivocally that the living entity is not the doer. It is prakriti, the material nature, which must cooperate for any result to manifest.
“We require constant reminder of this principle; it would serve us right to print it out and hang it on the wall. I was thinking, however, that a certain element in society could take advantage. For instance, the criminal. If they are facing jail time for offense in violation of state laws, could they not disavow responsibility based on the doer principle?”
If someone wants to get cute in that way, the law enforcement side could do the same thing. They could invoke the same logic as the person trying to behave immorally on the strength of Bhagavad-gita:
“Oh, you say that you are not the doer? You claim that it was nature which actually stole the money from that person. That is fine, then. We are still sending you to jail. There still will be punishment. But don’t worry; we are not responsible. It is nature which is punishing you. Don’t be upset with us in law enforcement.”
The actual meaning of the principle is to show that outcomes are not entirely in our hands. We can try to do something, but so many forces out of our control must first cooperate. This could be something as complicated as constructing a building in an urban area or as simple as getting out of bed in the morning.
Krishna spoke those words to a warrior named Arjuna. Military conflict was about to commence and Arjuna had concerns over inflicting lethal harm on opponents. The laws of nature are what give sanction, proven by the fact that though so many would be involved in the conflict, not everyone would achieve the same outcome.
There is a specific benefit when transitioning to the bhakti realm. This is work to please the Supreme Lord. Rather than be under the jurisdiction of material nature, God Himself takes charge. I am still not the doer, but the successful outcome is assured.
Bhishma fought for the opposing side, and he was defeated by Arjuna. There was the choice to act in the military conflict, and a higher force determined the outcome. The choice in devotion did not fail. Bhakti remained, up until the end of life, when Bhishma merged into the transcendental body of Narayana, who is the same as Krishna.
Criminals not advantage to take?
When doer excuse to make.
That punishment to escape,
Not responsible for murder or rape.
For law enforcement option the same,
Punishment only in nature’s name.
Understand when to bhakti transition,
Where fate in successful position.