Lord Krishn has extolled action by the Way of Knowledge through Renunciation and then he has spoken approvingly of action done with a selfless attitude. So Arjun now wishes to be enlightened on the specific way which is in Lord Krishn’s well considered view more conducive to his well-being.
Arjun raises a question :
“You have so far commended, O Krishn,
both the Way of knowledge through Renunciation
and then the Way of Selfless Action;
so now tell me which one of the two is decidedly more propitious?”
If we are told two ways for going to a certain place, it is but proper to inquire which one of the two is more convenient. If we do not raise this question, the implication is that we do not have to go anywhere.
Yogeshwar Krishn responds to Arjun’s submission thus:
“Both renunciation and selfless action achieve salvation,
but of the two the Way of Selfless Action is the better
because it is easier to practice.”
If both the ways are equally effective in bringing about the final absolution, why is the Way of Selfless Action described as superior? This is what Lord Krishn has to say about it.
Lord Krishn sings:
“He, O the mighty-armed Arjun,
who envies none and desires nothing is fit
to be regarded as a true sanyasi and,
liberated from the conflicts of passion and repugnance,
he breaks away from worldly bondage.”
The one who is free alike from love and animosity is a sanyasi, a man of renunciation, irrespective of whether he has chosen Way of Knowledge or the Way of Selfless Action. Emancipated from both attachment and repugnance, he is happily released from the great fear of repeated births.
Lord Krishn adds:
“It is the ignorant rather than men of wisdom
who make distinction between Way of Knowledge
and the Way of Selfless Action,
for he who dwells well in any one of the two attains to God.”
“That man perceives reality who regards the Way of Knowledge
and the Way of Selfless Action as identical,
because the liberation attained by knowledge is also achieved
by selfless action.”
The goal which is reached by the worshiper of knowledge is also achieved by the doer of selfless action. So he knows the truth who regards the two ways as similar from the point of view of consequence.
Now, when the two ways converge at the same point, why does Sri Krishn pronounce one preferable to the other?
HE explains in next verse:
“But, O the mighty-armed,
renunciation is well nigh impossible to achieve without selfless action,
but the one whose mind is set on God is soon united with him.”
The giving up of all that we have is most painful without selfless action. It is indeed impossible if selfless action has not been initiated at all. Therefore, the sage who reflects on the identical God, and whose mind and senses are stilled, soon attains to that God by the performance of selfless action.
It is but evident that selfless action has also to be practiced on the Way of Knowledge, because the requisite action for both the ways is the same. This is the act of yagya, which precisely means “worship”. The difference between the two ways is only a matter of the worshiper’s attitude.
Whereas one devotes himself to the deed after a thorough appraisal of his own ability and with self-dependence, the other-the doer of selfless action-engages in the task with total reliance upon the adored God. So, whereas the former is like a student who studies for an examination privately, the other is like one who is enrolled in a school or college. Both of them have an accomplished teacher to master the same course, take the same test, and even the certificate to be awarded to them is the same. Only their attitudes to their task are different.
Saying that passion and anger are formidable enemies, Sri Krishn urged Arjun to kill them. Arjun found it most painful.
Sri Krishn thereupon told him that beyond the body there are the senses, beyond the senses there is the mind, beyond the mind there is the intellect, and beyond all these there is the Self, the power at whose behest he is driven to all his actions.
To act with a clear understanding of one’s own strength and with dependence on one’s own ability is the Way of Knowledge. Lord Krishn prompted Arjun to concentrate his mind on him and fight, dedicating all his actions to him and in total freedom from attachment and grief. To perform a deed with a sense of surrender to the worshiped God is the Way of Selfless Action. So the action in the two ways is the same and so is the final outcome.
Stressing the same, Lord Krishn now says that the achievement of renunciation, of the ultimate cessation of good as well as evil actions, is impossible without selfless action. There is no way by which we may sit idly, just telling ourselves:
“I am God, pure and wise. For me there is no action and no bondage. Even if I may appear as participating in evil, it is really only my senses functioning according to their nature.”
There is no such hypocrisy in Lord Krishn’s words.
Even he, the Yogeshwar, cannot, without the required action, bestow the ultimate state upon a beloved friend like Arjun. If he were able to do this, there would be no need for the Bhagavad Gita. Action has to be accomplished.
The stage of renunciation can be achieved only through action and the one who does it soon realizes God.
~Revered Gurudev Swami Adgadanand Jee Paramhans~