Understanding Gita – 55

Chapter 3 – Karma Yoga 

Shloka 17-18

TEXT 17

yas tv ātma-ratir eva syād
ātma-tptaś ca mānava
ātmany eva ca santuṣṭas
tasya kārya na vidyate

SYNONYMS

yaone who; tubut; ātmaratitakes pleasure; evacertainly; syātremains; ātmatptaself-illuminated; caand; mānavaa man; ātmaniin himself; evaonly; caand; santuṣṭaperfectly satiated; tasyahis; kāryamduty; nadoes not; vidyateexist.

Text Source – “http://prabhupadabooks.com/bg

One who is taking pleasure in the self itself, remains satisfied in the self itself, that man who is happy in himself, he does not have any duties.

For the one who is doing karma, the cycle of yajna(explained in the previous verse), holds true. But the one who is happy with himself, content with himself and takes pleasure in the soul, will not have any duties.

All the karma described before is for those who are working for something(either material or spiritual). Doing those karmas in a prescribed way as told by Vedas, one achieves purity of heart and mind. But after you achieve this stage, then you are no longer bound by your duties. But how to tell if you have achieved this stage?  the answer is described in this verse. You’ll be completely happy with yourself, content with yourself. 

Edited to add:
Divya: “you are no longer bound by your duties” – doesn’t mean that you can sit idle. One is so much in wisdom that one knows exactly what is his duty and what is not.

 *********

TEXT 18

naiva tasya ktenārtho
nākteneha kaścana
na cāsya sarva-bhūteu
kaścid artha-vyapāśraya

SYNONYMS

nanever; evacertainly; tasyahis; ktenaby discharge of duty; arthapurpose; nanor; aktenawithout discharge of duty; ihain this world; kaścanawhatever; nanever; caand; asyaof him; sarvabhūteu —in all living beings; kaścitany; arthapurpose; vyapaāśrayataking shelter of.

Text Source – “http://prabhupadabooks.com/bg

For such a person, there is no purpose behind performing his duties, or not performing them. Nor he has any purpose for depending on other beings.

A self realized man who is happy and content in himself will have no purpose to either perform or not perform his duties. Nor is he dependent on anything on anybody.

Duties are done to elevate oneself to a certain level spiritually. There is a purpose behind your duty. But once you reach that level, there is nothing to be gained or lost. Hence the purpose behind your duty is also lost. And you are no longer dependent on anybody for anything. You are happy with or without anything or anybody.

Edited to add:
Divya –
Again here it doesn’t mean that this person will no longer have any duty. It is just that now he knows what are his exact duties. He is no longer driven by worldly duties(which come from attachment). His duties are performed in such wisdom that he doesn’t get entangled in them, but is more and more liberated.

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