The Fifth Teaching
The Fifth Teaching
Renounce and Celebrate
Krishna you praise renunciation of action and action; tell me with certainty which is the better of these two.
Renunciation and action both affect the good beyond measure; but of the two, action surpasses renunciation of action. The man of eternal renunciation is one who neither hates nor desires; beyond dualities, he is easily freed from bondage.
Simpletons separate philosophy and action, but the learned do not; applying one correctly, a man finds the fruit of both. Men of action reach the same place that philosophers attain; he really sees who sees philosophy and action to be one.
Renunciation is difficult to attain without action; a sage armed with action soon reaches the infinite spirit.
Armed with discipline of action, he purifies and subdues the self, masters his senses, unites himself with the self of all creatures; even when he acts, he is not defiled.
Seeing, hearing, touching, smelling, eating, walking, sleeping, breathing the disciplined man who knows reality should think I do “nothing at all.”
When talking, giving, taking, opening and closing his eyes, he keeps thinking,
“It is the senses that engage in sense objects.”
A man who relinquishes attachment and dedicates action to the infinite spirit is not stained by evil, like a lotus leaf unstained by water.
Relinquishing attachment, men of discipline perform action with body, mind, understanding and senses for the purification of the self.
Relinquishing the fruit of action, the disciplined man attains perfect peace; the undisciplined man is in bondage, attached to the fruit of his action.
Renouncing all actions with the mind, the masterful embodied Self dwells at ease in its nine-gated fortress-it neither acts nor causes action.
The lord of the world does not create agency or actions, or a union of fruit with action; but his being unfolds into existence.
The lord does not partake of anyone’s evil or good conduct.
Knowledge is obscured by ignorance, so people are deluded.
When ignorance is destroyed by knowledge of the Self, then, like the sun, knowledge illumines the ultimate reality.
That becomes their understanding, their Self, their basis and their goal, and they reach a state beyond return, their sin dispelled by knowledge.
Learned men see with an equal eye a scholarly and dignified priest, a cow, an elephant, a dog, and even an outcaste scavenger.
Men who master the worldly world have equanimity-they exist in the infinite spirit and its flawless equilibrium.
Learned man should not rejoice in what he loves nor recoil from what disgusts him; secure in understanding, un-deluded, knowing the infinite spirit, he abides in it.
Detached from external contacts, he discovers joy in himself; joined by discipline to the infinite spirit, the Self attains inexhaustible joy.
Delights from external objects are wombs of suffering; in their beginning is their end, and no wise man delights in them.
A man able to endure the force of desire and anger before giving up his body is disciplined and joyful.
The man of discipline has joy, delight and light within; becoming the infinite spirit, he finds the pure calm of infinity.
Seers who can destroy their sins, cut through doubt, master the Self, and delight in the good of all creatures attain the pure calm of infinity.
The pure calm of infinity exists for the seer who disarms desire and anger, controls reason and knows the Self.
He shuns external objects, fixes his gaze between his brows and regulates his vital breaths as they pass through his nostrils.
Truly free is the sage who controls his senses, mind, and understanding, who focuses on freedom and dispels desire, fear and anger.
Knowing me as the enjoyer of sacrifices and penances, lord of all worlds, and friend of all creatures, he finds peace.
As I Understand It
In this teaching, renunciation (retirement from all worldly ties and attachments) is contrasted with Karma Yoga, the path of action (working with the world with detachment). Krishna admits that both paths can lead to moksha, spiritual freedom; that when one practices deeply one gains the rewards of both. Yet, he emphasizes the path of selfless action is more direct.
Krishna says that the knowledge of the Self that Sankhya philosophy teaches has the same goal as the selfless action. But it is important that the selfish ego is not gratified from the actions. Those who are resolute in Karma Yoga, those who follow the discipline of action surrender the results of their action and gain perfect peace; the irresolute are attached to the result of everything they do.
A yogi of action does not expect reward or recognition. Evil has no hold on such a man. He is detached from the outcome, good or bad. The true Self within him is not affected. Self leads him beyond rebirth.
The knowledge of the Self (atman) is also the knowledge of the all-pervading, immanent and transcendent Reality (brahman). The illumined person sees this divine essence, the Self, in all beings. Therefore he regards all beings as equal.
The last four verses describe the seer and the state of deep concentration called samadhi. Such a state can be entered only after a long period of meditation and after many years of endeavor. In samadhi a sage has his eyes closed and his vision focused between the eyebrows. He breathes through his nostrils making his in-breath and the out-breath equal. Thus he is in control of his senses and mind. When his meditation becomes deep breathing becomes slow and steady, senses shut off, mind quiets down and primal emotions such as fear, anger and desire subside and eventually leave him. All the sensory and emotional tides cease to flow. The spirit is free. The seer has entered the state of samadhi.
In most serious meditators Samadhi comes and goes. But in extremely rare cases once the state of meditation becomes accomplished the person lives in spiritual freedom or moksha permanently. The most articulate examples of individuals who have attained permanent state of deep concentration are: from the East Upanishadic seers, the Buddha, Mahavira and Shankara, and from the West Meister Eckhart, St. Teresa of Avila and such saints to name just a very few. They are the exemplars of the nature of the union of the Self (atman) with the Ultimate Reality (brahman).
The Bhagavad Gita, Translated for the Modern Reader with general introduction by Eknath Easwaran, chapter introductions by Diana Morrison. Nilgiri Press, Blue Mountain Center of Meditation, California.1996 (1st Pub. 1985).
The Bhagavad-Gita: Krishna Counsel in Time of War, Translation and Introduction by Barbara Stoler Miller. Bantam Doubleday Dell Group, Inc. New York. Bantam Books, 1986.
Bhagavad Gita: A New Translation, Stephen Mitchell, Three Rivers Press, New York, 2000.