In the last chapter ज्ञानकर्मसंन्यसयोग: Sri Krishna continued his discourse on karma and dealt with VarNa dharma.
In this chapter on सन्यासयोग: our Lord while continuing his discourse on karma touches on aasrama dharma (the four stages of life) while insisting on the superiority of Knowledge.
In Chapter 3 Karma the scriptural actions and In Chapter 4 rites and duties and Knowledge were discussed.
In this Chapter and the next Krishna educates Arjuna further on action and its renunciation.
In the 3rd chapter, when Arjuna asked, ‘..if it be your opinion that Wisdom is superior to action’ etc. the Lord concluded, ‘…among these people two kinds of steadfastness were spoken of earlier by Me’ etc. that since there cannot be an option between or a combination of Knowledge and action (in the same person), therefore they have to be assigned according to the differences in the persons competent for them.
To explain: Action, which is within the competence of an ignorant man, cannot be combined with Knowledge, because like light and darkness they cannot coexist and because Knowledge is opposed to action since Knowledge removes the idea of differences that is the source of competence for actions. For example ‘I am Aatman’ is a knowledge that will remove the idea ‘I am a Brahmana’ which is a karma-based understanding.
Nor can it be treated as an alternative (to Knowledge), since it does not have the same goal in view.
Actions cannot cause the destruction of ignorance, which destruction is clearly an effect of Knowledge only.
Sruti says: तमेव विदित्वा अतिमृत्युमेति नान्यः पन्था विद्यतेऽयनाय – By knowing Him alone one goes beyond death; there is no other path to go by. (Svetasvatara Upanishad 6.15)
However when Knowledge has emerged, there remains no necessity of performance of any action. This has been said in, ‘(As the extent of need (is fulfilled) in a well’ (etc.) (2.46). And thus it has been concluded beyond dispute in the 4th Chapter that, this has been a settled fact that a man of Knowledge has no eligibility for actions, either his performance of them (actions) in the form of purposeless movements proceeds under the influence of प्रारब्ध कर्म or there is total renunciation of all actions.
But actions have to be performed by an ignorant person for the emergence of Knowledge through the purification of the mind. Sruti says: तमेतं वेदानुवचनेन ब्राह्मणा विविदिषन्ति यज्ञेन दानेन तपसानाशकेनैतमेव विदित्वा मुनिर्भवति । – The Brahmins seek to know It through the study of the Vedas, sacrifices, chastity, and austerity consisting in a dispassionate enjoyment of the sense objects. (Br.U. 4.4.22)
And as it follows from the words of the Lord “O son of Prtha, all actions in their totality culminate in Knowledge. (BG 4.33).
Thus all works are meant for knowledge. So also the renunciation of all actions is stated in the Srutis are meant for Knowledge:
एतमेव प्रव्राजिनो लोकमिच्छन्तः प्रव्रजन्ति । Desiring this world of the Self alone, the sanyasis renounce their homes (Br.U 4.4.22).
तस्मादेवंविच्छान्तो दान्त उपरतस्तितिक्षुः समाहितो भूत्वात्मन्येवात्मानं पश्यति सर्वमात्मानं पश्यति नैनं पाप्मा तरति सर्वं पाप्मानं तरति नैनं पाप्मा तपति सर्वं पाप्मानं तपति – Therefore he who knows it as such becomes self-controlled, calm, withdrawn into himself, enduring and concentrated, and sees the Self in his own self (body) (Br.U 4.4.23)
By the man of renunciation alone is That to be known–the supreme State that is the inmost Self of the man of renunciation. (Bhaallaveya Sruti)
One should search for the Self by renouncing (empirical) truth and untruth, happiness and sorrow, the Vedas, this world as also the other. (Apasthamba Dharma Sutra 2.9.13)
Renunciation of actions on the one hand and their performance of actions on the other, cannot be combined.
It is because they cannot be simultaneous on account of being opposed to each other.
The instrumentality of action, indeed, consists only in producing the unseen result known as अदृष्ट in the form of dissipation of sins.
But the instrumentality of renunciation consists verily in the production of the tangible result in the form of providing opportunity for विचार (inquiry) by eliminating distractions.
The अपूर्व (the unseen result) produced from a नियम विधि however, cannot be the motivating cause for action.
Therefore when विविदिष (eagerness for attaining Knowledge) becomes firm as a result of intense dispassion after the purification of the mind by first performing selfless actions with an attitude of dedication to Easwara, one must take to renunciation of all actions for the sake of विचार (inquiry) in the form of श्रवण (hearing), मनन (contemplation) etc. on the upanishadic texts. This is the view of the Lord.
And so it has been said “A person does not attain freedom from actions by the non-performance of actions (BG 3.4).
And it will be said later in BG 6.3: “For the sage who wishes to ascend to yoga, action is said to be the means. For that very person, renunciation of all actions is said to be the means when he has ascended to yoga.” The word yoga here means विविदिष preceded by intense dispassion.
Thus has it been said by the author of Vartika: “The study of the Vedas etc. are for achieving विविदिष for the inmost Self. But so far as the realization of Brahman is concerned, they are to be renounced on the strength of the Sruti.”
There is also the Smriti: “From rites and duties follow dissipation of attachment, aversion etc. But Knowledge is the final Goal. When attachment, aversion etc becomes dissipated through rites and duties, then Knowledge dawns.” (Mahabharata Mokshadhrma Parva 255.38)
In Santi Parva also it is said: “After dissipating attachment, aversion etc. in the three stages of life viz. Brahmacaarin, Grihasta and Vanaprastha, one should resort to sanyasa or monasticism which is the highest state.” (237.3)
“Someone whose mind has become pure after his organs have been sanctified by passing through many kinds of births in this world attains moksha (meaning dispassion) even in the first stage of life.” (Santi Parva 313.26)
“For one desirous o the highest goal, who after having attained that dispassion has renounced the world and has found it purposeful, what need can there be of the next (three stages of life)? (ibid 27)
One becoming a sanyasi after passing through the preceeding three stages on a gradual basis is known as a karma-sanyasi. One who directly proceeds to sanyasa from his brahmacharyam is known as Akarma-sanyasi
In Yaagnyavaalkya Upanishad it is said: After finishing the stages of celibacy one should become a householder. From being the householder he should repair to the forest and thereafter espouse monasticism. Or if it happens otherwise, one should become a monk from the stage of celibacy itself, or from the stage of householdership or from the forest.One should resort to monasticism the very moment one has dispassion.
Therefore performance of rites and duties must be there for the unenlightened person so long as he has not gotton dispassion.
For that very person himself, when he has attained the state of dispassion, there follows monasticism for the purpose of enlightenment, by way of providing opportunity sravana etc. Thus the fifth and sixth chapters are begun with a view to explaining that action and its renunciation are meant as applicable to an unenlightened person according to his different states. As for vidvat-sanyasa (renunciation of all actions, monasticism, as a result of Enlightenment), however, it is not discussed here because it comes spontaneously through the power of Knowledge and hence is beyond doubt.
When on this matter, since action and its renunciation are enjoined on the same seeker of Knowledge for the sake of enlightenment, and since it is impossible to practice them simultaneously because of their incompatibility, which one should be undertaken by me who am a seeker of Knowledge. Having this doubt in mind Arjuna asks:
Our discourse will continue in part 3 in the next session.