Chapter Five

Karma-Sannyasa Yoga
The Yoga of the Renunciation of Action



sannyasas tu maha-baho duhkham aptum ayogatah
yoga-yukto munir brahma na chirenadhigacchati

O mighty-armed one, without karma-yoga, renunciation is a cause for misery. However, that wise man that performs karma-yoga quickly attains the Absolute Truth.


yoga-yukto vishuddhatma vijitatma jitendriyah
sarva-bhutatmabhutatma kurvann-api na lipyate

One who is pure engages in karma-yoga and controls the mind and senses. Although he engages in action, he is never contaminated and becomes the object of love for all living beings.


naiva kinchit karomiti yukto manyeta tattva-vit
pashyan shrinvan sprishan jighrann ashnan gacchan svapan shvasan

pralapan visrijan grihnann unmishan nimishann api
indriyanindriyartheshu vartanta iti dharayan

One who is a knower of the truth, although he is engaged in seeing, hearing, touching, smelling, eating, moving, sleeping, breathing, talking, evacuating, accepting and blinking the eyes, realizes that all his sense-functions are interacting with the respective sense-objects. Therefore, he thinks, “I am not doing anything.”


brahmany-adhaya karmani sangam tyaktva karoti yah
lipyate na sa papena padma-patram ivambhasa

One who gives up all attachments and acts by offering all his actions unto the Supreme is never contaminated by any impiety, just as a lotus leaf is never touched by water.


kayena manasa buddhya kevalair indriyair api
yoginah karma kurvanti sangam tyaktvatma shuddhaye

By giving up all attachments, the karma-yogi performs actions though the medium of the body, mind, intelligence and senses simply for the purpose of self-purification.


yuktah karma-phalam tyaktva shantim apnoti naishthikim
ayuktah kama-karena phale sakto nibadhyate

The karma-yogi gives up the results of action and attains everlasting peace. The selfish worker however, is attached and desires the results of his actions and thus becomes ensnared.


sarva-karmani manasa sannyasyaste sukham vashi
nava-dvare pure dehi naiva kurvan na karayan

By mentally renouncing all actions, a sense-controlled embodied living being can happily reside within the material body, neither acting nor causing others to act.


na kartritvam na karmani lokasya srijati prabhuh
na karma-phala-samyogam svabhavas tu pravartate

The Absolute Truth does not create anyone’s sense of proprietorship, one’s actions or the result of those actions. All this is enacted by the modes of material nature.


nadatte kasyachit papam na chaiva sukritam vibhuh
ajnanenavritam jnanam tena muhyanti jantavah

The Super Consciousness does not accept anyone’s pious deeds or their impious deeds. Living beings are bewildered because their knowledge is covered by ignorance.


jnanena tu tad ajnanam yeshan nashitam atmanah
tesham adityavaj jnanam prakashayati tat param

Yet for those whose ignorance has been destroyed by knowledge of the self, their knowledge, like the rising sun, reveals the Supreme Truth.


tad buddhayas tad-atmanas tan-nishthas tat-parayanah
gacchanty-apunar-avrittim jnan-nirdhuta-kalmashah

Those whose ignorance has been removed by knowledge, whose intelligence is absorbed in the Supreme, who contemplate the Supreme, who are fixed in Him alone and who sing His glories, never take birth again.

vidya-vinaya-sampanne brahmane gavi hastini
shuni chaiva shvapake ca panditah sama-darshinah

A wise man sees a learned and humble brahmana, a cow, an elephant, a dog, a lowborn person and all other living beings as equal.


ihaiva tair jitah sargo yesham samye sthitam manah
nirdosham hi samam brahma tasmad brahmani te sthitah

The cycle of birth and death has been conquered by those whose minds are fixed in meditating on the Absolute Truth, even while living in this world. Being faultless and possessing divine equanimity, they are situated in the Absolute Truth.


na prahrishyet priyam prapya nodvijet prapya chapriyam
sthira-buddhir asammudho brahma-vid brahmani sthitah

Being situated in the Absolute Truth, having fixed intelligence and devoid of ignorance, one who knows the Supreme never rejoices when he attains pleasant things, nor laments upon attaining unpleasant things.

In verse fifteen the word vibhu has been translated as Supreme Spirit. Vibhu literally means ‘omnipresent’ and this refers to Sri Krishna, the Supreme Conscious Being. When consciousness is omnipresent the conclusion is that it is omniscient also. Omniscient and omnipresent means Krishna. Arjuna however, and other living beings of his status, are called anu or finite. Krishna, the Absolute Truth, is infinite and the living beings are finite.
It is sometimes thought that God, somehow or other, dies for the sins of the world. However, this is not a very intelligent idea, nor is it consistent with the spiritual science found in Bhagavad-gita. Krishna says that He does not cause anyone to perform pious or impious activities and He does not accept the reaction of anyone’s activities. The idea that God dies for our sins is rejected. God is eternal; therefore He cannot and does not die. The living beings are also eternal, but because they are under the bodily concept of life, when the body dies they also experience death – although they actually do not die. Both the Absolute Truth and His parts and parcels are eternal, beyond death.
In verse eighteen the relative vision of equality is expressed for one who is situated in transcendental knowledge. The wise man (pandita) sees all living beings equally, as units of eternal consciousness. The distinction between bodies is only an apparent difference between different living beings. According to the Padma Purana there are 8,400,000 different species of material bodies.

jalaja nava-lakshani sthavara laksha-vimshati
krimayo rudra-sankhyakah pakshinam dasha-lakshanam
trimsal-lakshani pasavah chatur-lakshani manusah

There are 900,000 aquatic species. There are 2,000,000 non-moving species such as trees and plants. There are 1,100,000 species of insects and reptiles and 1,000,000 species of birds. As far as quadrupeds are concerned, there are 3,000,000 varieties and there are 400,000 species of human beings (it is said that the demigods are also included in the species of humans).

The unit of individual consciousness, the atma, transmigrates through these various species from one to the other until eventually reaching the human form of life. This process is known as transmigration, or reincarnation. It is similar to the theory of evolution, but distinctly different at the same time. In the Vedic concept the species of life are not evolving one into the other (though change within species is accepted), rather it is the atma that is evolving in consciousness while transmigrating from one species to the next. In the human form of life, consciousness reaches its completeness through the process of yoga.
Therefore, a wise man does not discriminate between one person and another based on bodily differences. The wise see the atma present in all forms of life and not just in human life.