Understanding Karma Yoga -Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 2: 49

Skillful action requires both knowledge and practice. If you want to do something well, you need to know your subject…then you need to practice it to become skillful.  

Indeed, ordinary action is by far inferior to Karma Yoga, Winner of Wealth, so seek refuge in Knowledge Yoga. Those whose motives are for the fruits of action, are to be pitied.

Alternate translation:
Action-yoga (Karma Yoga) is necessary to become a ‘winner of wealth’, but first one must have knowledge of what Karma Yoga is. What it isn’t, is self-motivated action. Those whose actions are motivated by the results of actions are unhappy and unfortunate.

This verse calls our attention to two types of action: ordinary action and Karma Yoga (action-yoga), known in other texts as the Highest Action. We learned in the last verse that Karma Yoga refers to action that takes place when one is “fully occupied with union”. We are to understand that this Action Yoga is superior to the ordinary garden variety action of every-day life, and further, that, once knowing it, we would feel compassion for those who are limited to the ‘inferior’ kind.

This verse recalls earlier verses on the Yoga of Knowledge where the teachings on action began. This was where we were enlightened as to the truth about ‘action’ and our true nature as divine, non-physical individuals whose natural state is one of non-doership. It is imperative that we at least know about this in order to understand the truth about action, for it is necessary to understand the truth about action to understand Yoga. 

We are all familiar with ‘ordinary action’. We are engaged in this kind of action all the time. But the Yoga of Action, Karma Yoga, is not common but superior. So we are being advised to ‘take refuge’ in the Yoga of Knowledge from earlier verses to properly understand and practice Karma Yoga, lest we be one of . . .

Those whose motives are for the fruits of action. Such persons, which surely make up nearly all of humanity, are to be pitied.

Clearly, acting for the purpose of getting desirable results is being frowned upon. But equally clearly, there is something of much greater value being suggested here, so it is worthy of our attention. Apparently the Yoga of Action is where we’ll find the gold (after all, Krishna does call Arjuna “Winner of Wealth”).

Once we understand the truth about action and find ourselves fully occupied in union as per the last verse, we will be congratulating ourselves on our good fortune and wanting to shout it from the roof-tops. But alas, as you have surely gathered by now, such understanding does not come readily, but requires a few things most people are going to be reluctant, if not completely unwilling, to accept, and are more likely to string us up by our toes than thank us. So we remain silent. Or enigmatic.

So if you have just joined us, and are interested in sleuthing out the gold, you will want to investigate this chapter up to this point, and continue on from here. Welcome to our little band of eager seekers!

Namaste (I bow to the Real You),
Durga Ma


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9 thoughts on “Understanding Karma Yoga -Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 2: 49

  1. Pingback: 50 If you have an interest in freedom, you have only to be rid of your karma. | Mystical Tidbits

  2. Galen

    To sleuth for gold…what is gold but an element found here and there on this world. I could pan for it, pickax, shovel and dig for it or walk to a jeweler and buy it but what kind of action is that?
    Wait! I have traces of gold already within this body. I can go inwardly and pan for it or take pickax and shovel in hand and dig for it but who knows how long that would take. There just got to be and more direct way. Oh yea I will walk with my heart and mind, surrender to my teacher and she surely will give to me the gold I am needing for that moment.


    1. It is true that the greatest wealth is within, though wealth of the ordinary kind also applies. It is true that it will take some time to find this greatest kinds, but in the scheme of things, not long at all. The Gita is the map.


      1. Galen

        Having both kinds of wealth would be a joy and comfort in that order. It matters somewhat as to the scheme of things as to when but what is the hurry? Yes I can intuitively experience the Gita at times and the seed is planted but I still like listening to a teacher he/she if true in nature is the Gita, in my humble opinion.

        Liked by 1 person

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