Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Canto V : the Yoga of Renunciation

To Arjuna, wondering why renunciation of work ( which is what he thinks he is doing by refusing to fight) is treated Krishna on par with performance of work (which Arjuna considers as inferior), Krishna gives a categorical answer in the key second shloka of Canto V : 'Renunciation and activity both liberate, but to work is better than to renounce.'

No question of it -- the Gita is the gospel of action, selfless action, fruit-forsaking action.

Gracefully, almost unobtrusively, Krishna brings in here the Upanishadic concepts of the Witness and the Participant. Two birds sit on the golden bough of the pippala tree, says the Shvetashavatara Upanishad. One bird eats the sweet fruit, the other watches the first bird eat. Both are happy. One is happier. Which ? And why ?

Our body is the sweet, sensual pippala tree. The atman is the watching bird. Our deeds are the eating bird. The watching stops when the tree withers and dies, and the watching bird flies away. Till that time, eating and watching proceed simultaenously. So the advice of Krishna is simple. Watch life detachedly. Enjoy it coolly. Savour your deeds as you would the performance of an actor in a play. Be involved - and yet free. As he says in shlokas 8 and 9 : 'Seeing, listening, eating, talking, breathing .... he should say, "I do nothing at all, only my senses are busy."'

Arjuna asked :

First you say 'Renounce', Krishna, then you say, 'Work', which is better ? -- Tell me clearly.

Krishna replied :

Renunciation and activity both liberate, but to work is better than to renounce.

He is the constant sannyasi, who neither hates nor desires; free from extremes, his salvation progresses.

The ignorant, not the learned, think that the two are different. If one is practised in earnest, the rewards of both are received.

The strivers in work reach the fulfilment of the strivers in renunciation. See both as the same, and you see the truth.

Renunciation is very difficult, Arjuna; but the sage spurred to work by wisdom, soon finds Brahman.

A man who commands his senses and vanquishes his body, who sees one's atman as the Atman in all, who purifies his mind before he performs his deeds -- such a man is not sullied.

Though seeing, listening, smelling, eating, walking, sleeping, breathing, talking, holding and discarding,

He should say, ' I do nothing at all, only my senses are busy.'

As a lotus leaf will not be stained by slime, so the detached person, offering his deeds to Brahman, will not be stained by work.

Yogis work with the body, the mind and the senses, but abandon greed, in order to purify the atman.

Abandoning the fruits of work, the balanced mind attains peace; but the unsteady mind, motivated by greed, is trapped in its own reward.

The stable person, renouncing work through knowledge, neither acts himself, nor forces action on others, but takes refuge in the in the body, the city of nine gates.

Brahman is concerned with neither the doer nor the deed, nor the reward of the deed.

Brahman does not cause anyone's reward or punishment. Wisdom is blocked by ignorance, and delusion is the result.

But, like the sun, knowledge reveals Brahman to those whose ignorance is removed by self-realisation.

Washed in the light of knowledge and never born again, are those whose minds are engrossed in the atman, whose fulfilment is in the atman.

A Brahmin, a cow, a dog, an elephant are all the same to an atman-knower.

He has transcended life, he reposes in Brahman, his mind is not nervous and agitated.

Reposing in Brahman, and maintaining serenity, undeluded, the knower of Brahman is not happy with what is pleasant, nor unhappy with what s unpleasant.

Unaffected by the world, he enjoys the bliss of atman. He achieves eternal peace, sunk in the meditation of Brahman.

Restlessness is the product of sensual joys, joys that are impermanent, joys that begin and end. The wise do not seek pleasure in them.

He is reposed, he is happy, who has no anger, who has no desire.

Whose contentment lies within, whose repose is within, whose glory is within, that yogi finds Brahmin, and is liberated.

All evils discarded, all doubts erased, all senses restrained, devoted to service, he is liberated.

There is the Nirvana of Brahman for all who strive thus, their passions controlled, and their atman realised.

Controlling his vision, curbing his life-breaths, regulating prana and apana,

Commanding his senses, mind and intellect, rid of lust, anger and greed, he finds moksha.

For he knowsme as the giver of ritual and religious discipline, the Creator of the worlds, and the refuge of all things; and he finds peace.