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Chapter 5: The Yoga of Renunciation

12 Mar 2017   Shanti Gowans
Arjuna said:
Krishna, you extol the both the Yoga of Renunciation 
and then the Yoga of Action.
Please tell me which of these two
is decidedly the better path? (1)
Krishna replied:
Renunciation and action
both lead to the ultimate good,
but of the two however,
the Yoga of Action (being easier to practice)
is more direct. (2)
The true renunciate
neither desires things nor avoids them.
Indifferent to pleasure and pain 
he is easily freed from all bondage. (3)
Fools say that knowledge and action are separate,
leading to divergent results, 
but the wise do not.
For when you practice one of them deeply,
you gain the rewards of both. (4)
The wise ones who see knowledge and action as one,
have the true understanding:
either path leads to the same end.
The supreme state which is reached by true knowledge
 is also attained by action as well.
Both paths lead to the Self;
both lead to selfless action. (5)

In this verse Krishna categorically declares that neither the path of knowledge nor the path of action is the sole way to emancipation. One can reach the goal by either path.

Most seekers want to know 'the best path' to salvation. This is a misconception based on the erroneous belief that one's path is a matter of choice. The fact is that one has not chosen to be a seeker: one is a seeker because that is his destiny. The natural characteristics of the body-mind organism, over which one has no control, decide what one shall seek. Your destiny will decide whether you will seek money or power or fame or salvation. Thus the spiritual seeker need not feel himself to be superior to someone who is seeking material things.

To take this understanding a step further, if the seeking itself has not been a matter of our choice, how can the path be a matter of our choice? Our destiny and the natural characteristics of our body-mind organisms will naturally dictate what path we shall take. The divine will directs us towards the path we are to follow.

It is therefore a matter of great satisfaction to the seeker that any path will lead to the same goal.

It is hard to renounce all doer-ship
without engaging in mind, body and sensory action;
the sage wholeheartedly in the yoga of action,
soon attains the supreme state of freedom. (6)
Heart purified,
mastering body, mind and senses
his self becomes the self in all beings
and even though he performs action,
he remains untainted by anything he does. (7)
The person who has seen the truth 
understands at all times that he is not the doer,
even when he sees, hears, touches, smells, eats or drinks,
moves, sleeps, breathes, when he speaks, answers the calls of nature,
takes hold of things, opens and closes his eyes,
that he does nothing at all,
knowing that it is the senses reaction to their sense objects. (8-9)

This verse emphasises the fact that the essential feature of Self-awareness or enlightenment or awakening is the total annihilation of the sense of 'doer-ship' in whatever activity that is being produced through the body-mind organism.

Paramahansa Ramakrishna says: He who comes to know that he is only an instrument in the hands of the Lord, has no egoistic feeling. He is aware that he is only a tool with which God has His work done. Such as man causes harm to nobody. The poison of egoism is no more in him. A steel knife becomes a gold knife with the touch of the philosopher's stone. Though the form of the knife is there, it is not useful anymore for cutting. Similarly the jnani retains a seeming individuality, but no ignorance-born activity occurs in and through him. 

Offering all actions to the divine,
and shaking off all attachment, 
sin drops off him,
as drops of water rolls off a lotus leaf. (10)
The sage performs all actions
with his body, senses, mind and intellect, 
withdrawing the feeling of 'I, me, my, mine'
in respect of them,
and simply surrenders all attachment 
to make himself pure. (11)
The resolute in yoga
surrender results and gain perfect peace, 
whereas, the irresolute,
who work with a selfish motive,
attached to results,
are bound by everything they do. (12)
Calmly renouncing all actions,
viz. not acting nor causing action, 
the embodied Self
dwells happily in the divine consciousness of truth and bliss,
mentally relegating all actions
to the mansion of the nine-gated city (body). (13)
Determining neither the doer-ship nor the doing, 
self does not create the means of action,
or the action itself,
or the union of results and action.
All these arise from nature. (14)
Nor does it partake of anyone's virtuous or evil actions.
What is, is always perfect.
When knowledge of the self
is obscured by the darkness of ignorance or delusion, 
human beings act badly. (15)

There is no God sitting somewhere in the clouds, peeping down on human beings and keeping a perfect account of every sin and every good deed done by every single human being, so that the individual may be punished or rewarded in due course. Such concepts are seeped in ignorance, and cannot prevail if one is totally convinced that no action can happen except by the divine will. If the universal will is totally accepted, one's personal will cannot exist, and therefore, there cannot be any question of any sin or merit.

Such a concept is bound to evoke an argument such as: If it is the universal will that I should commit a murder, why should I be punished for it? The answer is astonishingly simple: there is no 'you' to be punished or rewarded: it is the universe's will, and the destiny of the human organism, that the murder would be committed, and it is also the universe's will, and the destiny of that organism, to be punished for the act. All actions lead to other actions, and have consequences.

But when ignorance has been completely destroyed,
then the light of wisdom shines like the midday sun
and reveals what is supreme. (16)
Contemplating That,
mind and intellect completely inspired,
rooted and absorbed in That,
men reach the state of true freedom
from which there is no return. (17)
The wise regard all beings as equal: 
a priest endowed with learning and culture,
a cow, an elephant, a dog, or a filthy rat-eating outcaste too. (18)
Established in eternal unity,
freed from the endless cycle of birth and death,
they can act impartially towards all beings,
since to them all beings are the same. (19)
With reason firm and free from doubt,
not rejoicing when obtaining what is pleasant
and not feeling perturbed on meeting with the unpleasant,
lucid, with mind unshaken,
they remain within what is real and eternal. (20)
With mind remains unattached to sense-objects,
derives through meditation the sattvika joy which dwells in the mind,
then the Yogi,
having completely identified himself
through meditation with Brahman,
enjoys eternal bliss. (21)
The pleasures from external objects
that are born of sense-contacts,
even though appearing as enjoyable to worldly-minded people, 
are truly only a source of suffering.
They have their beginning and their ends,
they come and go.
No wise person seeks joy by indulging in them. (22)
The person of yoga 
who is able to overcome, in this very life here on earth,
the turmoil of desire and anger
is truly happy. (23)
He who is happy within
enjoys peace, joy and radiance within himself,
such a Yogi becomes one with the divine
and vanishes into divine bliss. (24)
The seer, cleansed of his sins,
whose doubts have been dispelled by self knowledge,
whose disciplined mind is established in the divine,
and who is actively engaged in the welfare of all beings,
vanishes into divine bliss and, peace. (25)
He who has subdued his mind,
and cut off desire and anger,
 realises the Self,
and knows that the divine, eternal peace
is present everywhere. (26)
With his gaze focused on the space between the eyebrows,
shutting out all thoughts of external enjoyments,
regulating the in-going and out-going breath 
flowing within the nostrils,
he who controls his senses, mind and intellect
intent on liberation,
when desire, fear and anger, have left him,
is forever free. (27-28)
Knowing me as the enjoyer of all worship,
the supreme Lord of all the worlds,
and the dearest friend of all beings,
that person gains perfect peace. (29)







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