Wise Action: Breaking Free and Seeking Divine Truth

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "The Bhagavad Gita" by Eknath Easwaran. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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What is wise action? How does wise action relate to the teachings in The Bhagavad Gita?

Wise action is the idea that you can act deliberately using the ideas of karma and enlightenment learned over time by the great sages. Reincarnation and karma are factors.

Read more about wise action in The Bhagavad Gita.

Wise Action and What It Means

Krishna mentions that he taught the secrets of karma and enlightenment to great sages many years ago. Arjuna asks how that’s possible when Krishna was born so long after the sages lived—remember that Arjuna thinks of Krishna as his childhood friend, not an incarnation of the immortal Vishnu. 

Krishna replies that, like Arjuna, he’s reincarnated many times throughout history. However, unlike Arjuna, Krishna does so willingly and remembers his past lives. Through his maya—a word which means magic or illusion—Vishnu manifests in a mortal body when he needs to protect the world and restore the rule of dharma. In other words, he comes when people have forgotten their destinies and are acting against the laws of the universe, like the Kauravas are doing by trying to seize the throne that’s meant for Yudhishthira. 

While on the subject of reincarnation, Krishna reiterates that people who aren’t fooled by the bodies they temporarily inhabit—who recognize that their true selves are divine and unchangeable, and are part of Brahman, the ultimate universal truth—are able to break free of karma and be rejoined with the divine. 

The reason for this is that people who act from a place of self-interest become karmically bound by their actions. People who think of themselves as the ones taking action, and do so for personal reasons, incur karma. That’s why knowledge and wise action, done in the spirit of selfless service, are the keys to breaking free of reincarnation.

Wise Action: Breaking Free and Seeking Divine Truth

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Here's what you'll find in our full The Bhagavad Gita summary :

  • The key principles of the Hindu faith
  • Why all spirituality is good and there is no single path to God
  • The 3 reasons that can explain every action people take

Carrie Cabral

Carrie has been reading and writing for as long as she can remember, and has always been open to reading anything put in front of her. She wrote her first short story at the age of six, about a lost dog who meets animal friends on his journey home. Surprisingly, it was never picked up by any major publishers, but did spark her passion for books. Carrie worked in book publishing for several years before getting an MFA in Creative Writing. She especially loves literary fiction, historical fiction, and social, cultural, and historical nonfiction that gets into the weeds of daily life.

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