Bhagavad Gita: Chapter 3, Verse 8

नियतं कुरु कर्म त्वं कर्म ज्यायो ह्यकर्मण: |
शरीरयात्रापि च ते न प्रसिद्ध्येदकर्मण: || 8||

niyataṁ kuru karma tvaṁ karma jyāyo hyakarmaṇaḥ
śharīra-yātrāpi cha te na prasiddhyed akarmaṇaḥ

niyatamconstantly; kuruperform; karmaVedic duties; tvamyou; karmaaction; jyāyaḥsuperior; hicertainly; akarmaṇaḥthan inaction; śharīrabodily; yātrāmaintenance; apieven; chaand; teyour; na prasiddhyetwould not be possible; akarmaṇaḥinaction


BG 3.8: You should thus perform your prescribed Vedic duties, since action is superior to inaction. By ceasing activity, even your bodily maintenance will not be possible.


Until the mind and intellect reach a state where they are absorbed in God-consciousness, physical work performed in an attitude of duty is very beneficial for one’s internal purification. Hence, the Vedas prescribe duties for humans, to help them discipline their mind and senses. In fact, laziness is described as one of the biggest pitfalls on the spiritual path:

ālasya hi manuṣhyāṇāṁ śharīrastho mahān ripuḥ

nāstyudyamasamo bandhūḥ kṛitvā yaṁ nāvasīdati [v4]

“Laziness is the greatest enemy of humans, and is especially pernicious since it resides in their own body. Work is their most trustworthy friend, and is a guarantee against downfall.” Even the basic bodily activities like eating, bathing, and maintaining proper health require work. These obligatory actions are called nitya karm. To neglect these basic maintenance activities is not a sign of progress, but an indication of slothfulness, leading to emaciation and weakness of both body and mind. On the other hand, a cared for and nourished body is a positive adjunct on the road to spirituality. Thus, the state of inertia does not lend itself either to material or spiritual achievement. For the progress of our own soul, we should embrace the duties that help elevate and purify our mind and intellect.