Daily Readings from the Works of Swami Venkatesananda


Song of God (Bhagavad Gita) - Chapter V: 1-3

April 18, 2019

arjuna uvāca
™saṁnyāsaṁ karmaṇāṁ kṛṣṇa punar yogaṁ ca śaṁsasi
yac chreya etayor ekaṁ tan me brūhi suniścitaṁ (V-1)
śrībhagavān uvāca
™saṁnyāsaḥ karmayogaś ca niḥśreyasakarāv ubhau
tayos tu karmasaṁnyāsāt karmayogo viśiṣyate (V-2)
™jñeyaḥ sa nityasaṁnyāsī yo na dveṣṭi na kāṅkṣati
nirvandvo hi mahābāho sukhaṁ bandhāt pramucyate (V-3)

V/1. Arjuna said: Renunciation of all actions, O Krishna, thou
praisest, and again yoga. Tell me conclusively that which
is the better of the two.

V/2. The blessed Lord said: Renunciation and the yoga of
action, both lead to the highest bliss. But, of the two, the
yoga of action is superior to the renunciation of action.

V/3. He should be known as a perpetual renunciate who
neither hates nor desires. For, free from the pairs of
opposites, O Arjuna, he is easily set free from bondage.

Swamiji's Commentary

CHAPTER V

The Yoga of Renunciation of Action

     The confusion arose over a misunderstanding of verse forty-one of the previous chapter! The word ‘saṁnyᾱsa’ meant (and means even now to the narrow-minded, orthodox bigot) giving up of all activities and enjoyments. Enjoyment was supposed to cause attachment and action provided the fuel to keep the wheel of karma revolving. To talk of saṁnyᾱsa and activity in the same breath was obviously a contradiction in their eyes.

      The famous story of queen Cūḍālā in The Yoga Vāsiṣṭha brings out the kernel of renunciation graphically. Renunciation should be of that which is ‘mine’. Worldly objects belong to the world; renouncing them would be like the beggar in South India renouncing his claims to the throne of England: they do not exist! Attachment to worldly activities may be replaced by attachment to so-called spiritual activities, with no real spiritual benefit! If a king enjoys his cup of wine, a mendicant might sip a cup of milk with equal pleasure! Patañjali warns us that even the ‘bliss’ of savikalpa samādhi is an extremely subtle substitute for sense-pleasure. Real renunciation is abandonment of egoistic acceptance and rejection, love and hatred, likes and dislikes. Real renunciation is renunciation of the only thing that ‘belongs to me’ viz., ignorance, the foolish ideas of
‘I’ (in relation to the body) and ‘mine’ (in relation to the objects of the world).

      Longing and aversion both spring from false values. By giving both up one is freed from their bondage while remaining active.

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