We are doing a scripture study together: reading along through some scriptures and discussing the passages. Here are all of the posts on the previous verses for the Gita: Bhagavad Gita Study
27. Actions in all cases are performed
By the qualities of material nature;
He whose mind is confused by egoism
Imagines, “I am the doer.”
28. But he who knows the truth, O Arjuna,
About the two roles of the qualities and action, thinking,
The qualities work among the qualities,”
Is not attached.
29. Those deluded by the qualities of material nature
Are attached to the actions of the qualities.
The perfect knower should not disturb
The foolish men of incomplete knowledge.
30. Deferring all actions in Me,
Meditating on the supreme Spirit,
Having become free from desire and selfishness,
With your fever departed, fight!
Notes on the Sanskrit
“qualities” is gunas
“egoism” is ahankara (The “I making” or “I doing”)
“material nature” is prakriti
“Should not disturb” is more literally “should not cause to waver.” I think “waver” gives a clearer picture of the danger of “disturbing” the ignorant one.
“Deferring” is samnyasya: “relinquishing, entrusting, renouncing.” I like “entrusting” as a translation because it feels like not giving up your action or the fruits of your actions, but putting them in safe keeping with the Lord.
Commentaries of Gurus
All work is performed by the gunas of Prakriti. But he whose mind is deluded by egoism thinks, “I am the doer.”–Bhagavad Gita Bhaasya of Sri Shankaracharya
[Misplaced my Bhagavad Gita Bhaasya so I’m switching to The Bhagavad Gita translated and commentated by Swami Nikhilananda]
For verse 28 the explanation in this book is that the enlightened man sees that the gunas of the senses are interacting with the gunas of the world and that is what action is. So he allows the gunas to behave in their natural way and remains unattached. “The difference between an active enlightened man and an active ignorant man is that the former is beyond the influence of the gunas, whereas the latter is controlled by them.”
One should not disturb the actions of the man who has not realized the truth of his Self. The reason for that is he may give up action completely, still having an imperfect understanding of what the Self is. “Instructing them in Self-knowledge…makes one give up worldly duties.”
“How should duties be regarded by those who seek liberation but are still attached to the gunas?”
Surrendering all action to Me, with mind intent on the Self, freeing yourself from longing and selfishness, fight–unperturbed by grief.
At first I have to wonder how does an ignorant person become wise if the wise are not supposed to instruct the ignorant on Self-knowledge? But in the last verse I think we see the stepping stone between an ignorant state and a wise state. The in-between step is surrendering actions to God. Doing that allows us to practice separating ourselves from being the “do-er.” Eventually that falls away as our understanding deepens and we come to realize fully that God is Self.