Text of the Bhagavagd Gita (Mother's Institute of Research) - Session 18: Chapter 5—Saṁnyastakarmāṇaṁ (10 April 1999)

I think we have now come to the 5th chapter, and the 5th chapter is related to one word, which is used over the end of the 4th chapter: the 4h chapter, verse 41. It is that word which takes you to chapter 5. There is a link between chapter 4, verse 41 on page 213, where Sri Krishna says:

yogasaṁnyastakarmāṇaṁ jñānasaṁchinnasaṁśayam |
ātmavantaṁ na karmāṇi nibadhnanti dhanañjaya ||4.41||

The important word is saṁnyastakarmāṇaṁ, and it is preceded by the word yoga: yoga means Karma yoga; Karma yoga in which karmāṇaṁ saṁnyasta, in which action is renounced. And when you have Knowledge by which all the doubts are cut asunder; and when you become established in yourself ātmavantaṁ, then O Arjuna, dhanañjaya na karmāṇy nibadhnanti, then the actions do not bind you.

So, repeat: “By practise of Karma yoga, when all action is renounced, and by power of Knowledge, all the doubts are cut asunder, and when you become seated in your own Self, then no actions bind you”. This is the verse.

Now, this is also a connection with 2nd chapter…if you open 2nd chapter and verse 39. So, this verse we had referred to earlier also, this significance of these verses that Sri Krishna tells Arjuna, that, “There is a method by which the Buddhi-intelligence by concentration can be fixed on Knowledge, and as a result of that, liberation can be obtained. But, there is also another way, where intelligence can be so concentrated that even while doing actions, you still attain to liberation”.

Now, this promise that Sri Krishna has given is fulfilled in this chapter 4, verse 41, after all that is contained here, between these two verses; and this is the conclusion where He says: yogasaṁnyastakarmāṇaṁ, when ‘even while doing action, you do Karma yoga by which action gets renounced, you get liberated, even while doing action, you still get liberated from Karma, you become free from action. And then, even when Karmas are done, they do not bind you’. So, you might say that there is a connection between this verse, and this verse that is the promise and this is the conclusion, and that is said in between is the exposition of that secret, by which even while doing actions you can be free.

Now, in this exposition the most important part of the exposition is the totality of the 3rd chapter. If you ask the question as to what is the most important part of the Bhagavad Gita, fundamentally, all that Sri Krishna wanted to teach basically is said essentially in the 3rd chapter; because after expounding it, when you come to the 4th chapter, Sri Krishna Himself tells Arjuna, that, “This is the wisdom, this is the Knowledge that I have given to vivasvān who gave it to manu, who gave it to ikṣvāku and then it got lost”. That means that all that He wanted to say, that basic Knowledge, is contained in the 3rd chapter; because the 3rd chapter tells you how even when action is performed, you can still become free.

And the most important message of the 3rd chapter is the idea of sacrifice. It is the Knowledge of sacrifice, the exposition that the whole world is nothing but sacrifice, and whether you know sacrifice or not, even if you do not know sacrifice, you will be obliged to do sacrifice, there is an obligation because the whole world is nothing but a sacrifice. So, if you do it willingly, you can apply the Knowledge, and therefore a greater result, which comes to you when you apply Knowledge rightly.

The difference between Yoga and that, which is not Yoga, is only this: that even one who is not a Yogi is obliged to do Yoga. It is because he is part of the universe, he cannot escape it; he is obliged to do it; he is obliged to sacrifice, whereas a Yogi is one who knows it, and willingly participates in it. And when you do it willingly, then you get one special result; when you are conscious, the result will be first of all a quicker result, the siddhi that is to come will be quicker, and being conscious you will have a mastery over the whole process and you will not deviate.

So, the most important teaching of the Bhagavad Gita is, you might say, ‘the law of sacrifice’. What Sri Krishna wants to tell Arjuna is that, “Whatever arguments you are putting forward, these arguments do not take into account the idea of sacrifice: you are speaking of renunciation, you are speaking of anything, but you do not know what the law of sacrifice is. And if you know the law of the sacrifice, then you will be free even while you are doing action. Today you feel grieved, full of grief, because you do not know the law of sacrifice”. Then what is the law of sacrifice, in one word? It is the recognition that the first sacrificer is the Lord Himself. It is the Lord, giving Himself, and by His giving the whole world comes into existence, the world is nothing but bringing out the stuff of God Himself and putting it forth. Therefore, the law of sacrifice for the world is to return that movement to God; and God again returns it into the world; and the world again goes back to the Lord. This is the cycle, and if you know the cycle very well, then there is no problem which you cannot resolve. This is the basic teaching of the 3rd chapter.

The 4th chapter is only a further elucidation in which the culmination of this sacrifice is given, namely ‘Divine birth and Divine action’, the nature of it, and towards the end of this chapter, Sri Krishna says that, “Now, when by doing Karma yoga you become free from action, you are able to renounce action, so that even while doing action you renounce action, and then the action does not bind you”. This is the end of His promise, when He had said: “I will now teach you that even while doing action, you can be free”. So, in the 4th chapter, towards the end, this promise is fulfilled.

Now, when this promise is fulfilled, then this word, yogasaṁnyastakarmāṇaṁ, particularly the word saṁnyāstakarmāṇaṁ, it creates a confusion in the mind of Arjuna. And the 5th chapter starts with the statement of the confusion: the word saṁnyāstakarmāṇaṁ, creates a confusion, so, let us read the first sentence of the 5th chapter.

Arjuna says that is, arjuna uvāca, page 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 ||5.1||

“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 127, where Arjuna says:

jyāyasī cet karmaṇas te matā buddhir janārdana |
tat kiṁ karmaṇi ghore māṁ niyojayasi keśava ||3.1||

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 into 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 throughout 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 was 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.

Now, this climate had arisen out of a historical reason: for that we have to go back to the Veda. You might say that the law of sacrifice was a great discovery of the Vedic Rishis. The law of sacrifice, which is given in the Bhagavad Gita is not for the first time a new discovery enunciated, and Sri Krishna Himself says that, “This law, I have declared long ago, in due course it was lost”. Now, when He had announced this law of sacrifice long ago was not in this body because Arjuna asks this question, “You are now, and you said that you gave this Knowledge to Vivasvan earlier”. So, Sri Krishna says, “It was not in this body that I gave this Knowledge, there are many births of yours and many births of mine; in my past births I have given this Knowledge”. So, He refers to a time when this Knowledge was discovered and given from age to age: paramparā datta.

And if you read the Veda and if you ask the question: what is ‘the’ essential teaching of the Veda? It is nothing but this law of sacrifice. There is a very important verse in the Rig Veda which is called: puruṣasūkta (R.V.10.90), (Purusha-Sukta); it is the hymn of the Purusha, in which it is clarified that it is by the sacrifice of Purusha that the whole world has come into existence: so there, it is a sacrifice of Purusha. Now, this discovery, that this world is the sacrifice of the Lord Himself, and therefore the whole of the Rig Veda is nothing, and the whole of all the Veda is nothing but enunciation of the law of sacrifice. Right from the first verse to the end, it is nothing but enunciation as to how each individual should make a sacrifice that is the basic teaching of the Veda. Now, it so happens that this Knowledge was given to people who were at that time doing sacrifices in the form of havana. Therefore this teaching of sacrifice got conjoined with the normal method in which people were doing sacrifices. And the Vedic teaching was given in such a way that ‘that’ teaching was gradually misunderstood to be confined only to external sacrifices.

Question: And by the law of sacrifice you mean giving up the feeling of doer-ship?

You are right, there are three things in the law of sacrifice: first of all the action itself is offered to the Divine; secondly the doer-ship, that I am the doer of action, also is offered; and thirdly, you recognise that Lord Himself is the sacrificer. These three things are involved in the law of sacrifice. He is the doer of action. These three propositions constitute the law of sacrifice. Now this Knowledge was ‘the’ Knowledge of the Veda. And therefore, the teaching of the Veda was…this was the teaching that if everyone does whatever it does with this Knowledge…

Question: You give up your I-feeling

First your action itself, then I-feeling, and then recognition that Lord is the doer: all the 3 things are to be conjoined.

Question: That I-feeling, it is He only, you have to realise this.

Yes, actually ‘I’ is ‘He’, not ‘you’. So, give up your egoistic sense of doer-ship and refer it to the Lord, as He is the doer. And allow Him to act. So, when you allow Him to act, that itself is a sacrifice.

Question: You are merging yourself.

Then you are only nimittamātram, you only become the instrument of His action. This is the real meaning of renunciation of action. You are no more doing, it is ‘He’ who is doing and it is only like a flute: the flute gives the music, but neither the blower is you, nor the wind that is you, nor the music is you, you are only the flute, but you are not the music giver. So, when this is recognised, then your life becomes perfect.

Comment: Very difficult.

But then, life becomes really perfect. Now, this is the secret of the Vedic teaching. And the whole of the Veda is nothing but different states in which you are; different conditions of your doer-ship, in which you experience; so, it is a detailed examination of the different stages of action, different senses of doer-ship, different ways in which you offer to the Lord and discover Him; the different ways in which you allow the doer Lord to act through you, in detail it is given. And this teaching was regarded as the teaching of true knowledge. Therefore it was called Veda: Veda means nothing but ‘Book of Knowledge’. But because this was the teaching, given the context in which the external sacrifice was being performed, the whole of sacrifice gradually came to be understood in the sense of ritualistic sacrifice. That is why Sri Krishna says, “In due course of time the original teaching was lost”.

And then, in the 4th chapter, Sri Krishna explains the real sacrifice. The real sacrifice is one in which at the end of sacrifice only one thing is left, which was supposed to enjoy, and that is amṛtaṁ. It is not the remainder of the food that remains at the end after distributing food to everybody, which is the ritualistic meaning of sacrifice. But after having done everything, give up everything, then there is one reward for you, and that is the nectar: it is not the ordinary food that remains. The remainder is that you attain to immortality. So, it is in that sense that the yajña was to be understood; and this meaning is explained by Sri Krishna in the 4th chapter.

But in the meantime, historically, by sacrifice was meant: the lighting of the fire, and constantly to be engaged in offering samidhs, and ghṛtaṁ, and all sweet things to the fire; So, it came to be thought that the law of sacrifice is nothing but a ritualistic sacrifice. So, that was one end of the historical movement that the true teaching of sacrifice was lost, and it came to be misunderstood as a movement in which sacrifice was understood as a havana: a fire to be lighted, fire to be kept alive all the time. There was a system of agnihotṛi, who is supposed to keep fire alive through out, not a minute the fire should be extinguished in the house. Before this fire is about to be extinguished, you put another samidh, by which it is kept alive and continue on, and on, and on. To be engaged in keeping the fire alive, that require an action, and that action was regarded as ‘the sacrifice’.

As a result of this development, there came a time when there was an opposition to it, where the Rishis of the later times pointed out that the real teaching of the Veda is not this ritualistic sacrifice, but Knowledge: the real Veda is Knowledge. Realise that the Divine is all. Therefore, in the time of the Upanishads, there was a re-visiting of the Veda, and re-writing of the Veda, not fully, but in essence. That is why the bulk of the Upanishads is much smaller than the bulk of the Vedas. And during that time, a sharp distinction was made between Knowledge and Action. It was pointed out that all action meant ritualistic action, and all Knowledge meant renunciation of action, and turning to meditation, in which Knowledge is gained. Now, this understanding was not prevalent among all the Rishis. The Rishis who were really mature, they always spoke of the re-consideration of synthesis of Knowledge and Action as we find in Isha Upanishad; it is also Upanishad. There, there is a complete synthesis of Knowledge and Action. But there was a trend in India, in which a sharp division was made between Knowledge and Action. And by the path of Knowledge was meant ‘renunciation of action’ and by action was meant preservation of the continuation of the flame of the fire, and to be engaged as fully as possible in doing all kinds of sacrifices so that the light of the flame of fire is kept alive. This was the understanding, which ruled the minds of people at the time when this teaching was being given.

That is why according to Arjuna, when Sri Krishna speaks of Knowledge, it means in his mind: ‘renunciation of action’. And when Sri Krishna speaks of action, it means: ‘the ritualistic sacrifice’. Now, in this psychology, when Sri Krishna now gives the original teaching, in which Knowledge and Action are not opposed to each other, in which Karma yoga itself implies the Knowledge that the Lord is the doer, and without that Knowledge Karma yoga is not a Karma yoga, therefore Knowledge is a real component of that Karma yoga, when this teaching is given, Arjuna gets baffled. Whenever Sri Krishna refers to the word Knowledge it gives an impression to him that now Sri Krishna speaks of the renunciation of Action.

That is why the 3rd chapter also is the same kind of a complaint: “That now you are praising Karma, but if you think that Buddhi is greater than Karma, then why do you throw me into this horrible action?” And here also yogasaṁnyastaṁkarmaṇāṁ, he omits the word yoga, and saṁnyāsaṁ karmaṇāṁ, he holds upon that idea because, “Now you speak of Sannyasa of Karma, which is the better one out of these two? This renunciation of Action, or Action; out of these two you tell me what is the better one and I will follow that.”

Now Sri Krishna’s answer in the 5th chapter is devoted to this basic question. He clarifies ‘renunciation of action’, and the true meaning of Knowledge, the true meaning of Karma, and the real reconciliation of synthesis of Knowledge and Action.

Question: What is the relevance of this, in today’s existence of Knowledge and Action as you just expounded the relevance in Arjuna’s time? What would it be in today’s world?

Today, our situation has greatly changed. Today when we speak of sannyāsa, when we speak of karma, we are neither aware of one meaning or the other meaning: it is a mixed condition. The confusion is more confounded today. Because for the last thousand years, we have come out of our tradition greatly, and all kinds of notions have been allowed to be spread. At the same time, the idea of renunciation also has become very prominent, while an emphasis on action has also become very prominent.

Question: So also Knowledge?

Knowledge also has become very prominent. So, when you speak today of the Bhagavad Gita, because of our ideas of action, renunciation, and Knowledge, we are apt to miss the great deal of the teaching of the Gita. That is why there is a need to constantly define the words, and to tell the people as to what is meant by what.

So, let us, since you have raised this question, let us now answer this question squarely. Since the late 19th century, a very powerful trend has arisen in Indian spirituality. This is the result of two great influences: one, Dayananda Saraswati; another, Swami Vivekananda. In different ways, both of them have emphasised that true spirituality is not in renunciation but in action: these two great influences. As Vivekananda said that you can do Yoga better by playing football than going into the cave. That means he emphasised upon an action, and said that spirituality, which is devoid of action, is not true spirituality. Dayananda Saraswati also laid down that action…to be engaged in action is the most important thing. So, because of these two influences, there is a great tendency in India today to appreciate any spiritual teacher who emphasises action.

There is a third influence. And the third influence has come from the West, to the extent that we are all, in one way or the other, greatly influenced by the western dynamism. The West is today nothing but a culture, which is based upon constant work: work ethos. There is a limit of leisure, but basically the western civilisation, western culture is greatly rooted in ‘work ethos’: you must constantly do work; apply yourself to work; it is by work that wealth is produced; it is by wealth that further wealth is produced, and it is by further wealth that the further wealth is produced. And therefore, you should be constantly engaged in action.

Now, this message of action has also gone into the sinews of energy of our country. Therefore anybody who says that, “you rest and you do not do any action”, is not appreciated by the intelligentsia of India. So, these are three influences at work.

At the same time the philosophy of Renunciation has been at the back ground very powerfully. So, if you analyse the psychology of the modern Indians, even those who are engaged in work, you will find in them a double attitude: you do work as duty, and you must work as duty, but ultimately, it is of no meaning in this world. Meaning is in renunciation and give up…ultimately you should prepare yourself to give up action. Now, this last sentence is not pronounced very boldly today. But in the psychology of India, it is so much rooted that people do not go in their action beyond the idea of duty. If there was a real attachment to action, if there was a real teaching of action, then one would not confine action only to duty: you are working because it is a duty to work; but the rest, rest of life, apart from duty is nothing but preparing yourself to renounce life. The idea that the world is meaningless, that saṁsāra is full of misery, it will continue to be miserable. In the meantime we do our duty, do as much as you can, but remember that ‘this world is like this, and therefore, try to release yourself from this, prepare yourself from release’. Now, this kind of psychology is prevalent today.

The teaching of the Gita is very relevant because of two factors: the first factor is that whether we like it or not, we are called upon to do more than duty in our life. A time is coming when the concept of duty itself is getting evaporated because of the tremendous rush of action of all sides. The idea of duty thrives best when each one’s field of action is limited within boundaries, in which you can say: “This is my duty, and I will do it, and that is the end of my work.” Now, this is applicable, this ‘thrives best’, when the field of action is limited. So, you can say: “My duty is within this limit and afterwards I have no duty”.

Now, this idea that your field is limited is getting bombarded: your field is extended all the time, and duties are multiplied today. It is not more possible for a mother to say: “My duty is only to look after my children and my home”. All working women now have a larger sense of duty that they have to go to the office, and they have duty to their office work: this itself is an expansion of the idea of duty. And then there is an idea that you have duty to the call of the country; there is also a duty, at one time the ‘call of the country’ had a limited demand on you. If you are a Kshatriya, you must fight, but if you are not a Kshatriya, even if there is an invasion, there was no duty on you to go to the battlefield. But today, there is no such concession given. And if there is a war, in every country today, everybody is supposed to go to the war: his duty is not only to do whatever he is doing up till now: everybody has to enter into the army. So, there is a greater extension of the idea of duty, and then with the coming of the television and so on, the more the knowledge you acquire, the greater the sense of duty as a consequence on it. If you know something, and if you do not do according to your knowledge, that also is not correct: the more you know, the greater is your sense of duty. So, that ordinary idea of duty, which was only confined to a small field, is bombarded.

So, the question now arises: ‘what is your real duty?’ It is in this context that Sri Krishna says that, “Your duty is a very limited idea; it is an infant’s idea that you are confined to a small field and therefore that is what you have to do: sarvakarmāṇi, there is no limit to it…all actions!”. You are actually called upon to do all actions: there is no such thing that ‘this is your duty’ and ‘that is not your duty’. One of the messages of Sri Krishna to Arjuna was: “Do not think in small terms of your duty; although from the point of view of your duty you should fight but that is not all; it is only one point of view. But you are actually called upon to do the action according to the Divine’s will, and the Divine’s will is always ‘lokasaṁgraha’: the totality of the people and the solidarity, which has no limit. Your action is total action: in whichever way you are turned to the universe, in whichever way the threads of your life are tied to the world, in all those fields is your action”. This is the first aspect of the teaching and relevance of the Gita’s teaching.

The second aspect is: is it possible to act, and not to be lost in mere movement of action? Normally, psychologically, when you are acting, you become confined to action to such an extent that you become bombed by action: karmabandhana. Now, if your field of action has expanded so much, your field of binding bondage also becomes expanded. And the modern man is therefore burdened with a tremendous sense of bondage. So, Sri Krishna’s teaching is that even when you do action, and yet you become free, is it possible? That is why, while you extend your field of action, which is necessary, this other knowledge, which Sri Krishna gives that you should be free from all action, even while doing action. That teaching is the most important message. And Sri Krishna’s teaching is basically that even while doing full action, you can be completely free, when you realise the law of sacrifice. And when you know the Lord is the doer, and when your will is joined with the Divine’s will, and when that action flows through you, that even when the action is done, and the full action is done, (and Divine’s action is always full action, ‘lokasaṁgraha’), so even the lokasaṁgraha action proceeds from you and through you, it only flows through you and you are free from all the burden: the Lord Himself is the doer. Now, ‘this’ is the real message of the Bhagavad Gita, and this is what has been explained in the 4th chapter of the Bhagavad Gita.

Question: When the soul inspires you to do something, then that is the true action, if you follow your instincts, then do you go into the right path?

There is the word, which you use: ‘instinct’,

That is also an intermediate stage: you use two or three terms, which are very important. The first word you use is ‘instinct’; second is the word ‘soul’; and third word you have used earlier: ‘the Divine Himself doing the doer-ship’. These are three things, and there are three levels of action.

What is ‘instinctive’ is valid for those people who live on an instinctive level: animals, even human beings are largely instinctive, so what you said about ‘instinctive’ is only valid at that level.

There are some who live at the ‘soul’ level.

Comment: What does that mean: ‘at soul level’?

What you said about ‘soul level’, even at that stage, it is only intermediate, because soul level is still the level of effort: at that stage you are looking for what is the right action. There is the path of ascension, gradually rise from level to level: that is intermediate stage.

The third is when what ‘God inspires’, it is not ‘soul inspires’, but what ‘God inspires’ in you: that is the highest level of action. And the Gita’s teaching is that what is in your soul’s movement, you have to carry it forward until you reach a point where you know what is the Divine’s will, and you become inspired by God, and that action should be allowed to proceed from you. That is the real teaching of the Gita.

So, this is the relevance today and the difficulty of this teaching is that in the country, people are not clear about that confusion of which I spoke: ‘work as duty’ and ‘ultimate justification of everything is renunciation’. These two opposite ideas are playing in India, and unless there is a great clarity on this, that first of all duty itself is now bombarded, and that from the divine’s point of view the world is not meaningless, that, world has a great meaning, and therefore, action has a great meaning and there is a possibility of fullness of spiritual action, fullness of divine action: unless these two ideas are put forward in India, India will not become liberated truly

This is what we need, but it is very difficult. In fact whenever you speak of Gita, people think that ultimately you speak of Moksha (mokṣa), going away from the world. In spite of Gita’s clear teaching where Sri Krishna says that, “Between the two paths of Knowledge and Action, I still prefer Action”; in such bold terms it is written, and yet people tend ultimately that Bhagavad Gita ultimately teaches you that you be liberated. Even when Sri Krishna says that, “I am going to teach you by which even while doing action you are liberated”, that “doing action” is left out into the cold, and going back into liberation. That is like a ‘dog’s tail’: even if you try to stretch it and say: “no, look this is what Sri Krishna says very clearly, boldly, repeatedly!”

But it is not going into the Indian consciousness because of this tremendous habit of one thousand years, in which the idea that the world is meaningless and you have to come out of it as soon as possible. This idea has me taken home; it is conflicting with the idea of duty, but then they try to do only this much, that is ‘do your duty, but ultimately you have to come out of it’. Now, this is where the Indian mind is now located, and locked as it were, you cannot open that lock very quickly, even the best!

Recently there was a lecture by somebody, which I attended. There was a Swami who had come. Now, he was a scientist professionally, but he had now taken sannyāsa. So, he was telling the audience the following; now you see the psychology at work: “I am giving you the idea of the latest scientific knowledge”, (I am only quoting him, not exactly in his words, but what he wanted to say was the following):

“I have done a lot of science and I am giving you all the scientific teaching to you all. Now, it is all of you people who are in the world, they have to carry forward this knowledge. As far as I am concerned I am Sannyasin now; therefore I have nothing to do now; so, I have now my duty is only to be Sannyasin, and to leave all the works to you all people because you are attached to work. Therefore, you carry on this work as far as you are concerned”. Now you see the psychology that, “Now as all work is to be done by you, as far as I am concerned I have reached the point where I have nothing more to do. I am Sannyasin now, given up, because that is the highest teaching, I am doing the best thing in the world by leaving all the world. As far as the work in the world is concerned, you are attached to the world, you are attached to work, therefore you do that work”.

So, he makes a big distinction between the duty of the worldly man, and the duty of the Sannyasin. Now, this is a lecture, which he gave only on Sunday last. And he is himself a very nice man; but this is the psychology, which has gone home into our country so much! He was himself teaching the Gita at that time, he was giving a lecture on the Gita, on the Upanishad, on the Veda, ‘all that’. The very title of his lecture was: ‘Vedic Cosmology’. So, he brought in all Veda, Upanishad, Gita, in his own way, but ultimately his message was only this: you people who are yet attached to the world and doing worldly action, you continue the scientific discoveries more and more. As far as I am concerned, I am Sannyasin and I have given up everything. So, it is no more my duty to continue with the research in Science.

This is the psychology which is troubling India, and that is why we are not able to do our work fully. We are only doing our work in a small field, and trying to run away from it as soon as possible.

Question: That is what Arjuna was trying to do also?

Yes, because of that reason, as I told you, in his time also, this division was greatly made: path of Knowledge and path of Action. And this is right from that time this cleavage continues in India. If there is one great malady, it is ‘this’ malady: the philosophy that the world is meaningless, basically, and we are here only to come out of it as soon as possible; and the trouble is that you cannot come out of this world unless you do some actions at least. So, let us do that much and then come out of it.

To realise, that even when you are free, you still can do the divine work, and you have still to do the Divine’s work, because Divine is not Sannyasin; He has not given up the world; He is in the world; and He Knows, He is the Master of the work, and He gives His own example that, “Even when I do all actions I am akartā”. So, you also be like that: that is called the divine action: yoga-saṁnyasta-karmāṇaṁ (IV 41) is this! That even while doing action, you are still, you have been able to renounce action: that is the secret. The whole of the 5th chapter is therefore given to the exposition of this idea: what is sannyāsa, what is sannyāsakarma, the Karma, which is renounced, what is the meaning of it.

And Sri Krishna even goes forward to say that, “Those who make a big division between Sankhya and Yoga, between path of Knowledge, and path of Action, they are bālāḥ: they are children”. Actually there is no distinction. He says that, “Actually one who sees the path of Knowledge and path of Action to be identical, it is ‘he’ who perceives really”. In fact, this is the basic teaching of the 5th chapter: one who sees that Sankhya and Yoga are one, it is ‘he’ who perceives. You just see the next two or three sentences of this 5th chapter.

This is verse 4, page 220. The very first sentence says:

śāṁkhyayogau pṛthag bālāḥ pravadanti na paṇḍitāḥ |
He says, “It is only children, bālāḥ pravadanti, it is children who speak as pṛthag, as different, Sankhya and Yoga, path of Knowledge and path of Action that they are different, only children speak of it; na paṇḍitāḥ, those who are really learned, they do not say that they are different.

ekam apy āsthitaḥ samyag ubhayor vindate phalam ||5.4||

Even while following one, you get the fruit of both. That is, it can only happen when Jnana yoga becomes Karma yoga and Karma yoga becomes Jnana yoga. That is the real truth: there is no opposition between the two.

Then He says:

yat śāṁkhyaiḥ prāpyate sthānaṁ tad yogair api gamyate |

“What is obtained by Sankhya is also obtained by Karma yoga.”

ekaṁ śāṁkhyaṁ ca yogaṁ ca yaḥ paśyati sa paśyati ||5.5||

“One who sees that Sankhya and Yoga are one, it is he who really perceives truly.”

It is very clear words of the Bhagavad Gita, there are no two interpretations possible:

ekaṁ śāṁkhyaṁ ca yogaṁ ca yaḥ paśyati sa paśyati ||

There is no cleavage between Action and Knowledge. In fact in the 3rd and 4th chapter, Sri Krishna makes it very clear that, “You are not a Karmayogi unless you are established in Knowledge. If you don’t perceive that the Lord is the doer, unless you know that the Lord is the doer, what is the Karma yoga you are doing?” Mere action, doing action is not Karma yoga even an ass does action. Even a clerk sitting in his Post-office goes on doing work: he is not a Karmayogi. Karma yoga arises only when you become aware, when you know that Lord is the doer: unless you do this there is no Karma yoga and the moment you know it is the path Knowledge! Unless Knowledge and Action are united together, neither Sankhya is Sankhya, nor Karma Yoga is Karma Yoga. So, we have got to say:

ekaṁ śāṁkhyaṁ ca yogaṁ ca yaḥ paśyati sa paśyati ||

“One, who really perceives, truly perceives only when you see that Sankhya and Yoga are one and the same.”

It is in this context that now Sri Krishna will answer the question: saṁnyāsaṁ karmaṇāṁ. What is the meaning of “renunciation of action”? Now, this is one great theme of this chapter. The other theme of chapter 5 & chapter 6 is centred upon Arjuna’s question, which is located upon the fickleness of the human mind: this is another theme of Arjuna’s questioning throughout the Gita. Arjuna’s says that whatever may be your teaching, your ultimate stresses upon controlling the senses and the mind: whether it is Sankhya path, or the Karma path, but your constant emphasis upon the control of the senses, and control of the mind, and how difficult it is to control the mind. Is there any method by which this mind can be controlled? This is another theme of chapter 5 & 6. He will come across this question, “Even if I agree that Sankhya and Yoga are one, ultimately your emphasis upon this fact that you have to control the senses, and you have to control your mind, and how difficult it is. So, tell me what is the best way of doing this, because even if you are very, very knowledgeable, ultimately you are still guided by senses, you are still driven by senses, it is so difficult to control it”.

This is the question he raised earlier also, and in 5th and 6th also he raises this question, until Sri Krishna is obliged to answer this question in detail, and says that it is true that mind is very difficult to control, and if you find that mind is very difficult in your case, then I will give you a very extreme advise, I will give you a whole system in which the whole emphasis is laid upon the control of the senses and of the mind. Therefore the 6th chapter is entitled “dhyāna yoga”: it is an answer to this very important question that since control of the senses, and control of the mind is so necessary, and since it is extremely pressing that this control becomes impossible, therefore He says that there is a method which starts with this very thing: control of the senses and control of the mind. So, in the 6th chapter, part of it is given to this question.

The third question that is debated in 5th & 6th chapters is related to what is called the power of Prakriti in determining everything in the world. This is connected with the power of the senses and the mind. Just as it is difficult to control of the senses and control of the mind, a larger question is: is it possible to overcome the rule of Prakriti, which is so much spread in the whole world? The whole world is nothing but a network of Sattwa, Rajas and Tamas. It is not only a question of senses and the mind, but everything in the world is nothing but a network of Sattwa, Rajas and Tamas. The question that Arjuna asks is: is it at all possible to overcome this entire rule of Sattwa, Rajas and Tamas? Because if divine action is the ultimate goal of Sankhya and Yoga, which are one, and since divine action is above Sattwa, Rajas and Tamas, but since Sattwa, Rajas and Tamas is nothing but the whole world, can you go out of the world, and be free from Sattwa, Rajas and Tamas? If so, what is the element in us by which we can go out of it?

prakṛitiṁ yānti bhūtāni nigrahaḥ kiṁ kariṣyati (3.33)

This is one of the very famous sentences of the Gita that everything is ruled by Prakriti: prakṛitiṁ yānti bhūtāni: all the creatures of the world, they are ruled, they move in the path of Prakriti. He says, “Something else than Prakriti by which this Prakriti can be ruled?” This is another question, which is debated in these two chapters.

And the last question which is debated is: when you can control the body and your mind, your senses and the mind, when you can control the Prakriti, then, what is the sign by which you can judge whether you have really made a progress? And Sri Krishna answer is…in sum…we shall see later in detail, but in sum the answer is that, “The more you attain to the sense of equality, and the more you perceive ‘Oneness’, the greater is your progress”:

ekatvam anupaśyataḥ,

This was the answer given in the Isha Upanishad also,

tatra ko mohaḥ kaḥ śoka ekatvam anupaśyataḥ

तत्र को मोहः कः शोक एकत्वमनुपश्यतः ॥

The Upanishads 1.7

This was the answer given in the Isha Upanishad, “Where you see oneness, then all śoka, all mohaḥ is gone”. Sri Krishna repeats that answer of the Upanishad, and says that “Real progress lies when you see Oneness, and the more you see Oneness, the greater is the sense of equality, samatvaṁ”. Earlier Sri Krishna had already given the formula: samatvaṁ yoga ucyate, (2.48), “Equality is what is called Yoga”. But now, in these two chapters Sri Krishna gives a greater detail, and points out that this samatva is based upon two things: the fact that there is Oneness in the world, samaṁ brahma (5.19) is the Reality, that Brahman is equal in everything, and the Knowledge of it. Even if the Brahman is one everywhere, unless you get the Knowledge of it, you cannot be free from your dualities. These two things are very important: the fact that there is samatvaṁ in the world, because samaṁ brahma, the whole world is nothing, but spread out of the Brahman, which is one, and your Knowledge of this samaṁ brahma; when you know that the Brahman is one. These two propositions when they are realised, then you can say that you have now made further progress in your Sadhana.

These are the important elements in the 5th & 6th chapters, and you can see that they are nothing but elucidation of the 3rd chapter, which was further elucidated in the 4th chapter. The whole discussion is: what is the meaning of renunciation of action? And how this element of renunciation of action is demanded both by Sankhya and Yoga, both by path of Knowledge and by path of Action, as a result of which both Sankhya and Yoga are one. And therefore, Arjuna’s question as to “Tell me definitively, which one is better?” The answer is: the one, which unites Sankhya and Yoga, the Karma yoga, which is based upon the Knowledge that is the real answer; and that is the end of the 6th chapter, where you might say that fundamental teaching of the Gita is concluded.

All the rest, from 7th chapter to the 18th chapter are, you might say, the filling in blanks, further details, and still further details. As Sri Aurobindo says that if Gita was not a written scripture, but if it was a dialogue between the teacher and the pupil, then at the end of the 6th chapter the teacher would have said to the pupil: “I have given you all that is necessary for your present moment, practise all this, when you make a further progress I will come back to you and give you further”, but since it is a written book, and we are bound to read further, we cannot close the book now because the written book is given to you, so you are bound to read further, therefore all the other questions, which arise are already dealt with in these remaining chapters. So, that is the real purpose of writing 7th to 18th chapters, otherwise basically at the end of the 6th chapter, everything that is needed is given.


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