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In Chapter 3, Arjun said, "Lord ! Why do you cast me into dreadful acts when you believe that the Way of Knowledge is superior?" He found the Way of Knowledge easier to practise, for this way assures heavenly life in the event of defeat and the state of ultimate glory in that of victory. So there is profit in both success and failure. But by now he understands well that action is a prerequisite of both the ways. Yogeshwar Krishn has also urged him to rid himself of doubts and take refuge in a seer, because he is the only source of the awareness he seeks. However, before he chooses one of the two ways, Arjun makes a humble submission.

1. ‘‘Arjun said, ‘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.’ ’’

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 Krishn’s well considered view more conducive to his well-being. 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:

2. "The Lord said, ‘Both renunciation and selfless action achieve salvation, but of the two the Way of Selfless Action is the better because it is easier to practise.’’’

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 Krishn has to say about it.

3. "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 the 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.

4. "It is the ignorant rather than men of wisdom who make a distinction between the Way of Knowledge and the Way of Selfless Action, for he who dwells well in any one of the two attains to God."

Only they who know but inadequately of spiritual life find the two ways divergent, because the final outcome of both is the same, namely, attainment of God.

5. ‘‘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 worshipper of knowledge and discrimination 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 Krishn pronounce one preferable to the other? He explains:

6. "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 practised 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 worshipper’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. Sometime back, saying that passion and anger are formidable enemies, Krishn urged Arjun to kill them. Arjun found it most painful. 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. 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 worshipped 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, 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 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 Geeta. Action has to be accomplished. The stage of renunciation can be achieved only through action and the one who does it soon realizes God. Krishn now speaks about the characteristic marks of the man who is blessed with selfless action.

7. "The doer, who is in perfect control of his body through a conquest of his senses, pure at heart and singlemindedly devoted to the God of all beings, is untainted by action even though he is engaged in it.’’

That man is possessed of yog, of selfless action, who has conquered the body, whose senses are subdued, whose thoughts and feelings are spotlessly clean, and who has realized his identity with God, the Spirit of all beings. He remains unblemished even though he is involved in action, because his deeds are aimed at garnering seeds of the highest good for those who lag behind. He is untainted because he dwells in the essence that is God, the fountain head of the vitality of all beings. There is nothing for him hereafter for which he should quest. At the same time, there can be no attachment to what he has left behind, because they have all paled into insignificance. So he is not engulfed by his deeds. Thus we have here a picture of the ultimate stage of the worshipper who has achieved selfless action. Krishn explains again why this man, blessed with yog, remains unattached to action.

8-9. ‘‘The man who perceives, in whatever he is doing, whether hearing, touching smelling, eating, walking, sleeping, breathing, giving up or seizing, and opening or closing his eyes, that only his senses are acting according to their properties and that he himself is a non-doer, is indeed the one with true knowledge.’’

It is a belief, or rather experience, of the man to whom God is visibly present that he does absolutely nothing. Rather than being a mere fancy, it is a firm conviction he has arrived at through the performance of action. After having known this he cannot but believe that whatever he appears to be doing is really the operation of his senses according to their natural properties. And, when there is nothing higher than God whom he has apprehended, what greater joy can he aspire to have by touching any other object or being? Had there been something better beyond, there must have been attachment. But after the attainment of God there is no further goal to strive for. And neither is there anything left behind for him to renounce. So the man endowed with attainment is unimmersed in action. This thought is now illustrated by an example.

10. "The man who acts, dedicating all his actions to God and abandoning all attachment, is untouched by sin as a lotus leaf is untouched by water.’’

The lotus grows in mud, but its leaf floats above the water. Ripples pass over it night and day, but if you look at the leaf it is always dry. Not a drop of water clings to it. So the lotus growing in mud and water is yet unsullied by them. Just so, the man, all of whose actions are merged into God (this dissolution occurs only with perception, not before), and who acts with total detachment because there is nothing beyond to be desired, is unaffected by action. Yet he is busy with the performance of action for the guidance and good of the ones who are behind him. This is the point that is stressed in the following verse.

11. "Sages give up the attachment of their senses, mind, intellect and body, and act for inner purification."

A sage abandons all desires of his senses, mind, intellect, and body, and practises selfless action for inner sanctity. Does that mean that the Self is tainted with impurities even after he has merged into God? It cannot be so because after this dissolution the Self becomes one with all beings; he sees his own extension in all beings. So he acts, not for himself, but for the purification and guidance of other beings. He acts with his mind, intellect and physical organs, but his Self is in a state of actionlessness and constant peace. He appears to be active outwardly, but inside him there is only endless tranquillity. The rope cannot bind any longer because it is burnt out and what remains is only the impression of its twist.

 12. "The sage who sacrifices the fruits of his action to God attains to his state of sublime repose, but the man who desires rewards of action is chained by desire.’’

The man who is blessed with the final outcome of selfless action and who dwells in God-the root of all beings, and who has forsaken desire for the fruits of action because the God who was the goal of his action is no longer distant from him, achieves the state of sublime peace beyond which there is no greater peace and beyond which he will never again know restlessness. But the wayfarer, who is still on his way and attached (he has to be attached because the "fruit" of his action, God, is still unattained) to the consequence of his action, is fettered by it. So desires continue to arise until the moment of attainment, and the worshipper has to be on his guard right till that point. My most revered teacher, Maharaj Ji, used to say, "Mark me, maya prevails if we are even in the least removed from God and he is removed from us." Even if the attainment is to be tomorrow, today the worshipper is at best only an ignorant man. So the questing worshipper ought not to be careless. Let us see what is further said about this.

13. "The man who is in perfect control of his heart and mind, and acts accordingly , dwells blissfully in the abode of his body with its nine apertures because he neither acts himself nor makes others act.’’

The man who is in perfect control of himself and dwells, beyond his body, mind, intellect, and material nature, in his own Self-this man of restraint undoubtedly neither acts nor is a cause of action. Even prompting the men left behind to act does not affect his serenity. This man who has realized his Self and abides in him, and who has subdued all his organs which provide him with objects of physical pleasure, dwells in the ultimate bliss that is God. In truth, thus, he neither acts nor effects any undertaking of action.The same idea is stated differently when Krishn says that God, too, neither acts nor gets any action accomplished. The accomplished teacher, God, the adored one, the realized sage, an enlightened guru, and the endowed one-are all synonymous. No God descends from heaven to accomplish anything. When he functions, he operates through these Self-abiding, reverent, and loving Souls. The body is a mere dwelling place for such a Soul. So the action of the Supreme Self is the same as that of the individual Self, because he acts through him. So, in truth, the Self who has become one with God does nothing even while he is engaged in action. The next-verse is again related to the same problem.

14. "God creates neither action nor the capacity for action, and not even the association of action with its fruits, but at the same time, vitalized by his spirit, it is nature that acts.’’

God makes neither the power of beings to act nor actions, nor does he decide the fruits of action, and all objects and beings act only under the pressure of innate natural properties. One acts according to the three properties, tamas, rajas and sattwa. Nature is vast, but it affects a man only to the extent to which his natural disposition is virtuous or vitiated - divine or devilish.People usually say that it is God who does or gets things done, and we are mere instruments. It is he who makes us do well or ill. But Krishn maintains that God neither acts nor prompts action, and that he also does not produce favourable or unfavourable circumstances. Men act by themselves according to the compulsions of their inborn nature. They are impelled to act by the inevitability of their inherent traits; it is not God who acts. Then why do people say that everything is done by God? Krishn dwells upon the problem.

15. "The all-pervading God, the Glorious One, accepts neither men’s sinful acts nor attachment because their knowledge is enveloped by ignorance (maya)."

The one who has been named God is now described as the Glorious One because he is embellished with sublime glory. That God, all powerful and radiant, accepts neither our sins nor our righteous actions. But people yet say that he does everything, because their knowledge is clouded with ignorance. As yet the men who speak so are only mortal beings, enclosed within bodies. Subject to delusion they can say anything. So Krishn now elucidates the function of knowledge.

16. "But the knowledge of one whose ignorance has been dispelled by Self-perception shines like the sun and renders God brilliantly visible. ’’

The mind, whose darkness has been pierced through by knowledge of the Self and which has thus acquired true wisdom, is lit up as if with the light of the sun and God is clearly manifested to it. This does not by any means imply that God is some kind of darkness, for he is truly the source of all light. He is the fountain of all light, but his light-it appears-is not for us because it is not seen by us. When darkness is swept away by perception of the Self-like the Self, like the sun, the resulting knowledge absorbs hisbrightness within itself. After this there is no longer any darkness. Here is what Krishn has to say about the nature of this knowledge:

17. "Those men attain salvation-after which there is no next birth-whose mind and intellect are free from delusion, who dwell with a single mind in God and put themselves at his mercy, and who are freed from all sin by knowledge.’’

That state is knowledge in which a man dedicates himself wholly to God and is dependent on him, with a mind and an intellect shaped accordingly, and overflowing with his essence. Knowledge is not garrulouness or being argumentative. The man who is endowed with this knowledge attains to salvation and is liberated from physical ties. It is such men who are called pandit, men of profound learning and wisdom. Only a man who has achieved this ultimate state deserves the name of pandit.

18. "Sages who look evenly at a Brahmin, a cow, an elephant, a dog, and even the most despicable of men are blessed with the highest degree of knowledge."

They are realized sages whose sins have been destroyed by knowledge and who have achieved the state in which there is no further birth. And such men regard all creatures impartially, making no distinction between a discerning Brahmin and an outcast, or between a dog and an elephant. In their eyes there is neither any special merit in the wise and learned Brahmin nor any special demerit in the ostracized man. For him neither is a cow holy nor a dog unholy. He does not find any special greatness about a massive elephant. Such men of knowledge are impartial of view and equalminded. Their eyes are fixed not on the skin, on the external form, but on the Soul-the inner essence. The difference is only this: men who know and are reverent to the Self are close to God, whereas others straggle behind. Some have gone a stage ahead, while some are yet lingering behind. Men of knowledge are conscious that the body is but an apparel. So they look at the embodied Soul and attach no significance to the outward form. They do not discriminate. Krishn was a cowherd and he had tended cows. So he should have spoken of this creature in reverential terms. But he has done nothing like that and he concedes no place to the cow in dharm. He has only admitted that like other beings she, too has a Soul. Whatever be the economic importance of cows, their religious elevation is just an invention of the ignorant with enslaved minds. Krishn said earlier that ignorant minds are riven with dissensions, because of which they devise an endless variety of deeds.The eighteenth verse suggests that there are two kinds of sages. First, there are sages whose knowledge is perfect. Secondly, there are sages who are possessed of reverent knowledge. Let us linger for a moment to see how they are different. It is an axiom that everything has at least two stages, the highest-the ultimate stage-and the initial-the lowest stage. The lowest stage of worship is the one at which it is commenced, when it is taken up with discernment, detachment, and dedication, while the highest stage is that at which the final outcome of the act of worship is about to emerge. The same is true of the Brahmin class-the state of sattwa, when there is the advent of properties that provide access to the Supreme Spirit and there is the presence of knowledge and a reverential attitude. At this stage all the faculties that take one to God are spontaneously active within-control of mind, restraint of senses, beginning of the process of intuition-direct perception, steady contemplation, concentration, and abstract meditation. This is the lowest stage of the state that is named Brahmin. Its highest stage is reached when with gradual perfection the Self at last stands face to face with God and is dissolved in him. Now that which had to be known is perfectly known. The sage who has achieved this is the one with perfect knowledge. This sage, who is now beyond rebirth, looks equally at creatures, because his eyes are turned within to see the enshrined Self. So Krishn now describes what is the ultimate lot of this sage:

19. "They who achieve the state of equality conquer the whole world within the mortal life itself, because they rest in God who is also unblemished and impartial.’’

Sages with perfectly poised minds are freed from material nature during their worldly life itself. But what is the relation between an even mind and conquest of nature? When the world itself is annihilated, what is the position of the Self? In Krishn’s view, since God is immaculate and impartial, the minds of sages who have known Him are also freed from all blemishes and inequalities. The sage becomes one with God. This is the ultimate birthless state and it is acquired when the ability to overcome the enemy, the world of appearances, is fully developed. This ability is there when the mind is controlled and when one has achieved the state of equality, for the world of appearances, is but an extension of the mind. Krishn then speaks of the distinctive marks of the sage who has known God and merged into him:

20. ‘That equal-minded man dwells in God who is neither delighted by what others love nor offended by what others scorn, who is free from doubt, and who has perceived Him’’

Such a man transcends feelings of love and hatred. He does not go wild with joy when he gets something which is cherished and admired by others. In the same way, he is also not repelled by what others find distasteful. With such a constant mind, free from doubt, and endowed with knowledge of the divine Self, he always dwells in God. In other words, he is a man of attainment, and-

21. "That man becomes one with God and enjoys eternal bliss who is single-mindedly dedicated to him and whose heart is free from desire for worldly joys."

The man who has renounced desire for the pleasure of objects of the external world attains to the felicity of God. His Self is united with God and the resulting happiness is therefore eternal. But this happiness comes only to him who is unattached to pleasures.

22. "Since the pleasures arising from the association of senses with their objects are a cause of grief and are transitory, O son of Kunti, men of wisdom do not desire them."

Not only the skin, but all senses feel the sensation of touch contact. Seeing is the touch of the eye as hearing is the touch of the ear. Although seeming pleasant to experience, all the enjoyment arising form these contacts of senses with their objects only leads to miserable births. Moreover, these sensual gratifications are also transient and destructible. So Arjun is told that men of discrimination are not entangled in them. Krishn then enlightens him on the evil that is embodied by attachment to these pleasures.

23. "That man in this world is a true and blessed yogi who, even before the death of his mortal body, acquires the ability to withstand the onslaughts of passion and anger, and conquers them for ever.’’

He is the real man (nara=na+raman)-one who is not given to physical dalliance. Even while he is living in the mortal body, he is capable of facing the fierce urges of passion and anger, and of destroying them. He has achieved selfless action in the world and he is happy. He has won the happiness of identity with God in which there is no grief. According to divine ordinance, this happiness is acquired in this mortal, worldly life itself and not after the death of the physical body. This is what Sant Kabir intends to convey when he counsels his disciples to place their hope in this life. The assurance that salvation comes after death is false and given only by unworthy and selfish teachers. Krishn also says that the man who succeeds in overcoming his passion and anger in this life itself is the doer of selfless action in this world, and he is blessed with everlasting happiness. Passion and anger, attraction and repulsion, desire for the touching of objects by the senses, are our mortal enemies whom we have to vanquish and destroy. Krishn again dwells upon the nature of the doer of selfless action.

24. "The man who knows his Self and whose happiness and peace lie within merges into God, and he attains to the final beatitude that lies in him."

The man, who is joyous within, at peace within, and illumined within by his perception of the Self and the identical Universal Spirit, is a realized sage who is united with God and who attains to his ineffable state. In other words, there is first destruction of perversions-alien impulses such as attachment and aversion, then the emergence of perception, and finally submersion in the all-pervading ocean of final beatitude.

25. "They attain to the eternal peace of God whose sins have been destroyed by perception and whose doubts are resolved, and who are single-mindedly concerned with the good of all beings.’’

He is a man of attainment whose sins have been dispelled by his vision of God, whose doubts have been done away with, and who is wholeheartedly devoted to the service of all mankind. Only a man of this elevated state can help others, for how can he who is fallen in a ditch himself help others to get out? So compassion appears as a natural attribute of realized sages and they, with their spiritual perception and conquest of the senses, realize the peace that comes with the final dissolution in God.

26. "Men who are free from passion and wrath, who have conquered their mind, and who have had a direct perception of God, see the all-tranquil Supreme Self wherever they look.’’

Krishn thus repeatedly stresses the distinctive features of the character and life of doers of selfless action in order to motivate and encourage Arjun and, through him, all his other disciples. The question is now almost resolved. To conclude his argument, however, Krishn reverts to the necessity of contemplating the incoming and outgoing breath for the realization of this sage’s state. In Chapter 4, he told us of offering pran to apan, of sacrificing apan to pran, and of the regulation of both the life winds while giving his account of the process of yagya. The same subject is taken up again at the end of the present chapter.

27-28. "That sage is liberated for ever who shuts out of his mind all objects of sensual pleasure, keeps his eyes centered between the two brows, regulates his pran and apan, conquers his senses, mind and intellect, and whose mind is fixed on salvation."

Krishn reminds Arjun of the vital need of excluding from the mind all thoughts of external objects as well as of keeping the eyes fixed steadily between the two brows. Keeping the eyes between the brows does not simply mean concentrating them at something. It is rather that while the worshipper is sitting erect, his eyes should be pointed ahead in a straight line from the midpoint between the brows; they should not wander about restlessly and look right and left. Keeping the eyes aligned with the ridge of the nose- we must be careful that we do not start watching the nose-and balancing pran against apan and keeping the eyes steadily fixed all the while, we should direct the vision of mind, the Soul, to the breath and let him watch it: when does the breath go in, how long is it held-if it is held in for only half a second, we should not try to prolong it by force, and how long does it stay out? It is hardly necessary to say that the name in the breath will ring audibly. Thus when the vision of mind learns to concentrate steadily on the inhaled and exhaled breath, breathing will gradually become constant, firm, and balanced. There will be then neither generation of inner desires nor assaults on the mind and heart by desires from external sources. Thoughts of external pleasure have already been shut out; now there will not even arise inner desires. Contemplation then stands steady and straight like a stream of oil. A stream of oil does not descend like water, drop by drop; it comes down in a constant, unbroken line. Similar to this is the motion of the breath of a sage of attainment. So the man, who has balanced his pran and apan, conquered his senses, mind and intellect, freed himself from desire, and fear and anger, perfected contemplative discipline, and taken refuge in salvation, is ever-liberated. Krishn finally discourses upon where this sage goes after liberation and what he achieves.

29. "Knowing the truth that it is I who enjoy the offerings of yagya and penances, that I am God of all the worlds, and that l am the selfless benefactor of all beings, he attains to final tranquillity."

This liberated man, who knows that Krishn-God of the gods of all worlds-is the recipient and enjoyer of the offerings of all yagya and penances, and that he is the selfless well-wisher of all beings- knowing all this he achieves the ultimate repose. Krishn says that he is the enjoyer of the worshipper’s yagya of inhaled and exhaled breath as well as of austerities. He is the one in whom yagya and penances are at last dissolved and so their doer comes to Him, the ultimate serenity that results from the completion of yagya. The worshipper, liberated from desire by selfless action, knows Krishn and realizes him as soon as he is blessed with this knowledge.

This is named peace; and the one who achieves it becomes God of gods just as Krishn is.


At the beginning of the chapter Arjun raised a question about Krishn’s alternate praise of the Way of Selfless Action and the Way of Knowledge through Renunciation. He wished to know that which, according to Krishn’s considered judgement, is doubtlessly superior. Krishn told him that there is ultimate good in both. In both the worshipper has to perform the ordained act of yagya, but the Way of Selfless Action is yet superior. Without such action there is no end of desire, and of good and evil deeds. Renunciation is the name, not of a means, but of the goal itself. The man of renunciation is a doer of selfless action, a yogi. Godliness is his mark. He neither acts nor makes others act, and all beings are engaged in action only under the pressure of nature. He is the seer-the pandit-because he knows God. God (Krishn) is known as an outcome of yagya. He is the one into whom breath-recitation, yagya, and purificatory rites all merge. He is the tranquillity which the worshipper experiences as an outcome of yagya, that is, with the attainment of this repose he is transformed into a sage like Krishn. Like Krishn and other seers, he also becomes God of gods because he is now one with God. That the coming about of this attainment may take a number of births is a different matter. Chapter 5 has thus elucidated the unique and amazing point that the power that dwells within the sage after his realization of God is no other than the spirit of the Supreme Lord - of the God who is the enjoyer of the offerings of all yagya and penances.

Thus concludes the Fifth Chapter in the Upanishad of the Shreemad Bhagwad Geeta, on the Knowledge of the Supreme Spirit, the Science of Yog, and the Dialogue between Krishn and Arjun, entitled :

‘‘Yagya Bhokta Mahapurushasth Maheshwarah, or ‘‘The Supreme god- enjoyer of Yagya’’

Thus concludes Swami Adgadanand’s exposition of the Fifth Chapter of the Shreemad Bhagwad Geeta in

‘‘Yatharth Geeta’’


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