कर्मण्ययं त्वदुदिते भवदर्चने स्वे ।
यस्तावदस्य बलवानिह जीविताशां
सद्यश्छिनत्त्यनिमिषाय नमोऽस्तु तस्मै ॥ १७ ॥
karmaṇy ayaṁ tvad-udite bhavad-arcane sve
yas tāvad asya balavān iha jīvitāśāṁ
sadyaś chinatty animiṣāya namo ’stu tasmai
lokaḥ — people in general; vikarma — work without sense; nirataḥ — engaged in; kuśale — in beneficial activity; pramattaḥ — negligent; karmaṇi — in activity; ayam — this; tvat — by You; udite — enunciated; bhavat — of You; arcane — in worship; sve — their own; yaḥ — who; tāvat — as long as; asya — of the people in general; balavān — very strong; iha — this; jīvita-āśām — struggle for existence; sadyaḥ — directly; chinatti — is cut to pieces; animiṣāya — by the eternal time; namaḥ — my obeisances; astu — let there be; tasmai — unto Him.
People in general all engage in foolish acts, not in the really beneficial activities enunciated directly by You for their guidance. As long as their tendency for foolish work remains powerful, all their plans in the struggle for existence will be cut to pieces. I therefore offer my obeisances unto Him who acts as eternal time.
People in general are all engaged in senseless work. They are systematically unmindful of the real beneficial work, which is the devotional service of the Lord, technically called the arcanā regulations. The arcanā regulations are directly instructed by the Lord in the Nārada-pañcarātra and are strictly followed by the intelligent men, who know well that the highest perfectional goal of life is to reach Lord Viṣṇu, who is the root of the tree called the cosmic manifestation. Also, in the Bhāgavatam and in Bhagavad-gītā such regulative activities are clearly mentioned. Foolish people do not know that their self-interest is in realization of Viṣṇu. The Bhāgavatam (7.5.30-32) says:
mitho ’bhipadyeta gṛha-vratānām
adānta-gobhir viśatāṁ tamisraṁ
punaḥ punaś carvita-carvaṇānām
durāśayā ye bahir-artha-māninaḥ
andhā yathāndhair upanīyamānās
te ’pīśa-tantryām uru-dāmni baddhāḥ
spṛśaty anarthāpagamo yad-arthaḥ
niṣkiñcanānāṁ na vṛṇīta yāvat
“Persons who are determined to totally rot in false, material happiness cannot become Kṛṣṇa-minded either by instructions from teachers, by self-realization or by parliamentary discussions. They are dragged by the unbridled senses into the darkest region of ignorance, and thus they madly engage in what is called ‘chewing the chewed.’
“Because of their foolish activities, they are unaware that the ultimate goal of human life is to achieve Viṣṇu, the Lord of the cosmic manifestation, and so their struggle for existence is in the wrong direction of material civilization, which is under the external energy. They are led by similar foolish persons, just as one blind man is led by another blind man and both fall in the ditch.
“Such foolish men cannot be attracted towards the activities of the Supreme Powerful, who is actually the neutralizing measure for their foolish activities, unless and until they have the good sense to be guided by the great souls who are completely freed from material attachment.”
In Bhagavad-gītā the Lord asks everyone to give up all other occupational duties and absolutely engage in arcanā activities, or in pleasing the Lord. But almost no one is attracted to such arcanā activity. Everyone is more or less attracted by activities which are conditions of rebellion against the Supreme Lord. The systems of jñāna and yoga are also indirectly rebellious acts against the Lord. There is no auspicious activity except arcanā of the Lord. Jñāna and yoga are sometimes accepted within the purview of arcanā when the ultimate aim is Viṣṇu, and not otherwise. The conclusion is that only the devotees of the Lord are bona fide human beings eligible for salvation. Others are vainly struggling for existence without any actual benefit.