*॥ श्रीमद्‍भगवद्‍गीता ॥ 2.47॥*

_कर्मण्येवाधिकारस्ते मा फलेषु कदाचन_ ।

_मा कर्मफलहेतुर्भुर्मा ते संगोऽस्त्वकर्मणि_ ॥

तेरा कर्म करने में ही अधिकार है, उसके फलों में कभी नहीं। इसलिए तू कर्मों के फल हेतु मत हो तथा तेरी कर्म न करने में भी आसक्ति न हो॥47॥

You only have authority over action, not ever to the result. Don’t be motivated by the result, and don’t get attached to inaction.


As mentioned earlier, this shloka is probably the most known and oft-quoted shloka in the Gita. There are many chapters in the Gita that go deeper into the layers and layers of meaning packed into this shloka. Given the richness of this shloka, we shall try to understand it to the best extent possible. Since there are several messages in this shloka, let’s examine the teaching part by part.

 Let’s start with the first half of the shloka. The message is as follows. Shri Krishna says that we have authority only over the actions performed by us, but never on the result. In other words, we do not have complete control over the outcome of any activity. As we grow older and spend more time in this world, we know this fact instinctively. But because we forget it, we tend to get disappointed when things don’t go our way, or get elated when things do.

 Look at our own lives, we can take any number of examples to test this theory. Take a simple thing as catching a bus that has just arrived on the other side of the road. We run to catch the bus. But even in such a simple task, the outcome is not guaranteed. If we are able to catch the bus then all’s well. But there are several other outcomes that could occur. The bus may leave before we get to the stop. We could catch the wrong bus. Once aboard, we may not have the fare. Worst of all, we could get hit by a car while crossing the road.

 Or consider a complex task as a surgeon performing heart surgery. Take the world’s best doctor trained at the world’s best college, in the surgery room of the world’s best hospital with the world’s best surgery team. Even with all these things, that surgeon will never have a 100% success rate.

 The outcome of any action is like an equation where we provide some of the variables, but not all of them. In fact, we may not even know all the variables that end up determining the outcome.

 So unless we logically convince ourselves that we do not have complete control over the result of an action, we will not be able to learn the main teaching the second half of this shloka. We will tackle that teaching in the next post. Now let’s move into the main teaching of this shloka. Here Shri Krishna urges us to not worry about the outcome, i.e. the result, of the action. How will this work? Let’s recap two important points. We have seen earlier that when we perform our svadharma, we derive joy from the performance of  action itself since we have the interest, desire and aptitude for it. We also learned in the last shloka that we do not have complete control over the outcome.

 Therefore, we should never be motivated by the outcome when we know we have executed our actions with perfection, and that we do not have complete control on the outcome. Motivation for the outcome creates bondage – it is like a rope that ties us into the future. Instead, if we give up motivation for the outcome, there is no such binding created.

 Let’s address a few doubts that most of us may have when we hear this teaching. The first doubt could be : “If I am not motivated by the result, how will I know where I am heading? I want my project to be executed on time, I want my team to be inspired by a goal, I want progress in my career. How can I do all these things if I am not motivated by the result?”

 To answer this, let us closely look at what Shri Krishna has prescribed. There is nothing wrong with aiming for a specific goal, or even to be inspired by it. Setting a vision, defining a goal, making a plan – all these things are absolutely required for the perfect execution of any work. We can always be motivated by the goal, but not be motivated by the outcome. There is a subtle but important difference.

 Another doubt could be as follows: “If I know that I am only partially responsible for the outcome then why should I do any action at all? I will just quit my job, sit at home and do nothing.”

 Shri Krishna cautions us not to do so in the last part of the shloka – do not get attached to inaction. If we know that we have performed our svadharma and our actions to the best of our abililty, we know that in the end we will achieve our goals, even if things may not turn out as anticipated sometimes. But we should never totally give up and do nothing.

 What we have learned so far is just the tip of the iceberg. This shloka is the seed for the topic of Karmayoga, or the discipline of action. Shri Krishna expounds on this topic at great length in the forthcoming chapters. Arjuna has several questions and doubts in regards to this teaching, all of which will be addressed by Shri Krishna one by one.


 1. “Phala” literally means “fruit”. Fruit of a result has a “seed” in it, which has the potential to generate yet another action.


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