Five Factors of Action – Guest post by Priya Iyer


Success or failure in any activity we perform is determined by various factors. It is a known fact that no matter what we do, being at the right place at the right time more or less ensures a good chance for success.

Lord Krishna states in the Bhagavad Gita that there are five factors that affect any kind of action and it is due to the interaction of these five factors that any action or activity is completed. Let us look at the following verse from the Bhagavad Gita

 Verse 18.14

adhis?t?hanam tatha karta

karan?am ca prthag-vidham

vividhas ca pr?thak ces?t?a

daivam caivatra pancamam


The place of action [the body], the performer, the various senses, the many different kinds of endeavor, and ultimately the Supersoul — these are the five factors of action.Five factors of action - guest post by priya iyer 1


Now, right place at the right time does not necessarily mean being at right job interview at the most desired company although that is also something all of us seek to achieve. As we can see from the above translation the place of action is our body and the performer, the soul, which engages in various activities induced by the various senses and the different endeavors. Of these five factors the one factor that is the super cause of everything else is the Supreme Will.

Although the place of action here refers to the body and the performer the soul, these 5 factors jointly contribute toward the success or the so called failure of any activity. Let us look at a practical example of how this is true in this material world. Let us say we are in a job. First and foremost, we have to be in the right job, but just landing in a right job is not enough. What the person does with the given opportunity of being in the right job thru his/her various endeavors, by appropriately engaging both their perceptive as well as working senses, is entirely up to the individual. Having done all of this correctly, success is still not guaranteed as there is something beyond our control and that is the Supreme Will. According to the authority of Vedas, not a blade of grass can move without the supreme sanction .

But we must not mistake this as a given, because the Supreme Will is the ultimate deciding factor no matter what we do. Sometimes we feel it is better to do nothing at all! Well, that is not an option as we have already seen in our earlier articles that a living entity cannot remain inactive even for a moment. Therefore to achieve success in anything, the first four factors in which the living entity has a minute independence, must be considered with utmost sincerity to get the Supreme sanction.

Now looking at the spiritual aspect of this verse, the performer which is us – the tiny spirit soul has been awarded a human body as the place of action in this lifetime. So let us begin by looking at the first of the five factors of action. And every action one performs whether right or wrong is influenced by these 5 factors.

Place of actionLord Krishna refers to our body as the place of action. Among the 8,400,000 species in the Lord’s creation, we are very fortunate and blessed to have been awarded this human body. We could have been awarded any other body among the lower species. Therefore it is absolutely imperative that we do not lose this very precious opportunity. If we simply use this body to eat, sleep, mate and work toward improving our material lifestyle, then to what avail is this great opportunity??. Therefore just being at the right place of action is not enough, what we do there makes all the difference.  And this is the only minute independence we possess.

The performer – This refers to the spirit soul without whom the body cannot function. This spirit soul which is nothing but the part of the Lord’s  superior energy acts in various ways according to the modes of nature it has acquired.  But remember just the right performer being at the right place is not enough, we have to be very cautious not to fall prey to the relentless opposition from the team of 5+1.  Keep reading.

Our senses – Have you ever wondered – ‘who is the boss?’ – our unruly senses or our superior intelligence. More often than not, unfortunately, it is the senses that determine our actions whether good or bad. Therefore now we have the performer (spirit soul) residing in a desirable place of action, the human body, with the senses as the working partners with an untrustworthy boss, OUR MIND. .

The different  endeavours– Having all the right raw material and tools is not going to get things done if the proper attempts are not made at the right time. In essence, the outcome of our efforts depends on whether we are doing it for Krishna or not. When the action is not meant for pleasing Krishna then the living entity is under the grip of maya in the form of the modes of material nature. Depending on which mode influences us the most – the outcome will be different – e.g. in the mode of goodness the outcome although still material will try to consider the needs of others before oneself. It is still material action because it is done out of forgetfulness of Krishna.

When the action is influenced by the mode of passion, there will be attachment to the results. Such action causes bondage and keeps us trapped in the material world.

When the action is is influenced by the mode of ignorance, the action is generally not beneficial to anyone, both materially and spiritually.

Remember what Krishna said in 2.47- we only have the right to perform  our duty as best we can without worrying about the results because the results depend on the ,

Supreme Will –  Yes, now we are talking business. No matter how good one may be in doing their job, if it is done with an attitude of ‘Isvaroham aham bhogi –verse – BG 16.13-15 ‘ then, even though it might seem like we are temporarily successful, it will only lead to our downfall in the long run. There is only one proper way to do any activity just as Lord Krishna states in verse  9.27 and that will guarantee the crossing this ocean of material miseries – verse 7.14 – mameva ye prapadyante, mayam etam taranti te. Therefore when we occasionally do get unfavourable results to our actions, we have to ask ourselves a couple of questions-

1 Did I perform this action the way Krishna recommended?

2. Has the temporary so called failure contributed to my long term goal of understanding my true position as being the part and parcel of the Supreme?

If the answer to the above questions is ‘yes’, then it is good news. Continue your efforts and you will be rewarded appropriately at the right time.  And if the answer to the above questions is ‘No’ , then it is time to make a change……………… a change in the attitude in which an action is performed.

Priya Iyer is a Business trainer by profession now based in Coimbatore, India. She previously lived in Sydney for 14 years where she met her spiritual Guru. Priya has taken a lot of interest in understanding our scriptures especially the Bhagavad Gita and Srimad Bhagavatam and how the values within can be incorporated in our daily lives. Priya shares her learning from the Bhagavad Gita with children and adults through her weekly lessons.

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