Chapter 5, Verses 11 to 20 – KARMA VAIRAGYA YOGA
In these ten verses, Bhagavan emphasises that one who performs stipulated actions giving up the desire for results obtains uninterrupted peace; such a person has no attachment, has no doer-ship, is equi-poised and is therefore not affected by sin; whereas a person who performs actions in expectation of fruits of his labour and is obsessed with the results, becomes entangled. One who acts with equanimity and detachment resides happily.
When one is enlightened with the knowledge of the Self, the ignorance is destroyed; that knowledge is like the rising Sun illuminated by the Ultimate Truth. Spiritual knowledge alone destroys ignorance that is why Bhagavan Shri Krishna uses the word ‘jnana’ or knowledge referring to knowledge of the Vedas which gives the awareness of the Ultimate Reality. When one’s intelligence, mind, faith and refuge are all fixed in the Supreme, then one’s dispelled of illusions, and gains complete knowledge and attains liberation.
Bhagavan Shri Krishna gives the means to attain that supra-conscious awareness that illuminates one’s intelligence and leads directly to moksha or liberation from material existence. A person who neither rejoices upon achieving something pleasant nor laments upon obtaining something unpleasant, who is self-intelligent, unbewildered, and who knows the science of uniting the individual consciousness with the Supreme Consciousness, enjoys unlimited bliss.
5.11 Shloka 5.11
कायेन मनसा बुद्ध्या केवलैरिन्द्रियैरपि ।
योगिनः कर्म कुर्वन्ति सङ्गं त्यक्त्वाऽऽत्मशुद्धये ।।5.11।।
Kayena manasa buddhya kevalair indriyair api |
Yoginah karma kurvanti sangam tyaktvAtma-suddhaye ||5.11||
Meaning: The yogis, giving up their attachment, perform actions by the body, mind, intelligence, and the senses, only for the purpose of self-purification.
Bhagavan Shri Krishna explains that those practising karma yoga without desire for the fruits of their action and free from attachment to sense objects, do so solely for the purification of the mind. Such a Yogi is a liberated person even within the material world, although he may be engaged in many of the material activities.
Such a person is fully aware that he is not this body and the actions performed are not by him as these are surrendered to Bhagavan Shri Krishna (Sarvam Sri Krishnarpanam Astu).
Completely devoid of all attachments they perform their natural functions as instruments to achieve self-purification. This renders all bonds asunder that bind the Atma to the Samsara or the cycle of birth and death.
5.12 Shloka 5.12
युक्तः कर्मफलं त्यक्त्वा शान्तिमाप्नोति नैष्ठिकीम् ।
अयुक्तः कामकारेण फले सक्तो निबध्यते ।।5.12।।
Yuktah karma-phalam tyaktva santim apnoti naisthikim |
Ayuktah kama-karena phale sakto nibadhyate ||5.12||
Meaning: One who performs stipulated actions giving up the desire for results obtains uninterrupted peace; whereas a person who performs actions in expectation of fruits of his labour and is obsessed with the results, becomes entangled.
Here Bhagavan is emphasising the importance of equanimity of mind. The merits and demerits of the state of mind with which a person engages in activities are explained. Attachment to the rewards to be gained from one’s actions is the root cause for bondage to the perpetual cycle of birth and death in material existence.
The aspirant of Atma Tattva or self-realisation of the Soul offers all actions unto the Supreme Being. Such a person attains Moksha or liberation and everlasting peace. Whereas the person who performs actions without the spirit of surrendering them to the Supreme is tainted with the blemish of selfishness with the craving for rewards and is unable to relinquish the conception of ego and proprietorship thinking that they are the body and hence, are bound by material existence caught forever in the cycle of birth and death.
The word ‘yuktah’ means one who is united with renunciation. It also denotes detachment where the person performs actions with a single-minded purpose of realisation of the Atma or Soul.
The word ‘ayuktah’ means not united with renunciation and is unmeritorious and tainted. It can also denote desiring mundane material rewards.
5.13 Shloka 5.13
सर्वकर्माणि मनसा संन्यस्यास्ते सुखं वशी ।
नवद्वारे पुरे देही नैव कुर्वन्न कारयन् ।।5.13।।
Sarva-karmani manasa sannyasyaste sukham vasi |
Nava-dvare pure dehi naiva kurvan na karayan ||5.13||
Meaning: One who acts with equanimity and detachment resides happily. Such a person embodied within the body of nine openings, liberated from all dualities, easily overcomes material bondage and is completely liberated.
The Soul lives in the human body which is also referred to as the city of nine gates (representing the nine openings in the human body). The activities of the body, or the figuratively speaking the functioning of this fort with nine gates, is conducted automatically by the different modes of nature.
The Story of Avigyata and Puranjana from Srimad Bhagavatam
There was a King called Puranjana who had a friend known as Avijnata. The King wandered about seeking an abode and arrived at a city with nine gates that was heavily guarded by five walls. In this city he met a beautiful lady surrounded by ten attendants and a five hooded serpent that guarded her. Puranjana left behind his friend Avijnata and went into the fort falling for the lady.
He was lost in sense-enjoyments and had so thoroughly identified his happiness with the queen that he lost all sense of his responsibilities.
One day Puranjana went out on a chariot of two wheels drawn by five horses. He hunted animals to satisfy his appetite for sense-enjoyments. On his return, though his wife was angry with him for abandoning her for a while she was soon pacified and once again she clasps the king in love. Thus, Puranjana lived, without noticing the passage of time. Old age caught up with Puranjana now. Chandavega, the chief of the three-hundred and sixty-five Gandharvas, repeatedly attacked him. But, the great five-hooded serpent guarding the city could succeed in repelling the attack of Chandavega after fighting fiercely for about a year.
Meanwhile, daughter of Kala (Time), sought a husband; but no one accepted her. At last, she approached Bhaya and wooed him; Bhaya offered his army and also his brother Prajwara and induced her to destroy all beings. The army, accompanied by the daughter of Kala and Prajwara attacked Puranjana’s city. The King underwent untold agony due to relentless attack from Kala and her army. When Puranjana’s own home was attacked by the powerful army, this serpent was unable to withstand the onslaught and after a little struggle fled the city.
In the meantime, Prajwara set the city ablaze. Though intensely attached to it, the King had to quit the city. Even at this moment, on account of his intense sense-craving, Puranjana was unable to remember his old friend Avijnata.
He was again born as the beautiful daughter of the King of Vidarbha and King Malalvadhwaja married this Princess. In due time, they got one daughter and seven sons. The Maharaja after entrusting the Kingdom to his sons went to the forest to meditate upon God. The Maharani, too, followed him. After intense penance, he obtained grace of the Lord; and he attained Samadhi.
When the Maharani discovered that only his body remained on earth, while his soul had attained union with the Supreme Soul, she prepared the husband’s funeral and made up her mind to follow her husband.
At that moment, her old friend the Avijnata appeared before her and reminded her that he was her friend birth after birth. He reminded her how, leaving him, she in her previous birth had gone over to the city of nine gates and underwent much suffering. He reveals that he and she are One and One alone.
Purport of the Story
The Jiva is connected to the Unknown, Supreme Soul. After discarding many births as mineral, plant, animals, etc., the Jiva enters into the human body, the Navadwara-Puri. There are five sheaths (Koshas – Annamaya, Pranamaya, Manomaya, Vijnanamaya and Anandamaya) that surround the Jiva here.
Residing in the body it enjoys the pleasures of this world through ten various sense-avenues. Riding the chariot of the body with its two wheels of good and evil, the Jiva performs many actions. The intellect gets reconciled to such actions and thus Jiva and the intellect pass the time. The year consisting of three hundred sixty-five days attack the body; but the five-hooded serpent (five chief-Pranas) repels all attacks and protects the city. But in due time old age overpowers him.
At this time, a powerful army attacks him. It is the army which is led by Time or death, with its attendants (mortal fear and severe fever). The sensuous man who makes merry in various objects of the senses now has to embrace cruel death. The Prana is unable to face this new enemy. It departs. Mortal fever sets the body ablaze. Though unwilling, the Jiva has to quit the body. But on account of infatuation, the Jiva is unable to recognize his kinship with the Supreme Being, God.
Jiva, though beyond gender, takes birth as male or female in accordance with Karma. In this birth, however, the Jiva renounces all desires for sense enjoyment, meditates on the Lord and eventually meets Avijnata, the ParamAtma, who awakens the soul to its pristine glory.
The Soul, although subjecting itself to the conditions of the body, can be beyond the bodily conditions. This can be achieved through constant contemplation and meditation. However, our ignorance identifies our Soul with the material body, and therefore suffers from constant trials and tribulations.
In the Svetasvatara Upanishad, the body with nine gates is described as follows:
Nava-dvare pure dehi hamso lelayate bahih |
Vasi sarvasya lokasya sthavarasya carasya ca ||3.18||
Meaning: It is He who resides in the body, the city of nine gates. He is the soul that sports in the outside world. He is the master of the whole world, animate and inanimate.
A person who realises this knowledge about Self is not bound by the activities of the body and is liberated.
5.14 Shloka 5.14
न कर्तृत्वं न कर्माणि लोकस्य सृजति प्रभुः।
न कर्मफलसंयोगं स्वभावस्तु प्रवर्तते।।5.14।।
Na kartrtvam na karmani lokasya srjati prabhuh |
Na karma-phala-samyogam svabhavas tu pravartate ||5.14||
Meaning: The embodied spirit, master of the city of his body, does not create activities, nor does he induce people to act, nor does he create the fruits of action. All this is enacted by the modes of material nature.
The word ‘prabhuh’ means master or ruler and the Atma or Soul representing an eternal portion of the Supreme Being as the ruler of each physical body. By its eternal nature it is beyond the influence of actions and reactions and resides impervious to them in its own nature.
The living entity is a microcosm of the Supreme Being. However, the living entity is influenced by the modes of material nature and the variety of activities driven by the three Gunas i.e. Rajas, Tamas and Sattva, and their resultant reactions. Living in such a conditioned state, one suffers from the results of the activities performed by the body as one’s own (attachment to actions). It is this ignorance of identifying the soul with the body and consequently all actions of the body is attached to the Soul leading to the suffering and distress, and the unending cycle of rebirth.
As soon as the living entity becomes detached from the activities of the body, it becomes free from the reactions of those actions. Though the living entity appears to be the master of the body, it is neither its proprietor nor controller of its actions and reactions. It is simply stuck in the middle of Samsara Sagara (Ocean) struggling for existence. The waves of the ocean are tossing it, and it has no control over them. Only constant contemplation of the Supreme and meditation can remove this ignorance and lead to salvation.
5.15 Shloka 5.15
नादत्ते कस्यचित्पापं न चैव सुकृतं विभुः।
अज्ञानेनावृतं ज्ञानं तेन मुह्यन्ति जन्तवः।।5.15।।
Nadatte kasyacit papam na caiva sukrtam vibhuh |
Ajnanenavrtam jnanam tena muhyanti jantavah ||5.15||
Meaning: The Supreme Spirit never assumes anyone’s sinful or virtuous activities. However, the living entities, because of their ignorance, are deluded.
Bhagavan Shri Krishna begins stating “nadatte kasyacit papam” meaning that He never accepts the sins of any being. He also never accepts the virtues of any being either. So, He is not connected with any merits or demerits that living entities may incur by their actions. The word “vibhuh” means the omnipresent Supreme who has unlimited knowledge, wealth, strength, courage, fame, splendour and dispassion. He is always satisfied in Himself, not perturbed by sinful or virtuous activities of living entities.
While the living entity pursues activities to fulfil desires, the Supreme Being is not responsible for the actions and reactions of those activities while he may enable the fulfilment of the same. Although He energises all of their activities, yet He remains unaffected by them.
The Supreme Being is the constant companion of the living entity as ParamAtma, and therefore He is an Observer of the actions of the individual Soul. As human beings are endowed with free will and ‘Viveka’ or a sense of discrimination, and they bear full responsibility for their actions and its consequences.
When the sense of discrimination is shrouded by ignorance due to the absence of rightful knowledge, their awareness becomes obscured, and they are deluded resulting in the assumption of responsibility for their actions. This leads to the attachment of the reactions that accompany their actions binding them securely to this Samsara of repeated cycle of birth and death.
5.16 Shloka 5.16
ज्ञानेन तु तदज्ञानं येषां नाशितमात्मनः।
तेषामादित्यवज्ज्ञानं प्रकाशयति तत्परम्।।5.16।।
Jnanena tu tad ajnanam yesam nasitam atmanah ।
Tesam aditya-vaj jnanam prakasayati tat param ।।5.16।।
Meaning: When one is enlightened with the knowledge of the Self, the ignorance is destroyed; that knowledge is like the rising Sun illuminated by the Ultimate Truth.
Spiritual knowledge alone destroys ignorance that is why Bhagavan Shri Krishna uses the word ‘jnana’ or knowledge referring to knowledge of the Vedas which gives the awareness of the Ultimate Reality. Here the word jnana denotes a supra-consciousness experience and it does not mean expertise in intellectual empirical knowledge nor does it mean proficiency in mundane analytical knowledge.
Although the intelligence may be shrouded by the veil of ignorance still it has been seen that there are those whose consciousness becomes awakened upon receiving Vedic knowledge. The veil of ignorance is due to the endless mass of accumulated reactions to previous actions in incessant lifetimes since time immemorial.
Atma tattva or realisation of the Soul and Soul related knowledge derived from the Vedic scriptures and imbibed from the teachings of the spiritual Guru increases virtue and quality in one’s life.
This raises a question then why not circumvent the path of Karma by straightaway renouncing all actions right from the beginning. Bhagavan Shri Krishna says that without karma yoga it is impossible to achieve purity of mind and in the absence of a pure mind it is very difficult and even perilous as learning without a conditioned mind can be disastrous. Whereas when one practices karma yoga and develops a purified mind and is endowed with equanimity that person soon perceives the Brahman and realises the Self.
5.17 Shloka 5.17
Tad-buddhayas tad-Atmanas tan-nisthas tat-parayanah
Gacchanty apunar-avrttim jnana-nirdhuta-kalmasah||5.17||
Meaning: When one’s intelligence, mind, faith and refuge are all fixed in the Supreme, then one’s dispelled of illusions, and gains complete knowledge and attains liberation.
Bhagavan Shri Krishna explains the means to attain that supra-conscious awareness that illuminates one’s intelligence and leads directly to moksha or liberation from material existence.
So, when does true knowledge of the spiritual reality reveal itself? Bhagavan Shri Krishna describes this by beginning with the words ‘tad buddhayas’ meaning when one’s intelligence is focused in Him and whose sinful reactions have been eradicated by spiritual knowledge. One who by the strength of mind has perceived the Atma or Soul within, that person is no longer affected by any of the actions so long as these are performed as duty and as an offering to the Supreme.
The compound word ‘tad-nisthas’ means those who have complete faith in the Supreme refers to those who enthusiastically follow the Vedic culture and perform all that is necessary to attain the Supreme. The compound word ‘tat-parayanah’ means those whose sole noble aim is devotion to the Atma. The cultivation of Vedic knowledge gradually develops consciousness and removes all taint and dross.
5.18 Shloka 5.18
विद्याविनयसंपन्ने ब्राह्मणे गवि हस्तिनि।
शुनि चैव श्वपाके च पण्डिताः समदर्शिनः।।5.18।।
Vidya-vinaya-sampanne brahmane gavi hastini
Suni caiva sva-pake ca panditah sama-darsinah ||5.18||
Meaning: The humble sage, by virtue of true knowledge, sees with equal vision a learned and gentle brahmana, a cow, an elephant, a dog and a meat eater.
Even though there are external differences in the forms among embodied beings including humans, aquatics, animals and plants, the Supreme Bhagavan Shri Krishna is ever present in each and every being as a witness energising them all as the Supreme Soul and from whom a minuscule portion comprises the eternal individual Soul.
Bhagavan Shri Krishna uses the word ‘panditah’ meaning wise or learned, for those who perceive the reality as it is and beholds the nature of the Atma or Soul equally in all beings. From a Brahmin endowed with spiritual knowledge, a cow, a dog or meat eater, all are seen with an equal vision. Such a wise being always perceives the intrinsic nature of the Soul as it is, unaffected by any bodily conception.
The variegated appearances of different species of life is due to prakriti or material nature and not the Atma, which is the Spirit. The compound word ‘sama-darsinah’ meaning equal vision is how those in Atma tattva or Soul realisation regard all Atmas’ residing as being equal due to the essential nature of Atma being eternal and an infinitesimal part of the Supreme Being.
5.19 Shloka 5.19
इहैव तैर्जितः सर्गो येषां साम्ये स्थितं मनः।
निर्दोषं हि समं ब्रह्म तस्माद्ब्रह्मणि ते स्थिताः ।।5.19।।
Ihaiva tair jitah sargo yesam samye sthitam manah |
Nirdosam hi samam brahma tasmad brahmani te sthitah ||5.19||
Meaning: Those whose minds are established in sameness and equanimity have already conquered the conditions of birth and death. They are flawless like Brahman, and thus they are already situated in Brahman.
Equanimity of mind, as mentioned above, is the sign of self-realisation. Those who have actually attained such a stage should be considered to have conquered the material conditions of birth and death.
As long as one identifies with oneself with their body, such a person continues to be attached to a conditioned Soul. But as soon as a person elevates oneself to a state of equanimity through realisation of the Self, that person is liberated from the conditioned cycle of birth and death.
Bhagavan is flawless because He is detached and has no desires or needs nor does he have attraction or hate. Similarly, when a living entity is without attraction or hatred, acts without desires, such a person also becomes flawless and attains liberation.
Bhagavan Shri Krishna uses the word ‘ihaiva’ meaning in this very life to emphasise that those who have equal vision by perception of the Atma or eternal Soul residing equally in all beings attain victory over rebirth and gain moksha or liberation from the material existence.
This is the result obtainable for one situated in the equanimity of perceiving the Atma or Soul as equal in all living entities, they become fixed in the Atma itself. Then one becomes established in the Brahman or spiritual substratum pervading all existence which is indeed victory over Samsara.
5.20 Shloka 5.20
न प्रहृष्येत्प्रियं प्राप्य नोद्विजेत्प्राप्य चाप्रियम्।
स्थिरबुद्धिरसम्मूढो ब्रह्मविद्ब्रह्मणि स्थितः।।5.20।।
Na prahrsyet priyam prapya nodvijet prapya capriyam
Sthira-buddhir asammudho brahma-vid brahmani sthitah ||5.20||
Meaning: A person who neither rejoices upon achieving something pleasant nor laments upon obtaining something unpleasant, who is self-intelligent, unbewildered, and who knows the science of uniting the individual consciousness with the Supreme Consciousness, enjoys unlimited bliss.
The attributes of the self-realised person are given in this verse. The first attribute is that one is not illusioned by the false identification of the body with the true Self. This steadiness of mind is called sthira-buddhi, or self-intelligence. This knowledge elevates the person to attain spiritual knowledge leading to the realisation of the Absolute Truth, namely the Brahman or ParamAtma. This is called Self-realisation.
जय श्री कृष्णा – Jai Shri Krishna!
Hari Om Tat Sat