I think we are now coming to the end of the 6th chapter, and there are three ideas which are still left out. One is the idea which started in the 5th chapter and that is: brahmanirvāṇa. The second idea is in the 6th chapter. Brahma Nirvana is chapter n°5, verse n°24, and also n°25. The second is the perception of oneness in chapter n°6, verse 29, 30 and 31. These three verses refer to the experience of oneness. And 3rd point, which you have to consider is the question that is raised by Arjuna regarding the difficulty that one encounters in controlling the mind, and what happens to the individual who even though tries his best to attain to the higher condition of Yoga falls from it; and that is the question that Arjuna asks and Sri Krishna answers with a great consolation to everyone.
Now, let us therefore first deal with this question of brahmanirvāṇa, which comes in chapter n°5. Let us first read these two verses again:
yo ’ntaḥ sukho ’ntarārāmastathāntarjyotir eva yaḥ |
sa yogī brahmanirvāṇaṁ brahmabhūto ’dhigacchati ||24|| (V)
labhante brahmanirvāṇaṁ ṛṣayaḥ kṣīṇakalmaṣāḥ |
chinnadvaidhā yatātmānaḥ sarvabhūtahite ratāḥ ||25|| (V)
Now, these two verses indicate the climax of the Karma yoga. As we have seen earlier the Karma yoga of the Bhagavad Gita has this distinction that it applies the principles of Knowledge to the principles of Action. The normal proposition between knowledge and Action that is normally made out is bridged in the Bhagavad Gita. We shall come to this point again when we make a review of the entire 6 chapters of the Bhagavad Gita. But the point to be made here is that Sri Krishna’s speaks of the synthesis of Knowledge and Action. Karma yoga is fulfilled when one attains to the highest Knowledge and highest Knowledge reaches its climax when you can perform Karma yoga. This is the interrelationship that is established in these 6 chapters. So, unless you arrive at the highest point of Knowledge while doing Karma, your Karma yoga is not complete. And therefore, Sri Krishna speaks here of the highest condition of Knowledge, which is brahmanirvāṇa; while doing actions you should arrive at nirvāṇa.
Now, this emphasis on ‘Nirvana’ often leads people to imagine that according to Bhagavad Gita, Karma is an instrument, and Nirvana is the end. Now, this is not entirely untrue, because Sri Krishna Himself says that the highest Karma ends in Knowledge, because there is no opposition between the two. But therefore to say that after reaching Nirvana, nothing remains to be done, it has no relationship with Action…It is not as if Action is a ladder, which leads you to a certain stage, and having reached that you can throw away the ladder. You climb up the movement of Action, arrive at the highest Knowledge, because it is only in the highest Knowledge that the bondage to action is burnt away. But action itself is not burnt away: action proceeds from highest condition of Nirvana. According to some, Nirvana is the end and after Nirvana action is impossible. That is because Nirvana is understood as a condition of extinction: extinction of what? Extinction of the ego, extinction of the individual and extinction of action, these three extinctions are normally associated with the idea of Nirvana.
In fact this idea of Nirvana is taken up by Buddhism very powerfully, and when Buddhism speaks of Nirvana, it speaks of ‘this’ Nirvana: extinction of the individual, of the ego and of action. This is how very often Buddhism itself is interpreted. But in Buddhism also we find that Buddha did not cease to act: after He attained to the Supreme Knowledge, He did not cease to act. In fact, acts of compassion are enjoined by Buddhism, both as means, and even after achieving the highest, the continuation of the acts of compassion.