The Steadfastness in Yoga of a Jñānī
yuktaḥ karmaphalaṃ tyaktvā śāntimāpnoti naiṣṭhikīm
ayuktaḥ kāmakāreṇa phale sakto nibadhyate (BG 5.12)
The word “yukta” here means yoked or harnessed to yoga or being steadfast in yoga. A jñānī, having performed action, gives up its fruit. We realise quite soon that it is not easy to do so. But it is not that rare either. When can a planter of a coconut palm see its fruit? The planter of the tree is different from the caretaker who is again other than the enjoyer of the fruit. The planter plants the tree for the good of the people. Just as the seed of pāpa is in our nature, the seed of puṇya too is within us. The intent of the Gītā is in amplifying this tendency for good in us. The goodness within us must be expanded. The one who does that obtains peace from being steadfast (“śāntimāpnoti naiṣṭhikīm”). “Naiṣṭhikīm” refers to that which results from niṣṭhā (being established in something). Just as it is said elsewhere –
(Mokṣa or final liberation is declared for one who is established in It).
Tranquillity results from being fully established in something. One has to be devoted or be established in at least one thing. Partial trust in Āyurveda, and believing a little in Unani or allopathy is how our belief is usually spread across different things. The one who is not established in yoga “kāmakāreṇa phale sakto nibadhyate” is bound because he is attached to the fruit of acting according to his desire. Such a person acts differently in every moment according to his whims. ‘Kāmakāra’ (acting according to one’s whims) is the opposite of being established in yoga. That indeed is deviating from the right path. One who acts according to his caprices cannot attain tranquillity. His interest is only in the fruit of the moment. His ‘niṣṭhā’ or steadiness is in a flux and he thus attains no peace. He is then ‘nibadhyate’ – bound by his actions.
The Meaning of the Word Karma
The word ‘karma’ has multiple meanings. There is no reason to single out sat-karma (good karma) here. The phrase “brahmaṇyādhāya” (surrendering in Brahma) is used here. There can be no “duṣkarma” (bad karma) during the remembrance of Brahma. Good karma can be of two kinds – scriptural or śāstrīya works and worldly works. Śāstrīya works pertain to those rituals such as yajñas and yāgas that are prescribed in the śruti or smṛti. Both śāstrīya and worldly actions are referred to by the word karma. All of this karma has to be surrendered to Brahma. The remembrance of Brahma must pervade all these works. There must be no trace of personal desire. The one who does that - lipyate na sa pāpena - is not tainted by demerit. Demerit accrues in the presence of ego. Therefore “saṅgaṃ tyaktvā” (abandoning attachment) has been used to qualify the performance of action - specifically, abandoning attachment to ‘me’ and ‘mine’. Who then is responsible for the action? “Brahmaṇi ādhāya” – the jñānī delegates all responsibility to Brahmā.
The same is expressed in the statement – “yuktaḥ karmaphalaṃ tyaktvā” (the one in Yoga having given up the fruit of action). Here “ayuktaḥ” means the one who has not yoked his mind to Bhagavān. ‘Kāmakāreṇa’ – the one who acts capriciously. Such a person is phale saktaḥ – interested in the result. He is nibadhyate – bound. What else but bondage can happen to such a person?
The thought continues here.
sarvakarmāṇi manasā saṃnyasyāste sukhaṃ vaśī
navadvāre pure dehī naiva kurvanna kārayan (BG 5.13)
By vaśī is meant one who has control over himself. Such a person is happy. Why? “sarvakarmāṇi manasā saṃnyasya” – having mentally given up all actions. Works have to be performed externally but they have to be renounced internally. This indeed is the essence of the Gītā. However, such renunciation should not result in any lapse in the performance of external action. The non-attachment referred to here is internal. Bhagavān says that it is possible to renounce actions internally without any impact on external action.
We have experienced on occasion that while action happens externally there is no equivalent internal impact. The change of the yajñopavīta (sacred thread) is such an activity for many of us. During the commencement of a meal, activities such as pariṣecana (purifying food by sprinkling water around one’s food) are similar in nature. Though it is an external activity, it is quite rare for the mind to be involved in such activities. Cyclists routinely putting their feet to pedal is an external activity that, however, does not touch the mind. We should perform action without experiencing mental anguish. We have to practise internal detachment. Tāṭhastya (detachment) refers to standing on the shore. The one on the shore does not get wet. Neither is he concerned with who is bathing or drowning in the waters. Even if he watches it, he has no selfish interest in those. Similarly, external actions do not impact a jñānī.
Man should divide himself into two – the doer and the seer. He should think, “I am the witness. The doer is someone else.” There are no mental disturbances then. Ego & selfish desires cause mental disturbances.
naiva kiṃcitkaromīti yukto manyeta tattvavit
paśyañ śruṇvan spṛśañ-jighrann- aśnan-gacchan svapan śvasan (BG 5.8)
indriyāṇīndriyārtheṣu vartanta iti dhārayan (BG 5.9)
The knower of reality believes that he is not doing anything; but he watches; he listens; he touches various objects; smells different things; walks about, eats, sleeps; attends calls of nature, blinks his eyes and yet does not feel that he is doing anything. But all of these are not Vedic rituals! Are not all of these worldly activities? Indriyāṇīndriyārtheṣu – sensory organs indulge in what they desire. His mind is not those sense organs. Thinking thus, he surrenders his actions to Brahma (brahmaṇyādhāya). He resolves in his mind that he does not do anything.
The Behaviour of the Guṇas
But aren’t all of these world activities happening? Who then is performing all these? We saw it in the third chapter.
tattvavittu mahābāho guṇakarmavibhāgayoḥ
guṇā guṇeṣu vartanta iti matvā na sajjate (BG 3.28)
The guṇas of the organs engage in the guṇas of the objects. The sensory organs engage in the objects of the external world. The same principle is stated more extensively in the Bṛhadāraṇyakopaniṣad 14.6.2.
jihvā vai grahaḥ। sa rasenātigraheṇa gṛhīto jihvayā hi rasānvijānāti ।
vāgvai grahaḥ। sa nāmnā’tigraheṇa gṛhīto vācā hi nāmānyabhivadati ।
cakṣurvai grahaḥ। sa rūpeṇātigraheṇa gṛhītaścakṣuṣā hi rūpāṇi paśyati ।
śrotraṃ vai grahaḥ। sa śabdenātigraheṇa gṛhītaḥ śrotreṇa hi śabdāñchṛṇoti ।
mano vai grahaḥ। sa kāmenātigraheṇa gṛhīto manasā hi kāmānkāmayate ।
hastau vai grahaḥ। sa karmaṇātigraheṇa gṛhīto hastābhyāṃ hi karma karoti ।
tvagvai grahaḥ। sa sparśenātigraheṇa gṛhītastvacā hi sparśānvedayata ityaṣṭau grahā’aṣṭāvatigrahāḥ।
The Vedic seers divided the world into grahas and atigrahas. Whatever grasps is known as a graha and whatever is grasped is known as an atigraha. The tongue is a graha; taste is an atigraha. The ear is a graha; sound, music etc. are atigrahas. The ear, eye, and even the mind that controls these are all classified as grahas. All of them captured by kāma (desire) that is an atigraha. All sense organs are grahas. The sensations of taste, smell etc., that attract these grahas are atigrahas. Thus the categories graha and atigraha naturally exist in the world, as the products of the primordial prakṛti. Prakṛti is Parabrahma’s power of action. Prakṛti cannot exist without Brahma. These categories of graha & atigraha are the products of prakṛti, the power of Brahma. These two engage as well as excite each other. This is our life. The lives of all beings can be summed up as harmony and disharmony between the graha and atigraha. This is our perennial struggle.
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.