Karmayoga to KarmaSanyaasa

5th Chapter begins with Arjuna’s question to Bhagavan Shri Krishna that you praise karmayoga and karmasannyas but both cannot be practiced at the same time so please tell me one thing that is good for me.

Bhagavan says that both these paths lead to the same goal. First step is karmayoga and it leads to karmasannyas. From the standpoint of goal there is no difference. But for you karmayoga is better. A person who is sincerely pursuing the path of karmayoga, Bhagavan praises him as sannyasi. One who is steady on the path of karmayoga, his mind becomes slowly and steadily pure. Once the mind becomes pure, that karmayoga itself will lead the person into knowledge and karmasannyas.

Samkhya – knowledge of the Self and yoga – karmayoga are not different. They will take a person to the same goal. But without pursuing the path of karmayoga, if one tries to give up karma and tries to follow karmasannyas then it will not be helpful. Karmayoga is fulfilling our responsibilities as per our station in life (varna and ashram). We should also perform karmas which will connect us to Ishvara. Yajna, dana and tapa karma should be performed as worship of Ishvara. As we do this, our mind will start becoming more and more pure and thereafter we acquire the qualifications which will help us to understand what the scriptures are saying. The qualificatios are vivek, vairagya, shamadamadi shat sampatti and mumukshutvam.

When I listen to scriptures after acquiring this qualification, then I come to know that I, the Atman is free from all modifications. There is no activity happening in that Atman. It is pure existence, consciousness and bliss.The body, mind, senses and intellect continues to function, I come to understand that I am different from what I appear to be. That becomes more and more clear as I contemplate on the statements of the scriptures.I had given you an example of a straight stick. If that stick is dipped half into water it appears bent. When you take the stick out, you see it as straight. Suppose you have seen it straight before dipping it into the water, then even when it is dipped in water and appears bent, you will have the firm understanding that it is straight. It looks contradictory. Eyes see it bent but intellect is convinced that the stick is straight. Similarly, the eyes will continue to see the world. I will continue to see the body, world etc but with the help of scriptural knowledge and my own experience of deep sleep etc, that I, the Self is changeless and free from all modifications. Even thought the activities are happening, I should keep that firm understanding in mind that I am not the doer. When this understanding takes place, I become fit for karmasannyas. Thereafter with the permission of the scriptures I drop actions and pursue the path of gaining more and more understanding and conviction about my own Self and meditating on the Self.

Karmayoga is spiritual sadhana. Many people think that karmayoga is social work. Karmayoga is specific sadhana which will lead us towards moksha. It is not about doing a special type of action.It is about fulfilling our duties, responsibilities and also about developing a relationship with Ishvara and purifying our mind. Karmayoga will lead a person to karmasannyas. What is karmasannyas? What is the sadhana of a karmasannyasi? Bhagavan now tells that briefly…

योगयुक्तो विशुद्धात्मा विजितात्मा जितेन्द्रियः |
सर्वभूतात्मभूतात्मा कुर्वन्नपि न लिप्यते || ७ ||

yogayukto viśuddhātmā vijitātmā jitendriyaḥ
sarvabhūtātmabhūtātmā kurvann api na lipyate 5.7

One who is following the path of yoga – karmayoga sincerely the mind starts becoming more and more pure.  Karmayoga is not only performing duties in right way but with the right attitude. I am the sevak of Ishvara and I am doing all the karmas as my duties. I am not doing these karmas for the result. When I fulfil all my duties with the attitude that it is worship of Ishvara then the mind starts becoming more and more pure. What are the impurities of the mind? Our intense likes and dislikes are the impurities of the mind. These likes and dislikes give rise to various negative emotions like pride, greed, jealousy.

What is the fundamental cause for all these? Ignorance – avidya is the cause. I do not know myself as I am. I assume myself to be something else and because of that I have all sorts of desires.
When I pursue the path of karmayoga, mind becomes free of some of the gross impurities. The basic impurity of ajnana will go only with the knowledge. Ahamkar is the direct result of our ignorance. Ahamkar means having a wrong notion about myself. ‘I am Brahman – Aham Brahmasmi’ – scriptures say. Aham asmi mean ‘I am’. ‘I am’ is the experience of everyone. This itself is not ahamkar. Whatever else I add to ‘I am’ is the ahamkar. I consider myself the body. I don’t say that I am the body but I say I am sitting, I am looking, I am walking. Wrong notion about ‘I’ is ahamkar, which is the direct result of not knowing myself. It is a misunderstanding about self.
This ahamkar gives rise to all sorts of impurities. It gives rise to mamatva. When ‘I’ comes then ‘My’ follows. That gives rise to pride, greed, jealousy and fear. So ahamkar is the root cause of all these negative emotions.

How can we eliminate ahamkar?
Ahamkar is eliminated through knowledge. But we cannot gain knowledge directly. First we reduce the power, energy of this ahamkar by dedicating our life and everything to Ishvara. When I consider that I belong to Ishvara then mamatva goes away. I work for Him. He has given me birth, He has given me this job. I am His sevak. When I firmly develop that attitude in my heart the mind starts becoming more and more pure and negativities will go away. Then I become fit for knowledge.The person who is yogayukta – established in karmayoga becomes fit for knowledge.

What are the other signs of pure mind?
That person will have complete control over his body as well as senses. When our desires come under our control then automatically body and senses will come under our control.Just like in classroom, when there is class teacher in the class room, the children are under control. As though the children have dedicated all their naughtiness to the class teacher. If the teacher tells them to jump then they jump. If the teacher tells them to keep quiet, the children keep quiet. Similarly, when we dedicate ourselves to Ishvara, He becomes like our class teacher. We are under His control. Our mind becomes calm and peaceful.When we don’t believe in Ishvara then the mind goes wild and it is difficult to control mind.

What knowledge does a karmayogi gain? He gains the knowledge that the Self in me is the Self in all. That is the knowledge. Self means ‘I’. When I say ‘I am this body’ I get cut off from other bodies. I consider myself limited. But when I come to know the exact nature of that ‘I’, I will know that the same ‘I’ exists in everyone.

It is like an empty pot which has space within. When we identify that space with the pot, we consider inside space different from outside space. But when we come to understand the exact nature of the space then we realize immediately that the space in this pot and all other pots is same. There is no difference. Similarly, when we come to know the real nature of the Self we will come to know that the Self in me is the Self in all. That is the most fantastic knowledge.

First that knowledge will happen with help of the buddhi. Thereafter we have to meditate and experience it. The person will realize that the Atman in all beings is same.

We can understand this in an easy way. This is not very difficult. I am sitting here and you are sitting there. I think I am different and you are different from the standpoint of my body, mind and intellect. It is different also because I don’t understand your experience. Suppose you went out and ate something but that will not give me any taste. I will have to ask you to know what you ate. When you sleep and experience a dream, again I will not know. I will have to ask you. But if you take deep sleep experience and say that you had slept well like a log, I don’t have to ask you. Your experience of deep sleep and my experience of deep sleep is same. Why? It is so because it is the same Atman. It is the same tattva. The deep sleep state is same that of humans, animals and birds. Our Scriptures say that in my deep sleep state, I become one with Brahman.

Once the mind becomes pure with karmayoga and through the teachings of the scriptures through a teacher, the karmayogi comes to know that the Self in me is the Self in all. This Atman is nirvikari – no modification. No action is performed by the Atman. This person will continue to see body acting, mind feeling or intellect thinking and he will keep the understanding that I am not the doer, I am the nirvikari Self. Even though the actions are happening, he does not get bound by them. Those actions will not create any negative or positive impressions on this person. To make it more clear, Bhagavan now gives examples and sadhana for a karmasannyasi in following two verses…

नैव किञ्चित्करोमीति युक्तो मन्येत तत्त्ववित् |
पश्यञ्शृण्वन्स्पृशञ्जिघ्रन्नश्र्नन्गच्छन्स्वपन्श्र्वसन् || ८ ||

naiva kiṃcit karomīti yukto manyeta tattvavit
paśyañ śṛṇvan spṛśañ jighrann aśnan gacchan svapañ śvasan 5.8

प्रलपन्विसृजन्गृह्रन्नुन्मिषन्निमिषन्नपि |
इन्द्रियाणीन्द्रियार्थेषु वर्तन्त इति धारयन् || ९ ||

pralapan visṛjan gṛhṇann unmiṣan nimiṣann api
indriyāṇīndriyārtheṣu vartanta iti dhārayan 5.9

One, who has gained this knowledge, is called tattvavit. We come to know through the buddhi the real nature of the Self with full conviction. In order to realize the nature of the Self we have to take help of the scriptures. After taking help of the scriptures we should use our rational thinking to understand and get convinced. And finally identify with it with our own experience. We should analyze jagrat, swapna, sushupti experiences, use logic and take help of the scriptures.  With the help of Shruti, yukti, anubhuti we get convinced about our own real nature. It is not just a theory. It is not a vague concept. It is the fact. Once that conviction happens then he transcends karmayoga. Karmayoga is doing something. The notion that ‘I am the doer’ is maintained in karmayoga. In the path of karmasannyas, we have to drop the notion that ‘I am the doer’. Mamatva gets dropped through karmayoga. But  ahamkar – ‘I am the doer’ should be dropped. That is the path for a karmasannyasi. This seeker who has understood the tattva, essence, the nature of the Self becomes karmasannyasi. It is not about giving up action. It is about giving up the wrong notion that I am the doer. Action continues. Body is walking but the wrong notion that ‘I am walking’ should be given up. I should be identified with Atman only and not with anything else. This is the practice for a karmasannyasi.

I, the Self am not doing anything – a tattvavit should continue to have this conviction in his intellect all the time. It is something to say but it is something to understand and maintain that understanding that ‘I am not the doer’.

Sometimes our experience may say something else but we should maintain the right understanding. We see Sun rising in the East and setting in the West every day. Our understanding is that the earth is rotating and Sun is neither rising nor setting. When we are sitting on the earth, we see Sun rising and setting. But if we happen to be on Sun then we will see the rotating earth. It is just a matter of shifting the standpoint. Similarly, when I am sitting in my body, I feel I am acting but when I am established in my Self, I will know that I am not the doer.

Karmasannyas is about sitting in your own Self. Though, the senses will give you different information. It does not matter. We should keep the firm understanding that I am not the doer. This is the practice for a karmasannyasi.

This understanding should be maintained while the activities are happening in the body, mind and intellect. What type of activities? Activities like seeing, listening, touching, smelling, eating, walking, sleeping, breathing, speaking, excreting, holding something or opening and closing the eyes will continue to happen. Eyes continue to see. Atmajnani continues to see the world. With knowledge, no change happens in the outer world or inner world.

My understanding or misunderstanding does not change the object or the world in its absolute sense. All the activities will continue to happen.

He has not yet reached the state of nididhyasana but through shravan and manan he has gained the knowledge so he should maintain that knowledge. He should hold on to that knowledge.

He should keep this thought in his mind that the senses are functioning in their respective sense objects. Elsewhere Bhagavan has said that गुणा गुणेषु वर्तन्ते – the gunas which go to make the body, mind and intellect, they interact with the world which is also made up of the gunas. Senses interact with their sense objects. That is how the activities happen.

Even when the activities are happening, he knows that I am not the doer. This is the practice for karmasannyasi, which will lead him towards the practice of nididhyasana – meditation.

Meditation is not just sitting quietly with closed eyes. Meditation is when we understand that I am not the doer, we have to hold on to that understanding even when the activities are happening. Meditation is not stopping the activities. Dropping the notion that I am not the doer is meditation. This is the practice for a karmasannyasi.

If we are not tattvavit and have not gained the knowledge then we should follow the path of karmayoga sincerely.

Therefore, Bhagavan again tells Arjuna the importance of karmayoga.

ब्रह्मण्याधाय कर्माणि सङ्गं त्यक्त्वा करोति यः |
लिप्यते न स पापेन पद्मपत्रमिवाम्भसा || १० ||

brahmaṇy ādhāya karmāṇi saṅgaṃ tyaktvā karoti yaḥ
lipyate na sa pāpena padmapatram ivāmbhasā 5.10

Bhagavan says that a karmayogi should continue working in this world by dedicating all his actions to Brahman – Ishvara. Brahman alone is called Ishvara when we talk with respect to the world. We do puja and say

कायेन वाचा मनसेंद्रियैर्वा बुद्ध्यात्मना वा प्रकृतैरस्वभावात करोमि यद्यद्  सकलं परस्मै नारायणायेति समर्पयामि|

I am dedicating all these actions to Narayana. What does it mean? Adi Shankaracharyaji says that all the actions should be done like a servant is doing for his master.

Ishvara is our Master and all karmas should be done for Him. Actually all karmas are being done for Him. We should bring that attitude in our mind. Bhagavan Himself has given us this life. Bhagavan has given us the capacity to walk, talk, think, to feel.

We study science and we sometimes go farther from the understanding of nature of our own Self. Science gives answer to question like how a tree grows by talking terms like osmosis and photosynthesis. And they feel Ishvara is not required. But it is not true. This whole world is matter and matter cannot act by itself. It requires intelligence. That intelligence is God.

We see the earth moving and feel that it is moving by some natural law. We do not feel any wonder. But Ishvara is making everything move and function. To that Ishvara we have to dedicate all our actions. We have to dedicate our actions to Ishvara giving up all attachment to action, attachment to the result of action. We have to giveup our attachment to the sense of doership.

He, who does action in this way, he will not get contaminated by any papa – sins. We will not generate any negative vasanas which will bind us more and more to this samsara.

One will become free of all papa like a leaf of lotus. Leaf of lotus remains in water yet water does not affect it in terms of wetting it. The water on the leaf looks like a pearl. The leaf remains untouched by the water. Similarly, a karmayogi remains in the world, performing all actions remaining untouched by the actions like a lotus leaf.

When one does it for a long time, mind will start becoming more and more pure and we will be able to realize our own Self.

This is the path for a karmayogi who has still not understood the real nature of the Self.

कायेन मनसा बुद्ध्या केवलैरिन्द्रियैरपि |
योगिनः कर्म कुर्वन्ति सङ्गं त्यक्त्वात्मश्रुद्धये || ११ ||

kāyena manasā buddhyā kevalair indriyair api
yoginaḥ karma kurvanti saṅgaṃ tyaktvātmaśuddhaye 5.11

Karmayogi performs all the karmas giving up attachment with his body, mind, intellect or with his indriyas. The word kevala is used here to show that he performs all the actions without having the sense of mamatva – sense of possession. He performs actions only for the sake of Ishvara.

There is no attachment with the karma or result of karma or sense of doership. There is no false notion. He performs action for the sake of Ishvara.

He performs these actions for the sake of purification of mind and intellect. He does not have any insistence on any kind of result. Whatever Bhagavan gives is fine for him.  जो चाहे सो कर कृपा तुलसी तेरो है| Tulasidasji says that do whatever you want, I belong to you.

Bhagavan Himself has promised that if you work for me, I will take care of you. We have faith in companies, firms where we work. They take care of many of our worldly needs. Bhagavan has given us a great promise.

अनन्याश्चिन्तयन्तो मां ये जनापर्युपासते| तेषां नित्याभियुक्तानां योगक्षेम वहाम्यहम्|| LIC has copied the last part of the verse but this promise is originally given by Bhagavan to all of us. Bhagavan says I will take care of you. He is there with us even after our death. He is with us from the beginningless time. I will take care of all your needs, you work for me. If anyone praises you, pass it on to Ishvara. If anyone criticizes you pass it on to Ishvara. You are his sevak so your praise is His praise and your criticism is His criticism.

If we praise great Mahatmas, then it goes to Ishvara. If we criticize them then that also goes to Ishvara and we incur sin.

Yogis perform karma for the sake of Ishvara, free from all attachment, only to purify their mind. When our mind becomes pure, we experience the happiness of our own Self. Happiness does not come from outside. It is there within us. We do not experience it because of impurities of our mind.

When the mind becomes pure, we experience happiness, peace and will not have any fear.

युक्तः कर्मफलं त्यक्त्वा शान्तिमाप्नोति नैष्ठिकीम् |
अयुक्तः कामकारेण फले सक्तो निबध्यते || १२ ||

yuktaḥ karmaphalaṃ tyaktvā śāntim āpnoti naiṣṭhikīm
ayuktaḥ kāmakāreṇa phale sakto nibadhyate 5.12

Bhagavan now compares yukta – well-establised in karmayoga and ayukta – not established in karmayoga.  One who is well established in karmayoga gives up attachment to the result of action. We perform action in present but the result comes in the future. Our nature is happiness and peace is in the present. It is not in the future. But if our attention is on the result then our mind will be in future. We will fail to comprehend and experience the Self. A karmayogi is one who is free from the result of actions. He attains supreme peace – shanti of moksha.

Adi Shankaracharyaji writes in his commetary – the karmayogi attains peace in stages. First the mind becomes pure, then he gains knowledge and then sarva karma sannyas happens. Finally he gains abidance in that knowledge and gains the experience of his own Self.

He attains that supreme peace.

What about ayukta? Those who are ignorant and do not follow the path of karmayoga, their life is propelled by desires.

Everyone is working in this world but an ignorant person, who does not follow the path of spirituality, is propelled by different types of kamanas. He is totaly attached to his kamanas.

We have brought a huge stock of desires from our past lives and when we fulfil our desires, we feel happy temporarily. Then again there is disturbance in mind. Then again we strive to fulfil our desires. This goes on and on.

As we fulfil the desires many new desires and wrong notions get generated and a person gets caught up in this samsara.

Bhagavan has thus compared a person who is well-established in karmayoga and an ignorant person.

Till here Bhagavan spoke about karmayoga leading to karmasannyas. Now Bhagavan talks about a realized person.

The person who is well-established in his own Self is called paramarthdarshi – realized person, an enlightened person.

What is the state of an enlightened person? What are his characteristics? They are brought out beautifully in the next verse…

सर्वकर्माणि मनसा सन्न्यस्यास्ते सुखं वशी |
नवद्वारे पुरे देही नैव कुर्वन्न कारयन् || १३ ||

sarvakarmāṇi manasā saṃnyasyāste sukhaṃ vaśī
navadvāre pure dehī naiva kurvan na kārayan 5.13

A person has given up all action through viveka buddhi. The vivek buddhi is seeing that the Self is not the doer. Knowing that I am not a doer is itself called giving up action. Giving up sense of doership is giving up action. Giving up action is not sitting and doing nothing. Actions cannot be stopped, neither by an ignorant person nor by a jnani. The earth will not stop revolving if I gain Self- knowledge.

The Sun will rise and set. The clouds will move in sky. The body will grow. In 3rd chapter, Bhagavan says न ही कश्चिद् क्षणमपि जातु तिष्ठति अकर्मकुत| One cannot remain without action even for a second.

Renouncing the actions is renouncing the sense of doership. He has renounced the wrong notion which he had earlier put on himself that I am performing the action.
He remains happy by having total control over his body, mind and senses. Where does he remain? He remains in the pura – city or kingdom called deha.
This body is like a city with nine gates. The seven gates are the ears, eyes, nostrils and mouth and the two doors are organ of excretion and urination.
The gates, dwaras are those through which we interact with the world. Sitting in this city of nine doors, he is neither doing anything nor propelling any action to happen. As mind becomes pure we will be able to experience this.

We may ask that this is true for an ignorant person and a jnani, both sit in the same city called deha which has nine doors then where is the difference?
Adi Shankaracharyaji says that ignorant person thinks I am the body. He does not think that I am sitting in the body. A wise person knows that I am different from this body. I am sitting in the particular body because of my prarabdha. The jnani is associated with the body as long as the prarabdha lasts. He is not attached to the body. He is not bound to the body.

The wise person knows that I am inside the body, I am subtler than the body, subtler than the pranas. He knows that I am subtler than the mind and intellect.

Vedanta describes panchkoshas – annamaya kosh, pranamaya kosh, manomaya kosh, vijnanamaya kosh and anandamaya kosh.

Jnani knows that I remain happy deep within that anandamaya kosh in my own Self.

– Swami Nikhilananda