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Chapter 5 - The Path Of Renunciation Of Actions
Commentary by Sri Adi Sankaracharya, Translated by Swami Gambhirananda

In the instructions beginning with 'He who finds inaction in action' (4.18), and in, 'he is engaged in yoga and is a performer, of all actions' (ibid.), 'whose actions have been burnt away by the fire of wisdom' (ibid. 19), 'performing actions merely for the (maintenance of the ) body' (ibid. 21), 'Remaining satisfied with what comes unasked for' (ibid. 22), 'The ladle is Brahman, the oblation is Brahman' (ibid. 24), 'Know them all to be born of action' (ibid. 32), 'O son of Prtha, all actions in their totality culminate in Knowledge' (ibid. 33), 'the fire of Knowledge reduces all actions to ashes' (ibid. 37) ending with 'actions do not bind one who has renounced actions through yoga' (abid. 41), the Lord spoke of renunciation of all actions. And in the words, 'take recourse to yoga by cutting asunder with the sword of Knowledge this doubt' (ibid. 42), the Lord has said, 'You undertake yoga consisting in the performance of actions'.

Between these two, viz the performance of actions and renunciation of actions, since there is mutual opposition as between rest and motion, therefore it is not possible for the same person to undertake them together. Nor has it been enjoined that they should be practised at different times. That is to say, should be practised at different times. That is to say, there arises the contigency of having to undertake one of these as a duty. In such a case the one which is more commendable of these two, viz performance of actions and relinquishment of actions, ought to be undertaken, not the other.

Thinking thus and with a view to knowing the one that is more commendable, Arjuna said, 'O Krsna, You speak of renunciation of actions,' etc.

Objection: Is it not that in the verses quoted above, the Lord, intent on elaborating steadfastness in Knowledge, spoke of renunciation of all actions for a knower of the Self, but not for one ignorant of the Self? And consequently, since performance of actions and their renunciation are meant for different persons, therefore the question with a view to knowing the perference of one over the other does not become logical.

Reply: It is true that from your point of view the question is not rational. We say, that, on the other hand, the question is certainly justifiable from the questioner's (Arjuna's) standpoint.

Objection: How?

Reply: In the foregoing passages the emphasis is on the renunciation of actions (not on the agent), because it was intended by the Lord to present that as a duty. But it is impossible to undertake that (renunciation) as a duty unless there is an agent to do so. Therefore, from one point of view, even he who has not realized the Self becomes approved as fit for renunciation. On the other hand, it is not intended that renunciation has to be undertaken only by a knower of the Self.

To Arjuna, who thus thinks that even an ignorant person is entitled to both performance of actions and their renunciation, there is mutual contradiction between the two as shown above. And if one of the two has to be undertaken, the more commendable one has to be preferred, not the other. In this way, the question with the intention of knowing the more commendable one is not unjustifiable. From an ascertainment of the meaning of the answer, too, it is understood that the questioner's intention is just this.

: How?

The answer (of the Lord) is: Renunciation and Karma-yoga lead to Liberation. But among these, Karma-yoga excels (cf : 5.2). The point to be ascertained is this: Is it that after stating the purpose of renunciation and Karma-yoga-which are resorted to by a knower of the Self-to be Liberation, it is being hereby [In verse (cf: 5.2).-Tr.] said (by the Lord) that between those two themselves, the preeminence of Karma-yoga over renunciation of actions is owing to some speciality, or is it that both those [Both those (idea)-that Karma-yoga, too, leads to Liberation, and also that it is superior to renunciation of actions.-Tr.] (ideas) are asserted (by Him) with respect to renunciation of actions and Karma-yoga practised by one who is ignorant of the Self?

Objection: What does it matter if the statement means that Liberation can be attained through renunciation of actions and Karma-yoga practised by one who is ignorant of the Self?

Objection: What does it matter if the statement means that Liberation can be attained through renunciation of actions and Karma-yoga undertaken by a knower of the Self, and that, of them Karma-yoga is superior to renunciation of actions; or that both those (ideas) are asserted in respect of renunciation of actions as well as Karma-yoga resorted to by one ignorant of the Self?

Vedantin: As to this, the answer is: Since it is impossible that renunciation of actions and Karma-yoga can be undertaken by a knower of the Self, therefore, to say that both of them lead to Liberation, and to call his Karma-yoga as superior to renunciation of action-both these positions are absurd. If it were possible for one ignorant of the Self to undertaken renunciation of acitons and its opposite, Karma-yoga consisting in the performance of actions, then the two statements that both of them lead to Liberation and that Karma-yoga is superior to renunciation of actions become justifiable. But in the case of the knower of the Self, since it is impossible to pursue both renunciation of actions and Karma-yoga, therefore, to say that they lead to Liberation and that Karma-yoga is superior to renunciation of actions is illogical.

With regard to this the Opponent says: Is it that renunciation of actions and Karma-yoga are both impossible for a knower of the Self, or that one of the two is impossible? If one of the two be impossible, then is it renunciation of actions or Karma-yoga? And the reason for this impossibility should also be stated.

As to this, the answer is: In the case of the knower of the Self, since there has occured a cessation of false knowledge, Karma-yoga, which is based on erroneous knowledge, will become impossible.

What is being established in various places here in the scripture (Gita), in the various portions dealing with the ascertainment of the real nature of the Self, is this: Having stated that for the knower of the Self, who has realized as his own the Self which is actionless owing to Its being free from all such transfromations as birth etc. and from whom false ignorance [The compound mithyajnana is to be split as mithya ajnana: that which is false and is ignornace.] has been eradicated as a result of full enlightenment, there follows renunciation of all acitons characterized by abiding in the state of identity with the actionless Self, it is then stated that because of the contradiction between correct knowledge and false ignorance, and their results, Karma-yoga-which is opposed to renunciation of actions, which has false ignorance as its basis, which is preceded by the idea of agentship, and which is preceded by the idea of agentship, and which consists in being established in the active-self-is nonexistent for him. This being so, it will be logical to say that Karma-yoga, which has erroneous knowledge for its source, is impossible for the knower of the Self who has become freed from false knowledge.

Objection: In which places, again, dealing with the ascertainment of the true nature of the Self, has been established the absence of actions for the knower of the Self?

The answer to this is: Beginning the topic with, 'But know That to be indestructible' (2.17), the absence of actions in the case of the knower of the Self has been stated in various places such as, 'He who thinks of this One as the killer' (2.19), 'he who knows this One as indestructible, eternal' (ibid.21), etc.

Objection: Is it not that in the various places dealing with the ascertainment of the real nature of the Self, Karma-yoga, too, has surely been expounded, as for instance in, 'Therefore, O descendant of Bharata, join the battle' (ibid. 18), 'Even considering your own duty' (ibid. 31), 'Your right is for action alone' (ibid. 47), etc.? And consequently, how can Karma-yoga be impossible for the knower of the Self?

To this the reply is: Because there is contradiction between right knowledge and false knowledge, and their effects; because, by the text, 'through the Yoga of Knowledge for the men of realization' (3.3), the steadfastness of the Sankhyas, the men who have known the reality of the Self, in the Yoga of Knowledge characterized as dwelling in the state of identity with the actionless Self, has been distinguished from the steadfastness in Karma-yoga which is resorted to by one ignorant of the Self; because, from the fact of his having attained fulfilment, there is no need of any other means for the knower of the Self; and because absence of any other duty has been pointed out in, 'for him there is no duty to perform' (3.17); also because, in 'A person does not attain freedom from action by abstaining from action' (ibid. 4) and 'But, O mighty-armed one, renunciation (of actions) is hard to attain without (Karma-) yoga' (5.6), Karma-yoga has been prescribed as a means to the knowledge of the Self;  and because, with regard to one in whom has arisen full relization, the absence of Karma-yoga has been stated in, '[For the sage who wishes to ascend (to Dhyana-yoga), action is said to be the means.] For that person, when he has ascended to (Dhyana-) yoga, inaction alone is said to be the means' (6.3);  and because, actions other than those needed for the sustenance of the body have been ruled out in, 'he incurs no sin by performing actions merely for the (maintenance of the) body' (4.21);  also because, in the text, 'the knower of Reality should think, "I certainly do not do anything"' (5.8), it is taught with regard to one who has known the real nature of the Self that, keeping his mind absorbed in the Self, he should never have the idea 'I am doing', even in respect of actions such as seeing, hearing, etc. dictated by the need of merely maintaining the body;  and because, in the case of one who has known the reality of the Self, Karma-yoga which is opposed to full enlightenment and is caused by false knowledge cannot be a possibility even in a dream- therefore (for the above reasons), it is only with regard to the renunciation of actions and with regard to Karma-yoga resorted to by one who is ignorant of the self that the statement of their leading to Liberation has been made. And the speciality of (his) Karma-yoga has been spoken of as being easy of performance in comparison with his renunciation of actions which, as distinguished from the renunciation of all actions by the aforesaid knower of the Self, will be partial owing to the persistence of the idea of agentship and will be difficult to be practised along with yama, niyama, [Yama: non-cruelty, forgiveness, truthfulness, harmlessness, control of the body and organs, straightforwardness, love, serenity, sweetness and absence of anger; Niyama: charity, sacrifice, austerity, meditation, study, celibacy, vows fasting, silence and bathing.] etc.

It stands confirmed that even by interpreting the meaning of the Lord's answer in this way, the above-mentioned intention of the questioner (Arjuna) becomes well established.

In the verse, 'If it be your opinion that Wisdom is superior to action' (3.1), when Arjuna, finding that Knowledge and action cannot coexist, asked, the Lord, 'Tell me that which is superior of the two,' He stated His conclusion that steadfastness in the Yoga of Knowledge was taught for the knowers of the Self, the monks, while steadfastness in Karma-yoga was for the yogis.

From the statement that one does not attain fulfilment from mere renunciation (cf. 3.4), it follows that (renunciation) associated with Knowledge is intended as the means to fulfilment. And since Karma-yoga, too, has been enjoined, therefore, with the intention of knowing the distinction between these two to determine whether renunciation devoid of Knowledge is better or Karma-yoga is better, Arjuna asks:

Arjuna said:

1. O Krsna, You praise renunciation of actions, and again, (Karma-) yoga. Tell me for certain that one which is better between these two.

(O Krsna,) samsasi, You praise, i.e. speak of; sannyasam, renunciation; karmanam, of actions, of performance of various kinds of rites enjoined by the scriptures; punah ca, and again; You praise yogam, yoga, the obligatory performance of those very rites! Therefore I have a doubt as to which is better-Is the performance of actions better, or their rejection? And that which is better should be undertaken. And hence, bruhi, tell; mam, me; suniscitam, for certain, as the one intended by You; tat ekam, that one-one of the two, since performance of the two together by the same person is impossible; yat, which; is sreyah, better, more commendable; etayoh, between these two, between the renunciation of actions and the performance of actions [Ast. reads karma-yoga-anusthana (performance of Karma-yoga) in place of karma-anusthana (performance of actions).-Tr.], by undertaking which you think I shall acquire what is beneficial.

While stating His own opinion in order to arrive at a conclusion-

The Blessed Lord said:

2. Both renunciation of actions and Karma-yoga lead to Liberation. Between the two, Karma-yoga, however, excels over renunciation of actions.

Ubhau, both, to be sure; sannyasah, renunciation of actions; ca, and; karma-yogah, Karma-yoga-their performance-; nihsreyasa-karau, lead to Liberation. Though both lead to Liberation by virtue of being the cause of the rise of Knowledge, even then, tayoh, between the two which are the causes of Liberation; Karma-yoga, tu, however; visisyate, excels; karma-sannyasat, over mere renunciation of actions.

Thus He extols Karma-yoga. [Karma-yoga is better than renunciation of actions that is not based on Knowledge.]

Why? In answer the Lord says:

3. He who does not hate and does not crave should be known as a man of constant renunciation.

For, O mighty-armed one, he who is free from duality becomes easily freed from bondage.

That performer of Karma-yoga, yah, who; na dvesti, does not hate anything; and na kanksati, does not crave; jneyah, should be known; as nitya-sannyasi, a man of constant [A man of constant renunciation: He is a man of renunciation ever before the realization of the actionless Self.] renunciation. The meaning is that he who continues to be like this in the midst of sorrow, happiness and their sources should be known as a man of constant renunciation, even though engaged in actions.

Hi, for; mahabaho, O mighty-armed one; nirdvandvah, one who is free from duality; pramucyate, becomes freed; sukham, easily, without trouble; bandhat, from bondage.

It is reasonable that in the case of renunciation and Karma-yoga, which are opposed to each other and can be undertaken by different persons, there should be opposition even between their results; but it canot be that both of them surely lead to Liberation. When such a question arises, this is the answer stated:

4. The fools, not the learned ones, speak of Sankhya (the path of Knowledge) and (Karma-) yoga as different. Any one who properly resorts to even one (of them) gets the result of both.

Balah, the fools; na panditah, not the learned ones; pravadanti, speak of; sankhya-yogau, Sankhya [Sankhya, i.e. monasticism, is that which is suited for sankhya, Self-inquiry.] (the Path of Knowledge) and (Karma-)yoga; as prthak, different, having opposite and different results. The learned ones, the wise, however, admit one, unconflicting result. How? Any one who samyak, properly; asthitah, resorts to, i.e. follows; ekam api, even one, between the Path of Knowledge and (Karma-) yoga; vindate, gets; phalam, the result; ubhayoh, of both. For, the result of both is that Liberation itself. Therefore there is no conflict with regard to the result.

Objection: After beginning the topic with the words, 'renunciation' and '(Karma-) yoga', how is it that the Lord speaks of the identity of the results of the path of Knowledge and (Karma-) yoga, which is beside the point?

Reply: This defect does not arise. Although the question was put by Arjuna merely with regard to renunciation and Karma-yoga, yet the Lord, without actually avoiding them, and by adding something special which was intended by Him, gave the answer by expressing them through other words, 'Sankhya' and '(Karma-) yoga'. Those very 'renunciation and 'Karma-yoga', when they are (respectively) associated with Knowledge and such of Its means as equanimity etc., are meant by the words 'Sankhya' and 'yoga'. This is the Lord's veiw. Therefore there is no discussion out of the context.

How can the result of both be attained by the proper performance of only one? The answer is:

5. The State [Sthana (State) is used in the derivative sense of 'the place in which one remains established, and from which one does not become relegated'.] that is reached by the Sankhyas, that is reached by the yogis as well. He sees who sees Sankhya and yoga as one.

Sthanam, the State called Liberation; yat prapyate, that is reached; sankhyaih, by the Sankhyas, by the monks steadfast in Knowledge; tat prapyate, that is reached; yogaih, by the yogis; api, as well. The yogis are those who, as a means to the attainment of Knowledge, undertake actions by dedicating them to God without seeking any result for themselves. The purport is that, by them also that Stated is reached through the process of acquiring monasticism which is a result of the knowledge of the supreme Reality.

Therefore, sah, he; pasyati, sees truly; yah, who; pasyati, sees; Sankhya and yoga as ekam, one, because of the identity of their results. This is the meaning.

Objection: If this be so, then monasticism itself excels yoga! Why, then, is it said, 'Among the two, Karma-yoga, however, excels renunciation of actions'?

Reply: Hear the reason for this: Having is veiw the mere giving up of actions and Karma-yoga, your question was as to which one was better of the two. My answer was accordingly given that Karma-yoga excels renunciation of actions (resorted to) without Knowledge is Sankhya. This is what was meant by me. And that is indeed yoga in the highest sense. However, that which is the Vedic Karma-yoga is figuratively spoken of as yoga and renunciation since it leads to it (supreme Knowledge).

How does it lead to that? The answer is:

6. But, O mighty-armed one, renunciation is hard to attain without (Karma-) yoga. The meditative man equipped with yoga attains Brahman without delay.

Tu, but, O mighty-armed one; sannyasah, renunciation, in the real sense; duhkham aptum, is hard to attain; ayogatah, without (Karma-) yoga. Munih, the meditative man-the word muni being derived in the sense of one who meditates on the real nature of God; yoga-yuktah, equipped with yoga, with Vedic Karma-yoga in the form of dedication to God without thought of results (for oneself); adhigacchati, attains; brahma, Brahman; na cirena, without delay, very quickly. Therefore it was said by Me, 'Karma-yoga excels'. [Karma-yoga leads to enlightenment through the stages of attenuation of attachment, withdrawal of the internal and external organs from their objects, and their inclination towards the indwelling Self. (Also see Commentary on 5.12).]

The monasticism under discussion is called Brahman because it leads to knowledge of the supreme Self, as stated in the Upanisad, 'Nyasa (monasticism) is Brahman. Brahman is verily the supreme' (Ma. Na. 21.2) Brahman means monasticism in the real sense, consisting in steadfastness to the knowledge of the supreme Self.

7. Endowed with yoga, [i.e. devoted to the performance of the nitya and naimittika duties.] pure in mind, controlled in body, a conqueror of the organs, the Self of the selves of all beings-he does not become tainted even while performing actions. [The construction of the sentence is this: When this person resorts to nitya and naimittika rites and duties as a means to the achievement of fully Illumination, and thus becomes fully enlightened, then, even when he acts through the apparent functions of the mind, organs, etc., he does not become afflected.]

When again, as a means to attain full enlightenment, this person becomes yoga-yuktah, endowed with yoga; visuddhatma, pure in mind; vijitatma, controlled in body; jitendriyah, a conqueror of the organs; and sarva-bhutatma-bhutatma, the Self of the selves of all beings-one whose Self (atma), the inmost consciousness, has become the selves (atma) of all beings (sarva-bhuta) beginning from Brahma to a clump of grass-, i.e., fully illumined; (then,) thus continuing in that state, he na lipyate, does not become tainted; kurvan api, even while performing actions for preventing mankind from going astray. That is to say, he does not become bound by actions.

And besides, this person does not act in the real sense. Hence,

8-9. Remaining absorbed in the Self, the knower of Reality should think, 'I certainly do not do anything', even while seeing, hearing, touching, smelling, eating, moving, sleeping, breathing, speaking, releasing, holding, opening and closing the eyes-remembering that the organs function in relation to the objects of the organs.

Yuktah, remaining absorbed in the Self; tattva-vit, the knower of Reality-knower of the real nature of Truth, of the Self, i.e., the seer of the supreme Reality; manyeta, should think; 'na karomi eva, I certainly do not do; kincit, anything.'

Having realized the Truth, when or how should he think? This is being answered; Api, even; pasyan, while seeing; srnvan, hearing; sprsan, touching; jighran, smelling; asnan, eating; gacchan, moving; svapan, sleeping; svasan, breathing; pralapan, speaking; visrjan, releasing; grhnan, holding; unmisan, opening; nimisan, closing the eyes. All these are to be connected with the above manyeta (should think).

For the man who has known the Truth thus, who finds nothing but inaction in action-in all the movements of the body and organs-, and who has full realization, there is competence only for giving up all actions because of his realization of the nonexistence of actions. Indeed, one who proceeds to drink water in a mirage thinking that water is there, surely does not go there itself for drinking water even after knowing that no water exists there!

10. One who acts by dedicating actions to Brahman and by renouncing attachment, he does not become polluted by sin, just as a lotus leaf is not by water.

On the other hand, again, one who is ignorant of the Truth and is engaged in Karma-yoga, yah, who; karoti, acts; adhaya, by dedicating, by surrendering; all karmani, actions; brahmani, to Brahman, to God; with the idea, 'I am working for Him, as a servant does everything for his master', and tyaktva, by renouncing; sangam, attachment, even with regard to teh resulting Liberation; sah, he; na lipyate, does not get polluted, is not affected; papena, by sin; iva, just as; padma-patram, a lotus leaf; is not ambhasa, by water.

The only result that will certainly accrue from such action will be the purification of the heart.

11. By giving up attachment, the yogis undertake work merely through the body, mind, intellect and even the organs, for the purification of themselves.

Since tyaktva, by giving up sangam, attachment with regard to results; yoginah, the yogis, men of action; kurvanti, undertake; karma, work; kevalaih, merely- this word is to be construed with each of the words, body etc., so as to deny the idea of ownership with regard to all actions-; kayena, through the body; manasa, through the mind; buddhya, through the intellect; and api, even; indriyaih, through the organs, which are devoid of the idea of ownership, which are unassociated with ownership thus: 'I act only for God, and not for my gain'; atmasudhaye, for the purification of themselves, i.e., for the purification of the heart, therefore you have competence only for that. So you undertake action alone.

And also since,

12. Giving up the result of work by becoming resolute in faith, one attains Peace arising from steadfastness. One who is lacking in resolute faith, being attached to the result under the impulsion of desire, becomes bound.

Tyaktva, giving up; karma-phalam, the result of work; yuktah, by becoming resolute in faith, by having this conviction thus-'Actions are for God, not for my gain'; apnoti, attains; santim, Peace, called Liberation; naisthikim arising from steadfastness. It is to be understood that he attains this through the stages of purification of the heart, acquisition of Knowledge, renunciation of all actions, and steadfastness in Knowledge.

On the other hand, however, he who is ayuktah, lacking in resolute faith; he, phale saktah, being attached to result; thinking, 'I am doing this work for my gain'; kama-karena, under the impulsion of desire-kara is the same as karana (action); the action of desire (kama-kara; under that impulsion of desire, i.e. being prompted by desire; nibadhyate, gets bound. Therefore you become resolute in faith. This is the idea.

But one who has experienced the supreme Reality-

13. The embodied man of self-control, having given up all actions mentally, continues happily in the town of nine gates, without doing or causing (others) to do anything at all.

Aste, he continues; sukham, happily; sannyasya, having given up; sarva-karmani, all actions-nitya, naimittika, kamya and nisiddha (prohibited actions); [See note on p. 128.-Tr.] manasa, mentally, through discriminating wisdom-i.e. having given up (all actions) by seeing inaction in action, etc. Freed from the activities of speech, mind and body, effortles, placid in mind, and devoid of all external wants which are different from the Self, he continues happily. This is what has been said.

Where and how does the vasi, man of self-control, i.e. one who has his organs under control, remain? This is being answered: Nava-dvare pure, in the town with nine gates, of which seven [Two ears, two eyes nostrils, and mouth.] are in the head for one's own experiences, and two are below for urination and defecation. As possessed of those gates, it is called the 'town with nine gates'. Being like a town, the body is called a town with the Self as its only master. And it is inhabited by the organs, mind, intellect and objects, like citizens, as it were, which serve its needs and which are productive of many results and experience. Renouncing all actions, the dehi, embodied one, resides in that town with nine gates.

Objection: What is the need of this specification? For all embodied beings, be they monks or not, reside in bodies to be sure! That being so, the specification is needless.

The answer is: The embodied one, however, who is unenlightened, who perceives merely the aggregate of the body and organs as the Self, he, in his totality, thinks, 'I am in a house, on the ground, or on the seat.' For one who experiences the body alone as the Self, there can certainly be no such conviction as, 'I am in the body, like one's being in a house.' But, for one who realizes the Self as distinct from the aggregate of body etc. it becomes reasonable to have the conviction, 'I am in the bdoy. It is reasonable that as a result of knowledge in the form of discriminating wisdom, there can be a mental renunciation of the actions of others, which have been ignorantly superimposed on the supreme Self. Even in the case of one in whom has arisen discriminating wisdom and who has renounced all actions, there can be, like staying in a house, the continuance in the body itself-the town with nine gates-as a consequence of the persistence of the remnants of the results of past actions which have started bearing fruit, because the awareness of being distinct (from the body) arises while one is in the body itself. Form the point of veiw of the difference between the convictions of the enlightened and the unenlightened persons, the qualifying words, 'He continues in the body itself', do have a purpose to serve.

Although it has been stated that one continues (in the body) by relinquishing actions of the body and organs ignorantly superimposed on the Self, still there may be the apprehesion that direct or indirect agentship inheres in the Self. Anticipating this, the Lord says: na eva kurvan, without himself doing anything at all; and na karayan, not causing (others) to do, (not) inducing the body and organs to activity.

Objection: Is it that the direct or indirect agentship of the embodied one inheres in the Self and ceases to be after renunciation, as the movement of a traveller ceases with the stoppage of his movement? Or, is it that they do not exist owing to the very nature of the Self?

As to this, the answer is: The Self by Its nature has neither direct nor indirect agentship. For it was stated, 'It is said that...This (Self) is unchangeable' (2.25). 'O son of Kunti, although existing in the body, It does not act, nor is It affected' (13.31). And it is also stated in the Upanisad, 'It seems to meditate, as it were; It seems to move, as it were' (Br. 4.3.7).

14. The Self does not create agentship or any objects (of desire) for anyone; nor association with the results of actions. But it is Nature that acts.

Prabhuh, the Self; na srjati, does not create; lokasya, for anyone; kartrtvam, agentship, by saying 'Do this'; or even karmani, any objects-such objects as chariot, pot, palace, etc. which are intensely longed for; nor even karma-phala-samyogam, association with the results of actions-association of the creator of a chariot etc. with the result of his work.

Objection: If the embodied one does not do anything himself, and does not make others do, then who is it that engages in work by doing and making others do?

The answer is: Tu, but; it is svabhavah, Nature- one's own (sva) nature (bhava)-characterized as ignorance, Maya, which will be spoken of in, 'Since this divine Maya' (7.14); pravartate, that acts.

But from the highest standpoint-

15. The Omnipresent neither accepts anybody's sin nor even virtue. Knowledge remains covered by ignorance. Thereby the creatures become deluded.

Vibhuh, the Omnipresent; na adatte, neither accetps; kasyacit, anybody's-even a adevotee's; papam, sin; na ca eva, nor even; does He accept sukrtam, virtue offered by devotees. Why then are such virtuous acts as worship etc. as also sacrifices, charity, oblation, etc. worship etc. as also sacrifices, charity, oblation, etc. offered by devotees? To this the Lord says: Jnanam, knowledge, discriminating wisdom; remains avrtam, covered; ajnanena, by ignorance. Tena, thereby; jantavah, the creatures, the non-discriminating people in the world; muhyanti, become deluded thus-'I do; I make others do; I eat; I make others eat.'

16. But in the case of those of whom that ignorance of theirs becomes destroyed by the knowledge (of the Self), their Knowledge, like the sun, reveals that supreme Reality.

Tu, but; yesam, in the case of those creatures; of whom tat ajnanam, that ignorance; atmanah, of theirs-being covered by which ignorance creatures get deluded-; nasitam, becomes destroyed; jnanena, by knowledge, by discriminating knowledge concerning the Self; tesam, their; jnanam, knowledge; adityavat, like the sun; prakasayati, reveals, in the same way as the sun reveals all forms whatever; tat-param, that supreme Reality, the Reality which is the highest Goal, the totality of whatever is to be known.

17. Those who have their intellect absorbed in That, whose Self is That, who are steadfast in That, who have That as their supreme Goal-they attain the state of non-returning, their dirt having been removed by Knowledge.

Tat-buddhayah, those who have their intellect absorbed in That, [Here Ast. reads 'tasmin brahmani, in that Brahman'.-Tr.] in the supreme Knowledge which has been revealed; tat-atmanah, whose Self is That, who have That (tat) supreme Brahman Itself as their Self (atma); tat-nisthah, who are steadfast in That-nistha is intentness, exclusive devotion; they are called tat-nisthah who become steadfast only in Brahman by renouncing all actions; and tat-parayanah, who have That as their supreme (para) Goal (ayana), who have That alone as their supreme Resort, i.e. who are devoted only to the Self; those who have got their ignorance destroyed by Knowledge-those who are of this kind-, they gacchanti, attain; apunaravrttim, the state of non-returning, non-association again with a body; jnana-nirdhuta-kalmasah, their dirt having been removed, destroyed, by Knowledge. Those whose dirt (kalmasa), the defect in the form of sin etc., which are the cause of transmigration, have been removed, destryed (nirdhuta), by the aforesaid Knowledge (jnana) are jnana-nirdhuta-kalmasah, i.e. the monks.

How do those learned ones, whose ignorance regarding the Self has been destroyed by Knowledge, look upon Reality? That is being stated:

18. The learned ones look with equanimity on a Brahmana endowed with learning and humality, a cow, an elephant and even a dog as well as an eater of dog's meat.

Panditah, the learned ones; sama-darsinah, look with equanimity; brahmane, on a Brahmana; vidya-vinayasampanne, endowed with learning and humility-vidya means knowledge of the Self, and vinaya means pridelessness-, on a Brahmana who has Self-knowledge and modesty; gavi, on a cow; hastini, on an elephant; ca eva, and even; suni, on a dog; ca, as well as; svapake, on an eater of dog's meat.

Those learned ones who are habituated to see (equally) the unchanging, same and one Brahman, absolutely untouched by the qualities of sattva etc. and the tendencies created by it, as also by the tendencies born of rajas and tamas, in a Brahmana, who is endowed with Knowledge and tranquillity, who is possessed of good tendencies and the quality of sattva; in a cow, which is possessed of the middling quality of rajas and is not spiritually refined; and in an elephant etc., which are wholly and absolutely imbued with the quality of tamas-they are seers of equality.

Objection: On the strength of the text, 'A sacrificer incurs sin by not adoring equally one who is an equal, and by adoring equally one who is an equal, to himself' (Gau. Sm. 17.20), are not they sinful, whose food should not be eaten?

Reply: They are not open to the charge.

Objection: How?

19. Here [i.e. even while living in the body.] itself is rebirth conquered by them whose minds are established on sameness. Since Brahman is the same (in all) and free from defects, therefore they are established in Brahman.

Iha eva, here itself, even while they are living; is sargah, rebirth; jitah, conquered, overcome; taih, by them, by the learned ones who see with equanimity; yesam, whose; manah, minds, the internal organs; are sthitam, established, made steadfast; samye, on sameness, in Brahman that exists as the same in all beings. It is nirdosam, free from defects. Because of Its existence in such mean objects as an eater of dog's meat, etc., though It is supposed by fools to be affected by the defects of those (objects), still It remains untouched by those blemishes, hi, because It is free from defects. Nor even is It differentiated by Its qualities, since Consciousness is free from qualifications. And the Lord will speak of desires etc. (cf. 13.6 etc.) as the attributes of the aggregate of body and organs, and will also say, 'Being without beginning and without qualities' (13.31). Nor even are there the ultimate distinctions which can create differentiation in the Self, [According to the Vaisesikas, everything is possessed of not only qualities but also of antya-visesa (ultimate distinction), which is a category like substance, quality, action, etc. This distinction makes every entity different from other entities. Thus, individual souls have their own ultimate distinctions by the very fact that they are individuals.

Vedanta denies such a category. Besides, the Self is one and omnipresent. Therefore there is nothing else from which It can be distinguished.-Tr.] because there is nothing to prove that these ultimate distinctions exist in every body.

Hence, samam brahma, Brahman is the same and one. Tasmat, therefore; te, they; sthitah, are established; brahmani, in Brahman Itself. As a result, not even a shade of defect touches them. For they have no self-identification in the form of perceiving the aggregate of body etc. as the Self.

On the other hand, that statement (Gau. Sm. 17.20) refers to the man who has self-identification in the form of perceiving the aggregate of body, (organs) etc. as the Self, for that statement-'A sacrificer incurs sin by not adoring equally one who is an equal, and by adoring equally one who is not equal to himself, pointedly refers to persons who are the objects of adoration. It is indeed seen that in worship, charity, etc. the determining factors are the possession of such special qualities as being 'a knower of Brahman', 'versed in the six auxiliary branches of Vedic learning', and 'versed in the four Vedas'. But Brahman is bereft of association with all qualities and defects. This being so, it is logical that they are established in Brahman. And 'adoring an equal, ....an unequal,' etc. has reference to men of action. [Those engaged in actions with a sense of agentship, etc.-Tr.] But this subject under consideration, beginning from 'The embodied man...having given up all actions mentally' (13) to the end of the chapter, is concerning one who has given up all actions.

Since the Self is Brahman which is without blemish and is the same (in all), therefore-

20. A knower of Brahman, who is established in Brahman, should have his intellect steady and should not be deluded. He should not get delighted by getting what is desirable, nor become dejected by getting what is undesirable.

Brahmavit, a knower of Brahman, as described; sthitah, who is established; brahmani in Brahman- who is not a performer of actions, i.e. one who has renounced all actions; sthira-buddhih, should have his intellect steady-the man of steady intellect is one who has the unwavering, firm conviction of the existence of the one and the same taintless Self in all beings; and further, asammudhah, he should not be deluded, he should be free from delusion. Na prahrsyet, he should not get delighted; prapya, by getting; priyam, what is desirable; na ca udvijet, and surely, neither should he become dejected; prapya, by getting; apriyam, what is undesirable-because the acquisition of the desirable and the undesirable are causes of [Ast.'s reading is 'horsa-visadau kurvate, cause happiness and sorrow' in place of 'harsa-visada-sthane, sources of happiness and sorrow', which (latter) reading occurs in G1. Pr. and A.A.-Tr.] happiness and sorrow for one who considers the body as the Self; not for the one who has realized the absolute Self, since in his case there can be no acquisition of desirable and undesirable objects.

Further, the one who is established in Brahman-

21. With his heart unattached to external objects, he gets the bliss that is in the Self. With his heart absorbed in meditation on Brahman, he acquires undecaying Bliss.

Asakta-atma, with his heart, internal organ, unattached, bahya-sparsesu, to external objects-sparsah means objects that are contacted, viz sound etc.; bahya-sparsah means those things which are external (bahya) and are objects of contact; that person who thus has his heart unattached, who derives no happiness from objects; he vindati, gets that sukham, bliss; yat, which is; atmani, in the Self. Brahma-yoga-yukta-atma, with his heart absorbed in meditation on Brahman-meditation (yoga) on Brahman is brahma-yoga; one whose internal organ (atma) is absorbed in (yukta), engaged in, that meditation on Brahman is brahma-yoga-yukta-atma; he asnute, acquires; aksayam, undecaying; sukham, Bliss.

So, he who cherishes undecaying happiness in the Self should withdraw the organs from the momentary happiness in external objects. This is the meaning.

For this reason also one should withdraw:

22. Since enjoyments that result from contact (with objects) are verily the sources of sorrow and have a beginning and an end, (therefore) O son of Kunti, the wise one does not delight in them.

Hi, since; bhogah, enjoyments; ye samsparsajah, that result from contact with objects, that arise from contact between the objects and the organs; are eva, verily; duhkha-yonayah, sources of sorrow, because they are creations of ignorance. It is certainly a matter of experience that physical and other sorrows are created by that itself. By the use of the word eva (verily), it is understood that, as it happens here in this world, so does it even in the other world. Realizing that there is not the least trace of happiness in the world, one should withdraw the organs from the objects which are comparable to a mirage.

Not only are they sources of sorrow, they also adi-antavantah, have a beginning and an end. Adi (beginning) of enjoyments consists in the contact between objects and senses, and their end (anta), indeed, is the loss of that contact. Hence, they have a beginning and an end, they are impermanent, being present in the intervening moment. This is the meaning. (Therefore) O son of Kunti, budhah, the wise one, the discriminating person who has realized the Reality which is the supreme Goal; na ramate, does not delight; tesu, in them, in enjoyments. For delight in objects is seen only in very foolish beings, as for instance in animals etc.

This extremely painful evil, which is opposed to the path of Bliss and is the source of getting all miseries, is difficult to resist. Therefore one must make the utmost effort to avoid it. Hence the Lord says:;

23. One who can withstand here itself-before departing from the body-the impulse arising from desire and anger, that man is a yogi; he is happy.

Yah saknoti, one who can, is able to; sodhum, withstand; iha eva, here itself, while alive; prak, before; sarira-vimoksanat, departing from the body, till death-. Death is put as a limit because the impulse of desire and anger is certanily inevitable for a living person. For this impulse has got infinite sources. One should not relax until his death. That is the idea.

Kama, desire, is the hankering, thirst, with regard to a coveted object-of an earlier experience, and which is a source of pleasure-when it comes within the range of the senses, or is heard of or remembered. And krodha, anger, is that repulsion one has against what are adverse to oneself and are sources of sorrow, when they are seen, heard of or remembered. That impulse (veda) which has those desire and anger as its source (udbhava) is kama-krodha-udbhava-vegah. The impulse arising from desire is a kind of mental agitation, and has the signs of horripilation, joyful eyes, face, etc. The impulse of anger has the signs of trembling of body, perspiration, bitting of lips, red eyes, etc. He who is able to withstand that impulse arising from desire and anger, sah narah, that man; is yuktah, a yogi; and sukhi, is happy, in this world.

What kind of a person, being established in Brahman, attains Brahman? The Lord says:

24. One who is happy within, whose pleasure is within, and who has his light only within, that yogi, having become Brahman, attains absorption in Brahman.

Yah antah-sukhah, one who is happy within, in the indwelling Self; and so also antar-aramah, has pleasure within-he disports only in the Self within; similarly, antar-jyotih eva, has his light only within, has the indwelling Self alone as his light; [He has not to depend on the organs like ear etc. for acquiring knowledge.] sah yogi, that yogi; yah, who is of this kind; brahma-bhutah, having become Brahman, even while he is still living; adhigacchati, attains; brahma-nirvanam, absorption in Brahman-gets Liberation.


25. The seers whose sins have been attenuated, who are freed from doubt, whose organs are under control, who are engaged in doing good to all beings, attain absorption in Brahman.

Rsayah, the seers, those who have full realization, the monks; ksina-kalmasah, whose sins, defects like sin etc., have been attenuated; chinna-dvaidhah, who are freed from doubt; yata-atmanah, whose organs are under control; ratah, who are engaged; sarvabhutahite, in doing good to all beings-favourably disposed towards all, i.e. harmless; labhante, attain; brahma-nirvanam, absorption in Brahman, Liberation.


26. To the monks who have control over their internal organ, who are free from desire and anger, who have known the Self, there is absorption in Brahman either way.

Yatinam, to the monks; yata-cetasam, who have control over their internal organ; kama-krodha-viyuktanam, who are free from desire and anger; vidita-atmanam, who have known the Self, i.e. who have full realization; vartate, there is; brahma-nir-vanam, absorption in Brahman, Liberation; abhitah, either way, whether living or dead.

Immediate Liberation of the monks who are steadfast in full realization has been stated. And the Lord has said, and will say, at every stage that Karma-yoga, undertaken as a dedication to Brahman, to God, by surrendering all activities [The activities of body, mind and organs] to God, leads to Liberation through the stages of purification of the heart, attainment of Knowledge, and renunciation of all actions. Thereafter, now, with the idea, 'I shall speak elaborately of the yoga of meditation which is the proximate discipline for full realization,' the Lord gave instruction through some verses in the form of aphorisms:

27-8. Keeping the external objects outside, the eyes at the juncture of the eye-brows, and making equal the outgoing and incoming breaths that move through the nostrils, the contemplative who has control over his organs, mind and intellect should be fully intent on Liberation and free from desire, fear and anger. He who is ever is verily free.

Krtva, keeping; bahyan, the external; sparsan, objects-sound etc.; bahih, outside: To one who does not pay attention to the external objects like sound etc., brought to the intellect through the ear etc., the objects become verily kept outside. Having kept them out in this way, and (keeping) the caksuh, eyes; antare, at the juncture; bhruvoh, of the eye-brows (-the word 'keeping' has to be supplied-); and similarly, samau krtva, making equal; prana-apanau, the outgoing and the incoming breaths; nasa-abhyantara-carinau, that move through the nostrils; munih, the contemplative-derived (from the root man) in the sense of contemplating-, the monk; yata-indriya-mano-buddhih, who has control over his organs, mind and intellect; should be moksa-para-yanah, fully intent on Liberation-keeping his body is such a posture, the contemplative should have Liberation itself as the supreme Goal. He should be vigata-iccha-bhaya-krodhah, free from desire, fear and anger. The monk yah, who; sada, ever remains thus; sah, he; is muktah yah, who;sada, ever remains thus; sah, he; is muktah, ever, verily free. He has no other Liberation to seek after.

What is there to be realized by one who has his mind thus concentrated? The answer this is beig stated:

29. One attains Peace by knowing Me who, as the great Lord of all the worlds, am the enjoyer of sacrifices and austerities, (and) who am the friend of all creatures.

Rcchati, one attains; santim, Peace, complete cessation of transmigration; jnatva, by knowing; mam, Me who am Narayana; who, as the sarva-loka-mahesvaram, great Lord of all the worlds; am the bhoktaram, enjoyer (of the fruits); yajna-tapasam, of sacrifices and austerities, as the performer and the Deity of the sacrifices and austerities (respectively); (and) who am the suhrdam, friend; sarva-bhutanam, of all creatures-who am the Benefactor of all without consideration of return, who exist in the heart of all beings, who am the dispenser of the results of all works, who am the Witness of all perceptions.