What is Best Kind of Doer/Performer (Karta) & Intellect (Buddhi)? (183)


Lesson 183 gives examples of Sattvic, Rajasic, Tamasic Doer/Agent/Performer, and Intellect.

Source: Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 18, Verse 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31


  • VERSE 23: Sattvic Action:
    • Free of strong notion of “I AM” doing it. Accounts other variables making doing possible.
    • Knows all actions comes with raga/dvesha.
    • Does (applies all raga/dvesha) for sake of: (a) mind purification, (b) sustaining harmony in environment.
    • What does it means to say “don't be attached to results OR have no attachment”? Insert the word “person”, and it makes sense. EG: “Don't be attached to (personal or other then a/b above) results”.
  • VERSE 24: Rajasic Action:
    • Done purely out of raga/dvesha. Only #b above. Hence doesn't account dharma/adharma > punya/papa mixture.
    • Built up pride from one's actions. EG: I do important actions of a ____, hence you're unworthy of my time!
  • VERSE 25: Tamasic Action:
    • Doesn't consider consequences of loss to self/others. EG: Gambling, stealing. Reason? Inability to discern.

V26-28:  3-FOLD DOER (KARTĀ): Attitude of Doer

Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 18, Verse 26:

mukta-saṅgaḥ anahaṃ-vādī dhṛti-utsāha-samanvitaḥ ।
siddhi-asiddhyoḥ nirvikāraḥ kartā sāttvikaḥ ucyate ॥ 18-26॥
Satvic doer is said to be one who is free from attachment, who is free from egoism, who is endowed with will and enthusiasm, and who is unaffected in success and failure.

  • ESSENCE of Sattvic Doer: The sāttvika doer does his duties cheerfully, without expecting others to appreciate, reward, or congratulate him just as a mother serves the infant without any expectations.
    • EG: Guru Janārdana was meditating. Messenger came in hut and told brāhmin disciple Ekanāth (renowned saint of Maharashtra, India, 1533-1599) that enemies were coming. Not wishing to disturb his guru Janārdana, he took up the sword and fought the enemies. Came back and didn’t even mention his role in the victory to his guru.
  • Verse: Who is a the best kind of worker/doer/performer/acter?
    • mukta-saṅgaḥ; Free from attachment. In reference to spirituality, uses actions as temporary MEANS until they served their purpose (mental-purity). Otherwise becomes an obstacle by creating dependance and reinforces “I am a doer”.
    • anahaṃ-vādī; Free of egoism. Doesn’t allows oneself to identify with his/her new found abilities developed through practice. His/her activities are done without pomp/show.
      • IE: Silent about one’s spiritual accomplishments because it may create unnecessary envy. Again, concerned by others well-being.
    • dhṛti-utsāha-samanvitaḥ; Who is endowed with will and enthusiasm, despite obstacles. Because joy is in the activity, not the future-result. Also because he/she is clear about worth of the activity, thereby increasing commitment to do it.
    • siddhi-asiddhyoḥ nirvikāraḥ; Enjoys balanced state of mind; neither too excited or disappointed.
      • Example of equipoise: Father made scene in hermitage where his daughter lived, and shouted “What has this fool Guru taught you?”. Daughter calmly replied, “Not to fear you or be embarrassed by your behavior”.
      • How to attain equipoise?
        • BG3.30: Renounce all your actions onto Me, devoid of expectations with reference to future, any sense of “my-ness”.
          • IE: Offer karma to higher alter, and whatever received is Ishvara prasada. It’s His blessing for me / learning opportunity.
        • “This is what life is like”.
        • Have something [bigger] to fall back on when things in life are gloomy.
        • Gratitude. Grateful for what?
          • I’m thankful that all have means for freedom from suffering.
          • I’m thankful that we are not separate.
          • I’m thankful for all those whom I could help, because through them, I helped myself.
          • I’m thankful to all those that have cared for me (known and unknown).
          • I’m thankful to God that we’ve been Cared for by his gentle hand from beginning.
      • How to know you’ve gone overboard with equipoise (neutral state of mind)? Others complain you’ve gone cold or distanced.
  • Summary: Best kind of doer is a Karma-Yogi.

Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 18, Verse 27:

rāgī karma-phala-prepsuḥ lubdhaḥ hiṃsātmakaḥ aśuciḥ ।
harṣa-śoka-anvitaḥ kartā rājasaḥ parikīrtitaḥ ॥ 18-27॥
Rajasic doer is said to be one who has attachment, who is desirous of the results of actions, who is greedy, harmful, impure and subject to elation and depression.

  • ESSENCE of Rajasic Doer: Person’s doing is mostly motivated by “What will I get out of this? What’s in it for me?”. Meaning they’re seeker of specific results (hard to please). Which also makes them live in the future (they become happy by thought of a bright future).
  • VERSE Characteristics:
    • harṣa-śoka-anvitaḥ; Has frequent mood swings. Extreme gaps between elation and gloominess.
      • EG:
        • Is pleased with something and disappointed immediately thereafter.
        • One day, elated towards him/her, the next day ignores or indifferent.
        • Has a love/hate relationship. Unpredictable. Their minds change too quickly.
          • EG: Kaṃsa had much love during his sister Devaki’s marriage procession. Then heard her 8th child will cause his death, and immediately draw sword to kill her. – Bhāgavatam, Canto 10.
        • SOLUTION: Have a phrase to fall back on, which restores some level of contentment/sanity. EG: “I choose joy over pain”.
    • hiṃsātmakaḥ: Prone to hurting through words, actions (because their needs come first).
      • EG: Their inner attitude (which causes lack of consideration) is: “People do not realize how great/smart I am!”.
    • aśuciḥ: Impure. Because gradually compromises dharma due to greed (lubdhaḥ) for more.
    • karma-phala-prepsuḥ: Does everything with a future agenda. EG: Associates to authority figures so can proclaim, “This important figure is close to me”.

Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 18, Verse 28:

ayuktaḥ prākṛtaḥ stabdhaḥ śaṭhaḥ naiṣkṛtikaḥ alasaḥ ।
viṣādī dīrgha-sūtrī ca kartā tāmasaḥ ucyate ॥ 18-28॥
Tamasic doer is said to be one who is undisiciplined, uncultured, arrogant, deceptive, harmful, slothful, depressed and procrastinating.

  • ESSENCE of Tamasic doer: Person does not do what he is supposed to do (niyata-karma), and does what he should not do (niṣiddha-karma; prohibited actions).
    • Exudes careless/crude/unrefined behavior, thus ends up hurting self and others.
    • Forgets easily.
    • Refuses to consider other’s views or make a change.
  • Verse Characteristics:
    • ayuktaḥ prākṛtaḥ: undisciplined and uncultured. Because:
      • (a) little education, thus doesn’t have reference point on how to act. EG:
        • Distasteful manners in public or social gatherings, like talking on phone loudly.
        • Greets everyone (including the guru) like their housemate.
      • (b) 4-kosha personalities are disintegrated.
        • EG:
          • Mind’s need for “feeling-good” speaks louder then intellects need for discipline.
          • Body puts keys somewhere, but mind is elsewhere. Min's later, don't remember.
          • Attend class. Mind wonder's into today-thoughts.
          • Cooking up next statement while other hasn't even finished their sentence.
          • Put something in a drawer. Minutes later, don't remember which one.
          • Washing dishes; thinking of something else.
          • Sit to do one thing; but end up doing something else.
          • Zone out while taking a shower; forgetting whether washed hair.
    • śaṭhaḥ: Deceptive: Behind external facade, there’s an inner agenda.
    • naiṣkṛtikaḥ; Harmful (to society). Enters others space with criticism, deconstructive feedback.
    • alasaḥ: Lazy/slothful.
      • Does not mind living off others’ sweat and toil and even feel it’s their right to be taken care of by others.
    • viṣādi; Often depressed due to lack of movement (slothful). Antidote: Take up work.
      • How does extreme-case of tama-guna get it’s joy? Joy is obtained from restricting others freedom, depriving them of their livelihood.
        • EG: Duryodhana took away the entire kingdom of Pāṇḍavas and enjoyed it. He wouldn’t even give a single home with 5 rooms.
    • dīrgha-sūtrī; Procrastinator: Take a month what could be done in a day. Isn’t bothered by “putting it off until later”.


Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 18, Verse 29:

buddheḥ bhedam dhṛteḥ ca eva guṇataḥ trividham śṛṇu ।
procyamānam aśeṣeṇa pṛthaktvena dhanañjaya ॥ 18-29॥
Oh Arjuna! Listen to the threefold division of intellect and of will according to the guṇas, taught (by Me) completely and distinctly.

  • Intellect is the driver of our life. Depending on it’s education, it can lead us to progression or regression. It has ability to observe, discriminate, understand, analyze, and decide what should be done in any given situation.
  • Intellect is of 3 types…

Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 18, Verse 30:

pravṛttim ca nivṛttim ca kārya-akārye bhaya-abhaye ।
bandham mokṣam ca yā vetti buddhiḥ sā pārtha sāttvikī ॥ 18-30॥
Sattvic intellect is that which knows action and renunciation, what is to be done and not done, what is to be feared and not feared, as well as bondage and liberation.

  • ESSENCE of Sāttvika intellect: It can figure out clearly and correctly what should be done and what should not be done under all circumstances (even if don’t have experience; since dharma is present).
  • Verse Characteristics:
    • kārya-akārye:
      • Cognizes what is appropriate and inappropriate. EG: Finds stash of money with return address, and returns it.
      • Knows where one’s duty ends.
        • EG:
          • Offering a suggestion, the recognizing it’s now up to them to follow.
          • Knowing when you’ve spoken long enough, and it’s turning now into repetition.
      • Knows the right order to pursue moksha. IE: Karma-Yoga > Upasana > Jnana-Yoga.
      • Knowing what CAN and CANNOT be changed. And putting energy on what CAN.
      • Knowing what self-knowledge CAN give and CANNOT give.
      • Knowing what actions are most effectual according to your stage. IE: What is my buddhi craving for in THIS STAGE of life? Music, engaging conversation, culture learning?…
      • Knowing what will (God) and will not (buying into worldly promises) give security.
    • bhaya-abhaye: Knows what is to be feared (compromising dharma; papam / giving one’s life to advice of unvalidated knowledge) and not feared (scriptural teachings, losing your identity to alter of Truth).
    • bandhaṃ mokṣam: Sāttvika intellect understands what causes sorrow/bondage and what unfolds everlasting joy and Liberation.
      • EG:
        1. Ironically, living a life of total freedom produces sorrow/bondage (as it creates door to becoming dependent/attached to objects). While living a disciplined life (deliberate self-denial), over time leads to freedom (as you learn to depend on yourself).
        2. Turning Karma-Yoga/Upasana-Yoga as the END = bondage. While using them as MEANS to Jnana-Yoga = liberation.
        3. Not deliberately finding opportunities to incorporate BGita teachings into life = bondage. Deliberately seeing world through BGita = liberation (even though weird/unfamiliar at start).
  • In conclusion: Take refuge in your sāttvika intellect.

Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 18, Verse 31:

yayā dharmam adharmam ca kāryam ca akāryam eva ca ।
ayathāvat prajānāti buddhiḥ sā pārtha rājasī ॥ 18-31॥
Arjuna, that mind with which one wrongly knows what is proper (dharma) and improper (adharma), what is prescribed and prohibited – is rajasic intellect. (Andre)

  • ESSENCE of Rajasic Intellect: Intellect gets quickly/easily confused (because it’s own notions aren’t compatible with present tense context). Consequently, the doubt-riddled mind produces sudden and wide fluctuations in moods/opinions, in hopes to reconcile WHAT-IS with his/her own notions. Until clarity is formed, mind remains indecisive and vague (while talking / asking questions).
    • EG: Arjuna was indecisive on battlefield, Should I fight or not? Should I read this or that book? Should I go to this or that place for holiday?
    • Rajasica intellect changes it’s opinion often because believes bit of everything, thus doubts everything. It’s read so many books/courses, can’t make up it’s mind.
    • It’s often good deciding for others, but confused in reference to itself.
    • SOLUTION: How to decide? How to make a decision to help you get out of the stuck-state?
      • What excites you? Gives energy.
      • What is good for both (you and me)?
      • Will I still be ok with this, or doing this decision 5 years later?
      • Is this what I stand for/value?
      • Will this compromise ethics?
      • Which option are you most comfortable with or have capacity to deal with comfortably?
  • Verse:
    • ayathāvat prajānāti dharma ca adharmam; Wrongly understands what is right and wrong. Due to doubts/confusion. For this reason:
      • Falls back to comfortable meanwhile. EG: Resorts to cleaning house.
      • Fears future unfavorable outcomes.
    • kāryam akāryam; Doesn’t see the point of following prescribed advice, and has no problem applying prohibited actions.  Because values haven’t been personally assimilated, since caught up with worldly affairs.


Resources:  L183 Mind-Map

Credit for help in Bhagavad Gita teaching given to Swami Dayananda (Arsha Vidya), Paramarthananda & Chinmaya Mission.

Recorded 13 Sept, 2022


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