The Actionless Ātmā
The Steadfastness in Yoga of a Jñānī
yuktaḥ karmaphalaṃ tyaktvā śāntimāpnoti naiṣṭhikīm
ayuktaḥ kāmakāreṇa phale sakto nibadhyate (BG 5.12)
The phrase hita-nirata (engaged in welfare) does not involve merely uttering homilies. It means those who internally resolve to act towards universal welfare and ensure that those resolutions are acted upon externally. It is thus not necessary for a saṃnyāsin to give up activity that yields in the well-being of the world. But such activities have to be performed with an extraordinary mindset. The activity referred to here is interacting with the world – taking from the world and giving back to it.
Prologue to Chapter 5
ಬೋಧಿಸಿದಿದಯ್ ಸಂನ್ಯಸನವನುಮನಾ ದ್ವಿಕದೊಳ್ ।
ಆದೇಶಿಪುದೆಂದು ಬೇಡಿದಂ ಕೌಂತೇಯಂ ।। ೧
bodhisiday saṃnyasana-vanumanā dvikadadoḷ
ādeśipudĕṃdu beḍidaṃ kauṃteyaṃ ।। 1
The son of Kunti implored,
“You taught me the Yoga of action.
You taught me renunciation.
Which of the two paths is better for me?
Please instruct me”
Distinction between karma and akarma
karmaṇo hy-api boddhavyam boddhavyam ca vikarmaṇaḥ
akarmaṇaś-ca boddhavyaṃ gahanā karmaṇo gatiḥ (BG 4.17)
When they ascend the throne, England’s Kings (or Queens) take an oath in front of their subjects that they will follow, preserve, and protect the traditional methods and rules of governance. In India, the President who is in place of the King, takes this oath while swearing in — “I will, to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution and the law.” (Art. 60) Thus, even the highest official of the state is subject to the arrangement accepted by the common people.
The Necessity of Firm Decision
Arjuna, if we analyse from the perspective of the supreme principle, it becomes clear that your doubts are baseless. Be firm about the ātmā. Do not entertain doubts in your mind.
ajñaścāśraddhadhānaśca saṃśayātmā vinaśyati
nāyaṃ loko’sti na paraṃ na sukhaṃ saṃśayātmanaḥ (BG 4.40)
(One who does not know, doesn’t have faith or is filled with doubts in his mind, perishes. A doubtful man can neither live in this world nor the otherworld. He is never happy.)
A person who carries out his duties without considering it an offering, will not even gain the good in this world. Then, how can he obtain a good state in other worlds? Mokṣa is the best among the four cardinal aims of human life. Karma helps achieve dharma, artha and kāma (dharma, wealth, and enjoyment). Even so, karma is the necessary first step for mokṣa. Mokṣa is liberation from the burden of the universe.
Once we say that it is not wrong but only fit and proper to experience pleasure, we have to make all arrangements to obtain it. Sustaining the family, earning a salary for their comfort, taking loans in case there are emergencies and repaying them, giving and taking help, struggling thus in many ways become the duty of a householder.
Śrī Śankarācārya’s instruction is thus –
yogarato vā bhogarato vā saṅgarato vā saṅgavihīnaḥ
yasya brahmaṇi ramate cittaṃ nandati nandati nandatyeva