Sanyasa means staying away or renounce. Karma-Sanyasa means renouncing Karma or stop performing Karma.


            We have seen that we cannot stay away from doing some or the Karma at any given time. Arjuna has raised one question. We are told to perform Yagnya  and sacrifice sense objects. Keep your senses away from them. Or keep them under the control of the mind. Turn your mind inwards. Keep it away from information brought in by the senses. When this is done, automatically the external objects will stop stimulating the sense. The mind will stop playing with the objects stored in the chitta. This will stop us from doing normal, day to day, Karma because there will be no desire to do anything. This means renunciation of Karma or Karma-Sanyasa, though it is not done deliberately.

            Giving up performing a Karma, because you do not want to have its bondage, is not right because this is deliberate staying away and may result into Vikarma. But practising Yagnya and withdrawing senses and dissolving the mind in self, in order to attain self realisation does not amount to deliberate stopping of Karma. Yet the organs responsible for doing a Karma become motionless. They become standstill and so Karma is not performed. We are also told that do all types of Karmas. Do not stay away from them but do them in such a manner that they become Akarma. That means, let the external objects set senses into motion, let the mind play with the objects making you work. Let the Karma be done. But do it skilfully without attachment.

            Arjuna, therefore, asks Krishna in the first verse of this chapter, "Krishna, on one hand you praise Karma-Sanyasa i.e. renunciation, though not deliberate, of Karma. On the other hand you say perform all Karma skilfully. Now tell me, which way is superior. In the next few verses Krishna answers this question.

            Both these paths, the one of Karma-Sanyasa (Renunciation of Karma) and the other of Karma-Yoga (doing all Karma with skill) lead us to Moksha. But of the two, the second one is superior.

Who is a Sanyasi?

            The word Sanyasi is sometimes confusing. This word paints a picture of a saffron-robed person with Rudraksha malas around the neck and around the wrists, with long hair and a beard. Sanyasi means a person who has come out of the main stream of public life and who leads the life of an ascetic. He devotes all his time in keeping his senses and mind under control. He stays away from society so that the external objects will lose contact with senses. He follows a routine which enables him to keep his mind away from senses. Such a person, therefore goes away from society and lives in a secluded Ashram. He is practising Yagnya and is on a path to God realisation. He keeps long hair and sports beard because he has no need to pay any attention to them. In fact, he takes away his mind from daily necessities as much as is possible. He has to wash and wear clothes. He has to eat and drink. But he need not cut his hair and shave his beard. Saffron colour is indicative of purity. It generates a feeling of awe and respect. A sanyasi wears saffron clothes so that people do not bother him. They understand that he is not a family-type person and has no roll to play in society.

            However, now a days, we see people wearing saffron robes and moving in society. All of them are not real Sanyasis. People, especially, westerners get confused and sometimes cheated and duped. A real Sanyasi has no reason to leave his Ashram and roam about except when he may have to go out to get things which he needs for his Ashram. Yet there are real Sanyasis who live in seclusion and practice Yagnya.

            Normally, you will not find a Snyasi living in society like a family man. Yet it is possible. A domesticated family type person, who does all types of Karma, can discipline his behaviour in such a manner that he becomes free of the feelings of attachment through love and feelings of anger. This is possible only when a person has no desires. Every desire which is worth following is put into action and then forgotten. His desires are not seeking pleasure for his body. They are of a higher level. He performs all Karma's which come his way. He performs them with joy, remaining satisfied with himself. He does not need his sense organs and mind to make him happy. He himself is happiness personified. He has pure unselfish, undemanding love for humanity in his heart. There is no room for attachment through desire. There is no seed of anger. He is a living joy. Such a person will not wear saffron robes or Rudraksha Malas. He will not grow long hair or sport a beard. He does not have to do so. He is a man of society. He is a constant and true Sanyasi. Because without finding the need to run away from the society so as to stop the external objects influencing his mind, he has successfully kept them away from the mind even by being with them. This is far too superior. This is Karma Yoga.

Equality of Sankhyayoga and karmayoga

            Both these paths, the Karma-Sanyas path which is called Sankhya-Yoga and the Karma Yoga path are one and the same as they lead to the same goal. They are not different. People who think they are different, say so out of their ignorance. Any one, if followed, correctly gives the reward of both. The position which a real Sankhya Yogi gets is the same as that which a Karma-Yogi gets. It is extremely difficult to be a real Sanyasi without being a Karma Yogi. But he who is a Karma-Yogi, automatically becomes a Sanyasi and attains Moksha.


            A Karma-Yogi has his mind purified. There are no impurities of any kind in it. It means that besides the one thought of God, there is no other thought pertaining to any sense object in his mind. In the path of self realisation, all thoughts pertaining to the material world are considered impurities. A Karma Yogi gets rid of all materialistic thoughts, keeps his body and mind in check, conquers the senses, treats all as equal and same like him. So while performing all Karmas, he abstains from Karmic bondage. Such a Karma-Yogi is a real philosopher and Dnyani. He does all Karma. He sees and identifies. He listens, touches, breaths, eats, walks, sleep, smells, speaks, gives charity, receives, opens and closes his eyes, in short, does all physical Karma, and does not sit in seclusion meditating all the while. Yet while performing all above actions he has full realization that his senses are doing their respective jobs but he is aloof from them. Karma is performed but he is not the doer. His body responds to external stimulus but he has nothing to do with it. He is just a witness in the form of energy to supply power to his body, as long as it is ordained to live.

            He, who has no attachment to the Karma's fruit while performing Karmas and surrenders them to God, meaning does not live with them or does not keep them churning in his mind, is likened to the leaf of a lotus flower. As this leaf, being in water, remains dry, such a person, living in this sinful world, remains away from sin.

            Mind is a great store house of objects. It is difficult to clean it. When external objects are brought in by the senses, they are matched with the impressions of stored objects and then the mind reacts to them accordingly. A Karma-Yogi gets into the act of performing Karmas with the mind, body, intellect and even senses, but with a completely detached attitude so that the purification of mind becomes easier. The stored impressions which are brought to the surface, when senses are in contact with external objects, get cleaned because of non attachment.

Why do karma wihout attachment?

            Every individual has a choice to do his Karma with attachment or without it. Generally, most of us have attachments because then we get pleasures. We are willing to undergo pains but not to give up these so called pleasures. We expect to win but if we lose we suffer. We do not like that but that's a chance we take, because if we don't act for the fear of losing, then we lose the chance of winning also. Hence attachment to Karma is our nature. We forget however, that this type of living - doing Karma with attachment - creates a bondage and we cannot get out of birth-death-birth cycle. We also do not realise that after human body dies, the next one may not be human. Because, in our attachment to the Karma, unknowingly we do lot of Vikarma and we have to pay for it. We sin many times not knowing we commit a sin. Even if we get the next life as a human being, it could be in filthy surroundings where we may have to starve for days or fight to earn our bread. It all depends upon our Karma.

            So why go to all that trouble? Why not, do your Karma without attachment? In this way you get out of the cycle and are a free soul. The joy you have then, is much more than the few sense pleasures that you enjoy now. If you don't believe it, it is your ignorance. A person who works without attachment, earns eternal peace while the other earns bondage. He who has complete control over his mind, renounces all Karma-fruit. He becomes detached from Karma, and in this city of nine doors, lives without doing or causing to do anything. All his Karmas are on physical level because mind is not going to retain any Karma when it is over. He knows that his senses responds to their objects and the body does what is necessary. He is not the senses, so he is not involved with any karma.

Nine door city

            This physical body has nine openings viz., two ears, two nostrils, one mouth, two eyes, one anus and one genital. When a person dies, the Atma leaves the body from any of these openings. Thus the physical body is the city and the nine openings are the doors.

God does not do anything

            It is a wrong notion, many people have, that God does everything. When difficulties fall on us, we say, " Why an I so punished by God?" When we see in this Kaliyuga that bad people thrive, we ask, " Why can't God punish them?" No, He doesn't because He is a silent witness. Neither does He do anything nor does He give us the fruit of our Karma. Everything is done by His Prakruti, which is also called nature. Prakruti's laws or laws of nature are faultless. They take care of everything. When you work with attachment to your Karma, you distance yourself far away from God. You take upon yourself all the responsibilities. Your ego, which is a part of His Prakruti becomes the doer. Prakruti's laws evaluate each Karma and the punishment or reward for it is already determined. Your birth is conditional to those laws. God does not do anything. It is only when your Karma is detached, and mind with ego centred on God, He becomes the doer. Your actions do not bind you then.

            It is true that God is all in all. When we say He is everything, He is present in energy form as unmanifest "Brahma". We cannot see Him. The shapes and forms of individuals, animals, birds and all creatures and living beings including plants and trees are created out of His Prakruti. They die. He does not. When you disengage yourself from your Karma, and mentally live with Him, He becomes the doer of your Karma as you disown the ownership. Yet he does not become the owner of your sins and good deeds. They simply die at His feet. This knowledge is Dnyana. His own Prakruti has created a web of ignorance which surrounds this Dnyana. When we succeed in throwing away this web, we see for ourselves this Dnyana. We experience the truth, and that Dnyana or truth is God.

The inner light

            When, however, self realization or enlightenment destroys this ignorance, unveils the web of nescience, then the self knowledge is revealed just as the sun, when rises, dispels all darkness. Sun is a reality. darkness is not. Absence of light reveals darkness. You bring in the light, and the darkness goes. You do not have to use any other means to catch it and throw it. All you must do is to get light. That is the reason, self realization is called enlightenment. You take the help of outside entities like scriptures, teachings of a Guru, your own detached Karma. They open the door and you see the veil of ignorance lifting.

            You have a room. In the room there is a powerful candle burning. All around it there are so many objects lying. The light of the candle is covered. When you open the room, you do not see light. You bring in a torch. You see the objects. You remove them one by one. You see the light of the candle. This light and the light coming from the torch in your hand become one. This is enlightenment.

            Your attachment to Karma has brought in thousands of objects in the form of thoughts which have completely surrounded and covered the inner light. You stop bringing in any more thoughts and start the cleaning process. Use the torch of detached Karma and in due course all the thoughts disappear. Mind is purified. You see the light inside. That is Dnyana or knowledge of the self. This is self realisation. You know the Atma now. There still remains a gap between you and Parmatma, the God. You, the Atma, the spirit is a part of God. To know God, you need His Grace. Then you become one with Him. When your intellect and mind are firmly fixed on Him, when you have unflinching faith in Him and your mind is constantly thinking of Him, you get this enlightenment which washes away all your sins. There is nothing left in your account for you to pay back. When you die, your Atma is not in chains. The bondage of Karma is removed. You are a free soul. There is no rebirth for you.

Who is Dnyani?

            But what is this Dnyana? How does a person with Dnyana behave in society? It is important for us to know what we are aiming at? Otherwise how are we to know whether the web of ignorance is removed or not? If not completely, we should know, if it is, at least, partly removed so that we know how far are we from our goal.

            Krishna explains a Dnyani person in verse no. 18. A Dnyani regards all equally. He respects good people as we all do. In that respect we can find similarity with him. But he also respects with the same degree, honour and love all other creatures like e.g. a bullock, an elephant, a dog and an outcast. To him the dog and dogeater are no different. A fool and a wise man are same in his eyes. Because he knows the behaviour of all the creatures is according to their Vasanas and mental capabilities. These are unreal, as they fade. The real self in each of them is same.

            We don't think that way. When we stop differentiating between people, when we do not get annoyed or hurt by another person's remarks, we are in the process of removing the evil of ignorance, bit by bit. We can first achieve some success by treating all humans the same. If your attitude towards all is same, you are achieving something. You still are a long way behind, because you still have to regard even animals and creatures in the same way.

            A Dnyani person has snakes roaming near him. They do not bite. In a forest, a tiger may come and sit near him. He is not perturbed because to him all animals and humans are same. He sees the energy in you. Your outward form has no meaning to him.

            With this attitude, a Dnyani conquers the world. He wins and is out of bondage. Because all he sees everywhere is Brahma the energy, the one God, and his intellect has become steady and firm there. He who, thus has become steady in Brahma, does not get disturbed at all when either something good or something bad happens. His intellect is so steady  and firm that it does not move to take notice of any material events. He is happy with himself, resting comfortably in his own joy. This is his luxury which he does not give up. There is nothing greater than this. No pleasure of the senses is superior. In sense-pleasures, sexual intimacy with opposite sex is far greater than anything else. Because in that act all the five senses of knowledge equally participate and derive pleasure. The mind, the body, the intellect, the sense organs all are involved in that act. Hence the pleasure derived is much more than when you please only one sense e.g. sense of taste by eating the food which you like or sense of hearing by listening to music you love etc. When two senses are involved, your pleasure is more. When all the five are active, the pleasure is supreme. But a Dnyani, lost in his own joy has no interest in this supreme pleasure. To him, it is on a very low level. Even a dog can enjoy it. He abhors it. He does not even think about it. His mind and intellect are centred within, away from materialistic pleasures. He lives in society, behaves like you and I do. External objects do enter his mind through his sense organs but his mind is not touched by them. They do not make any impact. They get transformed in his own happiness. There the lust, the desire disappears. The powerful current of self joy draws them in its effulgence. They float and disappear.

            When a beautiful woman comes before him, all naked, his eyes take in her form, his mind becomes aware but his intellect which is fixed on God, burns the form and sees only the inner energy of that woman. His mind, intellect, chitta and ego are centred on God. No object can cause any feelings or dilute the joy he experiences. All feelings of the body and the mind get dissolved in his current of joy which passes through his entire being.

            After explaining what a Dnyani is, Krishna tells Arjuna in verse no. 22, "Arjuna, all the pleasures, arising out of the contact of objects with the senses, are temporary and fleeting. In reality they generate sorrow. They have a beginning and an end. A Dnyani does not see any joy in them."

Who is Yogi?

            Who can be called a real Yogi and a happy person? He who while living in this body can successfully bear and thwart the attack of desires and anger, he whose intellect is not disturbed by the onslaught of these two, is a real Yogi. He is a happy person.

            You may be aware of an old story. A king once asked his Vazir (prime minister) to go and get the shirt of a happy man because the king suffered mentally and was told by the court doctor to wear a shirt worn by a happy person. The Vazir sent his men in all directions. They asked each and every person, "The answer was "No". months passed. They were disappointed. Their search was not bearing any fruit. At last one of the men found a frail looking person, sitting on the bank of a river, merrily singing. Vazir's man asked him,

"Are you happy?"

"Yes, I am happy",

he said with a beaming smile.

" Wait here",

the man said and ran to the Vizir to give him the good news. The search was called off. Vazir with his men came to this man. Then the Vazir himself asked,

" Are you really happy?"

" Of course, I am. Why do you ask?"

" You will not know, the Vazir said, "

"Now give me...." the Vazir stopped in the middle of his sentence. He saw that this man did not wear a shirt.

            The moral of the story is, none is happy because everyone is affected by sense objects. We all react to outside entities and succumb to feelings of anger, lust, likes, dislikes etc. It is only he, who is not thus affected, because he has a steady intellect, is a happy person.

Unity with Brahma

             This happiness does not come from external source. It does not depend upon the reaction of the senses when they contact outside objects. It is there. It is called Ananda, bliss,joy. It is beyond happiness and sorrow, as we understand these two feelings. It is always present in us. He who finds it, sees light inside and he becomes one with God.

            Those who are really wise, who have self realization; whose sins are over, burnt in the fire of knowledge; whose minds are steady and who spend the rest of their remaining life in doing that Karma which results in some good for humanity, ultimately merge with Brahma. Those who have no trace of desire and anger left in them, whose attachment to their Karma is gone for ever, who have excellently held the mind from moving here and there and who have understood what is Atma, become one with eternal Brahma.

            The ultimate goal of life is to become one with God. Self enlightenment is the first step in reaching that goal. To obtain that, steady intellect is necessary, control of the senses and the mind is essential. But is it an easy thing that anyone can achieve by observing a few rules? No, it is not. To tame the senses, this physical body has to do some exercise. In order to break the contact of the senses with their external objects, you have to chain the senses and stop their roaming around. How can you do that?

Restraint on senses

            In the verse no. 27 and 28, we are told that he, who sits steady with his gaze fixed in between the two eyebrows on the forehead, regulates the inward and outward breath in the nostrils and thus controls the thoughts (mind), senses and intellect, and aspires to attain Moksha, becomes free from desire, fear and anger. He who is always in this state is always liberated.

            In the next chapter, Krishna has explained in detail this process. He has only made a preliminary introduction about it here. It is not possible for a family man whose most hours of the day are spent in doing Karma for his livelihood, to constantly sit at one place as mentioned above and then engage himself in such practice. If every single individual decides to sit in this posture from morning till night, taking a break only to eat when hungry, who will do the other house hold Karma? Will it be alright for the head of the family to practise this and let the others toil and work hard to earn their living? Is it correct if the head of the family works and earns while his son, who does not have to shoulder the family responsibility while his father works, can engage himself in this practice?

            If anybody wants to do this exercise all the time, he must leave the family life, abstain from doing any other Karma and become a Sanyasi. But it is not possible for everybody. What it means is that while you are putting your best efforts to withdraw your senses and mind from their objects, your efforts may not produce any result if your determination is not strong. You can, therefore, carry on with this exercise (more details given in next chapter) and supplement your efforts because you have to do your Karma also.

            We are asked by physicians to have some exercise daily. It could be jogging, running, walking, weight lifting, balancing, yoga etc. But the physician does not expect you to continue doing the exercise all day long. In course of time, the effect of the exercise is noticed and then you are in a better position to do what you have to do. (More of it in next chapters).

            Finally, in the last verse no. 29 of this chapter Krishna says, " he who realises that I am the ultimate beneficiary of all Yagnic sacrifices, the supreme God of all the three worlds (Heaven, Hell, Earth), the benefactor of all living entities, attains eternal peace."

            The "I" here does not mean the physical form of Krishna. "I" here means God, the unmanifested energy present everywhere. Instead of Krishna's idol, you can concentrate your gaze thus on any other form you like and love. If you do not believe in idol-worship, then still you can fix your gaze inside on the light, within you or have faith in the demigod or of God or prophet Mohammed PBUH. You will still reach the same goal. Because all are same. Forms and persons differ but there is only one God.

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