By Sri Swami Sivananda
The Yoga of Renunciation of Action
Summary of Fifth Discourse
In spite of Sri Krishna’s clear instructions, Arjuna still seems to be bewildered. He wants to know conclusively which is superior, the path of action or the path of renunciation of action.
The Lord says that both the paths lead to the highest goal of God-realisation. In both cases the final realisation of the Atman is the aim, but the path of Karma Yoga is superior. Actually there is no real difference between the two.
Krishna further asserts that perfection can be attained and one can be established in the Atman only after the mind has been purified through the performance of selfless action. The Karma Yogi who is aware of the Atman and who is constantly engaged in action knows that although the intellect, mind and senses are active, he does not do anything. He is a spectator of everything. He dedicates all his actions to the Lord and thus abandons attachment, ever remaining pure and unaffected. He surrenders himself completely to the Divine Shakti. Having completely rooted out all desires, attachments and the ego, he is not born again.
The sage who has realised Brahman and is always absorbed in It does not have any rebirth. Such a sage sees Brahman within and without—within as the static and transcendent Brahman, and without as the entire universe. He sees the one Self in all beings and creatures—in a cow, an elephant, and even in a dog and an outcaste. He is ever free from joy and grief and enjoys eternal peace and happiness. He does not depend upon the senses for his satisfaction. On the other hand the enjoyments of the senses are generators of pain. They are impermanent. Sri Krishna reminds Arjuna that desire is the main cause of pain and suffering. It is the cause of anger. Therefore, the aspirant should try to eradicate desire and anger if he is to reach the Supreme.
The Lord concludes by describing how to control the senses, mind and intellect by concentrating between the eyebrows and practising Pranayama. One who has achieved perfect control of the outgoing senses and is freed from desire, anger and fear attains liberation and enjoys perfect peace.
1. Renunciation of actions, O Krishna, Thou praisest, and again Yoga! Tell me conclusively which is the better of the two.
The Blessed Lord said:
2. Renunciation and the Yoga of action both lead to the highest bliss; but of the two, the Yoga of action is superior to the renunciation of action.
3. He should be known as a perpetual Sannyasin who neither hates nor desires; for, free from the pairs of opposites, O mighty-armed Arjuna, he is easily set free from bondage!
COMMENTARY: A man does not become a Sannyasin by merely giving up actions due to laziness, ignorance, some family quarrel or calamity or unemployment. A true Sannyasin is one who has neither attachment nor aversion to anything. Physical renunciation of objects is no renunciation at all. What is wanted is the renunciation of egoism and desires.
4. Children, not the wise, speak of knowledge and the Yoga of action or the performance of action as though they are distinct and different; he who is truly established in one obtains the fruits of both.
5. That place which is reached by the Sankhyas or the Jnanis is reached by the (Karma) Yogis. He sees who sees knowledge and the performance of action (Karma Yoga) as one.
6. But renunciation, O mighty-armed Arjuna, is hard to attain without Yoga; the Yoga-harmonised sage proceeds quickly to Brahman!
7. He who is devoted to the path of action, whose mind is quite pure, who has conquered the self, who has subdued his senses and who has realised his Self as the Self in all beings, though acting, he is not tainted.
8. “I do nothing at all”—thus will the harmonised knower of Truth think—seeing, hearing, touching, smelling, eating, going, sleeping, breathing,
9. Speaking, letting go, seizing, opening and closing the eyes—convinced that the senses move among the sense-objects.
COMMENTARY: The liberated sage always remains as a witness of the activities of the senses as he identifies himself with the Self.
10. He who performs actions, offering them to Brahman and abandoning attachment, is not tainted by sin as a lotus leaf by water.
11. Yogis, having abandoned attachment, perform actions only by the body, mind, intellect and also by the senses, for the purification of the self.
12. The united one (the well poised or the harmonised), having abandoned the fruit of action, attains to the eternal peace; the non-united only (the unsteady or the unbalanced), impelled by desire and attached to the fruit, is bound.
13. Mentally renouncing all actions and self-controlled, the embodied one rests happily in the nine-gated city, neither acting nor causing others (body and senses) to act.
14. Neither agency nor actions does the Lord create for the world, nor union with the fruits of actions; it is Nature that acts.
15. The Lord accepts neither the demerit nor even the merit of any; knowledge is enveloped by ignorance, thereby beings are deluded.
16. But, to those whose ignorance is destroyed by knowledge of the Self, like the sun, knowledge reveals the Supreme (Brahman).
17. Their intellect absorbed in That, their self being That; established in That, with That as their supreme goal, they go whence there is no return, their sins dispelled by knowledge.
18. Sages look with an equal eye on a Brahmin endowed with learning and humility, on a cow, on an elephant, and even on a dog and an outcaste.
19. Even here (in this world) birth (everything) is overcome by those whose minds rest in equality; Brahman is spotless indeed and equal; therefore, they are established in Brahman.
20. Resting in Brahman, with steady intellect, undeluded, the knower of Brahman neither rejoiceth on obtaining what is pleasant nor grieveth on obtaining what is unpleasant.
21. With the self unattached to the external contacts he discovers happiness in the Self; with the self engaged in the meditation of Brahman he attains to the endless happiness.
22. The enjoyments that are born of contacts are generators of pain only, for they have a beginning and an end, O Arjuna! The wise do not rejoice in them.
23. He who is able, while still here in this world to withstand, before the liberation from the body, the impulse born of desire and anger—he is a Yogi, he is a happy man.
24. He who is ever happy within, who rejoices within, who is illumined within, such a Yogi attains absolute freedom or Moksha, himself becoming Brahman.
25. The sages obtain absolute freedom or Moksha—they whose sins have been destroyed, whose dualities (perception of dualities or experience of the pairs of opposites) are torn asunder, who are self-controlled, and intent on the welfare of all beings.
26. Absolute freedom (or Brahmic bliss) exists on all sides for those self-controlled ascetics who are free from desire and anger, who have controlled their thoughts and who have realised the Self.
27. Shutting out (all) external contacts and fixing the gaze between the eyebrows, equalising the outgoing and incoming breaths moving within the nostrils,
28. With the senses, the mind and the intellect always controlled, having liberation as his supreme goal, free from desire, fear and anger—the sage is verily liberated for ever.
29. He who knows Me as the enjoyer of sacrifices and austerities, the great Lord of all the worlds and the friend of all beings, attains to peace.
Thus in the Upanishads of the glorious Bhagavad Gita, the science of the Eternal, the scripture of Yoga, the dialogue between Sri Krishna and Arjuna ends the fifth discourse entitled:
“The Yoga of Renunciation of Action”
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