karmaṇy evādhikāras te
mā phaleṣu kadācana
mā karma-phala-hetur bhūr
mā te sańgo ‘stv akarmaṇi
Translation of Bhagavad Gita 2.47
You have a right to perform your prescribed duty, but you are not entitled to the fruits of action. Never consider yourself the cause of the results of your activities, and never be attached to not doing your duty.
Commentary by Sri A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada of Gaudiya Sampradaya:
There are three considerations here: prescribed duties, capricious work, and inaction. Prescribed duties are activities enjoined in terms of one’s acquired modes of material nature. Capricious work means actions without the sanction of authority, and inaction means not performing one’s prescribed duties. The Lord advised that Arjuna not be inactive, but that he perform his prescribed duty without being attached to the result. One who is attached to the result of his work is also the cause of the action. Thus he is the enjoyer or sufferer of the result of such actions.
As far as prescribed duties are concerned, they can be fitted into three subdivisions, namely routine work, emergency work and desired activities. Routine work performed as an obligation in terms of the scriptural injunctions, without desire for results, is action in the mode of goodness. Work with results becomes the cause of bondage; therefore such work is not auspicious. Everyone has his proprietary right in regard to prescribed duties, but should act without attachment to the result; such disinterested obligatory duties doubtlessly lead one to the path of liberation.
Arjuna was therefore advised by the Lord to fight as a matter of duty without attachment to the result. His nonparticipation in the battle is another side of attachment. Such attachment never leads one to the path of salvation. Any attachment, positive or negative, is cause for bondage. Inaction is sinful. Therefore, fighting as a matter of duty was the only auspicious path of salvation for Arjuna.
Commentary by Sri Vishvanatha Chakravarthi Thakur of Gaudiya Sampradaya:
The Lord wanted to speak about the processes of jnana, bhakti and karma yoga to Arjuna, who was his dear friend. Having spoken of jfiana and bhakti yoga, the Lord considered that these two were not suitable for Arjuna. He then spoke of niskama karma yoga.
“You are qualified for works. But those who crave the results are very impure in consciousness. But you have an almost pure heart. I can say this about you since I know you.”
“But in doing actions, a result must come.”
“By doing an action with a desire for a certain result, you become the cause of that result. But you should not act in that manner. I give you that blessing. And do not become attracted to non-performance of your duty, or in doing sin (akarmani), rather you should hate doing that. I give you that blessing also.”
However, in the next chapter, Arjuna says, “My intelligence is bewildered by these equivocal words.” This apparent lack of communion between the two by seeing the previous and later statements should be understood to be intentional, having a purpose “Just as I stand as your charioteer awaiting your order, also should await my order.” One should see that Krishna and Arjuna had real agreement of mind.
Commentary by Sri Ramanuja of Sri Sampradaya:
2.47 As for obligatory, occasional and desiderative acts taught in the Vedas and associated with some result or other, you, an aspirant established in Sattva, have the right only to perform them: You have no right to the fruits known to be derived from such acts. Acts done with a desire for fruit bring about bondage. But acts done without an eye on fruits form My worship and become a means for release. Do not become an agent of acts with the idea of being the reaper of their fruits. Even when you, who are established in pure Sattva and are desrious of release, perform acts, you should not look upon yourself as the agent. Likewise, it is necessary to contemplate yourself as not being the cause of even appeasing hunger and such other bodily necessities. Later on it will be said that both of these, agency of action and desire for fruits, should be considered as belonging to Gunas, or in the alternative to Me who am the Lord of all. Thinking thus, do work. With regard to inaction, i.e., abstaining from performance of duties, as when you said, ‘I will not fight,’ let there be no attachment to such inaction in you. The meaning is let your interest be only in the discharge of such obligatory duties like this war in the manner described above. Sri Krsna makes this clear in the following verse:
Commentary by Sri Sridhara Swami of Rudra Sampradaya:
It may be postulated that since the results of all actions are attained simply by worshipping the Supreme Lord, what is the use of any other actions other than devotion to Him? To counter this conclusion the Supreme Lord states that all living entities have the right to perform actions but none have the right to claim the results. An aspirant of the highest knowledge must know that to hanker or yearn for reward for one’s actions is the cause of bondage in the material existence. But it may be said that all actions produce a result, just as eating satisfies the urge of hunger. Anticipating this question the Supreme Lord states that one should not let the anticipated results of actions be the cause of motivation. Be not one who is controlled by fruitive desires. As heaven is attained only when desired being connected to the living entity who performed the rites in the scriptures to attain such an end it can be seen that what is not desired does not take place. Then on the other hand although fruitive actions are binding be not attached and not devoted from fear of this bondage to inaction. This is the idea of this verse.
Commentary by Sri Madhvacharya of Brahma Sampradaya:
An embodied soul controlled by mundane desires is considered to be reprehensible. Even the desire for heavenly enjoyments are to be shunned as they have the taint of fruitiveness as well. Therefore for those possessing spiritual intelligence, motivation for the desire of reward is not advisable. Arjuna is certainly spiritually intelligent and being the son of Indra the ruler of the demigods he certainly has sufficient adhikari or qualities. Only for the purpose of giving His unequivocal instructions for posterity has the Supreme Lord Krishna utilised him to benefit all the worlds.
Only those actions prompted by desire for reward are prohibited. Because all rewards are factually independently ordained by the Supreme Lord it is not correct to imagine that any reward which one receives is due only to ones own efforts. Similarly the desire for the rewards of fruitive rewards is also provided without any aspiration for such. Therefore even by not performing any actions an opposite result may occur and it can be seen that rewards are available neither through wisdom nor through desire. So one spiritually situated performs actions unattached to reward. Verily such is the way of action. Neither by accepting desires nor by rejecting desires is wisdom gained.
Desire is the anticipation of a reward, action motivated by desire for reward makes an action fruitive and therefore binding. Even so, one who desires engages in the performance of austerities and penance as a means of sacrificing these desires. One should not perform penance and austerities with the hope of obtaining reward otherwise these activities also become frutive as well. Actions performed without desire as a matter of duty are full of wisdom. Therefore the wise are not bound by desire for rewards. This is why the Supreme Lord Krishna states the words ma te meaning never. Never be attached to the fruits of actions. Any desires which appear are ordained according to the will of the Supreme Lord. Those that receive the causeless mercy of the Supreme Lord Krishna are the devotees of the Supreme Lord and by His grace they are benedicted by the desire only to exclusively serve Him. They have no desire for even liberation from material existence if it is to be separated from Him. When they are requested to ask for any desire to be granted their only desire is to remain in service to Him birth after birth, lifetime after lifetime. It is seen and realised that by possessing the desire to serve the Supreme Lord Krishna in devotion ones love for Him automatically increases. So from this it can be understood that those who are imbued with true wisdom perform exclusive devotional service unto the Supreme Lord Krishna.
Now begins the summation.
Actions alone are all that living entities are entitled to. The results however are only within the power of the Supreme Lord Krishna to give. So it is apparent that one who is governed by the desire for fruitive results is not properly situated and have subconsciously desired the impossible delusion of usurping the Supreme Lords infallible position. One should understand that it is fallacious to believe that one is the ultimate controller of their own destiny because all results are ultimately ordained by the Supreme Lord. By this revealing statement which is found in the Paingi scripture it is again clarified that the living entities are always distinctly different from the Supreme Lord.
Commentary by Sri Keshava Kashmiri of Kumara Sampradaya:
The question may arise that if one seeking liberation from the material existence should instead acquire firmness in spiritual knowledge and then what is the use of actions. To this Lord Krishna instructs that everyone has the right to perform actions in order to purify ones existence and advance in spiritual knowledge. But one should not cultivate ones mind to think that by the right to perform actions one receives rewards. This mentality is destructive to spiritual advancement because then one will get attachment to the actions and then subsequently to the rewards. So Lord Krishna emphasises never be attached to the rewards of actions or even consider the rewards because this attachment will keep up locked in the material existence. A living entity performing actions without considering the rewards will never develop the fragmentation and indeterminate nature of one whose mentality is attached to the fruits of their actions. It is also important to understand that it is not that the person who is performing actions without attachment to the rewards will not receive the rewards thereof. To the contrary they will certainly receive rewards as well but the difference is they are not concerned about the reward do not let reward be the reason for the motivation of their activities. We must perform all of our actions without being motivated by the fruit. Now in contrast it may be proposed that instead of performing actions without motivation to the rewards perhaps it might be better to perform no actions at all. To this Lord Krishna instructs that one should neither be attached to inaction of not performing ones prescribed activities. We should not allow our egos to dictate to us that we should be inactive because then we incur the sin of non-committance in performing our natural duties everyday and duties in special circumstances and thus not being responsible as declared in Vedic scriptures. One inclines towards spiritual advancement should never perform prohibited actions and should avoid performing frivolous actions but with the understanding of responsibility one should always perform ones obligatory activities daily and occasionaly.
Commentary by Sri Adi Shankaracharya of Advaita Sampradaya:
2.47 Te, your; adhikarah, right; is karmani eva, for action alone, not for steadfastness in Knowledge. Even there, when you are engaged in action, you have ma kadacana, never, i.e. under no condition whatever; a right phalesu, for the results of action — may you not have a hankering for the results of action. Whenever you have a hankering for the fruits of action, you will become the agent of acquiring the results of action. Ma, do not; thus bhuh, become; karma-phalahetuh, the agent of acquiring the results of action. For when one engages in action by being impelled by thirst for the results of action, then he does become the cause for the production of the results of action. Ma, may you not; astu, have; sangah, an inclination; akarmani, for inaction, thinking, ‘If the results of work be not desired, what is the need of work which involves pain?’
Commentary by Sri Abhinavagupta of Kaula Tantra Sampradaya:
2.47 Karmani etc. You should be concerned in the action alone, but not in the fruits of actions. But, if an action has been performed, then will not its fruit just inevitably befall [to the performer] ? No. It is not so. For, in that case, if you are covered with the dirt of desire for fruits, then you become a cuase for the fruit of action. What is prayed for is known to be the fruit; and it does not befall him who does not desire it. Thus, what attachment a person entertains with regard to the negation of action, that alone is like a firm seizure, and is of the nature of false conception, and hence it must be abandoned. Then what ?-
Sanskrit Shloka Without Transliteration Marks:
karmany evadhikaras te
ma phalesu kadacana
ma karma-phala-hetur bhur
ma te sango ‘stv akarmani
Sanskrit to English Word for Word Meanings:
karmaṇi — in prescribed duties; eva — certainly; adhikāraḥ — right; te — of you; mā — never; phaleṣu — in the fruits; kadācana — at any time; mā — never; karma-phala — in the result of the work; hetuḥ — cause; bhūḥ — become; mā — never; te — of you; sańgaḥ — attachment; astu — there should be; akarmaṇi — in not doing prescribed duties.