Krishna says in Gita that all the activities are done by the body and the soul does nothing. I find this statement hard to believe. We all know that without the soul, the body is nothing but a corpse. It's the soul's presence in our bodies which keeps us alive. So how can the body (the vehicle) do all the activities without the contribution of the driver (the soul)?

As far as i know, the soul under the spell of maya / prakriti, forgets it's higher eternal nature and thinks that he/she is only the body and this is how the soul does all the activities, by using the body as it's instrument. Correct me if i'm wrong.

Here's the Gita verse -

Chapter 13: Nature, the Enjoyer, and Consciousness


prakrtyaiva ca karmani kriyamanani sarvasah yah pasyati tathatmanam akartaram sa pasyati


One who can see that all activities are performed by the body, which > is created of material nature, and sees that the self does nothing, actually sees.


4 Answers 4


The recension of the Gita that Swami Prabuhupada uses for his translation you refer to is not a generally accepted recension. The Gita recension most often referred to is the one that Sankara based his commentary on. Verse 13.30-31 reads (Bhagavad Gita with the Commentary of Sankaracarya translation by Swami Gambhirananda):

  1. And he who sees actions as being done in various ways by Nature itself, and also the Self as the non-agent,--he sees.

  2. When one realizes that the state of diversity of living things is rooted in the One, and that their manifestation is also from That, then one becomes identified with Brahman.

You can see some other translations that are more in tune with the above here - https://archive.org/search.php?query=bhagavad%20gita

Action occurs only within the realm of time, space, and causation. The Supreme Spirit is beyond time, space, and causation. So all 'action' is 'done' by Nature (Prakriti). In Reality, there was no action done.

  • @ Vishwananda, Yes i too agree that Prabhupada's edition is not the best translated edition and so i'm going through other translated works especially from an advaitic point of view, like that of Chidbhananda's and Winthropp Sergeant's ... Now if i may ask , if everything's done by Prakriti, then who am i? ... Someone here said that it's our 'mann' that does all activities under the influence of Prakriti, and not the soul. Does this mann (chitta) acts independently, without the influence of the atma? ... Also, is Prana and Atma the same thing? Commented Jun 6, 2018 at 9:04
  • Can we combine this with the interpretation of the Universe being a cosmic dream, and similar to whatever happens in our dreams, which only is in the dream world, if we say that our 4D universe is a dream to an even higher dimensional being, then no real action outside of this (in the higher dimensions) happen-everything is already done, like the view eternalism also presents.
    – Aveer
    Commented Apr 2, 2022 at 13:26

Like I stated in the comment, our actions are based on how our body reacts to the five senses not how the soul reacts. Read here the Commentary by Sri A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada of Gaudiya Sampradaya:

This body is made by material nature under the direction of the Supersoul, and whatever activities are going on in respect to one’s body are not his doing. Whatever one is supposed to do, either for happiness or for distress, one is forced to do because of the bodily constitution. The self, however, is outside all these bodily activities. This body is given according to one’s past desires. To fulfill desires, one is given the body, with which he acts accordingly. Practically speaking, the body is a machine, designed by the Supreme Lord, to fulfill desires. Because of desires, one is put into difficult circumstances to suffer or to enjoy. This transcendental vision of the living entity, when developed, makes one separate from bodily activities. One who has such a vision is an actual seer.

Hope this makes sense.

  • I understand that actions are the result of how our 5 senses interact with each other. But the 5 senses are simply the instruments by which the body gathers information. Above the five senses are the mind and intellect that gives them instructions and has the discriminating power. Above our intellect is the jiva atma, which after shedding all three bodies after liberation i.e. (gross, subtle and causal bodies) can live as a seperate spark of light according to the dualistic point of view. So what i'm implying here is that the soul (minus the body) has it's own intelligence. Commented Jun 5, 2018 at 20:16
  • But another fact is that soul will always guide you in the right direction but which path/option you opt for is not at it's discretion ... it's your decision, your intellect.
    – Just_Do_It
    Commented Jun 5, 2018 at 20:22
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    So if i understand you correctly, it's all due to 3 modes of Prakriti that makes the soul do these things via the medium of the body ... Am i right? ... You said we are forced to do these things when in bodily constitutions (i.e. when we get these bodies from mother nature Prakriti) , but who are these 'we' that gets the bodies. Aren't they the jiva atmas, who in ignorance and passion , forgetting its higher Brahman nature, pollutes our intellect and forces us to act towards sensual pleasures? Commented Jun 5, 2018 at 20:52
  • @crimsonuniverse Actually your mann (invisible part of body) force you to do all desired things in life. This act of mann also explained in Geeta in detail. But can't tell you verse number.
    – Vishvam
    Commented Jun 6, 2018 at 5:04
  • @Rishabh , But isn't this mind or intellect part of the atma? I mean when atma sheds all 3 bodies after moksha, the atma still retains it's consciousness (chitta) , right? So how can mind act separately without any influence from the atma? Commented Jun 6, 2018 at 7:35

"soul does nothing. Then who does?"

The 3 modes of material nature, viz. Sattva, Rajas, Tamas of Prakruti enact all the actions.

I am typing this answer and you reading it -- is certain combination of these 3 modes. The way it's destined, the way it's happening.

Then if you ask that, "If everything is enacted by Prakruti, then Who am I?", then you have to apply the logic of "Neti neti" (i.e. 'not this, not this'). After that whatever remains, is the answer to that question!

Apart from BG 13.30, as explained in this answer, there are multiple verses which says the same:

  • BG 5.14 - Neither "Doership" (Kartutva) nor "Actions" (Karma) nor "Reactions" (Karma-phala) of the people are created by the Omnipotent; But only their nature [3 modes] pervades.

  • BG 13.22 - Purusha being seated(situated) in Prakruti, experiences the [sattva, rajas, tamas] modes born of Prakruti. Contact with the these modes, is the cause of its births in good and evil wombs.

  • BG 3.27 — All actions (karma-s) are enacted in Prakruti by [3] modes (guna-s). Bewildered with identity, the self(Atma) believes "'I' am the doer".

  • BG 5.8, 5.9 — "'I' certainly don't do anything" is thought by knower of elementary (tattva gyAna) - even while seeing, hearing, touching, smelling, eating, moving, dreaming, breathing, talking, discarding, accepting, opening, closing; -- "Senses only are acting in the subjects of senses" - is understood.

  • So, long story short, i am simply Brahman or atleast a fragment of Brahman. Ok, now the thing that's troubling me is that, there's got to be an intelligence behind all these actions. Prakriti is definitely the primal cause of all actions but can prakriti make a deceased person dance or sing? Ofcourse not. So besides the soul, what else exists in our body that makes us alive, and forces us to act under the spell of Prakriti? ... Is it prana? Is prana & soul the same thing ... or is it consciousness? Thanks. Commented Jun 6, 2018 at 20:45
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    @CrimsonUniverse, In scientific sense, like how every entity is built of atoms and atoms are built up of electron, proton, neutron etc. Similarly, in philosophical sense every being is built up of Sattva, Rajas, Tamas. Together these 3 modes are called Prakruti. So we act under the spell of Prakruti (or 3 modes). Finally, Prakruti is under the control of Atma (Self). Yet, Atma doesn't do anything. Because Prakruti acts in a cyclic way, which is predetermined. Then if you ask what is Atma, then as Krishna or Buddha or Ramana Maharshi said -- it's "Me", Void (Shunya), Nothing!
    – iammilind
    Commented Jun 7, 2018 at 6:01
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    It is predetermined down to every thought and emotion too right ? There is no freedom anywhere in any way in any universe in any existence. Is what it seems like to make time cycles run incessantly. Commented Jan 2, 2023 at 11:10

It is the Jiva who does. So the question boils down to who is the Jiva?

MARWARI DEVOTEE: "Who is this 'I' that says, 'O Lord, I am Thy servant'?"

MASTER: "This is the lingasarira, or embodied soul. It consists of manas, buddhi, chitta, and ahamkara."

DEVOTEE: "Who is the embodied soul?"

MASTER: "It is the Atman bound by the eight fetters. And what is the chitta? It is the 'I consciousness' that says, 'Aha!'"

The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, The Master in Various Moods, October 2, 1884

  • If everything is Atman/Brahman including trees, mountains, Prakriti, linga sharira, ahamkara, etc. etc. then isn't it Brahman who does all the activities? Commented Dec 1, 2018 at 5:33
  • Jiva does the activity. He wrongly thinks that he is free. The Younger Naren: “Sir, have we any free will?” Sri Ramakrishna: “Just try to find out who this ‘I’ is? While you are searching for ‘I’, ‘He’ comes out. ‘I am the machine and He is the Operator.’ You have heard of a mechanical toy that goes into a store with a letter in its hand. You are like that toy. God alone is the Doer. Do your duties in the world as if you were the doer, but knowing all that time that God alone is the Doer and you are the instrument.” The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, July 14, 1885 Commented Dec 2, 2018 at 13:31
  • I was going thru all these old posts when i stumbled upon this old comment of yours. Here you said that its actually the Lord that does everything and we are his mere instruments. (like, while doing activities we should never think that we are doing it, but instead we should think its the Lord who's doing it.) ... If such is the case, then if a MURDERER murders somebody then isn't it actually the Lord who's murdering? Commented Mar 12, 2021 at 14:45
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    The way to think about what I wrote is to think about the role the sun plays in our lives. The sun makes all activity possible in this earth. Similarly the Lord makes all our activity possible. If, however, a jiva murders then he will have to pay the karmic price. If you bite into a chili then you will feel the heat. All life will end on Earth if the Sun stops shining. Yet we think we are free. Commented Mar 13, 2021 at 17:11
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    Thank you......... Commented Mar 14, 2021 at 21:31

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