Bhagavad Gita: Chapter 8, Verse 7

तस्मात्सर्वेषु कालेषु मामनुस्मर युध्य च |
मय्यर्पितमनोबुद्धिर्मामेवैष्यस्यसंशयम् || 7||

tasmāt sarveṣhu kāleṣhu mām anusmara yudhya cha
mayyarpita-mano-buddhir mām evaiṣhyasyasanśhayam

tasmāttherefore; sarveṣhuin all; kāleṣhutimes; māmMe; anusmararemember; yudhyafight; chaand; mayito Me; arpitasurrender; manaḥmind; buddhiḥintellect; māmto Me; evasurely; eṣhyasiyou shall attain; asanśhayaḥwithout a doubt


BG 8.7: Therefore, always remember Me and also do your duty of fighting the war. With mind and intellect surrendered to Me, you will definitely attain Me; of this, there is no doubt.


The first line of this verse is the essence of teachings of the Bhagavad Gita.  It has the power of making our life divine.  It also encapsulates the definition of karm-yog.  Shree Krishna says, “Keep your mind attached to Me, and do your worldly duty with your body.”  This applies to people in all walks of life—doctors, engineers, advocates, housewives, students, etc.  In Arjun’s specific case, he is a warrior and his duty is to fight.  So he is being instructed to fulfill his duty, while keeping his mind in God.  Some people neglect their worldly duties on the plea that they have taken to spiritual life.  Others excuse themselves from spiritual practice on the pretext of worldly engagements.  People believe that spiritual and material pursuits are irreconcilable.  But God’s message is to sanctify one’s entire life.

When we practice such karm-yog, the worldly works will not suffer because the body is being engaged in them.  But since the mind is attached to God, these works will not bind one in the law of karma.  Only those works result in karmic reactions which are performed with attachment.  When that attachment does not exist, even worldly law does not hold one culpable.  For example, let us say that one man killed another and is brought to court.  The judge asks him, “Did you kill that man?”  The man replies, “Yes, your honor, there is no need for any witness.  I confess that I killed him.”  “Then you should be punished!”  “No, your honor, you cannot punish me.”  “Why?”  “I had no intention to kill.  I was driving the car on the proper side of the road, within speed limits, with my eyes focused ahead.  My brakes, steering, everything was perfect.  That man suddenly ran in front of my car.  What could I do?”  If his attorney can establish that the intention to kill did not exist, the judge will let him off without even the slightest punishment.    

From the above example we see that even in the world we are not culpable for those actions we perform without attachment.  The same principle holds for the law of karma as well.  That is why, during the Mahabharat war, following Shree Krishna’s instructions, Arjun did his duty on the battlefield.  By the end of the war, Shree Krishna noted that Arjun did not accrue any bad karma.  He would have been entangled in karma if he had been fighting the battle with attachment, for worldly gain or fame.  However, his mind was attached to Shree Krishna, and so what he was doing was multiplication in zeros, performing his duty in this world without selfish attachment.  Even if you multiply one million with zero, the answer will still be zero.

The condition for karm-yog has been stated very clearly in this verse:  The mind must be constantly engaged in thinking of God.  The moment the mind forgets God, it comes under the attack of the big generals of Maya’s army—lust, anger, greed, envy, hatred, etc.  Thus, it is important to always keep it attached to God.  Often people claim to be karm yogis because they say they do both—karm and yog.  For the major part of the day, they do karm, and for a few minutes they do yog (meditation on God).  But this is not the definition of karm-yog that Shree Krishna has given.  He states that 1) even while doing the work, the mind must be engaged in thinking of God, and 2) the remembrance of God must not be intermittent, but constant throughout the day.  

Saint Kabir expresses this in his famous couplet:

sumiran kī sudhi yoṅ karo, jyauṅ gāgar panihāra

bolat dolat surati meṅ, kahe kabīra vichār

“Remember God just as the village woman remembers the water pot on her head.  She speaks with others and walks on the path, but her mind keeps holding onto the pot.”

Shree Krishna explains the consequences of practicing karm-yog in the next verse.