So, I have this doubt in my mind. I have read Bhagavad Gita and in that book I remember that Krishna told Arjuna to focus only on your actions but not on the results of your actions. Now if I follow this advice to succeed in materialistic world then I don't think it will work. Because in that sense all the concept of goal setting will be useless.

Without a proper goal we won't be motivated towards doing our work. And to focus only on actions can be interpreted by me that one should do his best in every work which one does. But doing the best thing is not always enough since a deadline is always required to achieve a particular goal or desire. And as far as I know, successful people are those who are obsessed with their goals.

For example, I am studying nowadays to switch my job to a better company then the current one. I think setting a goal is absolutely necessary here on what kind of salary do I want from my new job, and how much time would it take for me to prepare for interview properly and this is a goal. So I have to work by constantly looking at my goal or the deadline which I set unless I will just pass the time.

Can someone please answer this question with a suitable example? It would be great if that example would be similar to my situation.

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    No.. the goal of work shouldn't be oriented towards like what personal rewards you get from work. Like if you are bringing up your child with motive intention of serving you in your old age its selfish action. But if you bring him with intention of making him a valuable gift to society and lifting it through virtues that's Karma Yoga. Commented Jan 1, 2019 at 15:47
  • @AkshayS Ok, I understand that particular point of yours but what will you say in my situation? Commented Jan 1, 2019 at 15:51
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    You can use chatrooms of this site for advices. But in your case, I think you should first aim to get a job which gives you enough time to explore yourself. First get peaceful job having good work life balance then implement Bhagwat Geeta. Commented Jan 1, 2019 at 16:25
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    If you have no target you cannot walk to the kitchen for a snack. The meaning of this teaching is not that your work should have no intended outcome.
    – PeterJ
    Commented Jan 4, 2019 at 12:07

5 Answers 5


No, Krishna doesn't ask Arjuna to not to set a target. Otherwise, the Lord wouldn't have said in the second chapter the following verse:

That action is said to be characterised by the mode of ignorance which is performed by delusion, without regards to consequences, loss, injury and one's own competence. (Bhagavad Gita 18.25)

Therefore, it is incorrect to say that Krishna is asking Arjuna to avoid thinking about the consequences of his actions but on the contrary, work with one's best efforts and not without enthusiasm as it is evident from the following verses:

That agent is said to be of the quality of goodness, who is free of attachment, who is not given to be speaking about himself, who is endowed with a firm resolve and enthusiasm, and who is not moved by success or failure. (Bhagavad Gita 18.26)

Whatever is offered as oblation (in sacrifices), whatever is given as gift, whatever action is performed, without faith, O Arjuna, is termed as "asat". It is of no use here or hereafter. (Bhagavad Gita 17.28)

Krishna also terms Karma Yoga as an art of skillfulness:

One who prudently practices the science of work without attachment can get rid of both good and bad reactions in this life itself. Therefore, strive for the Yoga, which is the art of working skillfully. (Bhagavad Gita 2.50)

It will also be wrong to say that the Lord is saying not to set up any goal at all. The Lord is simply asking not to have materialistic goals in the mind but only spiritual goals such as moksha and the wish to be in the company of Krishna. A Karma Yogi performs Karma Yoga with the desire to attain the Supreme, not for mundane materialistic objects. That is what drives the motivation of Karma Yogis.

A successful Karma Yogi eliminates the idea that he or she is the agent of the action being carried out. Instead, he/she considers himself/herself to be a mere puppet or instrument in the hands of the Lord, carrying out the Divine Will, not his/her own will. This is what prevents a Karma Yogi from being unmoved by both success and failure.

M.V. Nadkarni has beautifully explained this question in his "The Bhagavad-Gita for the Modern Reader: History, Interpretations and Philosophy":

Basically, karma-yoga is meant for one's own self to practice and not for asking others to follow it freeing oneself from the obligation of it. That would amount to slave driving. Karma Yoga is a mental discipline with practical applications for both efficiency and spiritual advancement. We can think of following Karma Yoga at two levels: primary and advanced. We may illustrate it with an example of a doctor or a surgeon, who may charge a higher normal fee from well-to-do patients, but a much lower fee from the poor. The doctor has to meet the expenses involved in giving a good service and also making a living and cannot therefore afford to give free medical service to all. But having charged a fee, a doctor will not discriminate between a rich and a poor patient, giving a better and careful service to the former and indifferent service to the poor. In giving a medical service, a good doctor is guided by the motive of professional excellence and pride in work and compassion for all patients, irrespective of what they pay. A more rich paying indoor patient maybe accomodated in a special AC room, and a common patient in the general ward. But as far as the medical service itself is concerned, there will be be no discrimination between the two and even the general ward will be kept clean and hygienic as the special room. This is karma-yoga at a primary level, doing work with professionalism, pride in the quality of work, with complete care and mindfulness, and also of course with compassion to beneficiaries of work and to all. The doctor may charge fees, but it is not guided only by the pecuniary considerations which in fact is pushed to the background. A more enterprising doctor may intensify his or her social service by charging nothing or only a nominal fee and meeting the expenses through donations from the admiring public, without compromising on the quality of service and professionalism. What really distinguishes a more mature or higher level karma-yogi from a primary one is that the sense of "I'm doing" totally vanishes in the mature who considers himself or herself as a mere instrument or puppet in the hands of the Divine, carrying out the Divine Will, not one's own will. The selflessness is here on two counts: the person does not work for a personal reward and second, drops all the feeling of 'I' or 'mine'.

Similarly, a teacher may accept a salary to make a living, but as a karma-yogi, she will be totally lost in teaching, constantly improving herself in profession, giving her best, enjoying teaching for her own sake and not working just for salary. The teacher as a real karma-yogi would feel she is just an instrument of the Divine, carrying out the Divine Will. Such a teacher is unmindful of the outcome of the teaching, for it has to ensured that the students absorb the knowledge and skills taught. But a karma-yogi does not judge the outcome in terms of the income earned. To that extent, the teacher is selfless or desireless (anahamvadi, nispraha), a requirement for a karma-yogi.


Giving up of actions motivated by desire is what the wise understand as sanyās. Relinquishing the fruits of all actions is what the learned declare to be tyāg. BG-18.2

Actually, without following traditional varNAshram dharma where son follows the occupation of his father, Krishna's teaching of Bhagwadgeeta doesn't square well. In traditional structure of society, a son invariably inherits occupation of his father so he doesn't need to set goal or whatever. He can just fulfill his traditional duties desirelessly. Confusion arises when structure of traditional occupations shatters... Then one obviously inspires 'to become' something & the becoming can never be desireless; ultimately turned out to be an anti-thesis of Karma Yoga.

Now, having traditional work culture gone incognito, only way to follow

karmanye vAdhikAraste...

is to become desireless this very moment and keep doing without any attachments whatever you are doing right now... This is well supported by the following verse of the same text.

BG 2.71: That person, who gives up all material desires and lives free from a sense of greed, proprietorship, and egoism, attains perfect peace.

Not to forget, On Legitimizing higher desires like Moksha or bliss, Krishna says

BG 2.52: When your intellect crosses the quagmire of delusion, you will then acquire indifference to what has been heard and what is yet to be heard (about enjoyments in this world and the next).

It sounds radical, at least to me, because desire for Moksha (if defined according to this) itself is a hindrance to Moksha as desire of any kind creates ripples in the mind or say manifest the ego/I.

  • I agree with your statements except the last paragraph. If we become desireless then there will be no motivation (internal) to become what we want or to achieve our goal. And we will live an aimless life which after some time will feel worthless. Commented Jan 1, 2019 at 16:06
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    @DG4 "there will be no motivation to become what we want"... This is exactly what Krishna wants. And this is something where Buddha, Mahavir etc all agree. "And we will live an aimless life which after some time will feel worthless"... You convict so as you can't imagine a world without pleasure. Once you start understanding the nature of pleasure, self & joy, you would understand one can live without pleasures yet be joyful. Read this, you will understand. Commented Jan 1, 2019 at 16:16
  • @DG4 "If we become desireless then there will be no motivation (internal)" There is motivation for the spiritual seeker to attain moksha. A spiritual seeker is not desireless.
    – user9969
    Commented Jan 1, 2019 at 16:35
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    @DG4 - Desire is essential nature.of mind.. Desire is basic natural quality of this Prakriti. Today I want to eat Idly, Today I will wear red color dress, today I will bath with this soap are all also your desire. Its natural quality of this Prakriti. So at the start, even the Sadhaka will have desire for Moksha and liberate from process of life. But after certain time period in Sadhana, even that desire fades off as the Sadhaka becomes established in transcendental self and he simply then works for welfare of humanity as he is completely established in the self and not influenced by Prakriti. Commented Jan 2, 2019 at 1:09
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    @DG4 Second, you think work in office as your Karma Yoga to be performed and its no. Its one of your Karma. Its because in current trend, we associate with work as office leading to false assumption. Daily routine work, after waking till sleep, is your Karma. And every action of that should be performed skillfully, truthfully, correctly! Each work should be carried out perfectly according to their modes and nature but expecting any personal rewards for each work is what krishna says dont do that. Commented Jan 2, 2019 at 1:23

Setting a goal is NOT against Gita. A great Karmayogi like Swami Vivekananda says

Arise, awake and stop not till the goal is reached.

This statement is enough answer to the question.


Every work (action) has a result (consequence), which is received by the doer.
The fruit of the action is not the same as result of the action.
Result of action = Consequence of the action, after completion of the action.
Fruit of action = Attachment (via fear/sorrow/joy) with the result of action.

Result of an action is necessarily consumable by doer. Doer has no choice. But, doer has a choice to reject fruit of an action.
BG asks the devotee to do an action such that you are not affected by result of the action.
The best methodology that helps in doing so, is "Bhakti yoga". Do your task as a seva.
Thus, set goal as a seva. Think as if this seva will please Krishna. Forget about the fear of losing or joy of winning.


Faintheartedness and fear sometimes come in the guise of sattva but are actually tamsaic in origin. In one of his commentaries on the Gita, Swami Vivekananda says (Complete Works, V4, p 107-10; available here - Vol 4, 'Lectures and Discourses', 'Thoughts on the Gita' https://advaitaashrama.org/cw/content.php):

The next is, Nishkâma Karma, or work without desire or attachment. People nowadays understand what is meant by this in various ways. Some say what is implied by being unattached is to become purposeless. If that were its real meaning, then heartless brutes and the walls would be the best exponents of the performance of Nishkama Karma. Many others, again, give the example of Janaka, and wish themselves to be equally recognised as past masters in the practice of Nishkama Karma! Janaka (lit. father) did not acquire that distinction by bringing forth children, but these people all want to be Janakas, with the sole qualification of being the fathers of a brood of children! No! The true Nishkama Karmi (performer of work without desire) is neither to be like a brute, nor to be inert, nor heartless. He is not Tâmasika but of pure Sattva. His heart is so full of love and sympathy that he can embrace the whole world with his love. The world at large cannot generally comprehend his all-embracing love and sympathy.

The reconciliation of the different paths of Dharma, and work without desire or attachment — these are the two special characteristics of the Gita.

Let us now read a little from the second chapter.

"Sanjaya said:

To him who was thus overwhelmed with pity and sorrowing, and whose eyes were dimmed with tears, Madhusudana spoke these words.

The Blessed Lord said:

In such a strait, whence comes upon thee, O Arjuna, this dejection, un-Aryan-like, disgraceful, and contrary to the attainment of heaven?

Yield not to unmanliness, O son of Prithâ! Ill doth it become thee. Cast off this mean faint-heartedness and arise, O scorcher of shine enemies!"

In the Shlokas beginning with , how poetically, how beautifully, has Arjuna's real position been painted! Then Shri Krishna advises Arjuna; and in the words etc., why is he goading Arjuna to fight? Because it was not that the disinclination of Arjuna to fight arose out of the overwhelming predominance of pure Sattva Guna; it was all Tamas that brought on this unwillingness. The nature of a man of Sattva Guna is, that he is equally calm in all situations in life — whether it be prosperity or adversity. But Arjuna was afraid, he was overwhelmed with pity. That he had the instinct and the inclination to fight is proved by the simple fact that he came to the battle-field with no other purpose than that. Frequently in our lives also such things are seen to happen. Many people think they are Sâttvika by nature, but they are really nothing but Tâmasika. Many living in an uncleanly way regard themselves as Paramahamsas! Why? Because the Shâstras say that Paramahamsas live like one inert, or mad, or like an unclean spirit. Paramahamsas are compared to children, but here it should be understood that the comparison is one-sided. The Paramahamsa and the child are not one and non-different. They only appear similar, being the two extreme poles, as it were. One has reached to a state beyond Jnana, and the other has not got even an inkling of Jnana. The quickest and the gentlest vibrations of light are both beyond the reach of our ordinary vision; but in the one it is intense heat, and in the other it may be said to be almost without any heat. So it is with the opposite qualities of Sattva and Tamas. They seem in some respects to be the same, no doubt, but there is a world of difference between them. The Tamoguna loves very much to array itself in the garb of the Sattva. Here, in Arjuna, the mighty warrior, it has come under the guise of Dayâ (pity).

In order to remove this delusion which had overtaken Arjuna, what did the Bhagavân say? As I always preach that you should not decry a man by calling him a sinner, but that you should draw his attention to the omnipotent power that is in him, in the same way does the Bhagavan speak to Arjuna. — "It doth not befit thee!" "Thou art Atman imperishable, beyond all evil. Having forgotten thy real nature, thou hast, by thinking thyself a sinner, as one afflicted with bodily evils and mental grief, thou hast made thyself so — this doth not befit thee!" — so says the Bhagavan: — Yield not to unmanliness, O son of Pritha. There is in the world neither sin nor misery, neither disease nor grief; if there is anything in the world which can be called sin, it is this — 'fear'; know that any work which brings out the latent power in thee is Punya (virtue); and that which makes thy body and mind weak is, verily, sin. Shake off this weakness, this faintheartedness! — Thou art a hero, a Vira; this is unbecoming of thee."

If you, my sons, can proclaim this message to the world — — then all this disease, grief, sin, and sorrow will vanish from off the face of the earth in three days. All these ideas of weakness will be nowhere. Now it is everywhere — this current of the vibration of fear. Reverse the current: bring in the opposite vibration, and behold the magic transformation! Thou art omnipotent — go, go to the mouth of the cannon, fear not.

Hate not the most abject sinner, fool; not to his exterior. Turn thy gaze inward, where resides the Paramâtman. Proclaim to the whole world with trumpet voice, "There is no sin in thee, there is no misery in thee; thou art the reservoir of omnipotent power. Arise, awake, and manifest the Divinity within!"

If one reads this one Shloka —

— one gets all the merits of reading the entire Gita; for in this one Shloka lies imbedded the whole Message of the Gita.

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