yajñārthāt karmaṇo ‘nyatra
loko ‘yaḿ karma-bandhanaḥ
tad-arthaḿ karma kaunteya
mukta-sańgaḥ samācara

Translation of Bhagavad Gita 3.9

Work done as a sacrifice for Vishnu has to be performed, otherwise work causes bondage in this material world. Therefore, O son of Kunti, perform your prescribed duties for His satisfaction, and in that way you will always remain free from bondage.

Commentary by Sri A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada of Gaudiya Sampradaya:

Since one has to work even for the simple maintenance of the body, the prescribed duties for a particular social position and quality are so made that that purpose can be fulfilled. Yajna means Lord Vishnu, or sacrificial performances. All sacrificial performances also are meant for the satisfaction of Lord Vishnu. The Vedas enjoin: yajno vai vishnuh. In other words, the same purpose is served whether one performs prescribed yajnas or directly serves Lord Vishnu. Krishna consciousness is therefore performance of yajna as it is prescribed in this verse. The varnashrama institution also aims at satisfying Lord Vishnu. Varnashramacaravata purusena parah puman/ vishnur aradhyate (Vishnu Purana 3.8.8).

Therefore one has to work for the satisfaction of Vishnu. Any other work done in this material world will be a cause of bondage, for both good and evil work have their reactions, and any reaction binds the performer. Therefore, one has to work in Krishna consciousness to satisfy Krishna (or Vishnu); and while performing such activities one is in a liberated stage. This is the great art of doing work, and in the beginning this process requires very expert guidance. One should therefore act very diligently, under the expert guidance of a devotee of Lord Krishna, or under the direct instruction of Lord Krishna Himself (under whom Arjuna had the opportunity to work). Nothing should be performed for sense gratification, but everything should be done for the satisfaction of Krishna. This practice will not only save one from the reaction of work, but also gradually elevate one to transcendental loving service of the Lord, which alone can raise one to the kingdom of God.

Commentary by Sri Vishvanatha Chakravarthi Thakur of Gaudiya Sampradaya:

“The smrti scriptures say that one is bound by actions: karmana badhyate jantuh. (Mahabharata 12.241.7) Therefore, I will become bound by performing actions.”

“No, action offered to the Supreme Lord does not bind one.” That is explained in this verse.

“Dharma offered to Visnu without personal desire is called yajna. Persons become bound by karma by any other actions for any other purpose. Therefore you should perform actions for the perfection of such dharma.”

“But even if I perform actions which are offered to Visnu, if I perform them with desires, then I will still become bound.”

“One should become devoid of the desire for results (mukta sangah).”

Thus the Lord spoke to Uddhava:

sva-dharma-stho yajan yajnair anasih-kama uddhava
na yati svarga-narakau yady anyan na samacaret

asmil loke vartamanah sva-dharma-stho ‘naghah sucih
jnanam visuddham apnoti mad-bhaktim va yadrcchaya

My dear Uddhava, a person who is situated in his prescribed duty, properly worshiping by Vedic sacrifices but not desiring the fruitive result of such worship, will not go to the heavenly planets; similarly, by not performing forbidden activities he will not go to hell.

One who is situated in his prescribed duty, free from sinful activities and cleansed of material contamination, in this very life obtains transcendental knowledge or, by fortune, devotional service unto Me. SB 11.20.10-11

Commentary by Sri Ramanuja of Sri Sampradaya:

3.9 The world is imprisoned by the bond of work only when work is done for personal ends, but not when work is performed or money acquired for the purpose of sacrifice etc. prescribed in the scriptures. So, for the purpose of sacrifice, you must perform acts like the acquisition of money. In doing so, overcome attachments generated by the pursuit of personal ambitions, and then do your work in the spirit of Yajna. When a person free from attachment does the work for the sake of sacrifices etc., the Supreme Person, propitiated by sacrifices etc., grants him the calm vision of the self after destroying the subtle impressions of his Karmas, which have continued from time without beginning. Sri Krsna stresses the need for sustenance of the body solely by the remnants of sacrifices in respect of those who are devoted to all ends of human life. He decries the sin of those who nourish the body by things other than the remnants of sacrifices:

Commentary by Sri Sridhara Swami of Rudra Sampradaya:

Everyone in the world is locked and bound to the material existence by actions. The renunciates state that: since all actions lead to bondage they should not be performed. But refuting this Lord Krishna states yagna-artaht that sacrifices done for the Supreme Lord without expectation of reward are exempt from bondage. This is confirmed in the Tattitrya Samhita I.VII.XXXXIV that sacrifice is non-different from the Supreme Lord. But for all other actions not sanctioned by worship to Him and not offered to Him the result is bondage. Therefore actions should be performed in this way without desires with firm faith and dedication to the Supreme Lord.

Commentary by Sri Madhvacharya of Brahma Sampradaya:

Living entities are bound to the material existence by their actions. This bondage by actions is spoken of very clearly in the Vedic scriptures. Here Lord Krishna states yagna-arthat meaning actions that are performed as an offering for the satisfaction of the Supreme Lord without desiring reward are the only actions which are free from bondage. This is the purport. Lord Krishna also states mukta-sangah meaning free from attachment which is the qualifying statement. Inappropriate are actions that crave desires due to attachment. Appropriate are actions that are free from desires and attachment. All actions should be performed as a sacrifice to the Supreme Lord and no sacrifice should ever be performed with an intention for reward. These statements and others are given in the Upanisads.

Now begins the summary.

The statements of living entities being bound to material nature by their actions refers to actions which are contrary to divinity and righteousness as delineated in Vedic scriptures. Jaya is a name given to the resplendent Supreme Lord and this name means glory. According to the Barkashruti in the word Jaya the Ya signifies yagna. Therefore yagna is the performance of the prescribed activities given in the Vedic scriptures for the satisfaction of the Supreme Lord.

Commentary by Sri Keshava Kashmiri of Kumara Sampradaya:

As is revealed in many passages in the Vedic scriptures that: One who has realised the effulgent Supreme Lord becomes free from all bondage. The smrti scriptures also state that jivas, living entities are bound by actions and declare that all actions are ropes of bondage. So Arjuna might postulate why he is being motivated to execute actions. Anticipating this Lord Krishna states in this verse: yagna-arthat meaning acts of sacrifice. Everyone is bound by their actions but the actions that are prescribed in the Vedic scriptures as an offerring to the Supreme Lord cause no bondage. Actions performed according to the injunctions of the Vedic scriptures is declared as sacrifice and verily is non-different from the Supreme Lord Himself. So with firm faith and proper procedure one should do their duty for the sake of the Supreme and make it an offerring without attachment as propitiation to the Supreme Lord.

Commentary by Sri Adi Shankaracharya of Advaita Sampradaya:

3.9 Ayam, this; lokah, man, the one who is eligible for action; karma-bandhanah, becomes bound by actions- the person who has karma as his bondage (bandhana) is karma-bandhanah-; anyatra, other than; that karmanah, action; yajnarthat, meant for Got not by that meant for God. According to the Vedic text, ‘Sacrifice is verily Visnu’ (Tai. Sam. 1.7.4), yajnah means God; whatever is done for Him is yajnartham. Therefore, mukta-sangah, without being attached, being free from attachment to the results of actions; O son of Kunti, samacara, you perform; karma, actions; tadartham, for Him, for God. An eligible person should engage in work for the following reason also:

Commentary by Sri Abhinavagupta of Kaula Tantra Sampradaya:

3.9 Yajnarthat etc. Binding are the actions which are different from the one that is Yajnartha, i.e., the one that is to be performed necessarily. The action, that is to be performed necessarily, does not yield any fruit, if it is performed with no attachment for the fruit.

Sanskrit Shloka Without Transliteration Marks:

yajnarthat karmano ‘nyatra
loko ‘yam karma-bandhanah
tad-artham karma kaunteya
mukta-sangah samacara

Sanskrit to English Word for Word Meanings:

yajña-arthāt — done only for the sake of Yajña, or Viṣṇu; karmaṇaḥ — than work; anyatra — otherwise; lokaḥ — world; ayam — this; karma-bandhanaḥ — bondage by work; tat — of Him; artham — for the sake; karma — work; kaunteya — O son of Kuntī; mukta-sańgaḥ — liberated from association; samācara — do perfectly.