नियतं कुरु कर्म त्वं कर्म ज्यायो ह्यकर्मणः।
शरीरयात्रापि च ते न प्रसिद्ध्येदकर्मणः।।3.8।।
3.8 You perform the obligatory duties, for action is superior to inaction. And, through inaction, even the maintenance of your body will not be possible.
3.8 Obligatory (Niyatam) means concomitant (Vyaptam); for action is concomitant with that which is conjoined with Prakrti or the body. The contact with Prakrti has arisen from beginingless subtle impressions (Vasanas). You must perform work, because the performance of action is easy and may not cause accidents by reason of its being obligatory. Action is superior to non-action, i.e., even to the devotee of Jnana. Because of the instruction at the beginning (of this context), No man experiences freedom from activity (3.4), devotion to Jnana alone is indicated by the word, Non-action (Akarma). Even in the case of one alified for devotion to Jnana, devotion to Karma indeed is better because Jnana-nistha is difficult to perform and liable to accidents, as it has not been practised previoulsy and as it does not come to one naturally. Subseently it will be described how, one with the knowledge of the true nature of the self can carry on actions along with that knowledge. Conseently, we should take the meaning here to be that, because knowledge of the self too is included in Karma Yoga, this kind of Yoga is superior. This statement on the superiority of activity (Karma Yoga) over Jnana Yoga is valid even when there is competency for one to adopt Jnana Yoga. For, if you abandon all activities to alify yourself for Jnana Yoga, then, for you, who is thus inactive while following Jnana Yoga, even the nourishment of the body, which is necessary even for Jnana-nistha, will not be achieved. The body has to be necessarily sustained until the means are executed to the full. Performing great sacrifices with the help of honestly earned wealth, the body should be sustained by consuming the remainders left after such sacrifices. This is made clear from scriptural texts like, When the food is pure, the Sattva (mind or inner organ) becomes pure; when the Sattva is pure, then the remembrance (meditation) will be steady (Cha. U., 7.26.2). Sri Krsna himself will declare: The sinful ones who cook food for their own sake eat sin (3.13). Conseently,even the sustenance of the body will not be possible in the case of one who practises Jnana-nistha, and does not act. In other ways also Karma Yoga is superior to Jnana Yoga even in respect of one who is alified for Jnana-nistha; for, obligatory and occasional rites like the great sacrifices must be carried out by one who follows Jnana Yoga too, as he has to sustain the body until he attains perfection. Besides, the understanding of the true nature of the self is incorporated in Karma Yoga, as it involves the contemplation of the self as being a non-agent. It is also in line with the nature of life (Prakrti). Karma Yoga, is for these reasons easier and it is free from danger of downfall. Therefore, you must perform Karma Yoga only. This is the purport of the verse. If it is contended that any action such as earning money implies I-ness, My-ness etc., and will therefore be disturbing to the senses, and that such a person devoted often to works will be in bondage through subtle impressions of his acts, Sri Krsna says:
Niyatam kuru karma twam karma jyaayo hyakarmanah; Shareerayaatraapi cha te na prasiddhyed akarmanah.
niyatam—constantly; kuru—perform; karma—Vedic duties; tvam—you; karma—action; jyāyaḥ—superior; hi—certainly; akarmaṇaḥ—than inaction; śharīra—bodily; yātrā—maintenance; api—even; cha—and; te—your; na prasiddhyet—would not be possible; akarmaṇaḥ—inaction