Selfless Service

Bhagavad Gita Chapter 3 Selfless Service

O Lord, you have said that knowledge is greater than action; why then do you ask me to wage this terrible war? Your advice seems inconsistent. Give me one path to follow to the supreme good.

Lord:
At the beginning of time I declared two paths for the pure heart: jnana yoga, the contemplative path of spiritual wisdom, and karma yoga, the active path of selfless service.

He who shirks action does not attain free­dom; no one can gain perfection by abstaining from work. Indeed, there is no one who rests for even an instant; every creature is driven to action by his own nature.

Those who abstain from action while allow­ing the mind to dwell on sensual pleasure cannot be called sincere spiritual aspirants. But they excel who control their senses through the mind, using them for selfless service.

Fulfill all your duties; action is better than inaction. Even to maintain your body, you are obliged to act. Selfish action imprisons the world. Act selflessly, without any thought of personal profit.

At the beginning, mankind and the obligation of selfless service were created together. “Through selfless service you will always be fruitful and find the fulfilment of your desires”: this is the promise of the creator.

The spiritually minded who eat in the spirit of service, are freed from all their sins; but the selfish, who prepare food for their own satisfaction, eat sin. Living creatures are nourished by food, and food is nourished by rain; rain itself is the water of life, which comes from selfless worship and service.

Every selfless act, is born from Brahman, the eternal, infinite Godhead. He is present in every act of service. All life turns on this law. Whoever violates it, indulging the senses for their own pleasure and ignoring the needs of others, has wasted his life. But those who realize the Self are always satisfied. Having found the source of joy and fulfillment, they no longer seek happiness from the external world. They have nothing to gain or lose by any action; neither people nor things can affect their security.

Strive constantly to serve the welfare of the world; by devotion to selfless work one attains the supreme goal of life. Do your work with the welfare of others always in mind.

What the outstanding person does, others will try to do. The standards such people create will be followed by the whole world.

The ignorant work for their own profit, the wise work for the welfare of the world, without thought for themselves. By abstaining from work you will confuse the ignorant, who are engrossed in their actions. Preform all work carefully, guided by compassion.

Those who live in accordance with these divine laws without complaining, firmly established in faith, are released from karma. Those who violate these laws, criticizing and complaining, are utterly deluded, and are the cause of their own suffering.

Chapter 5: Renounce & Rejoice

The immature think that knowledge and action are different, but the wise see them as the same. The person who is established in one path will attain the rewards of both. The goal of knowledge and the goal of action are the same; those who fail to see this are blink.

Those who follow the path of service, who have completely purified themselves and conquered their senses and self-will, see the Self in all creatures and are untouched by any action they perform.

Renouncing their selfish attachments, those who follow the path of service work with body, senses, and mind for the sake of self purification.

Neither the sense of acting, nor actions, nor the connection of cause and effect come from the Lord of this world. These three arise from nature.

The Lord does not partake in the good and evil deeds of any person; judgement is clouded when wisdom is obscured by ignorance. But ignorance is destroyed by knowledge of the Self within. The light of this knowledge shines like the sun, revealing the supreme Brahman. Those who cast off sin through this knowledge, absorbed in the Lord and established in him as their one goal and refuge, are not reborn as separate creatures.

Those who posses this wisdom have equal regard for all. They see the same Self in a spiritual aspirant and an outcaste, in an elephant, a cow, and a dog. Such people have mastered life. With even mind they rest in Brahman, who is perfect and is everywhere the same. They are not elated by good fortune, nor depressed by bad. With mind established in Brahman, they are free from delusion. Not dependent on any external support, they realize the joy of spiritual awareness. With consciousness unified through meditation, they live in abiding joy.

Pleasure conceived in the world of the senses have a beginning and an end and give birth to misery. The wise do not look for happiness in them. But those who overcome the impulses of lust and anger which arise in the body are made whole and live in joy. They find their joy, their rest, and their light completely within themselves. United with the Lord, they attain nirvana in Brahman.

Healed of their sins and conflicts, working for the good of all beings, the holy sages attain nirvana in Brahman. Free from anger and selfish desire, unified in mind, those who follow the path of yoga and realize the Self are established forever in the supreme state.

Closing their eyes, steadying their breathing, and focusing their attention on the centre of spiritual consciousness, the wise master their senses, mind, and intellect through meditation. Self-realization is their only goal. Freed from selfish desire, fear, and anger, they live in freedom always. Knowing me as the friend of all creatures, the Lord of the universe, the end of all offerings and all spiritual disciplines, they attain eternal peace.


Chapter 3 of the Bhagavad Gita titled Selfless Service, and Chapter 5 titled Renounce & Rejoice translated by Eknath Easwaran. The Bhagavad Gita (“Song of the Lord”), is one of India’s best-known scriptures, a masterpiece of world poetry on which countless mystics have drawn for daily practical guidance. The Gita is a dialogue between God, and his friend and disciple Arjuna, a warrior prince who represents anyone trying to live a spiritual life in the midst of worldly activity and conflict.

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