Following is an excerpt from an Audio Class on Bhagavad Gita Chapter 4 – Verse 16 to 24.
In this section, Krishna is going to explain Arjuna why not to give up everything. One should work remembering Krishna and that is called Bhakti yoga. So Krishna is going to remove the misconception which people have and that is, in order to become spiritual one has to give up work. One has to also know that giving up everything shouldn’t be called wrong as work is most likely described as selfish because anytime when you’re in work, you only think of yourself. So those who are spiritual, they think that they don’t have to be selfish and they have to be selfless and think that work means selfish and spiritual means selfless therefore spiritual life means there should be ‘no work’ and thus one should avoid work. But Krishna knows that this is not the actual understanding and therefore one has to remove this misconception and overcome this ideas of ‘no work’. Krishna teaches us how to do Bhakti yoga a method in which you can do work also and be free from selfishness and how not to get any reaction from our actions because whenever we do work we tend to get reaction. When we do good work, we get good reaction and when we do bad work, we get bad reaction. Therefore, the main thing is how to perform your duty and not get any reaction for the same.
Krishna says there are three categories of Karma – Karma, Vikarma and Akarma. Karma means those actions which are recommended in Vedic Scriptures. Example – Marriage is sacred responsibility and it’s Sanskara where you take vows and you live by those vows. So when you doing that you performing Karma. Then there is Vikarma which includes all actions which are prohibited as they are wrong but a person has a freedom to take those actions. Therefore a person involving in actions which are prohibited is simply performing Vikarma. Third is Akarma which means actions taken for the pleasure of Krishna. Example, if a man gets married to a woman in the intention of making his family Krishna consciousness to give pleasure to Krishna so this activity is actually higher than Karma. The reason why one should do this is because when you do Karma you get good reaction but the point here is that we don’t want either good reaction or bad reaction. Therefore, Scriptures say that one should perform Akarma. Now from the absolute point of view both Karma and Vikarma are bad but in the material world, Karma is better than Vikarma. That does not mean Krishna is saying not to do your duty. In fact, he is telling us to do our duty but in such a way that should not get any reaction for the same.
Example, A solider is on a war and killing many people and for that he is getting medal but when he kills a citizen while he is at home and not at war then he has committed a crime because he is violating the higher authority rule in the city as he has no right to kill any citizen because he is not on his duty and this is not a war. So when we are acting against the instructions then we are performing Vikarma. Scriptures say that better than performing sin, perform proper action and better than proper action is to perform action which has no reaction. So this is how you do Bhakti yoga.
Krishna says the one who is intelligent can see ‘action in inaction’ and ‘inaction in action.’ Action means activity and inaction means no reaction. So what we have to see is how we can get no reaction by getting action and that means one has to do devotional service. So ‘inaction in action’ refers to Bhakti yoga. Now ‘action in inaction’ refers to Sannyasa and performed by Sannyasi who are inactive and given up everything. However, one cannot give up breathing or walking, so they are the people who are inactive and active at the same time through the said mediums. However, it is said that it is very dangerous to take up renunciation artificially as our senses will be looking to fight against the urge of sense gratification and our mind will be impure and we may create a disaster for ourselves and for the society and that will result in unethical moral activities. This is also the reason why Krishna tells to perform Bhakti yoga. So the one who follows this has no selfish desire for enjoyment but working for the pleasure of the Lord and as a sense of duty towards Krishna. Krishna is saying that if our consciousness is spiritual, the results one gets is also spiritual. So the person in Krishna consciousness is eventually sacrificing and the result is the welfare of everyone and the goal of all sacrifice is pleasure of Krishna. If you don’t take shelter of Krishna then your old habits won’t go and therefore one has to give up all of ones bad habits and take shelter of Krishna completely.