This Bhagavad Gita continuously encourages us to perform our duties. If you are someone who is addicted to the world then you must follow these instructions, but there is no duty for those who have attained enlightenment; they are already executing the ultimate duty, which is towards God.
In Mahabharata, even though Arjun appears to be unenlightened, he is internally enlightened because he is the dissension of ‘Nar amongst Narayan’ the perfected human being, so he is god realised.
Now you might ask if Arjun was enlightened, why does he have to fight the war or do his duty?
Arjun can say, “Well, in that case, I have no duty, so I don’t have to fight this war,”
But Lord Krishna said, “I would still recommend you fight the war.”
Please read/chant the karma yoga verses written below:
Bhagavad Gita: Chapter 3, Verse 20-21
कर्मणैव हि संसिद्धिमास्थिता जनकादय: |
लोकसंग्रहमेवापि सम्पश्यन्कर्तुमर्हसि || 20||
यद्यदाचरति श्रेष्ठस्तत्तदेवेतरो जन: |
स यत्प्रमाणं कुरुते लोकस्तदनुवर्तते || 21||
karmaṇaiva hi sansiddhim āsthitā janakādayaḥ
loka-saṅgraham evāpi sampaśhyan kartum arhasi
yad yad ācharati śhreṣhṭhas tat tad evetaro janaḥ
sa yat pramāṇaṁ kurute lokas tad anuvartate
King Janak and others attained excellence by carrying out their assigned duties. You should also fulfill your responsibilities to set an example for the greater benefit.
Common people follow the standards set by outstanding individuals in whatever activities they engage in. As a result, exceptional people serve as sources of inspiration for the rest of humanity.
Of course, the great saints of Indian history have inspired us in many ways, but roughly 80-90 years ago, there were many outstanding people in India leading the liberation struggle, and they were the role models and heroes of that generation.
Similarly, the American people have continued to be inspired by Abraham Lincoln’s life to this day. Washington, George Franklin, Benjamin Franklin’s notebooks, his book, which is still read today, and his complete self-improvement process were all intriguing.
People like Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Ravindra Nath Tagore, and others who arrived to India in the first part of the twentieth century derived so much inspiration from them that photographs of Netaji Subhash Chandra and others could be found on calendars in people’s houses at the time.
As a result, we are constantly inspired by these outstanding individuals who serve as role models and contribute significantly to society.
There are two kinds of duties:
1. Bhakti: Your spiritual duty
Bhakti is completely absorbed and surrendered to God, that’s bhakti
2. Karma: Your worldly duty
So there’s karma and there’s bhakti. Now, if an enlightened soul continues to execute worldly tasks while focusing on God, that’s called Karma Yoga, or Karma plus Yoga.
So the karma yogis do Karma plus Bhakti and the Karma Sannyasis do only bhakti. Now, what about the people following them receiving inspiration from them.
If someone takes a Sannyasi as a role model who has renounced works and is totally absorbed in God like Shankaracharya.
Shri Krishna informs Arjun that this is the issue. The Karma Sannyasi is enlightened and the Karma Sannyasi is totally dedicated to God but he does not serve as a Good Role Model for society, on the other hand, the Karma Yogi like for example Prahlada is discharging his worldly duties and is also absorbed in God.
So if somebody tries to follow a Karma Yogi, he/she will take inspiration from Arjun and will say, you know Arjun did his karma, his duty, you also do your duty.
They will copy the external thing, so at least they will do karma. They will not copy the inner Bhakti but they will engage their knowledge and working senses and work so slowly, they will keep getting purified and when the stage comes then they may decide to renounce completely.
So from that point of view, Shri Krishna is saying Arjun to look at king Janak. King Janak is considered an authority in our Vedic history till today, he is repeatedly quoted because he had such tremendous opulence such a vast family and discharging his duties as a king.
You have to do sam damn dandam, hid you have to have your feet on the ground you have to utilise all kinds of tools and techniques to keep the subjects in the proper direction to nourish them, discipline them, encourage them, punish them, give them love.
The king has to do all this and king Janak was doing all this his worldly duties and yet he was internally enlightened. He is called ‘Vide Vidhe Haraj’ he is so respected because he was completely beyond the body.
He had no perception of his body, such a state that if he had put his hand in the fire, he would not come to know that it’s burning. That was the internal state of king Janaka, the king who was beyond the body and yet he was discharging his worldly duties.
So he attained perfection while doing his worldly duties and after enlightenment, he still continued to do his worldly duties. So, in the same manner, we need to set ourselves as a good role model, do our duties with bhakti for God.