Ch 18 Yoga of Single-pointed Surrender (Part 12)

This article is part 107 of 134 in the series Jīvana-dharma-yoga

asaktabuddhiḥ sarvatra jitātmā vigataspṛhaḥ |
naiṣkarmyasiddhiṃ paramāṃ saṃnyāsenādhigacchati ||

BG 18.49

The word naiṣkarmya is used repeatedly in the śāstras. It refers to a state of absence of pāpa when there is no activity being performed - a state without anxiety, a state of pure knowledge. For those in this state, karma is not a bondage. It is not that they do not perform karma; but that karma does not bind them anymore. Such people can perform karma - but of their own happy volition. They freely perform action for the welfare of the world, while considering it as their own self. Yajñas such as the agniṣṭoma and the vājapeya described in In our śāstras, building food donation houses, performing vratas, charity, and others are considered to be karma. We have seen that life in its entirety can be considered a yajña in the extended sense of the term. Therefore, by the word karma can be understood both vaidika rites - daily, occasional and desired, and laukika activities. Man has an abundance of sense organs and motor instruments. All these tools have to be used in performing karma as the worship of Īśvara : “svakarmaṇā tamabhyarchya” (having worshipped him by one’s karma). The fruit of one’s karma is the ripening of the manas. It is commonly (and erroneously) thought that the knowledge of the ātmā is a result of śāstric study, intellectual sleights, and feats of logic; and that the knowledge of Brahma arises from scholarship and cerebral gymnastics. For this to happen, however, the mind must mature. Some lentils do not cook easily. One might have to use soda and other agents to hasten the process. The manas, likewise, might have become hard or soft. It is a problem even if it is as hard as a rock or all soft and gloppy. The rock has to be melted and softened while the glop has to be dried and hardened. This is possible only with worldly experience. There is contact with the world during the course of an activity.  During such contact, friction amongst jīvas is inevitable. It is this friction amongst the jīvas that chastens it. The impurities within and without a jīva - anger, desire and other mental imperfections - come out during conflict and inter-jīva friction. The one suffering from indigestion is administered purges by doctors through prescribed medicines. For bodily impurities to leave the body, the alimentary canal must come in contact with medicines and other herbal preparations. Similarly, to purge the impurities of a jīva such as rajas and tamas, there must be friction among jīvas. Through the friction with the world induced through karma, hidden selfīśness and prejudice are uprooted. It is through such friction that a mind is perfected. The manas is the bridge between the jīva and the ātmā. It has therefore been said -

“mana eva manuṣyāṇām kāraṇaṃ bandha-mokṣayoḥ”

Brahmabindūpaniṣad 2

It is the manas through which mokṣa becomes possible; it is the mind that binds. One can proceed in either direction on a bridge. If one goes from this side to the other - it is mokṣa. However, if one comes to this side from the other, it is bondage. The bridge is one - the manas. The manas has to be ripened through the performance of many kinds of activities. Karma therefore should be performed for the purification of the jīva. Śrī Purandaradāsa has sung:

“manava shodhisabeku nicca |
dinadinavu māḍuva pāpa-puṇyada vecca |”

(The mind must be examined every day.
Pāpa and puṇya spent every day must be appraised)

We are usually given to think that we perform activity to attain puruṣārtha (the primary goals of life). Why should we act? To earn a living. Why again do we act? With an expectation that Bhagavān might grant us a little more if whatever we have earned is not enough. There are thus several reasons for our work. It is Bhagavān’s instruction to perform any work as a worship of Īśvara. Such a performance of duty is the path to the knowledge of the ātmā.
The perfection of the jīva does not happen in a vacuum. Karma is performed on the stage of the world and not in an uninhabited place. The impetus for karma comes from interaction with the world. Therefore the jīva has to be ground - much like sandalwood - against the grinding stone of worldly interaction. The chunk of sandalwood yields fragrance when ground well on a moistened grinding stone, giving it fulfilment. The jīva likewise must grind its capabilities against the grindstone of the world wetted with the water of bhakti towards Bhagavān. By grinding thus, the jīva loses its impurities and becomes fit to experience paramātmā. Attaining the ātmā is possible with such effort.

buddhyā viśuddhayā yukto dhṛtyātmānaṃ niyamya ca
śabdādīn viṣayāns tyaktvā rāga-dveṣau vyudasya ca
vivikta-sevī laghv-āśī yata-vāk-kāya-mānasaḥ
dhyāna-yoga-paro nityaṃ vairāgyaṃ samupāśritaḥ
ahankāraṃ balaṃ darpaṃ kāmaṃ krodhaṃ parigraham
vimuchya nirmamaḥ śānto brahma-bhūyāya kalpate 

BG 18.51 - 53

First is “viśuddhayā buddhyā”  - a purified intellect, which here refers to a clear understanding of the following -
That the world is a mixture of the Self and non-Self,
The Self and non-Self in the world
The eternal and the transient in the world
in the buddhi.

Then comes - “dhṛtyātmānaṃ niyamya” - the manas has to be firmly restrained. The refinement achieved by the intellect (buddhi) should not instantaneously evaporate. The attraction from sound, sight and other sense-objects should be resisted to help restrain the mind. One must not fall into the trap of sense organs. The word dhṛti has two meanings - firmness and courage. Both meanings are applicable here. The instruction of the BhagavadGītā is for those who are ready and willing to restrain themselves. For those who think --  “Let our manas, our likes and dislikes, prejudices and passions wander freely. We want complete independence” - the Gītā is not for them. Then comes rāga-dveṣau vyudasya. Vyudāsa refers to discarding something. Karma refers to a relationship with the world. Such a relationship should not involve pride and partiality. How can equanimity result without discarding desires and dislikes? Therefore one must give up both infatuation and enmity in human relationships. Rāga refers to thoughtless infatuation. Whatever mental state is referred to as vyāmoha (infatuation) for unworthy objects is referred to as bhakti (devotion) when the objects involved are worthy.

vivikta-sevī” . Vivikta refers to being away from commotion - living in solitude. One must reflect with and within oneself for the rise of discernment. The same is referred to in a verse attributed to Śrī Śaṅkara - “ekānte sukhamāsyatām” (find joy in solitude). The intent here is to prevent others from distracting the mind. Just as jñāna needs world experience and a desire to understand for its growth, it also needs solitude. We have seen Bhagavān Vyāsa’s words -

“tatastataścoparatiḥ kriyābhyaḥ”

Mokṣadharmaparva, Mahābhārata

(Gradual abstinence from activities)

We have already seen the following in the Gītā.

śanaiḥ śanair uparamed buddhyā dhṛti-gṛihītayā

BG 6.25

The mind has to be often withdrawn from performing activities. This withdrawal has two benefits. The first is the practice of detachment - “This work is not attached to me”. Second, it provides us with an opportunity to reflect upon the good, the bad, and the erroneous in our works. A card player broods after his game, “I should not have played that card, but played the other one instead”. The author, after reading his just published work, analyses - “Ah! I should have written this segment in that way. It would have been better had this paragraph come before that.” Thus, withdrawal from activity helps purify the mind. Constant practice of solitude or withdrawal from activity has two benefits - 1. The practice of detachment 2. An opportunity to analyse the mind.

laghvāśī” : The one intent on meditation should keep his food and sleep light. The brain nods off when the stomach becomes heavy. For the buddhi to be attentive, one must neither be a glutton nor abstain completely from eating; but a moderate eater. The same desired behaviour was earlier referred to as yuktāharavihārasya.  Similarly, body, mind and speech have to be kept in check. Speaking extroverts the mind, which is then dragged hither and thither by the noise and commotion, scattering its attention to bits. The same situation is caused by dwelling upon conundrums and complications encountered during the study of śāstra.  External contact must be shunned and the feeling that one does not need anything must be practised. This indeed is vairāgya (renunciation).
The body requires a few bare necessities. Such facilities, however, should be used as helpers towards gaining īśvara-experience, as mere instruments. Not more. If the mind has to be restrained, unwanted desires and thoughts unrelated to Self-reflection must be given up. With the rise of renunciation, the ego and other mind-games subside.

Parigraha refers to accepting something from others or accumulating something for a rainy day. This is against the spirit of renunciation. As long as there is parigraha, a relationship persists with the world - a feeling of “I” and “mine”. The tranquil one who is without anxiety and feelings of “I” or “mine” becomes fit for the experience of Brahma. What is the need for external security for one who has full faith in Bhagavān? “As Īśvara wills it”, is renunciation. But he who thinks, “Let us exercise caution lest Bhagavān forgets” practises parigraha. “When I am pensioned, my income will be halved. Let me make up for it by accepting bribes” - is parigraha. Thoughts such as, “Let me lead a life with an income earned through just means. If it is not enough for my ghee[1], I do not want ghee”, indicate vairāgya.

To be continued...

The present series is a modern English translation of DVG’s Kendra Sahitya Akademi Award-winning work, Bhagavad-gītā-tātparya or Jīvana-dharma-yoga. The translators wish to express their thanks to Śatāvadhāni R Ganesh for his valuable feedback and to Hari Ravikumar for his astute edits.


[1]Referring to superfluous pleasures



Devanahalli Venkataramanayya Gundappa (1887-1975) was a great visionary and polymath. He was a journalist, poet, art connoisseur, philosopher, political analyst, institution builder, social commentator, social worker, and activist.



Engineer. Lapsed blogger. Abiding interest in Sanskrit, religion, and philosophy. A wannabe jack-of-all.


Mother of two. Engineer. Worshiper of Indian music, poetry, and art.

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