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Atma Anatma Viveka - Thoughts by Rama Gopalakrishna

karmaṇyakarma yaḥ paśyēdakarmaṇi ca karma yaḥ |

sa buddhimān manuṣyēṣu sa yuktaḥ kṛtsnakarmakṛt || 4.18 |

Yaha karmani akarma = He who sees actionlessness of the Self in the action of the body,

cha = and Amarmani karma

pashyeth = he who sees potential action in the inaction of the body is

buddhiman manushyeshu = wise among men.

Saha yuktaha = He is a Yōgi, Saha kritsna karma krith = who has accomplished everything.

Verse 18 is one of the few Grantha granthi shlokas seen in the Gita. These verses contain teachings of Upanishads which echoes the phrase Sarvopanishado Gavaha in the dhyana shloka. In this key verse Krishna talks about Ātma-anātma viveka; the difference between Atma the higher-I and ahaṃkāraḥ the lower-I in Jivas. Here Sri Krishna uses the language of contradiction emphasising the wisdom of jnana karma sannyasa.

Karma is action. Akarma is Karma abhavaha or lack of action.

Let us understand the phrases action in inaction and inaction in action by analysing day to day experiences.

A passenger in a running train mistakes the nearby trees to be moving in the opposite direction. Motion is misattributed to the inert trees. This is action in inaction.

Whereas, a man on the shore mistakes a boat sailing far away as being motionless. Here inaction is seen in action.

Thus, in nature, actions and inactions do not always present themselves in their true perspective.

Similarly an ignorant man superimposes the kartritva and bhoktritva, the properties of Anatma on the Atma.. The ignorant man thinks of himself as the body. “Now I rest: now I work” thus transposing function of Prakriti on Atman. Mistaking the non self for self is ego. The egoistic man may be abandoning all his worldly duties but he is a doer of karma. Even in his inert state he is still a doer of Karma. This is known as action in inaction.

In the case of a Gnani who differentiates the Atma from Anatma knows that Atma remains as a witness even though his body works continuously. Any karma he does is with Iswararpana Buddhi and accepts the phalam as Iswara prasadaha. He does all karmas without ego. This is known as inaction in action.

In the context of Gita, Sri Krishna and Arjuna present two different pictures in the battle field contrasting each other.

Sri Krishna takes Arjuna who is ready to fight in front of the Kaurava army. Foreseeing the implications of the war, he drops the bow and arrows, unwilling to fight. Tortured by the conflict of duty, he instantly renounces his duty due to a sense of doer ship.

This miserable Arjuna embodies action in inaction.

Whereas Lord Krishna who is without a sense of doer ship, drives the chariot controlling the horses with his left hand. His right hand assumes Chin mudra ready to impart Self-knowledge to Arjuna. The calmness on Krishna’s face indicates his steady mind. Sri Krishna is revealing that the Atma is Akarta and Abhokta through his personal life. Action belongs to the physical body. Thus, Krishna’s actions are in inaction.

Saha Buddhiman...

A Gnani knows that in the presence of the actionless higher” I”, the Ahankara is the Karta and Bhokta. He detaches himself from Ahankara and Mamakara and shifts from lower I to higher I. Therefore, he is Buddhiman or wisest among the human beings.

Saha yuktaha.

A Gnani is a real yogi who realises that the higher I is Akarta and hence Abhokta. Mastering lower I the Karta enjoys Atmananda within himself always.

Saha Kritsna karma krith.

kṛtsnakarmakṛt means a jnani who enjoys total fulfilment achieving Purnatvam.

This idea of Atma anatma Viveka being complex, Sri Krishna elaborates upon in the verses to follow.

Gita Ch 4.18 presentation
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