jāvān artha udapāne sarvataḥ sanplutodake
tāvān sarveṣu vedeṣu brāhmaṇasya vijānataḥ (2.46)
2.46 – When a man is surrounded by the ocean on all sides, he has no use for a pond. Just so a Brahmin who has gained knowledge of the Supreme Spirit has no use for the Ved. That means that the one who knows God transcends the Ved, and that man is a Brahmin. So Sri Krishn counsels Arjun to rise above the Ved and be a Brahmin.
Arjun is a Kshatriy and Sri Krishn is exhorting him to be a Brahmin. Brahmin and Kshatriy are, among others, names of qualities that are inherent in the dispositions of different varn (or what are now more commonly known as castes). But the varn-tradition is originally, as we have already seen, action-oriented rather than a social provision determined by birth. What use has he for a petty pond who has availed himself of the crystal current of the Ganga? Some use a pond for ablution, while others wash their cattle in it. A sage who has known God by direct perception has the same kind of use for the Ved. They are undoubtedly useful.
The Ved exists for stragglers who lag behind.
karmaṇy evā’dhikāras te mā phaleṣu kadācana,
mā karmaphalahetur bhūr māte sango’stv akarmaṇi (2.47)
2.47 :-“Since you are entitled only to the performance of action but never to the fruits thereof, you should neither desire rewards of action nor be drawn to inaction.”
Arjun, Sri Krishn says, has the right to action but not to its results. So Arjun should persuade himself that fruits of action simply do not exist. He should not covet these fruits and neither should he grow disillusioned with action.
So far Sri Krishn has first used the term “action” (karm: meaning both action and its consequence) in the thirty-ninth verse of the chapter, but he has not indicated what this karm is and how to perform it. He has, however, described its characteristic traits.
(a) He has told Arjun that by the performance of action he will be freed from the bonds of action.
(b) He has then said that the seed or initial impulse of action is indestructible. Once it is initiated, nature has no means to destroy it.
(c) There is, Arjun has been told, not even the slightest flaw in this action, for it never abandons us while we are stranded amidst the temptations of celestial pleasures and worldly affluence.
(d) Performance of this action, even in small proportions, can emancipate us from the great fear of birth and death.
But, as it is evident from the summary above,Sri Krishn has not so far defined action. As for the way of doing it, he has said in the forty-first verse.
(e) The mind which is resolved to do this action is only one and the way of doing it is also only one. Does it mean, then, that people engaged in other multifarious activities are not really engaged in the worship of God? According to Sri Krishn, the activities of such people are not action.
Explaining why it is so, he adds that the minds of men without discernment are riven by endless divisions, because of which they tend to invent and elaborate an unlimited number of rites and ceremonies. So they are not true worshippers. They use pretentious and ornate language to describe these rites and ceremonies. So that man’s mind is also poisoned who is lured by the charm of their words. The ordained action is, therefore, only one, although we have not yet been told what precisely it is.
In the forty-seventh verse Sri Krishn has told Arjun that he has a right to action, but not to its fruits. So Arjun should not desire these fruits. At the same time he ought not to lose faith in the performance of action. In other words, he should be constantly and devotedly engaged in its performance. But Sri Krishn has not yet said what this action is?The verse is usually interpreted as meaning: Do whatever you wish, only do not desire its fruits. That is, say those who interpret the verse thus, what selfless action is all about. In fact, however,Sri Krishn has not so far told us what this action is that men are required to do. He has so far elaborated only its characteristics, what the gains from it are, and the precautions that have to be observed in the course of its performance.
Yet the question of what exactly selfless action is has so far remained unanswered.
yogasthaḥ kuru karmāṇi sangam tyaktvā dhananjaya,
siddhyasiddhyoḥ samo bhūtvā samatvam yoga ucyate (2.48)
2.48:-“The equipoise of mind that arises from profound absorption in the performance of action after renouncing attachment and being even-minded in respect of success and failure is, O Dhananjay (Arjun), given the name of yog.”
Resting in yog, renouncing infatuation for worldly ties, and looking at success and failure with an equal mind, Arjun should undertake action.
But what action?
Sri Krishn’s pronouncement is that men should do selfless action. Equipoise of mind is what is called yog. The mind in which there is no unevenness is full of equanimity. Greed destroys its evenness, attachments make it unequal, and desire for the fruits of action destroy its serenity. That is why there should be no hankering after the fruits of action. At the same time, however, there should also be no diminishing of faith in the performance of action.
Renouncing attachment to all things, seen as well as unseen, and giving up all concern about achievement and non-achievement, we should only keep our eyes fixed on yog, the discipline that joins the individual Soul with the Supreme Spirit, and lead a life of strenuous action.
Yog is thus the state of culmination. But it is also the initial stage. At the outset our eyes should be fixed on the goal. It is for this reason that we should act keeping our eyes on yog. Equanimity of mind is also named yog. When the mind cannot be shaken by failure and success, and nothing can destroy its evenness, it is said to be in the state of yog. It cannot then be moved by passion. Such a state of mind enables the Soul to identify himself with God.
This is another reason why this state is called Samattwa Yog, the discipline that makes the mind filled with equanimity.Since there is, in such a state of mind, complete renunciation of desire, it is also called the Way of Selfless Action (Nishkam Karm Yog). Since it requires us to perform action, it is also known as the Way of Action (Karm Yog) .
Since it unites the Self with the Supreme Spirit, it is called yog. It is necessary to keep in mind that both success and failure should be viewed with equanimity, that there should be no sense of attachment, and that there is no desire for the rewards of action.It is thus that the Way of Selfless Action and the Way of Knowledge are the same.
dūreṇa hy avaram karma buddhiyogād dhananjaya,
buddhau śaraṇam anviccha kṛpaṇāḥ phalahetavaḥ (2.49)
2.49:- “Take refuge in the way of equanimity (yog), Dhananjay, because action with desire for the fruits thereof is far inferior to the path of discrimination, and they are indeed paupers who are motivated by lust (for rewards).”
Covetous action is distant from and inferior to the Path of Discrimination. Those who yearn after praise are wretched men, vile and devoid of judgement. Arjun is, therefore, urged to find shelter in the even-minded Way of Knowledge. Even if the Soul is rewarded with what he desires, he will have to assume a body in order to enjoy it. So long as the process of coming and going, of birth and death, lasts, how can there be ultimate redemption? A seeker should not desire even absolution, for absolution is total freedom from passions. Thinking over the acquisition of rewards if he gets any, his worship is interrupted. Why should he now continue any further with the task of meditation on God? He goes astray. So yog should be observed with a perfectly even mind.
Sri Krishn describes the Way of Knowledge (Gyan-Karm-Sanyas Yog) as also the Buddhi-or Sankhya Yog. He suggests to Arjun that he has attempted to enlighten him on the nature of “discrimination” in its relation to the Way of Knowledge. In truth, the only difference between the two is that of attitude. In the one, one has to proceed only after making a proper examination of the constructive and negative aspects of the undertaking, while in the other, too, equanimity has to be preserved. So it is also called the Way of Equanimity and Discrimination (Samattwa-Buddhi Yog). Because of this and because men possessed of desire for rewards are reduced to miserable wretchedness,
Arjun is advised to find shelter in the Way of Knowledge.
buddhiyukto jahātī’ha ubhe sukṛtaduṣkṛte,
tasmād yogāya yujyasva yogaḥ karmasu kauśalam (2.50)
2.50:- “As the Soul endowed with a mind of equanimity renounces both meritorious and evil deeds in this world itself and the art of acting with equipoise is yog, the endeavour to master the way of equanimity of discrimination is Samattwa Yog.”
Stoic minds give up both the sacred and the sinful in this life itself. They adopt an attitude of detachment to both. So Arjun should strive for the equanimity of mind that is derived from the Way of Knowledge. Yog is the skill of acting with equipoise.Two attitudes towards action prevail in the world. If people do a work, they also wish for its fruits. If there are no rewards, they may not even like to work. But Yogeshwar Krishn regards such action as bondage and states that worship of the one God is the only worthwhile action. In the present chapter he has only named action. Its definition is given in the ninth verse of Chapter 3; and its nature is dwelt upon at length in Chapter 4. In the verse about to be quoted, the skill of acting in freedom from worldly customs is that we should perform action and do it with dedication, but at the same time with voluntary renunciation of any right to its fruits. However, it is but natural to be curious about what will become of these fruits. But, of course, there is no doubt that selfless action is the right way of action. The whole energy of the desireless worshipper is then directed to his action. The human body is meant for worship of God. At the same time, though, one would like to know whether one has just always to go on acting or whether the performed action will also produce some result.
[As expounded by most revered Gurudev Swami Adgadanand Paramhans]