09 May 2014

Bhagavad Gita Chapter 2, Verse 47; Karmanye Vadhikaraste Ma Phaleshu Kadachana

Although our this article's topic is Swami Vivekananda's comments and interpretations of the 47th verse of the second chapter of Bhagavad Gita, considering some people from search engine's suggestions will come here to learn about the actual verse, and not Swami Vivekananda's interpretations, we'll start with brief discussion on the verse

Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 2, Verse: 47

Image source: Wikimedia Commons
The verse is—
कर्मण्येवाधिकारस्ते मा फलेषु कदाचन। 
मा कर्मफलहेतुर्भूर्मा ते सङ्गोऽस्त्वकर्मणि॥ २-४७

In Roman scripts—
Karmanye vadhikaraste Ma Phaleshu Kadachana,
Ma Karmaphalaheturbhurma Te Sangostvakarmani

We have noticed, sometimes people use two words for कर्मण्येवाधिकारस्ते or Karmanyevadhikaraste and write it "Karmanye Vadhikaraste", that is also fine, but I feel it is better to use it as one word, as in the original sloka (verse), it is a joined word (sandhi).

The meaning of the verse is—
You have the right to work onlybut never to its fruits.
Let not the fruits of action be your motive, nor let your attachment be to inaction. 

Now, here is the word to word meaning of the verse—

First line

First part
कर्मण्येवाधिकारस्ते/Karmanye vadhikaraste

कर्मण्य/Karmanya = In the work
एव/Eva = Only
अधिकार/Adhikar = Right
ते/Te =  Your

Second part
मा फलेषु कदाचन/Ma Phaleshu Kadachana
मा/Ma = No/Not
फलेषु/Phaleshu = In the fruit/result (the root word is "फल"/"Phal" here, means, "fruit of work")
कदाचन/Kadachana = Ever (in some web articles, this word has been translated as "never", actually कदाचन/Kadacana means "ever" or "at any time". Note the word मा/Ma, now मा/Ma + कदाचन/Kadacana = No + ever = Never, that's how it becomes "Never")

Second line

First part
मा कर्मफलहेतुर्भूर्मा/Karmanyevadhikaraste

मा/Ma = No/Not
कर्मफल/Karmaphala = Two words, Karma+Phala, कर्म/Karma = work and फल/phala = result or fruit of the work.
हेतु /हेतु = Here it means "motive" (the word "hetu" may mean "reason" too)
भु /bhu = be
मा/Ma = No/Not

Second part
ते सङ्गोऽस्त्वकर्मणि/Te Sangostvakarmani
ते/Te =  Your
संग /Sang =attachment (this word may mean "companion too", like "satsang")
अस्तु /Astu = Let there be
अकर्मणि /Akarmani = In action

Swami Vivekananda's commentaries
Now let's begin  our main section Swami Vivekananda's commentaries on the verse.
Swamji told—
  • Be beyond the common worldly motives. "To work you have the right, but not to the fruits thereof." Man can train himself to know and to practice that, says the Karma-Yogi. When the idea of doing good becomes a part of his very being, then he will not seek for any motive outside. Let us do good because it is good to do good; he who does good work even in order to get to heaven binds himself down, says the Karma-Yogi. Any work that is done with any the least selfish motive, instead of making us free, forges one more chain for our feet.[Source]
  • Bring all light into the world. Light, bring light! Let light come unto every one; the task will not be finished till every one has reached the Lord. Bring light to the poor and bring more light to the rich, for they require it more than the poor. Bring light to the ignorant, and more light to the educated, for the vanities of the education of our time are tremendous! Thus bring light to all and leave the rest unto the Lord, for in the words of the same Lord "To work you have the right and not to the fruits thereof." "Let not your work produce results for you, and at the same time may you never be without work."[Source]
  • By the by, I have made a discovery as to the mental method of really practising what the Gita teaches, of working without an eye to results. I have seen much light on concentration and attention and control of concentration, which if practised will take us out of all anxiety and worry. It is really the science of bottling up our minds whenever we like.[Source]
  • Despair not; remember the Lord says in the Gita, "To work you have the right, but not to the result." Gird up your loins, my boy. I am called by the Lord for this. I have been dragged through a whole life full of crosses and tortures, I have seen the nearest and dearest die, almost of starvation; I have been ridiculed, distrusted, and have suffered for my sympathy for the very men who scoff and scorn. Well, my boy, this is the school of misery, which is also the school for great souls and prophets for the cultivation of sympathy, of patience, and, above all, of an indomitable iron will which quakes not even if the universe be pulverised at our feet.[Source]
  • How hard it is to arrive at this sort of non-attachment! Therefore Krishna shows us the lower ways and methods. The easiest way for everyone is to do [his or her] work and not take the results. It is our desire that binds us. If we take the results of actions, whether good or evil, we will have to bear them. But if we work not for ourselves, but all for the glory of the Lord, the results will take care of themselves. "To work you have the right, but not to the fruits thereof." The soldier works for no results. He does his duty. If defeat comes, it belongs to the general, not to the soldier. We do our duty for love's sake — love for the general, love for the Lord.[Source]
  • Indian writers are not like modern writers who steal ninety percent of their ideas from other authors, while only ten per cent is their own, and they take care to write a preface in which they say, "For these ideas I am responsible". Those great master minds producing momentous results in the hearts of mankind were content to write their books without even putting their names, and to die quietly, leaving the books to posterity. Who knows the writers of our philosophy, who knows the writers of our Purânas? They all pass under the generic name of Vyâsa, and Kapila, and so on. They have been true children of Shri Krishna. They have been true followers of the Gita; they practically carried out the great mandate, "To work you have the right, but not to the fruits thereof."[Source]
  • Krishna did everything but without any attachment; he was in the world, but not of it. "Do all work but without attachment; work for work's sake, never for yourself."[Source]
  • Let me remind you again, "Thou hast the right to work but not to the fruits thereof." Stand firm like a rock. Truth always triumphs.[Source]
  • "To work we have the right, but not to the fruits thereof:" Leave the fruits alone. Why care for results? If you wish to help a man, never think what that man's attitude should be towards you. If you want to do a great or a good work, do not trouble to think what the result will be.[Source]
  • This world is not for cowards. Do not try to fly. Look not for success or failure. Join yourself to the perfectly unselfish will and work on. Know that the mind which is born to succeed joins itself to a determined will and perseveres. You have the right to work, but do not become so degenerate as to look for results. Work incessantly, but see something behind the work. Even good deeds can find a man in great bondage. Therefore be not bound by good deeds or by desire for name and fame. Those who know this secret pass beyond this round of birth and death and become immortal.[Source]
  • Though the ideal of work of our Brahmavâdin[1] should always be " कर्मण्येवाधिकारस्ते मा फलेषु कदाचन — To work thou hast the right, but never to the fruits thereof", yet no sincere worker passes out of the field of activity without making himself known and catching at least a few rays of light.[Source]
  • What is your motive? Are you sure that you are not actuated by greed of gold, by thirst for fame or power? Are you really sure that you can stand to your ideals and work on, even if the whole world wants to crush you down? Are you sure you know what you want and will perform your duty, and that alone, even if your life is at stake? Are you sure that you will persevere so long as life endures, so long as there is one pulsation left in the heart? Then you are a real reformer, you are a teacher, a Master, a blessing to mankind. But man is so impatient, so short-sighted! He has not the patience to wait, he has not the power to see. He wants to rule, he wants results immediately. Why? He wants to reap the fruits himself, and does not really care for others. Duty for duty's sake is not what he wants. "To work you have the right, but not to the fruits thereof," says Krishna. Why cling to results? Ours are the duties. Let the fruits take care of themselves. But man has no patience. He takes up any scheme. The larger number of would-be reformers all over the world can be classed under this heading.[Source]


  1. Brahmavâdin was a religious journal/magazine, planned by Swami Vivekananda and started by his disciple Alasinga Perumal and other.

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This page was last updated on: 9 May 2014, 7:42 am IST (UTC+5:30 hours)
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  1. It is excellent and easily understandable. The message is directly delivered to the mind of the reader. Thank you.

    1. Thank you very much for your comment. Regards.

  2. This was great. Great to see the exact translation and to read Vivekananda's clear and powerful commentaries. Thank you.

  3. Great job bringing all the sayings of Swami Vivekananda regarding this particular verse. Thank you a lot.

  4. Hi ! The second line first part in English needs to be corrected..

  5. It was good,but it could be better.

  6. Excellent and simple! Thank you!!

  7. This is very helpful. Thank you for your posts and translations.

  8. Wonderful lines from gita...

  9. The first line first part, 'adhikara' in Sanskrit means 'authority' or 'power over something. Why are we translating this as 'right'? First line first part - the second MA (not) should belong to the second part. 'akarmani' means 'in non action. No attachment to inaction.


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