by Jayaram V
The path of action suggested in the Bhagavad-Gita teaches an
how to remain amidst world, performing his duties and still qualify
himself for spiritual life. This is in stark contrast to the popular
opinion that men should renounce their worldly things, go to a forest
or some secluded place, away from society like a cave and perform
tapas or meditation in order to achieve self-realization.
According to the Bhagavadgita actions bind men to their consequences
and subject them to their own karma. This however does not mean
that inaction or non-action is a solution to the problem of karma.
The Bhagavadgita makes it clear that a person does not attain freedom
by abstaining from work or by renouncing work (Ch.3.4). This is
so becuasae it is not possible for any one to remain inactive even
for a moment as the gunas drive every one hopelessly to perform
actions (Ch.3.5), mentally, if not physically. Besides some actions
such as breathing and digestion are performed autonomously. Without
such actions even the maintenance of the body is not truly possible
(Ch.3.8). So the scripture declares that action is superior to inaction
and the best means to attain liberation provided we know how to
perform them without incurring the karma arising out of them.
The body needs food for its survival. Food comes from God only.
The virtuous ones who know this eat only that which has been offered
to God as a sacrifice, for the sake of nourishing their bodies alone.
By doing so they do not incur any sin (Ch.3.13). In this path of
action there is no loss, nor any reverse reaction. Even a little
practice safeguards one from the fear of birth and death (Ch.2.40).
According to the Gita, man's right is to work only, but not to
the fruit of his actions or to inaction (Ch.2.47). True karmayoga
consists of performing ones duty without attachment and remaining
even minded in success and failure (Ch.2.48). This can be accomplished
by controlling the senses (Ch.2.64 &65) and the desires (Ch.2.71).
A true karmayogi knows that controlling the senses is very important
(Ch.3.6). He therefore engages in actions by restraining his mind
and the senses, unattached, directing his organs to work. (Ch.3.7).
He overcomes in this way desires and is self contended, taking delight
in the self alone (Ch.3.17). For him there is no interest whatsoever
in performing actions or in not performing actions, nor does he
depend upon any one for any thing (Ch.3.18). He thus performs his
duty without attachment.
Even the Lord Supreme is a true Karmayogi, for he also engages
himself in actions, though there is nothing in the three worlds
for Him to do or attain (Ch.3.22). He performs actions so that men
would follow His example (Ch.3.23) and also that worlds could be
saved from disorder and confusion (Ch.3.24). The ignorant acts with
selfish motives,with attachment, while the wise act without attachment
for the general welfare of the world (Ch.3.25).
The sense of doership is another area of internal reform. The
knower of the gunas knows that all actions are caused by the triple
qualities of nature (Ch.3.27) and therefore he remains detached
(Ch.3.28). He surrenders all his actions to God, with His mind fixed
on Him freed from expectations, attachment and mental agitations
(Ch.3.29). It is not restraint of actions but restraint of the senses
which is important (Ch.3.34).
Even if the duty is of imperfect nature one should not abandon
it and take up a new one for however imperfect the duty may be real
fulfillment comes only by performing ones duty but not by avoiding
Desire is the eternal enemy of the wise on earth, the insatiable
fire (Ch.3.39), which deludes the soul by over powering the senses,
the mind and the intellect (Ch.3.40). A true karmayogi therefore
controls his senses and desires through wisdom and discipline and
engages himself in desireless actions.
Renunciation of actions with knowledge is described in the fourth
chapter. The supreme knowledge of renouncing actions through knowledge
was explained to many great souls in the past. But it was said to
have been lost in the course of time (Ch.4.2). And Lord Krishna
unraveled the secret once again and explained it to Arjuna, his
Renunciation of action through knowledge means becoming free
from the bondage of actions by knowing the truth about actions-
knowing what is action, what is inaction and also what is a prohibited
action (Ch.4.17). By knowing this the wise karmayogi learns to to
see inaction in action and action in inaction.
The first step in this direction is to learn from the example
of god Himself by knowing how He actually engages Himself in action.
Though He is unborn and eternal, God incarnates on earth to restore
order and balance whenever disorder and confusion becomes excessive.
He does this to protect the pious and destroy the wicked (Ch.4.8).
Those who know the divine birth and actions of God are freed from
the cycle of birth and death (Ch.4.9). By the fire of knowledge
of the Divine, they attain His being (Ch.4.10). The fourfold order
in society was also created by God (Ch.4.13), again out of no desire
but to establish order in the world. The ancient seers knew that
actions would not taint God as He had no desire for the fruits of
actions. Thus by knowledge they attained perfection.
After knowing the truth about action, with the help of knowledge
so gained, a man of wisdom engages himself in actions that do not
bind him. How does he achieve this ? The answer can be found in
the fourth chapter. He renounces attachment to actions, ever content,
without any shelter (Ch.4.20), without any expectations, mind and
self under control, giving up all possessions, performing only body
related functions (Ch.4.21), is happy with whatever that comes to
him on its own, free from jealousy, beyond dualities, equal in success
and failure (Ch.4.22). With all attachments gone, mind established
in wisdom, his actions become equal to acts of sacrifice and he
is completely liberated from the bondage of actions.
Renunciation of actions through knowledge alone is very difficult
to achieve. But it can be achieved easily by performing actions.
(Ch.4.6). But one should know how to renounce actions by performing
actions, not by avoiding them. A true sanyasi is one who does his
work without depending upon the fruit of his actions, not the one
who gives up actions and sacred fire (Ch.6.1).
It is not possible for the human beings to remain inactive even
for a moment. Therefore no one except the deluded minds try to renounce
actions by not performing them. What is to be renounced is not the
action, but the doership, the attachment and the desire for the
fruit of ones actions. This according to Lord Krishna is true renunciation.
Therefore the karma yogi renounces his actions by offering them
to God, shaking off all attachment (Ch.4.10), and performing actions
with his senses, mind, intellect and body only, for the sake of
purification of soul (Ch.4.11) .He offers the fruit of his actions
to God and there by attains Supreme Peace (Ch.4.12).
The qualities of a true sanyasi are described in the fifth chapter.
The true sanyasi mentally renounces all actions and rests happily
in the city of nine gates (Ch.5.13). He looks with the same eye
on all objects, scholarly but humble, and undeluded (Ch.5.18) in
He rejoices not on getting what is pleasant, not depressed on
obtaining what is unpleasant (Ch.5.19). He is unattached to the
external world, always engaged in the contemplation of Brahman,
identified Himself with Him (Ch.4.21). He is self controlled, having
been able to withstand desire, anger, whilst in the body (Ch.4.23).
He is delighted in himself and is illuminated with in (Ch.4.24).
The true sanyasi does not engage himself in selfish actions, but
in such actions which promote the welfare of the world (Ch.4.25).
And how can this state be attained ? By withdrawing from all
external contacts, with the gaze fixed innerly between the eye brows
and by regulating the flow of prana and apana, the sage controls
his senses, mind and intellect, overcomes desires anger and becomes
This, in brief, is the path of action suggested by Lord Krishna
in the Bhagavad-Gita.
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