by Swami Krishnananda
Anasritah karmaphalam karyam karma karoti yah, sa sannyasi ca yogi ca na niragnir na cakriyah (6.1).
Yam sannyasam iti prahur yogam tam viddhi pandava, na hy asannyasta-sankalpo yogi bhavati kascana (6.2).
Arurukshor mune ryogam karma karanam uchyate, yogarudhasya tasyaiva samah karanam uchyate (6.3).
Yada hi nendriyartheshu na karmasv anushajjate, sarva-sankalpa-sannyasi yogarudhas tadochyate (6.4).
Uddhared atmanatmanam natmanam avasadayet, atmaiva hy atmano bandhur atmaiva ripur atmanah (6.5).
Bandhur atmatmanas tasya yenatmaivatmana jitah, anatmanas tu satrutve vartetatmaiva satruvat (6.6).
Jitatmanah prasantasya paramatma samahitah, sitoshna-sukha-duhkheshu tatha manapamanayoh (6.7).
This Sixth Chapter, which we are commencing now, is a culmination of the very spirit of the first six chapters of the Bhagavadgita. The first six chapters of the Bhagavadgita deal with the discipline of the human individual. It starts with the lowest condition, as is described in the First Chapter, which is a state of conflict. From the state of conflict, the mind is gradually raised to the necessity to have knowledge of a wider perspective of things. Greater and greater detail about this is provided in the Third Chapter; even more detail is provided in the Fourth Chapter, and an even wider detail on the very same theme is given to us in the Fifth Chapter. All these are graduated descriptions of the ascending series of self-discipline that is absolutely necessary to become totally disciplined in one’s own individuality.
Our psychological apparatus is not aligned properly; it is mostly disarrayed. The nonalignment of the psyche consists of various functions – understanding, feeling, willing, etc. – and their not being in a state of mutual collaboration psychologically, splits the personality into fractions. Therefore, a person who is not properly integrated in his psyche behaves differently in different conditions, and one cannot know which mood a person will put on at what time because of the possibility of putting on different contours of behaviour. This is because of the fact that people generally live a fractional life; they never live a whole life. They are either emotionally moody or disturbed in some other way, or they are arrogant due to their understanding and their academic qualification or wealth or power, etc. Under different conditions they behave in different ways, the emphasis being laid on one or another aspect of the mind. This is the characteristic of an undisciplined mind, a mind that has been dissected into little pieces of behaviour and conduct due to a non-aligned personality, a disturbed personality, an undecided personality, a changing personality, an unsettled personality and, finally, an unhappy personality.
This has to be gradually overcome by a process of integrating the so-called fractions of the mind into a gestalt, as it is called in modern psychology, so that all thinking becomes a total thinking. Towards the achievement of total thinking, the chapters gradually take us to higher and higher levels, as a medical treatment gradually moves in an ascending order of treatment from the worst of conditions, which is the illness of a patient, towards a gradual improvement in health, until it becomes total perfect health. The final integration process is described in the Sixth Chapter. We are still only in an individual state. In the first six chapters we are not told what is beyond the individual, as there is no use speaking of what is beyond an individual to an someone who is incapable of receiving this knowledge. What is beyond the individual is not an individual. Therefore, it is not possible for an ordinary split personality to receive knowledge of higher realities that are super-individual. So it becomes necessary to prepare oneself for the reception of this knowledge through graduated training in psychological integration; and the highest integration is achieved through dhyana, or meditation, which is the subject of the Sixth Chapter.
Anasritah karmaphalam karyam karma karoti yah, sa sannyasi ca yogi ca na niragnir na cakriyah. In ancient India, sannyasins were supposed to be in a mature condition, transcending the brahmacharya, grihastya and vanaprastha stages. The grihastha, or the householder, maintains a sacred fire which is to be worshipped by the householder every day. When he takes sannyasa, he no longer worships that fire. This verse says that merely because a person does not maintain a fire, it does not follow that he is a sannyasin. Na niragnir na cakriyah: A sannyasin is supposed to be a person who does not take part in active work of any kind. The verse says that, in this regard, it does not mean that a person is a sannyasin merely because he does not do any work.
In the traditional pattern, there are two characteristics of sannyasa: A sannyasin does not do any work in the ordinary social sense, nor does he worship fire as a householder does. So can one give up doing any work and give up worshipping the fire of the householder and say that one is a sannyasin? Bhagavan Sri Krishna says here that it does not follow that a person is a sannyasin merely because he has given up fire worship and he is not doing any work. The characteristics of sannyasa do not mean non-work, nor do they mean the non-worship of fire. The characteristics of sannyasa are an internal illumination, a maturity of thought and a widening of perspective. It is an internal achievement and not an outward performance.
When a person does not depend on the fruits of an action – anasritah karmaphalam – and yet goes on doing the work for the welfare of the world, he may be considered to be a sannyasin. That is, work does not in any way hinder a person from being a sannyasin; but work hinders if it is done with an ulterior motive for achieving some future fruit. Not depending on the fruit of action, we have to engage ourselves in action. This has been described in detail in the earlier chapters. The duty that is incumbent upon an individual is performed. Duty is a must on the part of every individual. There are different types of duty that are called upon us – physical, psychological, social – and these duties are incumbent on the individual merely because of the fact that the individual exists in an environment which calls for such work or duty.
Therefore, such a person can be called a sannyasi – sa sannyasi – such a person can be called a yogi – sa yogi – who performs duty for duty’s sake and works not with a motive for the fruit. But a sannyasi is not necessarily a person who does not do any work and keeps quiet, nor does sannyasi mean a person who does not perform the rituals of a householder. External dissociation does not mean internal illumination. Yoga and sannyasa are internally connected: yam sannyasam iti prahur yogam tam viddhi pandava. Sannyasa and yoga finally mean one and the same thing in the sense that a person who has not totally withdrawn himself from attachments of every kind, cannot unite himself with the cosmic spirit. The union that we attempt with the cosmic spirit is yoga, but this cannot be attempted unless there is a total detachment of the consciousness of the individual from involvement in external objects. Yam sannyasam iti prahur yogam tam viddhi pandava: Whatever is called sannyasa is also called yoga, and whatever is yoga is also sannyasa. A person who is united with the cosmic reality is automatically detached from every kind of sense contact; and conversely, a person whose consciousness is totally detached from contact with objects is also a yogi because he enters into a wider dimension of experience due to the withdrawal of consciousness from sense contact.
Yam sannyasam iti prahur yogam tam viddhi pandava, na hy asannyasta-sankalpo yogi bhavati kascana. A sannyasin has another quality: he does not will that something has to be done. He has no volition in any particular direction. He does not decide that something should be ‘like this’, and he does not decide that it should not be like this. Such a decision, such a determination, such a wish does not arise in his mind. He has no sankalpa. Sankalpa means a kind of desire-filled determination of the will. As a sannyasin does not have any desire, he cannot have a determination in respect of doing something and avoiding something else. The sannyasin, having withdrawn his self from contact with sense objects, cannot have a desire to decide matters in favour of certain things or against certain other things. Na hy asannyasta-sankalpo yogi bhavati kascana: A person who is asannyasta-sankalpa – that is, a person who has not freed himself from this desire-filled willing in terms of achievements in the world – such a person who has not attained this freedom cannot become a yogi.
We cannot commune ourselves with realities until we are free from contact with unrealities. We cannot attain to the Self until we are free from the clutches of the non-Self. We cannot attain the Atman until we are free from contact with the anatman. We cannot attain the Universal until we are free from clutches of the external. The external and the Universal are opposites, and the externality that characterises ordinary sense perception precludes all possibility of Universal consciousness. Therefore, a person who is not a sannyasi – that means to say, a person who has not freed himself from desire for contact with objects of sense – such a person also cannot become a yogi. This is because yoga is union with Reality, and that is possible only if one is free from the life of unreality which demands attachment to things, etc.
Yam sannyasam iti prahur yogam tam viddhi pandava: “O Pandava Arjuna! Know that whatever is sannyasa, that is also yoga.” Perfect renunciation is the same as perfect attainment. The highest achievement is effected through the highest renunciation. The total withdrawal from contact with externals is automatically contact with the Universal, and contact with externals is automatically an obliteration of the consciousness of the Universal. Thus it is that sannyasa and yoga are identical in their meaning, and one who is not one cannot be the other also – na hy asannyasta-sankalpo yogi bhavati kascana.
Arurukshor mune ryogam karma karanam uchyate, yogarudhasya tasyaiva samah karanam uchyate. This is a very difficult verse whose meaning has been brought out in various commentaries on the Bhagavadgita. Literally this verse means that action is the means to perfection for a person who attempts to practise yoga, and non-action is supposed to be the characteristic of a person who has already attained yoga. This is the literal translation. God, in the form of Bhagavan Sri Krishna teaching the Bhagavadgita, does not propagate non-action, as we have already seen. Therefore, we cannot interpret the word sama as absence of activity, although many a commentator has thought that sama – which means internal tranquility – automatically means withdrawal from external activity. This is what commentators generally say. But we cannot conclude that the word sama, or tranquility – which is supposed to be the characteristic of one who is established in yoga – is opposed to activity or work because throughout the Gita the point is hammered into our ears again and again that inaction does not mean yoga, and inaction does not mean sannyasa. Hence, the state of total perfect establishment in yoga should not necessarily be interpreted as a state of total negativity or absence of action.
The other day I gave you a little homely example of intense activity appearing as no activity at all. The higher forms of activity do not look like the ordinary activities of a labourer in a field. Even in ordinary parlance, a person who is sitting quietly on a chair in an office may be doing greater work than a labourer carrying bricks on the road, although visibly the labourer is doing more work than a person sitting in an office. This is because a person who administrates a big office works in a different way and in a different realm altogether; his actions are of a higher quality, though in quantum it appears as if the bricklayer is more active. As the level of administration rises higher and higher, it may appear less and less active to the onlooker, though in quality it is actually an increase in a person’s responsibility – and responsibility is the same as work.
When a person is beginning to practise yoga, there are preparatory actions of self-purification – arurukshu – which are: sandhya vandana, or the daily worship in the morning and evening; worship of Suryanarayana through surya namaskara, etc.; gayatri japa, etc.; and in the case of a householder, the performance of the pancha mahayajnas and the worship of the holy fire, and charity. All these activities are the visible forms of work that are self-purifying in their nature because these actions are done with no motive for the fruit of action. These actions are done as a perfect duty and, therefore, it purifies the self; and this kind of purifying activity is supposed to be a means to perfection in the case of a person who is attempting to practise yoga.