Bhagavad Gita (Topic-wise) Pt 20

Part 19

Part 21

6 Moksha
6-1 Preparation
6-2 Jnana, Jnani, and Jnana-Phala
6-2-6 Action, inaction, non-action 4(16 to 18), 18 (13 to 15) 6-2-6-1

 4(16 to 18) Sri Krishna says that even sages are deluded about the nature of action, non-action, and inaction and offers to explain them so that upon knowing them, one is freed from the bondage of karma and samsara. An inquiry is important as people suffer from vague ideas about them. Action refers to action prescribed by scriptures. Non-action means prohibited action, i.e., not sanctioned by scriptures. Inaction is being idle. It is a cardinal mistake to think that the true nature of a person does any action and that it reaps the fruits of action.

4(18) is a knotty verse as it uses the language of contradiction. A wise person sees inaction in action and action in inaction and such a person performs all actions and is a yogi. The seeming contradiction needs explanation. A wise person identifies himself with consciousness and not with the mind-body complex. The consciousness principle, Atma, being all-pervasive like space, cannot do any action because action involves movement. Physical action involves physical movement; mental action involves mental movement. Space cannot do any action as it is all-pervasive. Atma, the consciousness principle, is action-free whereas the body-mind-complex can never be free from action. The mind-body system needs the blessing of Atma to engage in action yet Atma remains unaffected and unpolluted by action. Wisdom is in accepting action at the mind-body level and not trying to escape from action and claiming inaction at the Atma level and rest in Atma. A wise person is established in inaction during intense activity. Contrarily, he sees action in inaction. The idea is that when the body-mind-complex is resting during sleep or is idle, superficially there is non-action. However, there is action in potential form. The wise person sees potential action in seeming inaction.

6-2-6-2: 18(13 to 15)                                                                                                          There are five factors responsible for the accomplishment of an action. They are the body, doer, different organs, process of activity, and divine. The body is where the desire for action is located. The ego is the agent of action. It directs organs to engage in action. The fourth factor is the very activity which may be righteous or otherwise. The fifth factor is the presiding deity of the above four. The presiding deity is also called Daivam and is the unseen factor. An important message is implied here. Self is not a factor. It is action-free.

6-2-7 Karma yoga vis-a-vis Jnana yoga 3(1 to 9,19,20), 5(1 to 6)                                3rd chapter begins with a question from Arjuna because he is confused about teaching in the 2nd chapter. The main theme of 2nd chapter is Self-knowledge. Self-knowledge provides a permanent remedy for human suffering. Jnana yoga is in the beginning and towards the end of the chapter and karma yoga is in the middle. Arjuna’s question is if knowledge alone is the remedy, then why is he being asked to fight? Implicit in it is the question: which is better, karma or jnana? It confuses sincere seekers even today. 

Vedas distinguish between karma and jnana and have therefore two parts, Karma Kanda, and Jnana Kanda. There are two lifestyles of a human being. Knowledge is important in one lifestyle and action in another. Sanyas (monk) is the first lifestyle, and grihastha (householder) is the second lifestyle. A seeker has a choice between two lifestyles. He can be a householder, practice spiritual disciplines, and gain liberation without entering sanyas ashrama. Alternatively, on completion of the grihastha stage, he may move to sanyas, pursue knowledge, and get liberation. A sanyasi’s life is predominantly for the pursuit of knowledge and he performs actions in a limited way in tune with karma yoga for the maintenance of the body.                                                       A worldly person is engaged in various rites and duties There is no escaping from the action. Nobody can remain without action even for a moment. Action is inherent. Moreover, if a person gives up action forcefully by restraining sense organs outwardly but thinking about the sense objects is deluded and is a hypocrite. There are basic needs of a human being that require effort and action. If they are not fulfilled, giving up action is counter-productive and harmful. On the other hand, if a person tries to control sense organs and mind in such a way that he is engaged in selfless action, he is a yogi and makes spiritual headway. Therefore, a person should perform actions according to the scriptures. It is better than being inactive.

Scriptures know that a person is born ignorant and cannot become wise overnight and a person is permitted to engage in action to fulfill his material desires with a proviso that action must be within the fold of dharma. With maturity, he should switch to the performance of obligatory duties without being attached to the results of action. Action is considered a sacrifice. Such a person is a karma-yogi and action does not bind him. Karma-yoga makes a seeker fit for jnana yoga. Karma yoga is necessary for jnana yoga and karma yoga is incomplete without jnana yoga. Karma yoga is not an end, it is a means for jnana yoga. Without selfless action, a seeker cannot become a self-free doer.

There are advantages and disadvantages to both lifestyles. For the majority, the lifestyle of a householder is suitable. A householder has security but he has distractions and responsibilities and is short of time to pursue knowledge. In contrast, a sanyasi has no security but has no worldly distractions and can be devoted to knowledge. A grihastha is as much eligible to gain knowledge and liberation as a sanyasi. Janaka was a king and a jnani also. A karma yogi who has no likes and dislikes is as good as a sanyasi and eventually becomes free from the bondage of action. No purpose is served in comparing karma yoga and jnana yoga. Both have the goal of liberation.

6-2-8 Karma Sanyas 4(41,42), 6(1,2), 18(16,17)
6-2-8-1: 4(41,42) Sri Krishna defines a karma sanyasi. A jnani is a karma sanyasi. He knows that his true nature is consciousness which does not do any action. The mind-body system alone is engaged in action driven by three qualities. Consciousness is figuratively called witnessing consciousness. A karma sanyasi has renounced all actions at the cognitive level and the merits and demerits of action do not pollute his true nature. He has cut the bondage of action by the sword of knowledge. Action is born of ignorance. Knowledge is the remedy of ignorance. It must be understood that renunciation of action is not at the physical level. Even the mind is engaged in mental action. However, in the background, a karma sanyasi is aware that as witnessing consciousness he is not a doer. Sri Krishna instructs Arjuna to be a karma sanyasi. Fight the war at the physical level and renounce it cognitively.

6-2-8-3: 6(1,2) Sri Krishna again defines a renouncer in 6.1. He who performs the action to be done without expecting the result of the action is a real sanyasi. Mere renouncing rituals does not make a person sanyasi. The essential ingredients are. (i) He dies action (ii) the action is obligatory (iii) there is no attachment to the result of action (iv) physically giving up rituals and sacrificial fire does mean renunciation. What is needed is a paradigm shift in attitude towards action and results of action. The above ingredients are of a karma yogi. Sri Krishna glorifies a karma yogi and says that he is as good as a karma sanyasi because he is on the threshold of gaining Self-knowledge and becoming a karma sanyasi. Mental renunciation is a spiritual sadhana. It is yoga.

6-2-8-4: 18(16,17) Sri Krishna says that an ignorant person thinks that Atma is a doer because his impure mind has not realized Atma. It follows that a Self-realized person knows that his real nature is Atma and that he is not a doer. He has renounced actions. He is free from the notion of doer. He has no ego. Even if such an extolled person kills many people, he is not considered a killer. It is a figurative expression. What it means is that a karma sanyasi is engaged in worldly affairs, yet he has renounced all actions, he is not attached to actions and results thereof.

Contd Pt 21

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