Bhagavagd Gita - Session 18- Track 1802

Arjuna says that is, arjuna uvāca, page n°217, he picks up on that word, saṁnyāstakarmāṇaṁ, and he starts saying:

saṁnyāsaṁ karmaṇāṁ kṛṣṇa punar yogaṁ ca śaṁsasi |
yacchreya etayor ekaṁ tan me brūhi suniścitam ||1|| (V)

“O Krishna, śaṁsasi, you are praising; saṁnyāsaṁ karmaṇāṁ, renunciation of action; you are praising renunciation of action, and again you are praising punar yogaṁ ca śaṁsasi, and again you are praising action, (Yoga means Karmayoga). On the one hand you are saying that renunciation of action is good; then you say: ‘no, no, performance of action is good, Karmayoga is good’. Out of these two, etayor, out of these two; yacchreya, that which is really good; ekaṁ, only one thing. You tell me, which one of these two is good, tan me brūhi suniścitam, that you tell me definitely without causing any confusion.”

Now, you must remember that Sri Krishna speaks of yogasaṁnyastaṁkarmaṇāṁ. He does not say saṁnyāsaṁ karmaṇāṁ, He does not say renunciation of action, but Arjuna seems to be in a different state of mind, so he does not ask the question: what is the yogasaṁnyastaṁkarmaṇāṁ? He does not say this; he says: saṁnyāsaṁ karmaṇāṁ, renunciation of action. But Sri Krishna had said earlier: yogasaṁnyastaṁkarmaṇāṁ, the renunciation of action, which comes while performing action; he does not say renunciation of action. But Arjuna is apt to make this kind of a confusion. If you read even the 3rd chapter, in the very first verse, he comes to the same point. The very first question again Arjuna ask even at that time, a similar question, you might say almost an identical question, page n°127, where Arjuna says:

jyāyasī cet karmaṇas te matā buddhir janārdana |

tat kiṁ karmaṇi ghore māṁ niyojayasi keśava ||1|| (III)

He says, “O Keshava, O Krishna, if more than action Buddhi is greater”, that is “If Jnana is greater than action, then why do you throw me, why do you enjoin on me, karmaṇi ghore, in this terrible action. If Knowledge is superior to action, then why do you ask me to go in this terrible action?” Similar is the question here also: “If renunciation of action is greater”, or he says that, “At one time you are praising renunciation of action, then again you are praising action, Karmayoga. Out of these two now you tell me definitely, which one is better”. So, you will see the similarity of the question. In other words, we have to understand why Arjuna is asking this question. We will see that through out the whole of the Bhagavad Gita, even up to the end, this question of tyāga and sannyāsa troubles Arjuna. Even towards the end of the Gita if you see, we shall come to that later on if we have time, but we shall come to that question again, he raises this very question: “what is tyāga, what is sannyāsa?”

We have to understand this important point before we go further, why Arjuna raises this question again and again. It means that during that time, when this teaching is delivered by Sri Krishna to Arjuna, there was a very great flow of thought, in which a big contrast was made between the path of Knowledge, and the path of Action. And the two were, as it were, in two opposite camps. For Knowledge the word that was used was sāṁkhya; for Action the word that was used was yoga; and therefore there was supposed to be a great gulf between Sankhya and Yoga. If you follow Sankhya you cannot do Yoga, if you do Yoga you cannot do Sankhya: such was the climate at that time.