Arjuna said, “O Krishna, You praise and speak of renunciation of actions and again you praise and speak of Yoga that is the performance of obligatory and customary duties and actions. Tell me for certain, as the one intended by You, that one which is more commendable or recommended between these two”.
The Blessed Lord said, “sri-bhagavan uvaca
sannyasah karma-yogas ca
tayos tu karma-sannyasat
karma-yogo visisyate – Both renunciation of actions and Karma Yoga that is performance of obligatory and customary duties and actions lead to Liberation by virtue of rise of Knowledge in one. Between the two, Karma Yoga, however, excels over renunciation of actions.
jneyah sa nitya-sannyasi
yo na dvesti na kanksati
nirdvandvo hi maha-baho
sukham bandhat pramucyate – He who does not hate anything nor does he crave for anything, should be known as a man of constant renunciation. For, O mighty-armed one, he is free from duality and becomes easily freed from bondage.
The unlearned ones speak of Sānkhya Yoga, that is the path of Knowledge and Karma Yoga as different and having opposite results. Anyone who properly and diligently resorts to either path, gets the result of both.
yat sankhyaih prapyate sthanam
tad yogair api gamyate
ekam sankhyam ca yogam ca
yah pasyati sa pasyati – The State called Liberation that is reached by the Sānkhyas, by the monks steadfast in Knowledge is reached by the Yogis as well, that is those who undertake actions by dedicating them to Me renouncing the fruits of the actions and customary and obligatory duties. Therefore, he sees truly who sees Sānkhya and Yoga as one.
But, O mighty-armed one, renunciation is hard to achieve and attain without Karma Yoga, that is performance of obligatory and customary duties and actions. The meditative man who is steadfast in Knowledge and the Supreme Goal equipped with Yoga, that is Karma Yoga, in the form of performance of duties and actions adoring God while relinquishing the results of said actions, attains Brahman very quickly.
The one who is endowed with Yoga, pure in mind, controlled in body and a conqueror of the organs, the Self of the selves of all beings – one who sees the Self existing equally in all the beings as his own Self does not become tainted even while performing actions.
Remaining absorbed in the Self, one should think, I certainly do not do anything even while seeing, hearing, touching, smelling, eating, moving, sleeping, breathing, speaking, releasing, holding and opening and closing the eyes while remembering that the organs function in relation with objects of the organs.
brahmany adhaya karmani
sangam tyaktva karoti yah
lipyate na sa papena
padma-patram ivambhasa – One who acts by dedicating and surrendering all actions to Brahman and God and by renouncing attachment, he does not get polluted by sin just as a lotus leaf is not affected by water.
By giving up attachment to the results of actions and rightful duties, the Yogis, men of action undertake work and duties merely through the body, through the mind, through the intellect and even through the organs completely devoid of sense of doership and ownership and for the purification of themselves.
yuktah karma-phalam tyaktva
santim apnoti naisthikim
phale sakto nibadhyate – Giving up the results and fruits of work and actions, by becoming resolute in faith, one attains Peace arising from steadfastness. One who is lacking in resolute faith, being attached to the results and fruits working under the impulsion of desire, becomes bound.
The sannyāsa, or the man of renunciation of self-control, having given up all actions mentally, continues in bliss in the city of nine gates, without doing or causing to do anything at all.
na kartrtvam na karmani
lokasya srjati prabhuh
svabhavas tu pravartate – The Self does not create agent-ship or even objects of desire for anyone and nor association with results of actions. But it is Nature that acts.
nadatte kasyacit papam
na caiva sukrtam vibhuh
tena muhyanti jantavah – The Omnipresent neither accepts anybody’s sin nor even virtue and virtuous acts. Knowledge that is discriminating wisdom remains covered by ignorance. Thereby, the creatures become deluded.
But in the case of those beings, for whom that ignorance that causes delusion is destroyed by the Knowledge of the Self, their Knowledge, like the sun, reveals the Supreme Reality.
jnana-nirdhuta-kalmasah – Those who have their intellect absorbed in That, whose Self is That, who are steadfast in That, who have That as their Supreme Goal – they will attain the state of non-returning with their dirt having been destroyed by Knowledge.
brahmane gavi hastini
suni caiva sva-pake ca
panditah sama-darsinah – The learned ones look with equanimity at a Brāhmana endowed with learning and humility and modesty, at a cow, at an elephant and even a dog as well as an eater of dog’s meat.
ihaiva tair jitah sargo
yesam samye sthitam manah
nirdosam hi samam brahma
tasmad brahmani te sthitah – Here itself is rebirth conquered and overcome by those who see with equanimity and whose minds are established and steadfast on sameness and seeing the Brahman existing equally in all beings and whose minds are free from defects. Thus, they are established in Brahman.
A knower of Brahman who is established in Brahman should have his intellect steady with firm conviction of the existence of one and the same taintless Self in all beings and further, should not be deluded. He should not get delighted by getting what is desirable and neither should be dejected by getting what is undesirable.
vindaty atmani yat sukham
sukham aksayam asnute – With his heart unattached to external objects, he gets bliss that is in the Self. With his heart absorbed in meditation on Brahman, he acquires eternal and undecaying Bliss.
Since enjoyments that result from contact with objects are verily sources of sorrow and have a beginning and an end, O son of Kunti, the wise one and knower of Brahman, who has realized the Reality which is the Supreme Goal does not delight in them.
saknotihaiva yah sodhum
sa yuktah sa sukhi narah – The one who can and is able to withstand here itself in this existence, before departing from the body, this impulse arising from desire and anger, is a Yogi and is happy in this world.
yo ‘ntah-sukho ‘ntar-aramas
tathantar-jyotir eva yah
sa yogi brahma-nirvanam
brahma-bhuto ‘dhigacchati – One who is happy within the Self, whose pleasure is within the Self and who has his light only within the Self with the Self as his light, that Yogi, having become Brahman attains absorption in Brahman.
sarva-bhuta-hite ratah – The seers and sages of Realization and knowers of Brahman whose sins have been attenuated, who are freed from doubt, whose organs are under control and who are engaged in doing good to all beings by being favourably disposed to all, attain absorption in Brahman.
vartate viditatmanam – To the monks who have control over their internal organs, who are free from desire and anger and who have known the Self, there is absorption in Brahman either way.
sparsan krtva bahir bahyams
caksus caivantare bhruvoh
pranapanau samau krtva
yah sada mukta eva sah – Keeping the external objects of sound, touch, taste, sight and smell outside, keeping the eyes at the juncture of the eye-brows and similarly making the outgoing and incoming breaths that move through the nostrils equal, the contemplative monk who has control over his organs, mind and intellect should be fully intent on Liberation and should be free from desire, fear and anger. The monk who ever remains thus, is verily free.
jnatva mam santim rcchati – One attains Peace by knowing Me as the great Lord of all the worlds, as the enjoyer of all sacrifices and austerities and as the performer and the Deity of the sacrifices and austerities and as the friend of all creatures.
[Chapter 5, Slokas 5.01 – 5.29]
Lord Krishna reveals the greatness of Karma Yoga over renunciation of actions as in Karma Yoga, it becomes imperative to remain intent on the Self with no desire, attachment, attraction or repulsion towards anything and instead, to renounce the fruits and results of rightful, obligatory and customary duties and actions undertaken with the singular focus on the Supreme Goal. This will lead to the rise of Knowledge leading to Supreme Peace.
As Karma Yoga is a more intensive practice, requiring greater dedication to the Lord, where one engages in the ordained duty without renouncing actions and duties, Lord Krishna recommends this above renunciation of actions. However, the path of Knowledge and Karma Yoga lead to the same Supreme Goal as both have Knowledge as their foundation, path and goal.
Lord Krishna continues to elaborate on the greatness of Karma Yoga where Yoga that is the performance of rightful, obligatory and customary and ordained duties and actions must be undertaken with no sense of doership of “I” or “ego”, but rather by dedicating and surrendering all actions to Lord and renouncing attachment to the results and fruits of the duties and actions. This Yoga that gives rise to Knowledge of the Supreme Goal is considered to be greater than renunciation of actions as Lord Krishna says that renunciation is difficult to achieve without Karma Yoga.
Now, why does Lord Krishna say this? Is it because as one is born in Nature and bound to the gunas and its qualities, one will be engaged in action throughout their existence or is it because the sense of doership of “I” and “ego” as the doer can be overcome with deep intense commitment and contentment in one’s own Self which will then help one to see the Self existing equally in all beings?
Lord Krishna continues to explain the importance of Yoga, to engage in rightful duty and action renouncing the fruits and results of said duties to become Yogis, men of action who remain content in the Knowledge of the Self and in the Self itself seeing the Self existing equally in all beings. Lord Krishna continues to reveal the Self and the need to understand the ways of Nature and what the Self is which does not create doership or make one an agent to an action or make them attached to the action and results. Here, Lord Krishna reveals an important point which is the Self that is the Omnipresent Supreme Reality neither accepts one’s sin and sinful actions nor one’s virtue and virtuous activities. This is important to understand as it reveals that everything is in the Self and the Self is in everything but nothing is in the Self and the Self is in nothing.
Hence, the Self remains taintless and blemishless and the Supreme Truth.
Lord Krishna in the above verses reveals the importance of equality and equanimity. The need to see the Self existing equally within, outside and all-pervading and as existing equally in all the beings as this will lead to immersion and absorption into the Supreme Self. But how to achieve this? By strictly adhering to the words and advice of Lord Krishna as stated and to constantly be aware and intent on the Supreme Goal.
Lord Krishna speaks about the importance of not only withdrawing from external objects by being content in the Self but also to overcome the impulse arising from desire and anger that creates attraction and repulsion, like and dislike, attachment and sorrow and delusion as it the act of the gunas of Nature. Lord Krishna expresses the importance of maintaining firm conviction on the Supreme Goal that will help one realize the Supreme Reality that will lead to immersion and absorption into the Supreme Self.
Lord Krishna in the final verses of the fifth chapter lays down the importance of remaining intent on the Supreme Goal at all times, being free from desire, fear and anger and the accompanying perceptions of attraction, repulsion, likes and dislikes, attachment and delusion that constitutes the dual Nature and to center all focus and concentration on the juncture between the eye-brows and making the breathing equal in both the nostrils. A person in perennial contemplation of the Supreme Self will eventually be absorbed into the Supreme Self as he will thus be free and ever-blissful in the Self. He will know the Lord in entirety as the Supreme Self.