5 Factors of Action


During a lecture yesterday evening, the following position was taken by a member in the audience: “When BG 18.14 speaks of endeavor (cesta) as one of the 5 factors of action, we should understand that the ONLY endeavor from the jiva with regard to action is his desire. The soul desires happiness, anandamayo ‘bhyasat. That is all he does, regarding material activity! Otherwise, Supersoul is directing everything, including the other 4 factors of action. The premise of my position is based on this: the soul is totally distinct from matter, and thus CANNOT INTERACT WITH MATTER or CANNOT DO ANYTHING in the ‘endeavor’ department besides ‘desire’.”
I was maintaining that ‘endeavor’ is a more active, striving principle than ‘desire.’ We cannot delete the 5th factor of action by reducing the term ‘endeavor’ to the non-active medium of ‘desire’. The soul’s interaction with matter is thru the agency of contaminated consciousness, while Krsna supplies intelligence how to ‘strive’ or ‘endeavor’ within xyz actions. Along with Supersoul’s sanction, in this way matter moves by the touch of spirit.
Then I researched Vishvanatha Chakravarti Thakur’s and Baladeva Vidyabushana’s commentaries, where cesta (‘endeavor,’ per Prabhupada’s translation) becomes prana!
I am turning to you for your insight on this topic. Does the conditioned soul’s endeavor amount to nothing more that desire? Or is there more to it? The former does not make compelling sense to me.


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Krishna explains action in various ways. For example in Bg 4.20, and 5.8, he states that a self-realized soul does not act: naiva kincit karoti sah, and naiva kincit karomi respectively.

Yet in other places, using the exact same verb, kR, to do, make etc, Krishna speaks of the soul acting.

9.27:  yat karoshi… ‘whatever you do…make it an offering to me.’
18.60: ‘you will do involuntarily the very thing you try to avoid.’
18.63yathecchasi tatha kuru… ‘do as you wish.’

Thus it would be silly to claim that the soul merely does not act. Clearly the soul does not act, in one sense, but also acts in another fundamental sense, a sense central to Krishna’s teaching.

Finally, the word cesta literally means ‘action, activity, effort, endeavor, exertion etc.’ It does not literally mean ‘desire’  or  prana. It is a good rule when reading translations and commentaries to remember that a non-literal sense of the work does not obliterate the literal sense but merely augments it. Krishna uses forms of this word cesht to mean action at Bg 3.33, and 6.17 (where it is explicitly connected to actions: ceshtasya karmasu).

So again your view is correct. It would be unbalanced to take cesta as mere desire, considering the literal sense of the word, the way Krishna uses the word elsewhere in the Gita, and also Krishna’s general teaching on human action.

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