Bhagavad Gita: Chapter 4, Verse 18

कर्मण्यकर्म य: पश्येदकर्मणि च कर्म य: |
स बुद्धिमान्मनुष्येषु स युक्त: कृत्स्नकर्मकृत् || 18||

karmaṇyakarma yaḥ paśhyed akarmaṇi cha karma yaḥ
sa buddhimān manuṣhyeṣhu sa yuktaḥ kṛitsna-karma-kṛit

karmaṇiaction; akarmain inaction; yaḥwho; paśhyetsee; akarmaṇiinaction; chaalso; karmaaction; yaḥwho; saḥthey; buddhi-mānwise; manuṣhyeṣhuamongst humans; saḥthey; yuktaḥyogis; kṛitsna-karma-kṛitperformers all kinds of actions

karmanyakarma yah pashyed akarmani cha karma yah
sa buddhiman manushyeshu sa yuktah kritsna-karma-krit


BG 4.18: Those who see action in inaction and inaction in action are truly wise amongst humans. Although performing all kinds of actions, they are yogis and masters of all their actions.


Action in inaction. There is one kind of inaction where persons look upon their social duties as burdensome, and renounce them out of indolence. They give up actions physically, but their mind continues to contemplate upon the objects of the senses. Such persons may appear to be inactive, but their lethargic idleness is actually sinful action. When Arjun suggested that he wishes to shy away from his duty of fighting the war, Shree Krishna explained to him that it would be a sin, and he would go to the hellish regions for such inaction.

Inaction in action. There is another kind of inaction performed by karm yogis. They execute their social duties without attachment to results, dedicating the fruits of their actions to God. Although engaged in all kinds of activities, they are not entangled in karmic reactions, since they have no motive for personal enjoyment. There were many great kings in Indian history—Dhruv, Prahlad, Yudhisthir, Prithu, and Ambarish—who discharged their kingly duties to the best of their abilities, and yet because their minds were not entangled in material desires, their actions were termed Akarm, or inaction. Another name for akarm is karm yog, which has been discussed in detail in the previous two chapters as well.

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