Chapter 5 - Karma Vairagya Yoga
Chapter 5, Verse 1
Arjuna has a doubt in mind like many of us. He asks Lord Krishna to clarify his earlier statements
- what exactly he meant by actions done to achieve self-realization and
- what exactly he meant to renunciate actions and achieve self-realization.
In chapter 4.39 Lord Krishna explains that a person can achieve self-realization on the strength of his faith and knowledge, in 4.42 Lord Krishna says a person has to do works with knowledge to attain results. So Arjuna asks what is the best path to achieve self-realization by doing works or just by attaining knowledge/.
Chapter 5, Verse 2
Sri Krishna replies to Arjuna’s dilemma. He says that karm yog is better than karm Sanyas. He says both the paths lead to the supreme goal, but if we compare the two, the path of karma yoga is superior because in the first path -Karma sanyas, there is only benefit to the individual, where as in the second path there is benefit to both the individual and also to the society because of the actions of the person.
In karma Yog there is practical application of knowledge gained in real life and performing karma yoga benefits the society because the person will be working for the benefit of others, without any individual gain.
Also, in one of the earlier sloka Lord Krishna clearly says that work is always better to renunciation. The pat of renunciation looks very attractive because its easy to leave the society and go to the forests to do tapas away from human beings. It’s a big challenge to be in the midst of human beings and work for the society without any rewards. All the teachings of Lord Krishna will be tested when the person is working. Applying the teachings of Lord Krishna if a person can work then liberation is guaranteed.
Chapter 5, Verse 3
This is a powerful sloka of Geetha. Here Lord gives the definition of a renunciate. He says whoever is free of desire and hatred towards fruits of action is a renunciate. We need not go to forests by renouncing all the work. We need to be neutral to the fruits of work. If we get a promotion or if we get praised by the boss we should be neutral to it in the same way when we get scolded by the boss. We should not take things personally but try to introspect where the issue is.
Lord Krishna also says that that person is said to be liberated who is free from dualities. All the things which restrict freedom of a person are supposed to cause bondage. Liberation is coming out of bondage. Bondage is caused by attachment. Attachment to the comforts and desires of the mind, the mind will not allow us to take rational decisions in life. If we overcome love -hatred, praise-criticism, comfort-no comfort, heat-cold, then we can say we are free of bondage.
Chapter 5, Verse 4
Clearing Arjuna’s doubt further he says both Karma Yog and Karma Sanyasa are the same and they both yield the same result. The point Lord Krishna is emphasizing in both the Slokas is that the ultimate objective of any practice is being free from dualities and being free from attachments. A person may renunciate everything, go to forests and sit in the cave and think about all the material comforts of life, thinks about attachments of life, then he is not a renunciate. In the same way, a person doing work for himself, expecting rewards and fruits of the work is not getting liberated but going deep into bondage.
In the same way in sanyas or in action if a person is free from bondage and is equanimous to the outcomes then the person is liberated and both paths are the same which lead to liberation.
Chapter 5, Verse 5
Lord Krishna again reiterates that life of a person in action and life of a renunciate is the same as long as they concentrate on supreme self. This is most important, with what motive an action is being undertaken. If the motive is for personal good then the results are something different and if the motive of renunciation is escaping from the action then results will be something different.
It is clearly stated that both the paths are same as long as the motive of both remains the same. It is like two different paths leading to one destination. A person who understands this will choose his path as per his qualities and situations.
It is clear from this para that “type of motivation” which lies in mind is the root cause for a particular type of action
Chapter 5, Verse 6
Lord Krishna again places emphasis on Karma Yog in this sloka. He says practice of renunciation and not practicing yoga(Unification of individual soul with supreme soul) will lead to distress. He will be neither here nor there. Person in Himalayan caves if he thinks about the riches, comfort is neither here nor there. IN the same way we should perform karma yog absorbing ourselves with the supreme soul. We may get a doubt, as how to get ourselves absorbed in supreme consciousness when doing work? Lord Krishna says we should get completely absorbed in the work we are doing and we should not do the work for our benefit but we should be self-less. We should not think how this work will benefit us, we should only think about work and nothing else when we are doing the work.
Chapter 5, Verse 7
A person engaged in Yoga (whose consciousness is absorbed in supreme consciousness), who is able to control his mind, intellect and who is able to control the senses is able to see himself in others.
If we see the arrangement of words we find that we should first conquer the senses, then we should conquer the intellect and mind. Finally, if we can control the senses, mind, intellect then we can reach the state of Yoga. Once the state of Yoga is reached a person can see his soul in every soul. A person can see that all things in the world are made up of the same material. Modern scientific findings say we are all made up of the same material, Carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen and some materials. Also, if we take human beings we find that we all have the same number of chromosomes 46. Just the arrangement of genes on those chromosomes differ.
This realization is possible by science but if we want to see this, personally then we should control our mental and physical faculties first then the time can energy can be utilized for our growth so that we see the reality.
Chapter 5, Verse 8
This is a powerful sloka of Geetha. Lord Krishna says that a person with knowledge will feel that he is not the person doing the work. The senses are doing the work and he is separate from the senses. Thus he tries to control the senses because he is separate from the senses. We all see this happening in the real world. We get so much attached to the senses that we feel that life is what the senses see and feel. Life is beyond those feelings and to experience those great feelings we should work with the attitude of separation from work.
Chapter 5, Verse 9
Like the action of eyelids which are constantly functioning but we do not know they are working. In the same way many organs in the work but we do not know they are working. Similarly, we should work in the world and we should not know we are working. This will happen only when we are completely absorbed in the work we are doing. Complete absorption is possible if we work, dedicating the work to the supreme and not ourselves.
Chapter 5, Verse 10
For easy understanding lord, Krishna gives the example of Lotus leaf in water. Lotus leaf though it is in water, the water does not touch it. In the same way for the actions rendered by complete absorption in the supreme lord, sins will not touch them. Now we know that if do the action for the action sake and not affected by external situations then we are not affected by the fruits of the work.
Chapter 5, Verse 11
Lord Krishna gives a powerful advice to us, that we should perform actions to purify ourselves. He says that we should do actions with the body, mind, intellect separating ourselves from the work and getting absorbed in the work totally. There should be the complete absorption of ourselves in the work so that there should be a union of ourselves with the work. This act should be performed without any attachment to the work.
Chapter 5, Verse 12
The person who performs actions without worrying about the results of the actions will attain peace. In the present world, we are always driven by results. Though it is a good way to improve, it will not lead to perfection and increases frustration about not getting results and we may abandon the pursuit.
We should work with an attitude of constantly perfecting the processes of the work, and results are bound to come and not keep results before us and perfecting the processes.
The sloka requires a paradigm shift in our thinking in the way we work and in the results-driven world.
Chapter 5, Verse 13
In this sloka, the cause for happiness is given. If happiness is the effect, then the cause of it is the renouncing of results based activities mentally. A person whose physical body is within the boundaries of nine openings is happy when he thinks he is not the actual person who is doing the work and free from thinking he is the actual cause of any work.
The feeling of I am doing the work will lead to ego and attachment to the work. Attachment to the work will lead to stress which in turn will lead to unhappiness. The feeling of work being dedicated to the supreme and doing the work will lead to happiness.
A person who has renounced the ego will be happy because now he is doing the work for the supreme and he is process oriented and not result oriented.
Chapter 5, Verse 14
This is an excellent sloka by Lord Krishna. He says that he is the lord of the world and he works with non-detachment to run this world. He also says that he is not responsible for the actions of people. We keep on blaming the God that we didn’t achieve results because he did not help. We usually pray to God when we face difficulties thinking he will help us.
We always heard that “human beings are their own masters”. Now I understand why it was said so. We should help ourselves to improve our lives. Taking an example from nature, taking an example from God how perfectly he runs the systems in the world.
Chapter 5, Verse 15
Lord Krishna reaffirms that he is not touched by the sins of the people and also the virtues of people. The actions of the people remain in the material world and people are responsible for their actions.
This Sloka explains why people perform sins or actions that bind them to the material world. The reason is simple. As long as the person is ignorant or doesn’t know what the truth is, he will be committing actions that bind him to actions.
The purpose of human beings is to endeavor to clear the veil of ignorance. Ignorance covers knowledge like ash covers the fire. We should clear the ignorance first, gain knowledge and work for the betterment of humanity.
Chapter 5, Verse 16
In this sloka, Lord Krishna gives assurance that ignorance can be removed. Some people remove the ignorance through constant practice. Knowledge is like a sun illuminating the whole space of ignorance. If ignorance is darkness, then knowledge is the light that we can use to come out of the darkness. That’s why a lot of emphases is placed on educational institutions, which transfer the knowledge and remove the ignorance of people.
We should read subject philosophy to gain more knowledge about various thought process scholars has about human beings. Also, knowledge can be self-taught through rigorous inquiry and be searching for answers as to what exactly is the truth.
Chapter 5, Verse 17
People whose intellect is directed to ultimate truth (Intellect is one part of the mind, the decision maker in mind), whose atman (soul) is directed towards ultimate truth, whose faith is directed towards ultimate truth, when a person is completely absorbed in the work he is doing then such a person reached the ultimate truth fast with his sins washed away by the knowledge.
Here four qualities are mentioned for the person who wants to know the truth
- He should have faith. (earlier in one sloka also faith as a prerequisite is mentioned)
- He should direct his intellect. Intellect is the decision maker in the mind. So, it makes the final call as to what action has to be pursued and what activity is not being pursued.
- He should direct his soul. We have seen that the soul of a person is the ultimate enjoyer of whatever acts we are doing. So, if we direct our activities to the ultimate truth then the soul will reap the benefits of knowing the truth.
- Complete absorption in the activity (The activity of search for truth) a person does.
Thus, we can see that with the four qualities the person can attain knowledge which will wash away his ignorance.
Chapter 5, Verse 18
A person who gets the knowledge and the veil of ignorance is gone then he will develop a vision or insight that will allow him to see all living things equally in the world.
Knowledge gives vision to a person. This vision helps to discriminate from the plain vision what a person sees. We may see with our eyes that things are different like a cow may be different from a dog or elephant. A well-learned person may be different from a lower person. But a person who has the vision of knowledge sees all of them equally.
This is the power of knowledge it gives us the vision to see the reality and helps us not to get swayed by the superficial differences.
Chapter 5, Verse 19
This is a sloka of hope. Lord Krishna gives hope that those who are situated in equanimity will achieve paradise/heaven in this very life and they need not wait until the next birth. The only qualification given is equanimity. Equanimity to pain and pleasure people will experience the happiness in this present world. There is one more sub qualification added here. It is along with equanimity, people should be absorbed in the absolute truth whatever it is. If they are absorbed in the absolute truth, then they become free from samsara. That means the results of the work here on earth do not matter to them. They keep working completely absorbed in the absolute truth.
Thus it is clear that these two qualities, equanimity, and absorption in the absolute truth will take out the person from this world and make him experience paradise in this very life.
Will we not lose our concentration if we concentrate on absolute truth when we are doing work? It is meant here that you get completely absorbed in the work you are doing, whenever there are some distractions remember whether that will take you closer to your work or away from your work. If a person is absorbed in complete truth always then it will be easier for the intellect to take decisions, otherwise, a lot of willpower need to be generated to take decisions. Right decision making becomes easy if we are absorbed in ultimate truth.
Chapter 5, Verse 20
Continuing the qualifications Lord Krishna adds two more qualifications. Sthira buddhi means steadfast intellect. And assamudho: free from delusions.
Sthirabuddhi means there is no confusion in the mind of a person as to what is absolute truth. He is not confused into where the actual happiness is. Is it in the present world in the interactions with people/objects or is it inside a person living a life of virtue. I think that once the person has a fixed intellect, then decision making is easy. There will not be confusion as to which path to pursue, which bridge to burn and which bridge to pursue. Things become clear if the mind is steadfast. Also, the person should be free from delusion. He should not be under the illusion of Maya. He should be able to differentiate between things of Maya and things of truth. A person having these qualifications and when he is absorbed in the ultimate truth, then he doesn’t feel bad when bad things happen to him or feels happy when pleasurable things happen to him. He basically becomes equanimous.
Chapter 5, Verse 21
This sloka is the essence of Gita and a very powerful one. Those Who are not attached to external sense objects realize divine bliss with the self.
A person who is not happy with himself cannot make the world a better place. Why shouldn’t we be happy with our own self? If a person realizes the ultimate truth/ultimate meaning of life and starts doing things accordingly he can be happy. If a person is happy he can make the world a better place.
Lord Krishna says such people who seek ultimate truth/meaning of life see unending happiness though uniting meaning of life with self.
Chapter 5, Verse 22
To support the earlier sloka Lord Krishna gives another Jewel of wisdom. He says all things which are external, which people seek usually have a starting and an end. They give pleasure in the beginning and they give pain once they end. There is no sense object in the world which can give happiness forever. All external things are transitory. So, if a person rests his happiness on those objects, then he will derive pleasure for some days and after some time the pleasure ends. It has been the quest of mankind to find unending happiness. The answer is within the man himself and not on any external object.
Lord Krishna also says that the sense objects though seem to give pleasure, in the beginning, they ultimately cause misery. For unending happiness, we have to look at a person and find answers as to what causes ultimate happiness and pursue those activities that will lead to happiness. We usually confuse happiness as something that makes a person laugh all the time, be jovial, behave like an extrovert etc. Those may be some symptoms of happiness. I feel lack of sorrow is happiness. If we are not feeling sad that state is called happiness and it can be achieved by leading an active life completely absorbed in ultimate meaning of life.
Chapter 5, Verse 23
Here it is said again that a person need not wait for the next life or any other life to free himself from the samsara. It can be done in this very birth itself. A person who is freed from the desires and anger caused by frustration of non-fulfillment of desires will neutralize himself from the physical, emotional and emotional stresses of the life. This will ultimately cause happiness in the mind of the person.
The words free from desire and anger is again repeated in this sloka. Desire is the root cause of all stress in life. If we leave desires then stress will not be there.
Chapter 5, Verse 24
A person who withstands the urges of desire and anger will be happy. Now lord Krishna says how a person can be happy from within. It is said that a person is happy if the person evokes the knowledge of “self” within himself. A person who is withdrawn from pleasures of external world will be happy if he starts looking within himself. When a person is immersed in the self and who sees self in all external objects, and practicing yoga ( trying to unite self-consciousness with universal consciousness) ultimately attains the knowledge which will lead him to the real truth.
Chapter 5, Verse 25
Another core activity of people who are called “Rishi” is given here. They are those set of people whose sins have been eradicated or removed or become weak, whose doubts have been dispelled about absolute truth, and are actively involved in the welfare of others. Such type people as they are involved in welfare, they attain the Brahma- nirvana, which is the realization of absolute truth.
Chapter 5, Verse 26
In this sloka Lord Krishna again gives affirmation that it is quite possible to realize the absolute truth in this very world. He says it is not only possible in the present world but also carried to the next existence.
The prequalifications are, the person should subdue his/her mind and should be free from desire and anger. The concept of desire and anger keep repeating most of the time in Geetha and every time whenever they come, Lord Krishna requests us to be free of them.
Chapter 5, Verse 27, 28 & 29
We spoke a lot about liberation. Liberation from karma, liberation from samsara life etc. In this sloka, Lord Krishna talks about what actually liberation means and how it is attained. Liberation means freedom. Freedom from desires, and its accomplices, anger, greed, comforts. Freedom from the wants of the brain. Freedom from external sense objects. If we can free our brain from external sense objects and desires for them, that is freedom.
After freeing the mind from these desires, we concentrate our mind on the breath, and between the eyebrows so that the mind can focus on our self and start the journey of yoga. In the journey of yoga, a person slowly inches forward towards unification of self to ultimate consciousness.
The recipe for liberation is given here in a simple way. Freeing from senses and concentrating inward and working steadfastly.
Also in sloka 29, Lord Krishna adds, if people are working then they should work as if they are doing like a Yagna. the yagna and austerities of yagna ( read work ) should be offered to him and not to themselves. If people offer their work to the lord then the stress will vanish in people and peace will come to them.