How is Krishna attained by doing duty – doesn’t one need to rise to love for him?

by Chaitanya CharanApril 27, 2015

From Ankur P
In 3.19, Krishna says that by acting as a matter of duty one can attain the Supreme. Prabhupada clarifies that Supreme is Krishna for the devotees, in the purport’s opening line. How is it possible for one to attain Krishna without developing love for Him? Duty is one level below love.

Question- In the purport of 3.19 of Bhagvad-Gita, Srila Prabhupada states by performance of duty one can attain Krishna. Doesn’t attainment of Krishna require love? Duty is one level below love, so how can one attain Krishna by performance of duty?


  • Srila Prabhupada has written purports keeping in view the ultimate goal of Bhagvad-gita which is bhakti. Hence ‘Supreme’ in the purport’s first line has been equated to Krishna.
  • However, in the context of 3.19, perfection (samsiddhim) refers to liberation and not love. Krishna speaks this to answer one of Arjuna’s argument- fear of sinful reactions- for not fighting.
  • Duty alone does not lead to Krishna directly. Performing of prescribed duties provides a platform on which one can gradually elevate oneself to attain love. Gita’s chapter 12 mentions this progression.

Answer (long)-  Here Srila Prabhupada is primarily talking about the dutiful performance of activities connected with Krishna, which will gradually elevate the person to come to the level of love. Srila Prabhupada is not saying that just by performing duty only one will attain the Supreme. By performing duty we will gradually develop attraction to Krishna and then we will gradually attain Him.

The hierarchy of Fear-Desire-Duty-Love is mentioned by Srila Bhaktivinod Thakur in his book Chaitanya shikshamrata and other granthas. He does that analysis to explain different levels of different people who approach God. Artificially superimposing the same hierarchy on the Gita will not be appropriate given the subtle complexities that are there in the Gita.

In Bhagvad-gita Krishna mentions:

karmaṇaiva hi saṁsiddhim, āsthitā janakādayaḥ
loka-saṅgraham evāpi, sampaśyan kartum arhasi

(BG 3.20)

Here it is mentioned- karmanaiva hi samsiddhim. In the context of BG 3.19, perfection (samsiddhim) is referring to liberation, and not referring to attainment to Krishna. Karma yoga in itself does not lead to Krishna, but if karma yoga due to association of devotees matures into bhakti, then it can lead to attainment of Krishna. Arjuna’s concern was entanglement, sinful reaction and descent into hell, so Krishna is addressing Arjuna’s  concern here that by doing dutiful fighting you will be liberated and not degraded. Also, we need to understand that Srila Prabhupada in his purports generally connects everything in the Bhagvad-gita with its essential and conclusive message of bhakti. Srila Prabhupada explains in the first line of BG3.19 that if we consider Supreme to be referring to be Krishna then dutiful performance will lead to perfection i.e. attainment of Krishna.

The progression from duty to love is also mentioned in Bhagvad-gita in the 12th chapter from verses 12.8 to 12.12. The progression starts with a verse where Krishna says that best is that you fix your mind always on Me and be devoted to Me (12.8). Followed by, if you can’t do this, then you follow the regulative priniciples of bhakti, which is same as sadhana bhakti,  (12.9). Followed by, if you can’t do this then work for Me (12.10). Followed by, if you can’t do this then give the fruits of your work for some good cause (12.11). It is to be noted that in this downward hierarchy, Krishna does recognize that doing work for Him will lead to Him, but that comes after he mentions – be devoted to Me, follow the regulative principles of bhakti.

Performance of prescribed duties in a devotional mood will lead one to gradually develop attraction for Krishna. That attitude will purify us and gradually lead to elevation from duty level to love level.

In summary, the dutiful performance will develop a platform from where a person can elevate him/herself to attain love for Krishna.

About The Author
Chaitanya Charan

Leave a Response