Bhagavad-gita-rahasya (or Karma-yoga Shastra)

by Bhalchandra Sitaram Sukthankar | 1935 | 327,828 words

The English translation of the Bhagavad-Gita Rahasya, also known as the Karma-yoga Shastra or “Science of Right Action”, composed in Marathi by Bal Gangadhar Tilak in 1915. This first volume represents an esoteric exposition of the Bhagavadgita and interprets the verses from a Mimamsa philosophical standpoint. The work contains 15 chapters, Sanskri...

Chapter 11 - Renunciation (saṃnyāsa) and Karma-yoga

saṃnyāsaḥ karmayogaś ca niḥśreyasakarāv ubhau |
tayos tu karmasaṃnyāsāt karmayogo viśiṣyate ||
  —Gītā (5.2).

"Renunciation (saṃnyāsa) and Energism (karma-yoga) are both niḥśreyasakara, i.e., productive of Release; but out of the two Adherence to Action (karma-yoga) is superior to the Renunciation of Action (karma-saṃnyāsa)".[1]

I have, in the last chapter, considered in detail the position that there is only one way, in which one can escape the toils of eternal Karma, by Realising by personal experience the Parabrahman, which exists homogeneously in all created things; as also the questions whether man is or is not free to Realise that immortal Brahman, and how he should perform the transient affairs or Actions in the Māyā-world in order to obtain that Realisation; and I drew the conclusions, that bondage is not the characteristic feature of Action, but of the Mind; and that, therefore, by performing these Actions with a pure, that is, with a disinterested frame of mind, after having by means of mental control gradually reduced the Attachment which one has for the result of the fruit of Action, the Realisation of the Ātman, in the shape of an equable frame of mind, gradually saturates the corporeal organs, and complete Release is ultimately obtained. In this way, I have answered the question as to what is required to be done as being the means for acquiring the highest of ideals in the shape of Release, or the perfect state according to the philosophy of the Absolute Self. We have now to consider the most important question, whether after having thus broken the bondage of Karma and fully Realised the Brahman, as a result of the purification of his Mind arising from his having acted in this way, that is, from his having performed Desireless Actions according to his own capacity and status, a scient or Steady-in-Mind (sthitaprajña) should subsequently, that is, when being in the state of a Perfect (siddha), continue performing Action, or, looking upon himself as one who has performed all that was to be performed, because he has acquired all that was to be acquired, consider all Actions in the world of Illusion as useless and inconsistent with Knowledge, and totally give them up; because, logically speaking, in such a situation, both the positions of totally abandoning Action (karma-saṃnyāsa), and performing those Actions upto death with a desireless frame of mind (karmayoga), are possible; and, as it is more convenient to chalk out one's course of action consistently with that mode of life which is the better of the two, from the very beginning, that is to- say, while one is training oneself (sādhanāvasthā), no Metaphysical exposition on Action and Non-Action becomes complete, unless one comparatively considers both these modes of life. It would not have been sufficient to say to Arjuna that after the Realisation of the Brahman, it is just the same whether one performs or does not perform Action (Bhagavadgītā 3.18) on the ground that a man, whose Reason has become equable towards all created beings as a result of Knowledge, is not affected by the merit or demerit of any Action (Bhagavadgītā 4.20, 21), since Reason is superior to Action in all the affairs of life.

The definite injunction of the Blessed Lord to Arjuna was: "Fight"! (yudhyasva!), (Bhagavadgītā 2.18); and it would be necessary to adduce some cogent reasons in support of this firm advice rather than placing before him the indecisive advice that it was-; just the same whether he fought or did not fight after he had acquired Realisation. Nay, the doctrine of the Gītā has come into existence only in order to explain why a wise man must perform a particular act, notwithstanding that he sees before his eyes the terrible consequences of it; and this is indeed the most important feature of the Gītā. If it is true that a man is bound by Action, whereas, he gets salvation by Knowledge, why should the person, who has acquired Knowledge, at all perform Action? Though the doctrines, that destruction of Karma (karma-kṣaya) does not mean Abandonment of Action, that Action is annihilated by its being performed after one has given up the hope for the Fruit of the Action, and that it is not possible to give up every kind of Action etc., are true, yet, it does not thereby conclusively follow, that one should not give up as much of Action as one can; and logically thinking, such a conclusion does arise. Because, as has been stated in the Gītā, in the same way as it is no more necessary to go to a well for water, when water is to be found in all directions, so also has a scient no more to depend on Action for anything, after he has acquired that Knowledge, which can he acquired by the performance of Action (Bhagavadgītā 2.46), Therefore, Arjuna has said to Śrī Kṛṣṇa in the commencement of the third chapter as follows: if in Your opinion the desireless or equable frame of mind is superior to Action, I shall make my Reason pure like that of a Sthitaprajña; why do You compel me to perform a terrible act like war"? (Bhagavadgītā 3.1), In reply to this question, the Blessed Lord has said that no one can escape Action etc., and in that way justified the doctrine of Action. But, if philosophy has prescribed the two paths of Sāṃkhya (Renunciation) and Energism (Karma-Yoga), it follows naturally that after the acquisition of Knowledge, a man may follow whichever path he considers better. Therefore, in the commencement of the fifth chapter, Arjuna has again said to the Blessed Lord that He should not mis up the two courses of life, but should explain to him (Arjuna) in a definite way which of the two was superior (Bhagavadgītā 5.1); if, after the acquisition of Knowledge, it was just the same whether Action was performed or not performed, he would perform Action or not perform it as he liked; but, if performing Action was the better course of the two, the Blessed Lord should tell him the reason why that was so, so that, he would act according to His directions. This question of Arjuna is not something new. In the Yoga-Vaśiṣṭha (5. 56. 6), Rāma has asked the same question to Vaśiṣṭha, and in the Gaṇeśagītā (4.1) the king named Vareṇya has asked the same question to Gaṇeśa; and it even appears from the works of Aristotle that this question had been raised in very ancient times in Europe in Greece, where philosophical ideas first originated. This same question has been raised at the end of the book on Ethics written by this well-known Greek philosopher (10.7 and 8); and he has, in the first instance, expressed his opinion that true happiness consists in a scient spending his life in the quiet contemplation on philosophy instead of in the ups and downs of life (saṃsāra) or of political activity. Yet, in the book written by him subsequently on Politics (7.2 and 3), Aristotle himself says:–some philosophers are engrossed in thoughts of philosophy and others in political activities; and if one considers which of these two modes of life is better, one must say that both the paths are to a certain extent proper; nevertheless, it would be wrong to say that Non-Action is better than Action,[2] because, happiness is nothing but Action; and one may safely say that the acquisition of true nobility consists to a considerable extent of Action founded on Knowledge and the principles of Ethics. From the fact that Aristotle has made two different statements in two different places, the importance of the clear statement in the Gītā that "karma jyāyo hy akarmaṇaḥ" (Bhagavadgītā 3.8)–ACTION IS SUPERIOR TO NON-ACTION–becomes clear to the reader. Augustus Comte, a well-known French philosopher of the last century says in his book on Material Philosophy that:–"it is misleading to say that it is better to spend one's life in the contemplation of philosophy; and the philosopher, who adopts such a course of life, and abandons the doing of whatever public welfare it is possible for him to do, must be said to misuse the material which is at his disposal". On the other hand, the German philosopher Schopenhauer has maintained that in as much as all the activities of the world, nay, even keeping alive itself, is painful, the true duty of every human being in this world is to learn philosophy and to destroy all this Action as early as possible. Comte died in 1857 A. D. and Schopenhauer in 1860 A. D. The school of Schopenhauer has been continued in Germany by Hartmann. It need not be said that the English philosophers Spencer, Mill, and others are of the same opinion as Comte. But the modern Materialistic philosopher Nietzsche has gone beyond all these philosophers, and he has in his works so severely criticised those who are for giving up Action, that according to him, it is not possible to refer to the supporters of Renunciation (karma-saṃnyāsa) by any milder terms than 'fools of fools'.[3]

Just as in Europe there have been two schools of thought from the time of Aristotle upto the present day, so also, have there been two modes of life according to the Vedic religion in India from ancient times upto the present day (Śriman Mahābhārata Śān. 349.72). Out of these two, one course is known as the Saṃnyāsa-Mārga or Sāṃkhya-niṣṭhā or merely SĀṂKHYA or Jñāna-niṣṭhā (because, it consists of being continually steeped in Knowledge); and the other path is known as the Karma-Yoga or shortly YOGA or Karma-niṣṭhā. I have already in the third chapter clearly explained that the words Sāṃkhya and Yoga do not respectively indicate the Kapila-sāṃkhya and the Pātañjala-yoga. But, in as much as, the word 'saṃnyāsa' is also rather ambiguous, it is necessary to explain its meaning here more fully. The word 'saṃnyāsa' does not in this place mean 'not marrying', or 'giving up wife and children and wearing saffron-coloured robes', in case one has married, or 'merely adopting the fourth stage of life'. Because, though Bhīṣma was a celibate, he was taking part in politics till the moment of his death; and Śrīmat Śaṃkarācārya, after passing to the fourth state straight from the first state of celibacy, or in the Mahārāṣṭra, Śrī Samartha Rāmadāsa, remaining a celibate mendicant for life, have brought about the salvation of the world by spreading Knowledge. The crucial point in the present place is whether after having acquired Knowledge, a man should take part in all the activities of the world aa duties and for public welfare, or should entirely give them up, looking upon them as illusory. He who takes part in these activities is the Karma- Yogin, whether he has married or has not married, and whether he wears white clothes or saffron-coloured clothes. Nay, for performing these activities, it is sometimes more convenient to remain unmarried or to wear saffron-coloured robes, or to go and live outside the town; because, by doing so, there is no obstruction in the way of applying one's whole time and energy to public welfare, as it does not entail the worry of maintaining a family. Though such persons may be ascetics according to the dress which they wear, yet, essentially they are Karma-Yogins; but on the other hand, such persons as look upon all worldly activities as useless, and abandon them and sit quiet, may be said to be ascetics, whether they have entered the fourth state of life or not. In short, the Gītā does not attach importance to white clothing or saffron- coloured clothing or to marriage or celibacy, but considers only whether the scient takes or does not take part in worldly activities, in differentiating between Renunciation and Energism. All other things are of no importance, at any rate according to the religion of the Gītā. The words 'karma- saṃnyāsa' or 'karma-tyāga' would be more appropriate and unambiguous in the present place than 'saṃnyāsa' (Renunciation) or 'caturthāśrama ' (the fourth state). But, as it is more usual to use the single word 'saṃnyāsa' rather than the two words mentioned above, I have here explained the -technical meaning of that word. Those, who consider worldly activities as fruitless, give up worldly life; and, entering the forests, take to the fourth state of life, according to the Smṛti religion; and, therefore, this path of Abandonment of Action, is called 'Saṃnyāsa'. But, the important factor in that procedure is the Abandonment of Action, and not the saffron-coloured robes.

Though it is thus usual either to continue the performance of Action (Karma-Yoga) or to abandon Action (Karma-Saṃnyāsa), after the complete acquisition of Knowledge, doctrinesupporting commentators on the Gītā have in this place raised the question whether both these paths are equally independent and in a position to give Release, or whether the Karma-Yoga, is the preliminary or first step, and one has ultimately to abandon Action, and renounce the world in order to attain Release. It is seen that these two courses of life have been mentioned as independent paths in the second and third chapters of the Gītā. But those commentators, in whose opinion it is impossible to attain Release unless a man renounces the world and abandons the ordinary activities of life,–and who- have started commenting on the Gītā with the preconceived notion that that must be the doctrine propounded by the Gītā–pronounce the sum and the substance of the Gītā to be that "Karma-Yoga, is not an independent path of obtaining Release; that one must, in the beginning, perform Actions in order to purify the mind, but ultimately go in for Renunciation; and that Renunciation is the paramount and the ultimate cult." But if this meaning is adopted, then the importance of the word, 'dvividhā' (twofold) in the statement of the Blessed Lord that the Sāṃkhya (Saṃnyāsa) and Yoga (Karma-Yoga) are two kinds of cults in this world (Bhagavadgītā 3.3), is lost. The word 'Karma-Yoga' can be interpreted in three different ways: (1) according to the first interpretation, Release is obtained by performing the Karma laid down by the Śrutis and the Smṛtis, or the duties of the four castes, such as sacrifice etc. But this interpretation of the Mīmāṃsā school is not acceptable to the Gītā (2. 45); (2) the second meaning is, that Action should be performed, but only for the purification of the Mind, in as much as the performance of Action (Karma-Yoga) is essential for the purification of the Mind. According to this interpretation, Karma-Yoga becomes the anterior part or the preliminary preparation for the Renunciation (Saṃnyāsa) state. But this is not the Karma-Yoga mentioned in the Gītā. (3) The important question in the Gītā is, whether or not a scient, who has Realised in what the benefit of his Self lies, should go on performing till death the worldly Actions, prescribed for the caste to which he belongs, such as, fighting etc.; and the Karma-Yoga described in the Gītā is, that even a scient, who has acquired Knowledge, must perform the Actions prescribed for the four castes with a disinterested frame of mind (Bhagavadgītā 3.55); and it can never be a preliminary preparation for Renunciation; because, in this path, a man can never abandon Action, and the only question is of obtaining Release. But, the Gītā clearly says that in as much as Knowledge has already been acquired by the man, Desireless Action does not become a source of bondage; and that the Release which can be obtained by Renunciation, can also be obtained by this KarmaYoga (Bhagavadgītā 5 5.) Therefore, the words: "loke smin dvividhā niṣṭhā" in the Gītā (Bhagavadgītā 3.3) must be interpreted as indicating that the path of Karma-Yoga taught by the Gītā is not a preparation for Renunciation, but that both these paths are equally good (tulyabala), from the point of view of Release, after Realisation has come (Bhagavadgītā 8.2).

That is why the Blessed Lord has distinguished between these two paths in the latter half of the stanza (Bhagavadgītā 3.3) by saying:

jñānayogena sāṃkhyānāṃ karma-yogena yoginām

I.e. "the path for Release followed by Sāṃkhyas is the Jñāna-Yoga, and that followed by Yogins is the Karma-Yoga"—(Translator.);

And the two words 'anye' (the one) and 'apare' (the other) in the line "anye sāṃkhyena yogena karma-yogena cāpare" in the thirteenth chapter, do not become appropriate unless these two paths are considered independent (Bhagavadgītā 13.24). Besides, if one considers the history given in the Mahābhārata of the Nārāyaṇīya doctrine, from which the Activistic path (Yoga) has been adopted into the Gītā, the same proposition is confirmed, The origin of these two paths has been described in the Mahābhārata by saying that after the Blessed Lord had, in the beginning of the world, directed Hiranyagarbha, that is, Brahmadeva, to create the world, the seven mind-born sons, Marīci and others, came into existence from him; and these seven sons adopted YOGA, that is the Activistic (pravṛtti) path of Action for properly carrying out the work of creation; whereas, his other seven mind-born sons, namely Sanatkumāra, Kapila, and others took up the SĀṂKHYA, that is the Path of Renunciation (nivṛtti) from birth; and later on, it is clearly stated that, from the point of view of Release, both these paths are equally useful (tulyabala), that is to say, they are different from each other and independent, and individually capable of bringing about the attainment to one and the same Parameśvara in the form of the Vāsudeva (Śriman Mahābhārata Śān. 348.74; 349.63-73). In the same way, a distinction is made between the Hiraṇyagarbha as the founder of the Activistic Path and Kapila as the founder of the Sāṃkhya Path, and it is nowhere state that Hiraṇyagarbha later on give up the performance of Action. On the other hand, it is stated that the Blessed Lord created the cycle of Yajñas in the shape of Karma, in order to keep going without a hitch all the activities of the creation, and directed Hiraṇyagarbha, as also other gods, to keep this cycle continuously moving (Śriman Mahābhārata Śān. 340.44–75 and 339.66, 67). From this it is established beyond doubt that Sāṃkhya and Yoga are two essentially independent modes of life. It will thus be seen that the attempt of some commentators on the Gītā to make out that the Karma-Yoga is inferior, is the result of a traditionary insistence; and that the statement occurring every now and then in these commentaries that the Karma-Yoga is merely a medium for the acquisition of Knowledge, or for Renunciation, is something, which these commentators say of their own accord, and which is not borne out by the Gitta. In my opinion, this is the greatest fault of those commentators on the Gītā who support the Path of Renunciation; and unless this doctrine-supporting point of view of the commentators is given up, the true and mystic import of the Gītā can never be realised.

It is not enough to say that Karma-Saṃnyāsa and Karma- Yoga are individually equally productive of Release, and that one is not the preliminary part of the other; because, if both these paths are equally productive of Release, it follows that one may adopt whichever path he likes; and then, instead of arriving at the conclusion that he must fight, Arjuna would have the choice of the two paths of fighting, or renouncing the world instead of fighting, after he had acquired Knowledge by the advice of the Blessed Lord. Therefore, Arjuna has asked the natural and straight question, namely, "tell me in a definite way which of these two paths is more proper" (Bhagavadgītā 5.11), so that it would be easy for him to act according to that path.

Arjuna having asked this question in the beginning of the fifth chapter, the Blessed Lord has immediately in the next verse given a clear answer to it, namely,

"though the Path of Renunciation, and the Path of Karma-Yoga are both equally productive of Release (niḥśreyasa), yet, out of these two paths THE WORTH OR IMPORTANCE OF KARMA-YOGA IS GREATER (viśiṣyate)", (Bhagavadgītā 5.3);

And I have designedly quoted this stanza at the beginning of this chapter. It is not that these are the only words in the Gītā which support the superiority of KarmaYoga.

There are several other statements in the Gītā which contain that advice to Arjuna, such as,:–

tasmād yogāya yujyasva
  (Bhagavadgītā 2.50),

I.e., "therefore, adopt the Karma-Yoga";


mā te saṅgo 'stv akarmaṇi
  (Bhagavadgītā 2.47),

I.e., "do not insist on not performing Actions";


yastv indriyāṇi manasā niyamyārabhaterjuna |
karmaindriyaiḥ karmayogam asaktaḥ sa viśiṣyate ||
  (Bhagavadgītā 3.7),

That is, instead of abandoning Action, "controlling the organs by the Mind, and using the organs of Action for performing Actions with a desireless frame of mind is VIŚEṢA (more IMPORTANT), (viśiṣyate)";

Because, in any case,

karma jyāyo by akarmaṇaḥ,

I.e., "Action is SUPERIOR (śreṣṭha) to Inaction" (Bhagavadgītā 3.8); "therefore, go on performing Actions" (Bhagavadgītā 4.15);


  (Bhagavadgītā 4.2),

I.e., "accept the Path of (Karma-) Yoga and stand up to fight";


(yogi) jñānibhyo 'pi mato 'dhikaḥ,

I.e., "the merit of the (Karma-) Yogin is more (adhikaḥ) than that of the Jñāna-margin (of Saṃnyāsa)";


tasmād yogi bhavārjuna
  (Bhagavadgītā 4.6),

I.e., "therefore, O Arjuna, become a (Karma-) Yogin";


"mām anusmara yudhya ca"

I.e., "think of me and fight" etc., etc.; and in that advice the clear words 'JYĀYAḤ' 'ADHIKAḤ', ' VIŚIṢYATE' have been used in order to show that the merit of Karma-Yoga is higher than that of Renunciation or Non-Action. And even in the summing up in the 18th. chapter, the Blessed Lord has again said (Bhagavadgītā 18.6, 7) that, "it. is my DEFINITE and BETTER opinion that it is not proper to abandon those Actions which have been prescribed, and that, one must always perform Actions without being attached to them". From this, it is established beyond doubt, that according to the Gītā, Karma-Yoga is superior to Renunciation.

But how will this doctrine of the Gītā be appreciated by these commentators, whose doctrinal opinion is that Renunciation or Devotion is the ultimate and most superior duty, and that Karma is merely a means for the purification of the Mind, and not the principal ideal or duty? It is not that they had not seen that the Gītā has clearly given a higher importance to KarmaYoga than to Renunciation; but, if they accepted this opinion as correct, their doctrines would become inferior; and, therefore, these doctrine-supporting commentators have experienced considerable difficulty in disposing of the question put by Arjuna, and the answer given to it by the Blessed Lord, in the beginning of the fifth chapter, though they are both clear, logical, and unambiguous. Their first difficulty has been that the question as to which one out of the two paths, namely, Action or Inaction, is superior, does not arise, unless both these paths are considered independent; because, if, as these commentators say, Karma-Yoga is only a preliminary preparation for Jñāna or Knowledge, it naturally follows that the preliminary part is inferior, and that Jñāna or Saṃnyāsa is superior; and then, there would remain no room for Arjuna to ask the question he asked; but, if it is admitted that the question was a proper one, it becomes necessary to admit that these two paths are independent; and, if that admission is made, the position that the Path of Renunciation supported by them is the only path which leads to Release, becomes untenable! Therefore, they have first passed judgment that the question asked by Arjuna was itself not proper; and they have made up their minds to say the same thing about the reply of the Blessed Lord!

But, even after this struggle, the clear answer- given by the Blessed Lord to Arjuna that:

"the merit or superiority of the Karma-Yoga is GREATER (viśeṣa)", (Bhagavadgītā 5.2),

Cannot be satisfactorily explained; and, therefore, these commentators have gone to the length of laying down, on their own hook, and contrary to the anterior and posterior context, that the statement: karma-yogo viśiṣyate, i.e., "the superiority of Karma-Yoga is greater," is a fallow praise of the Karma-Yoga, or merely an artha-vada (See. p. 31 above—Translator.); and that, even according to the Blessed Lord, the Path of Renunciation is better; and they have, in this way attempted to satisfy themselves (Gītā Śāṃkarabhāṣya 5.2; 6.1, 2; 18.11). Not only in the Śāṃkarabhāṣya, but also in the Rāmānujabhāṣya has this stanza been interpreted as being a mere praise of the Karma-Yoga and an obiter dicta (arthavāda), (Bhagavadgītā Rā. Bhā. 5.1); because, although Rāmānujācārya was not a Non-Dualist, yet, as in his opinion Devotion was the principal ideal, Karma-Yoga became merely a means for Devotion based on Knowledge (Bhagavadgītā Rā. Bhā; 3.1). My readers will see how the meaning in the original is stretched and mutilated, where the original work and the commentators support different doctrines, and the commentators begin to comment on the original in the firm belief that the doctrine supported by them is borne out by the original. Were not Śrī Kṛṣṇa or Śrī Vyāsa in a position to clearly say to Arjuna in plain Sanskrit: "O Arjuna, your question is improper"? But as, instead of doing so, it has been stated in numerous places that "Karma-Yoga is superior", one has to say that the doctrinesupporting interpretation, which has been put on the stanza by these commentators, is incorrect; and if one refers to the previous and the subsequent context, this inference is fortified. Because, it is stated in various places in the Gītā, that the scient does not abandon Action, but performs all Actions with a disinterested frame of mind after attaining Realisation. (Bhagavadgītā 2.64; 3.19; 3.25; 18.9). Śrīmat Śaṃkarācārya has, in his Śāṃkarabhāṣya, in the beginning raised the question whether Release is obtained by means of Knowledge, or by the combination of Knowledge and Action and he has expounded the import of the Gītā as being that Release is obtained by Knowledge alone, by the destruction of! Karma resulting from Knowledge, and that Karma is not necessary for Realisation; and, he has from this drawn the subsequent inference, that the Blessed Lord must be considered to have accepted the position in the Gītā, that even according to the Gītā, Karma becomes meaningless when once the Mind has been purified, as Karma is not necessary for obtaining Release; and that as Karma is inherently binding or inconsistent with Knowledge, a scient must give up (Action after acquiring Knowledge. That school of thought which says that even after having acquired Knowledge, a man must perform Action, is known as the Knowledge-Action (jñāna- karma-samuccaya) school, and the above-mentioned argument of Śrī Śaṃkarācārya is the principal argument against it. The same argument has been accepted even by Madhvācārya (Bhagavadgītā Mā. Bhā. 3.31). But from my point of view, this argument is neither satisfactory nor unanswerable; because (1) although Desire-prompted (kāmya) Actions are binding and contra-indicated for Knowledge, the same reasoning does not apply to Desire-less (niṣkāma) Actions; and (2) although Action may not be necessary for obtaining Release after having acquired Knowledge, that does not negative the proposition that a scient must, for other cogent reasons, perform Desireless Action, though he has obtained Realisation. It is not that Karma has come into existence only for the purpose of purifying the Mind of those who desire Release, nor that that is the sole object of Karma. Therefore, one may say, that a scient has to perform the various activities in the world of Karma, which are appropriate for him according to his status in life, for other reasons than the obtaining of Release. I have in this chapter, later on, considered in detail, what these reasons are. For the moment, I will only say that the doctrine of the Gītā was expounded for the sole purpose of explaining these reasons to Arjuna, who was desirous of becoming an ascetic; and one cannot draw the inference that the Gītā supports the Path of Renunciation, by arguing that after the purification of the Mind, performance of Action is not necessary for obtaining Release. It is true that the followers of Śaṃkarācārya hold that after the acquisition of Knowledge, one must renounce the world and give up Action; but on that account it does not follow, that the same is the teaching of the Gītā, or that one has to interpret the Gītā in a manner consistent with the doctrines laid down by Śaṃkarācārya or some other doctrinaire, after first taking it for granted that the doctrine expounded by Śaṃkarācārya or such other doctrinaire, is the only true doctrine. It has been definitely laid down in the Gītā that even after the acquisition of Knowledge, it is better to perform Action than to renounce the world; then you may call it a different school of thought or give it some other name.

Still, it must be borne in mind that, although according to the Gītā, Energism (Karma-Yoga) is in this way stated to be superior, the Gītā does not maintain like other schools, which cannot endure a different philosophy, that the Path of Renunciation is altogether objectionable; and nowhere in the Gītā has any disrespect being shown for that path. On the other hand, the Blessed Lord has clearly stated that both the Path of Renunciation and the Path of Energism or Action (Karma-Yoga) equally lead to Release, that is to say, that they are both of the same value from the point of view of Release; and later on, the Blessed Lord has stated that "ekaṃ sāṃkhyaṃ ca yogaṃ ca yaḥ paśyati sa paśyati" (Bhagavadgītā 5.5), i.e., "that man who has realised that both these paths are of equal value, has realised the true principle", as also that even in the 'Karma-Yoga,' one has to make a 'Renunciation ' of the hope for the fruit of Action–"na hy asaṃnyasta saṃkalpo yogī bhavati kaś ca na" (Bhagavadgītā 6.2), (i.e., "unless a man performs a saṃnyāsa (tyāga) of the saṃkalpa, that is, of the hope of reward, born of a desireful mind, he does not become a (Karma-) Yogin" ~Translator.) and He has in this way skilfully harmonised as far as possible these two paths. But, though from the point of view of Release, the two paths of either abandoning Karma or continuing to perform Karma after acquiring Knowledge (and not before) may be of the same value, yet, from the point of view of worldly affairs, the most superior mode of life is to keep the Renunciation in the Mind itself, and to go on performing lifelong the Action which is beneficial to the world, through the medium of the bodily organs; because, the Blessed Lord has definitely said that in such a mode of life, both Renunciation and Action find a place; and Arjuna has, according to this advice, become ready to fight. This is really the difference between the scient (jñānin) and the ignorant (ajñānin). If one considers only the śarīrakarma, that is, the Actions which are no be performed by the organs, these are same in the both the cases, but the ignorant person performs them with an attached Reason, and the scient, the unattached Reason (Gi. 3.25).

This doctrine of the Gita has been expounded by the dramatist Bhāsa in one of his dramas in the following words:–

prājñāsya mūrkhasya ca kāryyoge |
samatvam abhyeti tanur na buddhiḥ ||
  (Avimāra. 5.5)

That is, "when Actions are performed by the wise man, or the fool, the Body is the same, but the Mind is different."

Some sundry supporters of the Path of Renunciation go further and say in this matter that: it is true that the Gita advises Arjuna to prefer Action; but, this advice was given by the Blessed Lord, bearing in mind the fact that Arjuna has still not acquired Knowledge, and was fit only for performing Actions for purifying the Mind, the path of Karma-tyāga (Abandonment of Action) is the proper course in the state of a siddha (Perfect), even according to the Blessed Lord. But, this means the Blessed Lord feared that if He had told Arjuna that he was ignorant, as he (Arjuna) would have insisted on acquiring complete Knowledge, as was done by Naciketā in the Kaṭhopaniṣad; and then He (the Blessed Lord) would have to initiate Arjuna in the complete Knowledge, and when this complete Knowledge has been imparted, he (Arjuna) would give up war-fare, and become an ascetic, and upset His (the Blessed Lord’s) plans about the war; and the Blessed Lord expounded the Gītā to his most beloved devotee, in order to deceive him. In my opinion, one cannot do better that give up all argument with persons, who, in order to be able to support their own doctrine, stoop so low as to suggest that the Blessed Lord was guilty of such a mean action as to deceive His own beloved disciple. But in order that ordinary people should not be taken in by this deceptive argument, I say that Śrī Kṛṣṇa had not to be afraid of anyone, if He had wanted to say Arjuna in clear terms: "you are ignorant, and therefore, you must go on performing Actions"; and if after that, Arjuna had become rebellious, the Blessed Lord was quite capable of keeping him in ignorance, and making him fight according to his inherent tendencies (prakṛti-dharma), (Bhagavadgītā 18.59 and 61); but instead of doing so, He has over and over again explained to Arjuna the meaning of 'jñāna' and 'vijñāna' (Bhagavadgītā 7.2; 9.1; 10.1; 13.2; 14.1), and at the end of the fifteenth chapter, He has said to Arjuna: "by understanding this science, a man becomes a scient, and a perfect being (Bhagavadgītā 15.23); and having in this way made of Arjuna a complete scient, the Blessed Lord has made him fight of his own free will (Bhagavadgītā 18.63). From this, it becomes abundantly clear that the best mode of life for a scient according to the Blessed Lord, is to continue to perform Action desirelessly, even after having acquired Knowledge. Besides, even if Arjuna is, for the sake of argument, looked upon as ignorant, one cannot say that Janaka and other ancient KarmaYogins, as also the Blessed Lord Himself, whose illustrations have been given by the Blessed Lord in support of His doctrine, were all ignorant. Therefore, one has to say that this fallow argument, based on a doctrinal insistence, is totally improper and objectionable, and that the Gītā has expounded nothing but the doctrine of Action combined with Knowledge.

It has become necessary for me to go in for this introduction, in order to show that the two paths of Abandonment of Action (Sāṃkhya) and Energism (Karma-Yoga) were in vogue from times immemorial, not only in our country, but in other countries; and to show how and why doctrine- supporting commentators have perversely dealt with the two important doctrines of the Gītā on this subject, namely that, (1) these two paths are independent, that is, not inter-dependent, from the point of view of Release; and are of equal value; and that one is not a part of the other; and that, (2) out of these two, Karma-Yoga is the superior path, though these doctrines are quite clear by themselves. I will now consider the subjectmatter of the present chapter, namely, the reasons which have been given in the Gītā for proving that even in the state of Perfection, the path of Karma-Yoga, that is, of performing Actions till death with a desireless frame of mind, is more meritorious than Abandonment of Action. Some of these matters have been explained by me in the chapter on Happiness and Unhappiness (sukha-duḥkha-viveka) above; but f as the argument in that chapter was restricted to the question of happiness and unhappiness, it was not possible for me to fully deal with this subject-matter there. I have, therefore, started this independent chapter here. I have explained in the last chapter that the Vedic religion is divided into the Karma-kāṇḍa and Jñāna-kāṇḍa, and shown what the difference between the two, is. Out of them, there are directions in the Karma-kāṇḍa, that is, in the Śruti texts, such as, the Brahmanas, and partly also in the Upaniṣad texts, that every man, be he a Brahmin or a Kṣatriya, must maintain a sacred fire, and perform the 'jyotiṣṭoma' and other sacrificial ritual according to his own status; and there also clear statements that it is the duty of everyone to marry and increase his generation.

See for instance, the statements:

etad vai jarāmaryaṃ satraṃ yad agnihotram,

I.e. "this sacrifice in the shape of the sacrificial fire (agnihotra) must be kept alive till death" (Sa. Brā.;.


prajātantuṃ mā vyavatchhetsiḥ,

I.e. "do not break the thread of thy generation" (Taittirīya Upaniṣad 1.11.1);


īsāvāsyam idaṃ sarvam,

I.e., "whatever is in this world, should be located into the Parameśvara, that is to say, one should realise that it is of the Parameśvara and not of oneself";

And, with this desireless frame of mind,

kurvan neveha karmāṇi jijīviṣec chataṃ samāḥ |
evaṃ tvayi nānyatheto 'sti na karma lipyate nare ||
  (Īśāvāsyopaniṣad 1 and 2)

That is, "one should entertain the desire of living upto a hundred years, which is the limit of the life of man, whilst performing. Actions; and when Actions are performed 'evam', that is, with that īsāvāsyam (god-dedicating) frame of mind, they will not- have a binding force (lepa) on you (on any human being), and there is no other way for escaping (that lepa or bondage)".

But, when one leaves the Karma-kāṇḍa and moves on to the Jñāna-kāṇḍa, one also comes across contradictory statements in the same Vedic treatises, such as,

brahmavidāpnoti param
  (Taittirīya Upaniṣad 2.1.1),

I.e., "Release is obtained by Knowledge of the Brahman";


nānyaḥ panthā vidyate 'yanāya
  (Śvetāśvataropaniṣad 3.8),

I.e., "there is,no "other path, except Knowledge, for obtaining Release";


pūrve vidvāṃsaḥ prajāṃ na kāmayante | kiṃ prajayā kariṣyāmo yeṣāṃ no 'yaṃ ātmā 'yaṃ loka iti te ha sma putraiṣaṇāyāś ca vittaiṣaṇāyāś ca lokaiṣaṇāyāś ca vyutthāyātha bhikṣācaryaṃ caranti
  (Bṛhadāraṇyakopaniṣad 4. 4. 22 and 3. 5. 1),

I.e., "the scients of yore did not have any desire for children; they used to say: 'as we see that the whole world is nothing but our Ātman, why should we have any (other) generation?' and, without entertaining the 'eṣaṇā', that is, desire, for wealth, children, heaven, and the other spheres, such scients used to renounce those things, and roam about the world at will begging for alms";

Or, "such persons, who have thus become ascetics, attain Release (Muṇḍakopaniṣad 1.2.11); or, ultimately,

yad ahar eva virajet tad altar eva pravrajet
  (Jābā. 4),

I.e., "on such day as your mind becomes apathetic, on that day you should renounce the world",

As the directions of the Vedas are in this way two-fold (Śriman Mahābhārata Śān. 240.6), it becomes necessary to see whether there is some other means of deciding which of the two paths,- namely, Activism (pravṛtti) or Renunciation (nivṛtti), Karma-Yoga or Sāṃkhya, is superior. The question could have been decided by considering the 'ācāra', that is, the conduct, usage, or custom of well-behaved persons (śiṣṭa); but, in this matter, even the conduct of such persons is seen to be two-fold. It is clear from history that Śuka, Yājñavalkya, and others had taken to the Path of Renunciation, whereas Janaka, Śrī Kṛṣṇa, Jaigīṣavya and other scients had adopted the Path of Action.

Therefore, Bādarāyaṇācārya has said in the argument in the demonstrated conclusion (siddhānta-pakṣa), that both these paths are 'tulyaṃ tu darśanam', that is, of equal value from the point of view of conduct (Vedānta-Sūtras 3.4.9); and there is even a Smṛti text that:–

vivekī sarvadā muktaḥ kurvato nāsti kartṛtā |
alepavādam āśritya śrīkṛṣṇajanakau yathā ||

That is, "that person who has acquired complete Knowledge- of the Brahman, is always a non-doer (akartā), isolated (alipta), and eternally released like Śrī Kṛṣṇa and Janaka".[4]

In the same way, in the Bhagavadgītā, after mentioning the tradition of the Karma-Yoga from Manu to Ikṣvāku, etc., it is stated that: "evaṃ jñātvā kṛtaṃ karma pūrvair api mumukṣubhiḥ" (Gi. 4.15), i.e., knowing this scients like Janaka and other performed Action in ancient times. In the Yogavāśiṣṭha and the Bhāgavata, there have been given other illustrations besides that is Janaka (Yoga-Vāśiṣṭha 5.75; Bhāga. 2.8.43–45). If someone doubts whether Janaka and others had acquired complete Knowledge of the Brahman it is clearly stated in the Yogavāśiṣṭha that all these persons were jīvanmukta (birth-released). Not only in Yogavāśiṣṭha, but also in the Mahabharata, Vyasa is stated to have sent his son Śuka ultimately to Janaka in order to get complete Knowledge of the science of Release (Śriman Mahābhārata Śān. 325 and Yoga-Vāśiṣṭha 2.1). So also, even in the Upaniṣads, there are traditions that the King Aśvapati Kaikeya had taught the knowledge of the Brahman to the Ṛṣi Uddālaka, and that Ajātaśatru, the king of Kasi, had taught it to Gārgya Bālāki (Br. 2.1). Yet, there is nowhere any statement that either Aśvapati or Janaka had given up their kingdom, and had taken to Renunciation in the form of the Abandonment of Action.

On the other hand, it the conversation between Janaka and Sulabhā, he (Janaka) first describes to her his own state by saying: I am attachmentless, that is I am ruling without being attached, if one my hand is anointed with sandal-wood paste and the other hand cut off, the pain and the pleasure of both, would be the same etc. and the goes on to say:–

mokṣe hi trividhā niṣṭhā dṛṣtvā 'nyair mokṣavittamaiḥ |
jñānaṃ lokottaraṃ yac ca sarvatyāgaś ca karmaṇām ||
jñānaniṣṭhāṃ vadanti eke mokṣaśāstravido janāḥ |
karmaniṣṭhāṃ tayaivānye yatayaḥ sūkṣmadarśinah ||
prahāyobhyam apy evam jñānaṃ karma ca kevalam |
tṛtīyeyaṃ samākhyātā niṣṭhā tena mahātmanā ||
  (Ma. Bhā. Śān. 320.38–40)

That is, those who know the science of Release have prescribed three different systems (1) acquiring 'Jñāna, and abandoning all Action; that is known by the experts in the science of Release as 'Jñāna-niṣṭhā; (2) in the same way, other subtle philosophers mention a Karma-niṣṭhā; but besides the pure Jñāna-niṣṭhā and the pure Karma-niṣṭhā, this (3) third Niṣṭhā or path, (that is, the path of performing Action after having destroyed Attachment by means of Knowledge) has been mentioned to me by that sage (Pañcaśikha)".

The word 'niṣṭhā' means 'that course of leading one's life by which ultimate Release is obtained'; and even in the Śāṃkarabhāṣya on the Gītā, the word 'niṣṭhā' has been interpreted as meaning 'anuṣṭheyatātparyam', that is, the 'tatparatā' (being engrossed) in that which is 'anuṣṭheya'- (to be performed in life).

Out of these paths of living one's life, Jaiminī and other followers of the Mīmāṃsā school have not given any importance to Knowledge, but have maintained that Release is obtained solely by performing sacrificial ritual:–

ījānā bahūbhiḥ yajñaiḥ brāhmaṇā veda-pāragāḥ |
śāstrāṇi cet pramāṇam syuḥ prāptās te paramāṃ gatim ||
  (Mīmāṃsā-Sūtras 5.2.23)

Because, if one believes the contrary, the injunctions of the Śāstras, that is, of the Vedas, will become futile. (See the Śābara-bhāṣya on Mīmāṃsā-Sūtras 5.2.23); and the writers of the Upaniṣads, as also Bādarāyaṇācārya have treated all sacrificial ritual as inferior, and laid down the doctrine that Release is obtained by Knowledge, and that it cannot be obtained by anything other than Knowledge (Vedānta-Sūtras 3.4.1, 2). But Janaka says that Pañcaśikha (being himself a follower of Sāṃkhya philosophy) had taught a third system (niṣṭhā) distinct from both these systems, namely, of performing Actions, being free from Attachment. It becomes clear from the words "distinct from both these niṣṭhā" that this third system is not a part of either of the two systems, but is a totally independent one. This third system of Janaka has been ultimately mentioned even in the Vedānta-Sūtras (Vedānta-Sūtras 3.4.32–35); and even in the Bhagavadgītā, it is this third system of Janaka–with the addition of Devotion–which has been mentioned. But the doctrine of the Gītā is, that the path of the Mīmāṃsā school, that is, of Karma without Jñāna, does not lead to Release, but only to heaven Gī. 2.42–44; 9.21), and that path which does not produce Release can also not be called a ‘niṣṭhā’, because the definition of niṣṭhā is a path which ultimately leads to Release is accepted by everybody. Therefore, although in referring in a general way to the various schools of thought, Janaka has referred to three systems, yet, the pure Karma-mārga of the Mīmāṃsā school, which excludes Knowledge, has been omitted from the class of niṣṭhā, and the other remaining two have been described in the beginning of the third chapter of the Gītā (Bhagavadgītā 3.3).

These are the system of Pure Knowledge (Sāṃkhya), and the system of Knowledge combined with Desireless action (Yoga); and in support of the second out of these two systems, (namely, of the third system according to the Janaka), the historical illustration of Janaka has been mentioned as:

karmaṇaiva hi saṃsiddhim āsthitā janakādayaḥ
  (Bhagavadgītā 3.20),

I.e., “Janaka and other obtained Release only by performing Action in this way”.

Even if we do not take into account the case of Janaka and other Kṣatriya kings, Vyāsa procreated the two Kṣetraja sons, Dhṛtarāṣṭra and Pāṇḍu, in order to keep unbroken the ruling line of Vicitravīrya; and he wrote Mahābhārata by three years’ continuous labour in order to redeem the world; and it is wellknown that in the Kaliyuga, Śrī Śaṃkarācārya, who was a protagonist of the Saṃnyāsa School based on the Smṛtis, reestablished the Hindu religion by his super-human intelligence and industry. Nay, the world itself came into existence when Brahmadeva was ready to perform Action; and as I have stated above, there is a statement in the description of the Nārāyaṇīya doctrine in the Mahābhārata, that Marīci and the other six mind-born sons came into existence out of Brahmadeva, and they stuck to the Activistic path till death, without taking to asceticism, in order to keep alive the course of Action, whereas the other seven mind-born sons of Brahmadeva, namely, Sanatkumāra and others, were born from birth free from Desire and followers of the Path of Renunciation (Śriman Mahābhārata Śān. 339 and 240).

The explanation as to why those who had realised the Brahman, and even Brahmadeva himself, adopted this Activistic path (pravṛttimārga) of performing Action, has been given in the VedantaSutras in the following words:

yāvad adhikāram avasthitirādhikāriṇām
  (Vedānta-Sūtras 3.3.32),

I.e., "until that which has been prescribed for a particular person by the Parameśvara has been completely performed, he does not escape the performance of Action".

This explanation will be considered later on. Whatever the explanation may be, this much becomes dear, namely, that the two Paths of Action (pravṛtti), and Inaction (nivṛtti), were followed by scients from the very commencement of the world; and therefore, it is clear that one cannot decide as to which of the two is the better path merely from the conduct of scients.

But, the next argument of Asceticists is that, although one cannot, merely from the consideration of conduct, decide whether Inaction is better than Action, since the traditional conduct is in this way two-fold, yet, as it is clear that there is no Release until one has broken the bondage of Karma, it follows that it is more beneficial to discard the ties of desirecreating Karma, or Action, as early as possible after the acquisition of Knowledge.

In the 'Śukānuśāsana' chapter of the Mahābhārata–this chapter is also known as 'Śukānupraśna'–the Path of Renunciation has been advocated; and there, to the following question made by Śuka to Vyāsa, namely,

yad idaṃ vedavacanaṃ kuru karma tyajeti ca |
kāṃ diśaṃ vidyayā yānti kāṃ ca gacchanti karmaṇā ||
  (Śān. 240.1)

That is, "the Vedas enjoin the performance of Action, as also the Abandonment of Action; therefore, tell me what results are obtained by 'vidyā', that is, by Knowledge without Action, or by Action alone",

Vyāsa in replying has said:–

karmaṇā badhyate jantur vidyayā tu pramucyate |
tasmāt karma na kurvanti yatayaḥ pāradarśinaḥ ||
  (Śān. 240. 7)

That is, "by Karma, the created being is bound, and by Knowledge he is released; therefore, the through-seeing Yatins or ascetics, do not perform Action".

I have already fully dealt with the first part of this stanza in the last chapter.

There is not the slightest dispute about the proposition:

karmaṇā badhyate jantur vidyayā tu pramucyate;

And I have shown in that chapter that if one considers what is meant by the words "karmaṇā badhyate", one sees that, gross or lifeless Karma by itself does not either hind or release anybody; that, man is bound by Karma as a result of his Hope for Fruit, or by his own Attachment; and that, when this Attachment has been got rid of, a man stands Released, notwithstanding that ha may be performing Action by his external organs.

With this idea in mind, Śrī Rāmacandra says to Lakṣmaṇa in the Adhyātma-Rāmāyaṇa, that:–

pravāhapatitaḥ kāryaṃ kurvann api na lipyate |
bāhye sarvatra kartṛtvam āvahann api rāghava ||

That is, "the man who has fallen in the stream of saṃsāra (worldly life), which is the embodiment of Action, remains untouched, though he may externally perform all sorts of duties".

When one considers this doctrine of the philosophy of the Absolute Self, one sees that it is no more necessary to abandon Action on the ground that it is productive of unhappiness, and that it is enough if one makes one's mind pure and equable, and gives up the hope of reward. In short, though there may be an opposition between Knowledge and Desireful Action, no kind of opposition can exist between Knowledge and Desireless Action.

Therefore, in the Anugītā, instead of the phrase,

tasmāt karma na kurvanti,

I.e.,"therefore Actions are not performed",

It is stated that:–

tasmāt karmasu niḥsnehā ye kecit pāradarśinaḥ ||
  (Aśva. 51.33.)

That is: "therefore, through-seeing scients are not attached to Action";

And before that sentence, there is a clear defence and advocacy of the Karma-Yoga in the following words, namely,

kurvate ye ta karmaṇi śraddadhānā vipaścitaḥ |
anāśīryogasaṃyuktās te dhīraḥ sādhudarśinaḥ ||
  (Aśva. 50.67)

That is, "those scients, who, having faith, adopt the (Karma-) Yoga path and perform Actions without entertaining desire, are sādhudarśin".

In the same way, in the advice given by Śaunaka to Yudhiṣṭhira in the Vanaparva, there has been added to the following first part of the stanza,

yad idaṃ vedavacanaṃ kuru karma tyajeti ca |

The following latter part, namely,

tasmād dharmān imān sarvān nābhimānāt samācaret ||
  (Vana. 2, 73).

That is, "though the Vedas enjoin both the performance of and the abandonment of Action, one should perform all one's duties (Karma) without entertaining the pride (of being the doer)";

And in the Śukānupraśna also, Vyāsa has in two places clearly said to Śuka that:–

eṣā pūrvatarā vṛttir brāhmaṇasya vidhīyate |
jñānavān eva karmaṇi kurvan sarvatra sidhyati ||
  (Ma. Bhā. Śān. 237. 1; 334. 39.)

That is, "obtaining Release by acquiring Knowledge and also performing Actions, is the most ancient (pūrvatarā) method of Brahmins". It is clear that Karma combined with Jñāna, and after the acquisition of Jñāna, is intended by the words jñānavān eva.

When one considers dispassionately these statements which support either side of the question, it becomes clear that the argument "karmaṇā badhyate jantuḥ", does not yield the only inference,

tasmāt karma na kurvanti,

I.e., "therefore, Actions are not performed",

Which supports Abandonment of Action, but also the equally important inference,

"tasmāt karmasu niḥsnehāḥ,

I.e., "therefore, one does not become attached to Karma "–which is in support of Desireless Action.

It is also not that I alone draw this two-fold inference of my own accord, but even Vyāsa himself has clearly expressed this meaning in the following verse from the Śukānupraśna, namely,

dvāv imāv atha panthānau yasmin vedaḥ pratiṣṭhitāḥ |
pravṛttilakṣaṇo dharmaḥ nivṛttiś ca vibhāṣitaḥ || [5]
  (Ma, Bhā. Śān. 240. 6).

That is, "such are the two modes of life, both of which are equally supported by the Vedas,–the one is the Activistic path, and the other is of Inaction, that is, of Renunciation".

So also, as I have mentioned before, is it stated in the Nārāyaṇīya doctrine that these two paths have existed independently from the commencement of the world. Bat, as both these paths have been mentioned independently, as occasion arose, in the Mahābhārata, we find in one and the same Mahābhārata statements, which support the Path of Inaction, side by side with statements, which support the Path of Activism; and in the commentaries on the Gītā, which support the Path of Renunciation, the statements supporting the Path of Inaction have been referred to as the only important ones, as though there could be no other path, or as if any other path which might be possible, was either inferior, or only a preparatory step of the Path of Renunciation. But, this kind of argument is only doctrinal; and on that account, though the meaning of the Gītā is clear and plain in itself, it has now-adays become unintelligible to many. The stanza "dvāv imāv atha panthānau " etc., is of the same importance as the stanza "loke 'smin dvividhā niṣṭhā" (Bhagavadgītā 3.3) in the Gītā; that is to say, one can clearly see the intention to refer in this place to two modes of life which are of equal value, But soma persons, closing their eyes to this plain meaning, and to the previous and subsequent context, attempt to maintain that this verse indicates only one path and not two paths.

Though the Vedic religion thus falls into these two independent paths of Karma-Saṃnyāsa (Sāṃkhya) and

Desireless Action (Yoga), yet, as the Gītā does not look upon them as equally good alternatives, but is of the firm opinion that 'the Karma-Yoga is superior to the Path of Renunciation', it further says, in support of the superiority of Karma-Yoga, that it will be impossible for us to abandon Karma, so long as the world in which we live, as also our very existence in it for even a single moment, is itself Karma; and if one has to live in this world, that is to say, in this land of Action, how can one escape Action? We see ourselves that thirst, hunger, and other desires do not leave us so long as our body lives (31. 5. 8, 9); and if the Path of Renunciation gives us the liberty of performing a disgraceful Action like begging for satisfying those desires, what prevents us from performing all other worldly Actions, prescribed by the Śāstras, with a desireless frame of mind? If a person wishes to give up the performance of these other Actions, fearing that he will lose the happiness of the Brahman, or forget his Non-Dualistic Realisation of the identity of the Brahman and the Ātman, by becoming bound up in the bonds of Karma, his mental control must be looked upon as still imperfect; and all Abandonment of Action made when the mental control is not perfect, is, according to the Gītā, the result of ignorance (moha) and is a tāmasa or futile act (Bhagavadgītā 18.7; 3.6). Not only is this so, but it naturally follows that in order to perfect such imperfect mental control by means of the purification of the mind, such a man must continue to perform the Karma prescribed by the Śrutis or Smṛtis for a householder, such as, sacrificial ritual, charity etc., which promotes the desireless frame of mind. In short, such an Abandonment of Action is never meritorious. Well; if you say that the man's mind is unaffected by objects of pleasure and is under his control, then why should he be afraid of Karma, or, why should he take up the futile attitude of not-performing Action?

Just as an umbrella made for protecting against rain, can be tested only in the rain, so also, or, by the comprehensive test of Kālidāsa:–

vikārahetau sati vikriyante |
yeṣāṃ na cetāṃsi ta eva dhīraḥ ||
  (Kumāra, 1.59)

That is: "that man, whose mind does not fall a prey to mental confusion, when the objects which create the emotions are in front of the eyes, may truely be said to be brave",

Is the control of the mind really tested by means of Karma; and the fact as to whether or not the mind has become perfect is ascertained not only by others, but also by the doer of the Actions himself. It, therefore, follows, even on this basis, that those Actions which befall one according to the injunctions of the Śāstras, that is to say, those Actions which befall one in the stream of life, must be performed (Bhagavadgītā 18.6).

If one says,

"I am not afraid that the acquired purification of my mind will be affected by the performance of Action, because, my mind is under proper control; but I do not wish to waste my time in the performance of Action, and thereby unnecessarily tire my body, if it is not necessary to do so for obtaining Release",

Such an abandonment of Action, which is due to the contemptible fear of troubling the body, becomes a 'rājasa' abandonment, and the fruit or good result to be obtained by Abandonment of Action, is not obtained by the man who abandons Action in this way (Bhagavadgītā 18.8). Then why is Action to be abandoned at all '! If someone says that it is not proper for the Self, which pertains to the permanent world of the Brahman, to take part in Action, which pertains to the Māyā-world and is nonpermanent, even such an objection is not proper; because, if the Paramātman Itself is covered by Māyā, where is the objection for a man to be clothed in Māyā in the same way? Just as there are the two divisions, of the world, namely, the Brahman-world and the Māyā-world, so also are there the two divisions of the Self and of the corporeal organs in the case of a human being. Out of these, couple the Self with the Brahman, merge the Self in the Brahman, and, keeping your mind unattached in this way, by realising the- identity of the Brahman and the Ātman, perform all the activities in the Māyā-world by the Māyic corporeal organs; that is all When one behaves in this way, not only will there be no obstruction to one's obtaining Release, but further, the proper portions will be joined together, and one will not incur the blame of not having shown proper respect to, or having disjointed, any portion of the creation; and one will obtain the merit of having performed one's duty both in the Māyā-world and in the Brahman-world–this world and the next. This is the theory which has been supported in the Īśāvāsyopaniṣad (Īśāvāsyopaniṣad 11). But, these statements from the Śrutis will be considered in detail later on. For the time being, I will only say that the statement in the Gītā, that the scients, who realise the identity of the Brahman and the Ātman, perform all activities in the illusory world merely by their body or merely by their organs (Bhagavadgītā 4.21; 5.12), means the same thing; and the propositions in the Gītā (Bhagavadgītā 18.9), that "the true sāttvika Abandonment of Action consists in performing Actions with an unattached frame of mind, without entertaining the hope of reward, and merely as a duty", and that "the non-performance of Action is not the true abandonment of Action", have been made to bring out this idea. Though Karma belongs to the Māyā-world, the Parameśvara has created it for some- unintelligible reason; and, it is not within the power of any human being to stop it; it is within the power only of the Parameśvara to do so; and there is no doubt that the performance of Actions merely by the body, keeping the Reason unattached, does not prevent a person from obtaining Release. Then, where is the objection to performing the Actions prescribed by the Śāstras through the medium solely of the organs and being renounced in Mind?

It is said in the Gītā that,

na hi kaścit kṣaṇam api jātu tiṣṭhaty akarmakṛt
  (Bhagavadgītā 3.5; 18.11),

I.e., "in this world, no one can for a single moment remain without performing Action";

And, in the Anugītā, that,

naiṣkarmyaṃ na ca loke 'smin muhūrtam api labhyate
  (Aśva. 20.7),

I.e., "in this world, there is no escape from Karma (for anybody) even for a single moment".

Not only men, but even. the Sun and the Moon are continually performing Action! Nay: as it is definite that Karma is nothing but the creation, and that the creation is nothing but Karma, we ourselves see that the activities of the world, that is to say, Karma, does not rest for a moment.

The Blessed Lord has said in the Bhagavadgītā (Bhagavadgītā 3.8) that, "if one gives up Action, it will be impossible to get food to eat, and Draupadi has said to Yudhiṣṭhira in the Mahābhārata that,

akarmaṇāṃ vai bhūtānāṃ vṛttiḥ syān na hi kācana
  (Vana. 32. 8),

I.e., "living beings cannot exist without performing Action";

And accordingly, even Śrī Samartha Rāmadāsa Svāmi says in the Dāsabodha, after having referred to the Knowledge of the Brahman, that: "if one tries to reach the highest goal, giving up the activities of life I one will not get even food to eat" I (Dāsabodha 12.1.3).

And, if one considers the life of the Blessed Lord Himself, He is" seen to be performing the Action of helping saints and destroying villains in this illusory world from Yuga to Yuga by taking up various incarnations (Bhagavadgītā 4.8. and Śriman Mahābhārata Śān. 339.103); and the Blessed Lord has Himself said in the Gītā, that if He did not perform these Actions, the world would become desolate and be destroyed (Bhagavadgītā 3. 24). If the Blessed Lord Himself is, in this -way, performing Actions for the maintenance of the world, it clearly follows that there is no sense in saying that the performance of Action after the acquisition of Knowledge is useless.

Therefore, the Blessed Lord advises everybody in the name of Arjuna, according to "the rule,

yaḥ kriyāvān sa paṇḍitaḥ
  (Śriman Mahābhārata Vana. 312.108),

I.e. "that man is the truly learned man, who is a doer",

That since nobody in this world can escape Karma, one must perform all the duties which befall one according to one's own status in life, giving up the desire for fruit, that is, with one's mind in a state of renunciation, in order that one should not be affected by Karma; and that this is the only and the best way (Yoga) which is possible for man. Matter (prakṛti) will always go on performing its activities; but when one gives up the egotistical idea that he is the performer of the Action, one is Released (Bhagavadgītā 3.27; 13.29; 14.19; 18.16). Not only is the nonperformance of Action, or Renunciation in the shape of the Abandonment of Action (as prescribed by the Sāṃkhyas), not necessary to obtain Release, but it is never possible to entirely abandon Action in this world of Action.

To this, some persons raise a further objection, that though it may not be necessary to abandon Action for breaking the bondage of Karma, and it may be enough to merely give up the desire for the fruit of Karma, yet, when the mind has become desireless as a result of the acquisition of Knowledge, and all desires have been destroyed, there remains nothing which will provoke one to perform Action; and therefore, if not as a result of the fear of unnecessarily taxing the body, at least as a result of the destruction of Desire, Karma comes to an end of itself. The highest goal of a man in this world is the obtaining of Release; and, as the man who has obtained such Release by means of Knowledge has no more any 'eṣaṇā' (desire) for children, wealth, or heaven (Bṛhadāraṇyakopaniṣad 3.5.1 and 4.4.22), it is the natural, inherent and ultimate result of such Jñāna, that Karma should leave such a person, although he may not wish to give it up.

That is why it is stated in the Uttaragītā that:

jñānāmṛtena tṛptasya kṛtakṛtyasya yoginaḥ |
na cāsti kiṃcit kartavyam asti cen na sa tattvavit ||
  (Uttara. 1, 23).

That is, "for that man who has become Accomplished (kṛtakṛtya), as a result of having drunk the nectar of Knowledge, no further duty remains; and if any further duty remains, that man is not a real 'tattvavit', i.e., Jñānin".[6]

And if this is looked upon as a fault in a Jñānin, that is wrong.

As a matter of fact, Śrī Śaṃkarācārya has said that this is an ornament of the person who has acquired the Knowledge of the Brahman–

alaṅkāro hy ayam asmākaṃ yad brahmātmāvagatau satyāṃ sarvakartavyatāhāniḥ
  (Śāṃkarabhāṣya 1.1.4).

So also, are there such: statements in the Gītā as,

tasya kāryaṃ na vidyate
  (Bhagavadgītā 3.17),

I.e., "for the Jñānin, nothing remains to be done"; or, "for him, there is no necessity of the Vedic Karma-ritual" (Bhagavadgītā 2.46);


yogārūḍhasya tasyaiva śamaḥ kāraṇam ucyate
  (Bhagavadgītā 6.3),

I.e., "when once a man has become steeped in the Yoga, abandonment (śama) becomes necessary (kāraṇa) for him";

And such adjectives as,

  (Bhagavadgītā 12.16),

I.e., "one who has given up all activities"


  (Bhagavadgītā 12.19),

I.e., "one who has no home"

Etc. have been used in the Gītā with reference to a Jñānin. Some persons, therefore, think that the Bhagavadgītā accepts the position that Karma leaves a man of its own accord, after the acquisition of Knowledge, But, in my opinion, these meanings ascribed to these words and sentences in the Gītā, as also the arguments mentioned above, are not correct. I will, therefore, set out here in short what I have to say to the contrary.

As I have already shown above in the chapter on Happiness and Unhappiness, the Gītā does not accept the position, that when a man has acquired Knowledge, all his wishes or desires must necessarily have come to an end. There is no unhappiness in merely having a desire or a wish, and the true root of unhappiness is the Attachment, which is part of the Desire. Therefore, the doctrine of the Gītā is, that instead of killing desires of all kinds, one should only give up the Attachment to the objects of desire, and go on performing all Actions. It is not -that when this Attachment is given up, activity must also be simultaneously given up. Nay, it is impossible that activity should come to an end, though Desire may have come to an end; and we see that whether there is Desire or not, everyday.Actions like breathing etc. continue. But why go so far? Remaining alive, even for a single moment, is an Action by itself: and though a man may have acquired perfect Knowledge, this living does not come to an end by his desire or by the destruction of his desires.

It is a matter of everybody's experience, that no Jñānin commits suicide because he has acquired Knowledge; and that is why the Gītā says that,

na hi kaścit kṣaṇam api jātu tiṣṭhaty akarmakṛt
  (Bhagavadgītā 3.5),

I.e., "no one, whoever he is, can remain without performing Action".

The first doctrine of the Karma-Yoga in the Gītā is, that hi this world of Action, Action is something which befalls everyone naturally, and that it is not only a part of the stream of life, but also inevitable, and not dependent on the desire of man. When it has thus been proved that there is no mutual and permanent relationship between Desire and Action, the statement, that Karma must come to an end simultaneously with the destruction of desire, falls to the ground of itself; and then the question naturally arises as to in what way the scient (Jñānin) should perform those Actions, which befall him even after the destruction of Desire. The reply to this question is given in the third chapter of the Gītā (See Bhagavadgītā 3.17–19, and my commentary on it). The Gītā accepts the position that there remains no duty for the Jñānin, after the acquisition of Knowledge, as of his own. But it goes further and says that no man, whoever he may be, escapes Action. The two propositions that the Jñānin (scient) is free from duty and that he does not escape Karma, appear to some persons mutually contradictory. But the same is not the case with the Gītā. It harmonises them by saying that in as much as Karma is unavoidable, the scient must perform it even after the acquisition of Knowledge; but, in as much as a Jñānin has no more any duty for his own Self, it now becomes necessary for him to perform all his duties desirelessly.

In short, the word 'tasya' (that is, 'for the Jñānin') in the line "tasya kāryaṃ na vidyate", in the seventeenth stanza of the third chapter is more important than the words "kāryaṃ na vidyate"; and the sum and substance of the stanza is, that as there is nothing more to be got by a Jñānin 'as for himself ', he must thereafter, that is, after the acquisition of Knowledge, perform his duties desirelessly; and the same purport has been conveyed to Arjuna by the words,

"tasmād asaktaḥ satataṃ kāryaṃ karma samācara
  (Bhagavadgītā 3.19),

I.e., "therefore, go on performing whatever duties have befallen you, according to the injunction of the Śāstras, without becoming attached to the Karma, and do not give up the Karma",

By using the cause-denoting word 'tasmāt' in the beginning of the stanza. When this relation of data and conclusion between the seventeenth and the nineteenth verses of the third chapter, as also the entire context of the chapter, is taken into account, it will be seen that it is not correct to take the words "tasya kāryaṃ na vidyate" as an independent proposition, as is done by the supporters of the Path of Renunciation, The best proof of this position are the' following illustrations.

In support of the proposition that one has to perform all the duties which befall one as a result of the injunctions of the Śāstras, even after the acquisition of Knowledge, though no duty for one's own benefit remains, the Blessed Lord says immediately afterwards that:

na me pārthāsti kartavyaṃ triṣu lokeṣu kiṃcana |
nānavāptam avāptavyaṃ varta eva ca karmaṇi ||
  (Bhagavadgītā 3.22).

That is: "O Pārtha, there is not (remaining) for Me any duty which is Mine in this three-fold universe, nor is there (in Mo any desire to obtain) anything which has not been obtained by Me; see that I am also nevertheless performing Karma".

The words, "na me kartavyam asti ", i.e., "for me, no duty has remained " in this stanza have been said with reference to the words, "tasya kāryaṃ na vidyate", i.e., "for him, there remains no duty", in the former stanza (Bhagavadgītā 8.17); and, therefore, it is quite clear that these four or five stanzas bear out the proposition that, "though no duty may have remained as a result of the acquisition of Knowledge, yet, and even for that very reason, one must perform all the duties prescribed by the Sastras, with an unattached frame of mind". Otherwise, His own illustration given by the Blessed Lord far emphasising the doctrine enunciated in the stanza, "tasya kāryaṃ na vidyate", becomes totally out of place; and the impossible position of the enunciated doctrine being different from the illustration given, will arise. ln order to get over this impassible position. His commentators, who follow the Renunciation school, interpret the word 'tasmāt', in the sentence "tasmād asaktaḥ satataṃ kāryaṃ karma samācara", in quite a different way. According to them, the main doctrine of the

Bhagavadgītā is that the scient mast give up Action, But Arjuna was not a scient; therefore–'tasmāt'–the Blessed Lord has enjoined him to perform Karma, But as I have already explained above, tie argument that Arjuna was still ignorant, after having heard the Gītā, is incorrect. Besides, even though the meaning of the word 'tasmāt' may be thus stretched, the illustration about Himself given by the Blessed Lord, in support of the main proposition, by the words, "na me pārthā 'sti kartavyam etc.", i.e., "I am performing Action, although no duty is left for Me for My own benefit", cannot be properly explained in the same way. Therefore, the word 'tasya' in the sentence "tasya kāryaṃ na vidyate" must be considered important instead of the words "kāryaṃ na vidyate": and when that is done, the sentence "tasmād asaktaḥ satataṃ kāryaṃ karma samācara" must be interpreted as meaning: "you are a scient; and, therefore, it is true that there is no Karma left for yon for your own personal benefit; but, for the very reason that such Karma is not necessary for your own benefit, do whatever duties befall you according to the Śāstras, with the feeling 'this is not for me', that is, with a desireless frame of mind". In short, according to the Gītā, the idea 'this is not for me' does not become a reason for not performing Karma, and we have to draw the inference, that as Action is unavoidable therefore, this unavoidable Action, which has been prescribed by the Śāstras, must be performed with a self-sacrificing frame of mind; and, considering the matter from the point of view of consistency, the same meaning has to be adopted. This is the great and important difference between Renunciation of Action (Karma-Saṃnyāsa) and Energism (Karma-Yoga). Those who follow the Renunciation school say: "nothing has remained for you to do; therefore, do nothing"; and the Gītā says: "nothing has remained for you to do, for your own benefit; and, therefore, do henceforth whatever you have to do, giving up selfish desires, and with an unattached frame of mind". Why should two such different inferences arise from one and the same sentence? The only reply to this is, that as the Gītā considers Karma as unavoidable, the conclusion, 'therefore, give up Action', cannot at all arise according to the philosophy of the Gītā. Therefore, the Gītā has drawn the conclusion that Action should be performed, giving up selfish desires, from the data 'it is not for your benefit.' The argument adopted by Vaśiṣṭha in the Yoga-Vāśiṣṭha, after he had preached the Knowledge of the Brahman to Rāma, for inducing him to perform Desireless Action is the same; and the abovementioned doctrine of the Bhagavadgītā has been adopted literally at the end of the Yoga-Vāśiṣṭha (See Yoga-Vāśiṣṭha 6. U. 199 and 216.14; and my commentary on the translation of Bhagavadgītā 3.19). The teaching of the Gītā has been adopted in the Buddhistic religion in the sacred books of the Mahāyāna sect, in the same way as it has been adopted in the Yoga-Vaśiṣṭha. But, I have not dealt with that matter here, as it will be straying from the subject, and I have considered it later in the Appendix.

When a man has got the Knowledge of the Ātman, the individualistic language of 'I' and 'mine' does not remain (Bhagavadgītā 18.16 and 26); and therefore, the Jñānin is said to be 'nirmama'. 'nir-mama' means, one who does not say, 'mine', 'mine' (mama); and Jñāneśvara Mahārāja has conveyed the same idea in describing the Jñānin in the following stanza (oṃviṃ):

He does not know the word 'I'
he does not say of anything that it is 'mine'
Experience of pain and happiness
for him there is none.
  (Jñāneśvarī 12. 149. See p. 346 above).

But, it must not he forgotten that although the feeling of 'I' or 'mine' may be got rid of, as a result of the Knowledge of the Brahman, their place is taken by the words 'the world' and 'for the world'–or speaking in the language of Devotion, by the words 'the Parameśvara', and 'of the Parameśvara'. Every ordinary human being in the world carries out all his activities with the feeling of 'mine', or, 'for my benefit'. But, as that man who has become a scient, has lost his 'mine-ness' (mamatva'), he begins to perform all the activities in the world created by the Īśvara with the feeling (the mine-less, i.e., nir-mama feeling) that they are of the Parameśvara, and that the Parameśvara has created him for performing them: this is the difference between the Jñānin and the Ajñānin (Bhagavadgītā 3.27, 28). When one takes into account this doctrine of the Gītā, the plain meaning of the words, " 'śama' becomes a 'kāraṇa' to the person who has become steeped in Yoga", becomes apparent (See. Bhagavadgītā 6.3 and my commentary on it). Some commentators on the Gītā interpret this stanza as meaning that, the man, who has become steeped in Yoga, should thereafter take to 'śama' that is, 'śānti', and do nothing else. But this meaning is not correct, 'śama' means 'peace of mind'; and instead of describing that 'śama' as the ultimate 'result' (kārya), it is said in this stanza that this 'śama' or 'śānti' is the 'cause' (kāraṇa) of something else–"śamaḥ kāraṇam ucyate". Therefore, 'śama' must be considered as a 'kāraṇa' (cause), and we must see what the 'kārya' (result) of it is. If one considers the previous and subsequent context, it becomes clear that that result (kārya) is 'Karma'; and then this stanza has to be interpreted as meaning, that the Yogin should make his mind peaceful, and perform all his further activities by means of that śama or śānti (peace); and one cannot interpret it, as has been done by the commentators, as meaning that 'the Yogin (yogārūḍha) should give up Karma'. In the same way, the words "sarvārambhaparityāgī" and "aniketaḥ" must be interpreted as indicating the Abandonment of the Hope of Fruit, rather than the Abandonment of the Action itself, as has been shown by me in my commentary attached to the translations of the verses in the various places. The second illustration given by the Blessed Lord in addition to His own, for proving the proposition that the Jñānin must perform all the various duties prescribed for the four castes, giving up the Hope for Fruit, and according to the Śāstras, is that of Janaka. Janaka was a Karma-yogin of a very high order.

He had become unselfish to such a great extent that he is said to have uttered the words:

mithilāyāṃ pradīptāyā na, me dahyati kiṃcana
  (Śān. 275. 4 and 219. 50),

I.e., "I will not feel it at all, even if the capital of my kingdom is burnt";

And in explaining why he was still carrying on the activities of ruling, though he had no selfish interest or advantage or disadvantage of his left, Janaka himself says:–

devebhyaś ca pitṛbhyaś ca bhūtebhyo 'tithibhiḥ saha |
ity arthaṃ sarva evaite samārambhā bhavanti vai ||
  (Śriman Mahābhārata Aśva. 32.24)

That is, "all these activities are going on for the benefit of the gods, of the ancestors, of all created beings (bhūta), and of my guests, and not for myself".

It need not be said that if noble souls like Janaka and Śrī Kṛṣṇa do not come forward for the benefit of the world, when no duty of any kind is left for their own benefit, or when they have no desire to obtain any particular thing for themselves, this world will become desolate–"utsīdeyur ime lokāḥ" (Bhagavadgītā 3.24).

Some people say that there is not much of a difference between the doctrine of the Gītā that the desire for the fruit must be given up, and that it is not necessary to give up desires of all kinds, and the doctrine of the Destruction of Desire; because, as there is no stimulus left towards Action, whether it is Desire which is destroyed, or the hope for the fruit which is destroyed, the ultimate result of Karma being given up, follows in either case. But, this objection is based on ignorance, that is to say, it is raised because the true meaning of the words 'hope for fruit' (phalāśā) has not been understood. Giving up the hope for fruit, does not mean giving up all kinds of Desire, or entertaining the desire that nobody should get the fruit of one's Action, or that if somebody gets it, he should not enjoy it. As has been stated by me above in the fifth chapter, the words ' phalāśā', 'saṅga' or 'kāma' have been used in the Gītā to indicate the ATTACHMENT (āsakti) or INSISTENCE (āgraha) that, 'I am doing this particular Action in order that the fruit of it must accrue to ME'. But, though one does not entertain the AMBITION, or the INSISTENCE, or the vain Attachment, that the fruit should be obtained, it does not follow that the desire, and also the enthusiasm, to do a particular thing which has fallen on one's shoulders, as a duty, should also disappear with this insistence. It is true that those persons, who do not see anything in this world except their own benefit, and who are continually steeped in performing Actions merely by the ambition of reaping some fruit or other, will not believe that it is possible to perform Actions, giving up the hope for fruit. But, the same is not the case with those persons, whose mind has- become equable, and is in a state of Renunciation as a result of Knowledge. In the first place, the belief that the fruit which one obtains for a particular Action, is the fruit of that Action, is itself wrong. If there is not the assistance of the liquidity of water, or of the heat of fire, it will not be possible for man to cook anything, in spite of all his efforts; and the possessing or not possessing of these qualities by fire etc. is not something, which is within the control of man, or subject to his efforts. Therefore, a man has to make all his various efforts, after having first acquired the knowledge of these self-existent activities in the world of Action, and of the way in which these various activities will become helpful to his own efforts. Therefore, whatever fruit is obtained by a man by his own Action, is not actually the fruit of his Action, but must be said to be the fruit of the union of his Action with the selfexistent forces existing in the world of Action, which are promotive of his efforts. But, it very often happens that a man has not acquired a complete knowledge of all these various natural activities, the promotiveness of which is, in this way, necessary to make his efforts successful; and in some cases, it is impossible for him to acquire this knowledge. This is known as DESTINY. If the assistance of natural activities, which are not within our control and which may not even be known to us, is thus necessary in order that success should crown our efforts, believing that 'I will do a particular thing purely by my own efforts' is naturally an extremely foolish belief (Bhagavadgītā 18.14–16); because, in as much as the fruit to be obtained by the cooperation between the known and the unknown activities of the natural world of Action and the efforts of man, is the result of the laws of Action (Karma), there will not be the slightest difference, so far as the success of the effort goes whether one entertains the desire for fruit, or does not entertain it; and there is only the chance of one's hope for the fruit causing one unhappiness. Nevertheless, the activities of Nature do not of their own accord bring about that thing which a man wants. As it is necessary to add salt to the flour, in order to make the bread palatable, so also is it necessary to add some human effort, more or less, to these self-existent activities of the Natural world of Action, in order that they should become beneficial to man. Therefore, those persons, who are scients and discriminators, do not entertain any Attachment or ambition about the fruit of their Action, and perform the small or big portion of Śāstra-enjoined Action which is destined for them, consistently with their authority, in the eternal course of Karma (pravāha-patita), in order to carry on the activities of the world; and they rely on the co-operation (saṃyoga) between Action (Karma) and Destiny (Dharma), so far as the question of the success of the effort goes; or, speaking in the language of Devotion, they rely on the desire of the Parameśvara, so far as that matter goes. This is what is implied in the advice: "Your authority extends only to the performance of Action; obtaining the result is not a matter which you can control" (Bhagavadgītā 2.47), given by the Blessed Lord to Arjuna. When one goes on performing Action, without entertaining any hope for the fruit, one does not have any reason for feeling unhappy about the fruitlessness of the Action, if for any reason it becomes fruitless, as one has performed the duty of doing the Action, which is the only thing within one's control. For instance, the science of Medicine tells us, that unless the thread of life (that is, the inherent strength of the vital elements in the body) is strong, a patient never gets well merely hy Medicines; and, as the strength of this thread is the result of many pre-destined or hereditary causes, that is a matter which is outside the control of the doctor, and it is even impossible for him to definitely calculate the quantity of that strength- Yet, we actually see, that considering it his duty to give medicine to his patients, a doctor medicates thousands of patients in this way, to the extent of his abilities, and purely with the intention of doing good to others. When a doctor has thus disinterestedly performed his duty of giving medicine, not only does he not become despondent, if a particular patient is not cured, but he even draws up with a peaceful mind the statistics, that a particular percentage of patients is cured by a particular medicine. But, when the son of that same doctor falls ill, and he has to give medicine to him, he forgets the fact that there is such a thing as 'the thread of life,' and becoming confused by the selfish Hope of Fruit, in the shape of the idea that 'my son must get well', he calls in another doctor to treat his son, or at any rate for consultation. This simple illustration will explain what is meant by the selfish Attachment to the Result of Action, and how it is possible to perform some Action merely as a duty, even when there is no hope as regards the result- It is true that in order that the Hope for result may thus be destroyed, the mind has to be imbued with Renunciation, by means of Knowledge. But, just as when one is asked to take away the colour (characteristic) from a piece of cloth, it does not become necessary to destroy the cloth, so also, when it is said that one should not entertain Desire, Attachment, or Low in the matter of Action, it does not follow that Action itself should be given up. If it were to become impossible to perform Action as a result of Renunciation, that would be a different matter. But, not only is it possible to perform Action, in spite of Renunciation, but also, as we ourselves see, nobody can at any time escape Karma. Therefore, the true principle of leading one's life, from the point of view of Ethics, and. from the point of view of Release, is that the scient should, after acquisition of Knowledge, perform those very Actions, which are performed by the ignorant with a Hope for Result, but looking upon advantage or disadvantage, happiness or unhappiness as one and the same (Bhagavadgītā 2.38); and courageously and enthusiastically, but with a pure Reason, that is, being renounced or indifferent in the matter of the fruit (Bhagavadgītā 18.26) and with a peaceful mind, according to his own authority, and purely as a matter of duty (Bhagavadgītā 6.3). This is the course of Action, which has been adopted by numerous Steady-in- minds (sthitaprajña), by devotees of the Blessed Lord, by parsons who have acquired the highest knowledge, nay, even by the Blessed Lord Himself; and the highest goal of man consists in this Path of Energism (Karma-Yoga); and the Bhagavadgītā proclaims in unquestionable terms that ultimate Release results from this ' Yoga' on account of the worship of and meditation on the Parameśvara which it entails (Bhagavadgītā 18.46). If in spite of this, someone intentionally mis- understands the matter, we must look upon him as unfortunate. Spencer did not accept the Metaphysical point of view. Yet f he has in his book called the Study of Sociology come to the conclusion, that since, even from the Materialistic point of view, it is not possible for a man to cause anything to happen at once in this world, and human efforts are fruitful, fruitless, or more or less fruitful in proportion to the way in which the hundreds of other causative things, which are necessary for it to happen, have happened previously, the wise man must go on performing his duties peacefully and enthusiastically without entertaining any Desire for Result of Action, though the ordinary man is induced to perform the Action only by desire for the fruit–which is the same as what the Gītā says.[7]

Even if it is thus proved that the scient must, so long as life lasts, desirelessly perform all the duties, which befall him in the course of life, having given up the Hope for Result, the subject matter of Kama-Yoga is not exhausted -unless it is explained why, and for what purpose, these Actions at all come into existence. And, therefore, the last and the most important direction of the Blessed Lord to Arjuna in support of the doctrine of Karma-Yoga is that: " lokasaṃgraham evā 'pi saṃpaśyan kartum arhasi" (Bhagavadgītā 3.20), i.e., " even having regard to public benefit (lokasaṃgraha), you must perform these Actions". Public benefit does not mean 'making societies of men' or 'making a farce of performing Action like other people, though one has the right to abandon Action, in order that ignorant people should not give up Action, and in order to please them'; because, the object of the Gītā is not that people should remain ignorant, or that scients should make a farce of performing Action, only in order to keep them ignorant. Far from any hypocrisy being advised, when Arjuna was not satisfied by arguments which would have been conclusive for ordinary people, such as, "people will sing YOUR disgrace" (Bhagavadgītā 2.34) etc., the Blessed Lord goes on to give more weighty and philosophically more powerful arguments. Therefore, the word 'saṃgraha', which has been defined in dictionaries to mean 'protecting,' 'keeping', 'regulating' etc., has in this placate be taken in all those meanings according to the context; and when that is done 'lokasaṃgraha' (public benefit) means "blading men together, and protecting, maintaining and regulating them in such a way that they might acquire that strength which results from mutual co-operation, thereby putting them on the path of acquiring merit while maintaining their good condition." The words 'welfare of a nation' have been used in the same sense in the Manu-Smṛti (7.144) and the wed 'lokasaṃgraha' has been defined in the Śāṃkarabhāṣya as meaning "lokasyonmārgapravṛttinivāraṇam" (i.e., "weaning men from the tendency to take to the path of wrong"); and from this it will be clear, that my interpretation of that word as meaning "making wise, those persons who behave recklessly as a result of ignorance, and keeping them together in a happy state, and putting them on the path of. self-amelioration" is neither strange nor without authority The word 'saṃgraha' has been explained in this way. I must now make it clear that the word 'loka' in 'lokasaṃgraha' does not indicate only mankind. It is true that the word 'lokasaṃgraha' ordinarily means 'the benefit of human beings', as man is superior to the other created beings in the world" Yet, in as much as the Blessed Lord also desires that the bhūrloka, satyaloka, pitṛloka, devaloka, and the several other loka or worlds, which have been created by Him, should also be properly maintained and go on in a proper way, I must say that the word 'lokasaṃgraha' has, in this place, the comprehensive meaning that the activities of all these various spheres should go on properly in the same way as those of mankind, (lokasaṃgraha = lokānāṃ saṃgrahaḥ, i.e., the maintenance of various worlds). The description given above by Janaka of the way in which he performed his duties refers to the sphere of gods and the sphere of ancestors; and it is stated in the description of the cycle of Yajñas (sacrificial ritual), which has been given in the third chapter of the Bhagavadgītā, and in the Nārāyaṇīyopākhyāna of the Mahābhārata, that Brahmadeva has created the Yajña in order that the sphere of humans, as also the sphere of gods, should be maintained (Bhagavadgītā 3.10–12). From this, it becomes clear that "the word 'lokasaṃgraha' has been used in the Bhagavadgītā to mean the maintenance, not only of human beings, but that the human and all the other spheres, such as of the gods etc., should be maintained, and that they should become mutually beneficial. This authority or right of the Blessed Lord of performing lokasaṃgraha by maintaining the entire universe in this way, is acquired by a man when he becomes a Jñānin as a result of the acquisition of Knowledge. Whatever is considered proper by a Jñānin, is also considered proper by other people, and they behave accordingly (Bhagavadgītā 3.21); because, ordinary people believe that it is the right of Jñānin (scients) to consider with a peaceful and equable mind, in what way the maintenance anduplift of the entire world can best be carried on, and to lay down the rules of Ethics accordingly; and such a belief is not illfounded. Nay, one may even say that ordinary people put faith in Jñānin in this matter, because they themselves do- not understand these things correctly.

It is for expressing the same idea that Bhīṣma has said to Yudhiṣṭhira in the Śāntiparva that:

lokasaṃgrakasaṃyuktaṃ vidhātrā vihitaṃ purā |
sūkṣmadharmārthaniyataṃ satāṃ caritam uttamam ||
  (Śriman Mahābhārata Śān. 258.25)

That is, "Brahmadeva himself has created the most excellent lives of saints in order to explain which path of duty should be adopted on critical occasions, as being universally beneficial".

It, therefore, follows that lokasaṃgraha does not mean some humbug or other, or, a trick for keeping people in ignorance, but means one of the important duties created by Brahmadeva for saints; because, the world is likely to be destroyed if Action based on Knowledge disappears from the world. The same purport is conveyed by the following words of the Blessed Lord, namely, "if I do not perform this Action, all these 'loka' that is, spheres, will be destroyed" (3.24). The scients are the eyes of the world; and if they give up their duties, the world will become blind, and cannot but be destroyed. It is the scients who have to make people wise and ameliorate their condition. But, such a thing cannot be done by mere oral directions, that is, by mere advice; because, as we always see it in the world, if someone merely preaches the Knowledge of the Brahman to those people, who are not in the habit of behaving righteously, and whose minds are not purified, they misapply the knowledge, saying, "what is yours is mine, and what is mine is also mine". Besides, it is usual for people to test the correctness of the advice given by a particular person by reference to his own behaviour. Therefore, if the scient does not perform Action himself, that becomes an excuse for ordinary people to become idle. This is what is meant by 'buddhi-bheda' (difference of vision); and in order that such a difference of vision should not arise, and that people should become really desireless, and should be alive to their duties, it is the duty (not the hypocrisy) of scients to remain in worldly life and to give a living lesson to ordinary people of moral behaviour (sadācaraṇa), that is, of living their lives desirelessly, by showing them their own behaviour. Therefore, the Gītā says that a scient never acquires the right to give up Action, and that it is necessary for him to perform the various duties which have been enjoined for the four castes, for promoting universal benefit, if not for their own benefit. But, as the followers of the school of Renunciation are of opinion that the Jñānin need not perform the activities enjoined on the various castes, with a desireless frame of mind, or need not even perform them at all, the commentators belonging to this school of thought, have made a mess of the doctrine of the Gītā, that a scient must go on performing Actions for universal benefit; and they seem to be prepared to indirectly, if not directly, suggest that the Blessed Lord has Himself given only hypocritical advice!' But, it becomes clear from the previous and subsequent context that this forceless interpretation of the word 'lokasaṃgraha' r used in the Gītā, is not correct. The Gītā does not in the first place admit the position that the Jñānin has got a right to give up Action; and lokasaṃgraha is the most important reason out of the various reasons adduced in the Gītā for the Jñānin not doing so. It is, therefore, absolutely unjust to first take it for granted that a Jñānin can give up Action and then to interpret the word lokasaṃgraha as meaning something hypocritical. Man has not come into this world merely for his own benefit. It is true that ordinary people are engrossed in selfish activities as a result of ignorance.

But, if a man, to whom the whole world has become identified with himself as 

sarvabhūtastham ātmānaṃ sarvabhūtāni cātmani,

i.e., "I am in all created beings, and all created beings are in me",

Says: "Release has been attained by ME, now why should I care if everybody else is unhappy? ", he will be degrading his own Knowledge by his own mouth. Is the Ātman of a scient something which is independent or individual.

So long as his Ātman was covered by the cloak of ignorance, the difference between 'I' and 'the world ' existed; but after the acquisition of Knowledge, the Ātman of the world becomes bis own Ātman; and therefore, Vaśiṣṭha has said to Rāma in the Yoga-Vāśiṣṭha that:–

yāvad lokaparāmarśo nirūḍho nāsti yoginaḥ |
tāvad rūḍkasamādhitvaṃ na bhavaty eva nirmadam ||
  (Yoga-Vāśiṣṭha 6. Pu. 128. 9?)

That is, "so long as the duty of looking after other people (that is of lokasaṃgraha) remains to howsoever small an extent, it cannot be said that the state of the person, who has attained Yoga, has become free from blame".

For such a man to become engrossed in the happiness of meditation, is to some extent like attending only to his own selfish needs. The chief fault in the argument of the supporters of the school of Renunciation, is that they disregard this factor. It is not possible to come across anyone who is more a Jñānin, more desireless, or more fully a Yogin, than the Blessed Lord. But if even the Blessed Lord Himself takes incarnations from time to time for universal benefit, e. g., for "the protection of saints, the destruction of villains, and the re-establishment of religion (dharma)", (Bhagavadgītā 4.8), it would be totally improper for a Jñānin to give up universal welfare, and say: "that Parameśvara who has created all these various spheres, will maintain them in any way He likes; that is no part of my duty"; because, after the acquisition of Knowledge, the difference of 'Parameśvara', 'I' and "the world' does not remain; and if such a difference remains, then such a man is not a Jñānin: he is a hypocrite. If a Jñānin becomes uniform with the Parameśvara as a result of Jñāna, how will he escape the necessity of performing that Action which is performed by the Parameśvara, in the same way as it is performed by the Parameśvara, that is, desirelessly (Bhagavadgītā 3.22 and 4.14 and 15)? Besides, whatever the Parameśvara has to do, has to be done by Him through the medium of scients. Therefore, active noble sentiments, full of sympathy towards all created beings, must arise in the mind of the man who has had the direct Realisation of the form of the Parameśvara in the shape of the feeling that 'there is only one Ātman in all created beings'; and the trend of his mind must naturally be towards universal welfare.

The Saint Tukārāma has with; that intention described the characteristic features of a saint- by the following words:–

Of them who are unhappy and in distress
he who says that they are his
That man should be recognised as a saint
know that God is in such a man
  (Tukārāma's Gāthā 960.1–2)


He who spends his energies in doing good to others
has realised the true state of the Ātman
  (Tukārāma's Gāthā 4563).

And he has described Saints, that is, those noble souls who have Realised the Parameśvara by means of Devotion in the following terms:–

The incarnations of saints are for the public welfare
they labour their own bodies for the benefit of others
  (Tukārāma's Gāthā 929).

And Bhartṛhari has said that,

svārtho yasya parārtha eva sa pumān ekaḥ satām agraṇīḥ,

I.e., "that man with whom the interests of others have become identical with his own, is really the highest of saints".

Were not Manu and other lawmakers, Jñānins? But, instead of exaggerating the worth of the illusion in the shape of the pain of Desire, and destroying all natural instincts, such as, of doing good to others etc., along with Desire, they have laid down the Śāstric bonds, such as the arrangement of the four castes etc., for the universal benefit (lokasaṃgraha). The laws which prescribe learning for the Brahmins; warfare, for the Kṣatriyas; agriculture, protection of cattle, and business for the Vaiśyas and service for the Śūdras and which have been enjoined by the Śāstras consistently with the characteristic qualities of the different castes, have not been made for the benefit of every individual, It is stated in the Manu-Smṛti, that the division. of vocations among the four castes, has been made for universal benefit, bearing in mind the fact that in the interests of the protection of society, some persons must for a considerable length of time study warfare and be ready for war, and that others have got to meet the other needs of society by attending to agriculture, business, education, and other matters; and even the Gītā supports the same division (Manu, 1.87; Bhagavadgītā 4.13; 18.41). I have stated above that if any of these four castes ceases to perform its duties, then to that extent, society will be incapacitated, and even runs the risk of being destroyed. Nevertheless, it is not that this vocational division is uniform everywhere. The arrangements which have been suggested for the maintenance of society by the ancient Greek Philosopher Plato in his book on this subject, and by the modern French Philosopher Comte in his book called Natural Philosophy, though similar to the arrangement of the four wastes, are yet, to some extent, different from the arrangement of four castes mentioned in the Vedic religion, as will be seen by any one reading those books. Many questions have arisen on this point, such as, which arrangement of society is the best of these all; or, whether this goodness of arrangement is relative; and whether there can be a change in it by reference to change of times; and, the welfare of society (lokasaṃgraha) has become a very important science at the present day in Western countries. But, as my present object is only to elucidate the import of the Gītā, it is not necessary for me to consider those questions here. It cannot be doubted that at the time of the Gītā, the arrangement of the four castes was rigidly enforced, and that it had originally been given effect to for the welfare of society. Therefore, I have to mention here emphatically, that lokasaṃgraha according to the Gītā means, giving to other people a living example of how one can perform desirelessly all the various activities, which are allotted to one, according to the arrangement of the four castes. Scients are not only the eyes, but also the preceptors of society. Therefore, in order to effect lokasaṃgraha as mentioned above, it becomes necessary for them to engage in such activities, as will prevent the disruption of the selfmaintaining and self-uplifting capacity of society, and will allow it to grow, after they have in the first place weeded out whatever they might find faulty in the prevalent social arrangements, having regard to the changed times and places, as was done by Śvetaketu.

In order to effect universal welfare in this way, Janaka continued to rule till the end of his life instead of renouncing the world, and Manu consented to become the first king; and it is for this reason that there is frequent advice in the Gītā to Arjuna to engage in the warfare, which was the law for him in accordance with the arrangement of the four castes, by the use of such expressions as the following:-

svadharmam api cāvekṣya na vikampitum arhasi
  (Bhagavadgītā 2.31),

I.e. "it is not proper that you should bemoan having to perform that duty which is your lot according to your caste";


svabhāvaniyataṃ karma kurvan nāpnoti kilbiṣam
  (Bhagavadgītā 18.47),

I.e., "by doing that duty which has been enjoined on you by the arrangement of the four castes, having regard to characteristic natures, you will not incur any sin".

No one says that one should not, to the best of one's capacity, acquire the Knowledge of the Parameśvara. Nay, it is the doctrine also of the Gītā that it is the highest duty of every human being in this world to acquire this Knowledge. But, as the benefit of one's own Ātman also includes exerting oneself to the fullest extent of one's abilities, for the benefit of the all-pervading Ātman, the Gītā goes further and says that the Realisation of the identity of the Brahman and the Ātman ultimately resolves itself into bringing about lokasaṃgraha. Nevertheless, from the fact that -a particular person has acquired Knowledge of the Brahman, it does not follow that he, on that account, becomes capable of personally taking part in all the various vocations in the world. Both Bhīṣma and Vyāsa were great Jñānins, and great devotees of the Blessed Lord. But no one says that Vyāsa could have carried out the work of warfare as well as Bhīṣma; and even if one considers the gods, one does not find that the work of destroying the world has been entrusted to Viṣṇu instead of Śaṅkara. The state of being birthreleased (jīvan-mukta) is the last stage of the mind 's freedom from objects of pleasure, and of an equable and pure Reason, and of Metaphysical excellence; it is not a test of excellence in Material vocations. Therefore, the Gītā, has again preached twice in the same chapter that the Jñānin must, after acquisition of Knowledge, continue to perform that business or duty for the universal welfare which is consistent with his. caste, and which he had been performing during the whole of his life consistently with the arrangement of the four castes, which has been based on inherent qualities, because, it is likely that he will be an adept" in that business alone; and that if he takes to any other- business, there is a chance of harm being done to society (Bhagavadgītā 3.35; 18.47). This diverse capacity, which exists within every person, consistently with the god-given inherent natural, characteristics, is known as 'adhikāra' (qualification or authority); and it has been stated in the Vedānta-Sūtras, that "yāvad adhikāram avasthitir ādhikāriṇām" (Vedānta-Sūtras 3.3.32), i.e., "even if a man has acquired the knowledge of the Brahman, he must go on performing those duties, which are his lot according to his qualification (adhikāra), so long as he lives, for the welfare of society". Some say that this injunction of the Vedānta-Sūtras applies only to persons, who are really men of high authority; and if one considers the illustrations given in the commentaries on these Sūtras, in support of the Sutra, it is seen that they are of Vyāsa and other persons holding high: authority. But, the original Sutra makes no mention of the greatness or the smallness of authority. Therefore, the word 'adhikāra' must be taken to mean high or low qualification of every kind; and if one considers minutely and independently what this qualification is, and how it is acquired, it is seen that in as much as the Parameśvara created man simultaneously with society, and society simultaneously with man, every human being, as a result of the arrangement of four castes, or of any other social arrangement consistent with the division, of inherent qualities, acquires, by birth, the high or low qualification of maintaining and uplifting society, according to his or her own powers, and proportionately with whatever intellectual capacity, authoritative capacity, financial capacity, or physical capacity is naturally possessed by him, or can be acquired by him having regard to his status in life. Just as extremely small wheels are necessary along with large wheels in order that any machine should work properly, so also is it necessary that the authority of common-place persons. should be exercised properly and fully in the same way as the- authority of superior persons like Vyāsa and others, in order that the immense and ponderous activity or mechanism of the Cosmos should continue to work in a properly regulated manner. Because, if potters do not manufacture pots or weavers do not weave clothes, the maintenance of society (lokasaṃgraha) cannot be satisfactorily carried out, even if the king protects society properly; or, if the most insignificant pointsman or cabinman in a railway administration does not properly perform his duty, it will not be possible for the- railway train to rush along with safety and with the speed of wind, both during the day and during the night, as it now does. Therefore, it follows from the above argument advanced, by the writer of the Vedānta-Sūtras, that even an ordinary person, and not only superior parsons like Vyāsa and others–whether such ordinary person is a king or is a poor man–must not, after acquisition of Knowledge, fail to exercise the large or small authority of carrying out public welfare, which. " has properly befallen him; but should, so long as life lasts, execute that authority desirelessly, and as a matter of duty, to the fullest extent of his powers and his intelligence, and as far as circumstances will permit. It is not proper for him. to say that if he does not do it, somebody else will; because, in that case, not only does one man fall short in the performance of the total work of society, and thereby society lose its aggregate power, but, as another person cannot do that particular work as well as a Jñānin, the general welfare of society suffers to that extent. Besides, as has been mentioned above, the mental frame of other people is also disturbed by the example of Abandonment of Action by a Jñānin.

It is true that the followers of the Saṃnyāsa school sometimes say that when one's own Ātman has obtained Release, by the Mind having been purified as a result of Karma, one should be satisfied with that; and without caring if the whole world goes to dogs, one should neither perform lokasaṃgraha, nor cause it to be performed–

lokasaṃgrahadharmaṃ ca naiva kuryān na kārayet
  (Śriman Mahābhārata Aśva. Anugītā. 46.39).

But, it becomes quite clear from the justification which they advance about the life of Vyāsa and others, or from the advice given by Vaśiṣṭha or Pañcaśikha to Rāma or Janaka to go on performing their duties of maintaining and uplifting society according to their authority till death, that the doctrine of the Saṃnyāsa school is one-sided, and is not a scientific verity which will stand firm at all times. Therefore, it must be said that one should not pay attention to this one-sided advice, and that the only path which is excellent and is consistent with the Śāstras is to continue Action beneficial to society, so long as life lasts, even after having acquired Realisation, and with due regard to one's own qualification, following the illustration of the Blessed Lord Himself. Nevertheless., this lokasaṃgraha must not be performed, entertaining any Hope for Fruit (phalāśā); because, if one entertains the Hope for Fruit, though it may be about lokasaṃgraha, one cannot but suffer unhappiness, if that hope is frustrated. Therefore, a man should not entertain the proud or desireful thought that 'I shall bring about lokasaṃgraha', and a man has to bring about lokasaṃgraha merely as a duty. It is for the same reason that the Gītā has used the rather longish phraseology of: "lokasaṃgraham evāpi saṃpaśyan", i.e., "you must perform Action, keeping in sight (saṃpaśyan) public welfare" (Bhagavadgītā 3.20), instead of saying that 'lokasaṃgraha' means, "for obtaining fruit in the shape of public welfare". It is true that lokasaṃgraha is an important duty; hut it must not be forgotten that the advice given by the Blessed Lord to Arjuna in the previous verse (Bhagavadgītā 3.19) that all acts should be performed being free from Attachment, applies equally to lokasaṃgraha.

If it is proved by logical argument that the opposition between Jñāna and Karma is an opposition between Jñāna and Desireful Karma, that there is no opposition between Jñāna and Desireless Karma from the Metaphysical point of view, and that as Karma is unavoidable, and is also essential from the point of view of lokasaṃgraha, even a Jñānin must, so long as life lasts, continue to perform the duties of the four castes, according to his qualification, and without Attachment; and if the Gītā says the same thing, a doubt naturally arises as to what becomes of the Saṃnyāsa (ascetic) state, out of the four states of life, which have been described in the Smṛti tests of the Vedic religion. In the Manu-Smṛti and other Smṛtis, the four states (āśrama), namely, celibacy, householdership, living in the woods, and asceticism have been mentioned; and it is there stated that after the Mind has been gradually purified by carrying out the duties of education (adhyayana), sacrificial ritual, charitable gifts etc. which befall a person according to the arrangement of the four castes, as prescribed by the Śāstras, in the first three states of life, a man should in the end literally give up all Action and renounce the world, and attain Release (See Manu-Smṛti 6.1 and 33–37). From this it follows, that according to all the writers of the Smṛtis, though sacrificial ritual and charitable gifts etc. are proper to the state of a householder, yet, their only purpose is the purification of the Mind, that is to say, to bring one to the stage of Realising that there is only one Ātman in all created beings, by the gradual elimination of one's Attachment to objects of pleasure, and of one's self-serving Reason, which (elimination) results in the gradual increase of the desire to do good to others; and that once this mental state has been acquired, one must in the end literally abandon all Action and take to the fourth state of Saṃnyāsa (Asceticism) in order to obtain Release.

This is the Path of Saṃnyāsa which was established by Śrī Śaṃkarācārya in the present Kali-yuga, and Kālidāsa, who followed the teaching of the Smṛtis, has described the powerful kings of the Solar Dynasty (sūryavaṃśī), in the beginning of the Raghuvamsa as follows:–

śaiśave 'bhyastavidyāmaṃ yauvane viṣayaiṣiṇām |
vārdhake munivṛttīnāṃ yogenānte tanutyajām ||
  (Raghu. 1.8.)

That is, "they were such as performed abhyāsa (brahmacarya) as children, took up the worldly life entailing the enjoyment of the objects of pleasure in their youth (gṛhasthāśrama), they lived in the woods during old age, or led the life of a muni and ultimately took their Ātman into the Brahman according to the rules of the Saṃnyāsa state, by practising the Pātañjala-Yoga and gave up their lives. Similarly, it is stated in the

Śukānupraśna in the Mahābhārata that:–

catuśpadi hi niḥśreṇi brahmaṇyeṣā pratiṣṭhitā |
etām āruhya niḥśreṇīṃ brahmaloke mahīyate ||
  (Śān. 241. 15).

That is, "this ladder with four steps (in the shape of the four stages) ultimately leads to the state of the Brahman. When in this way, a man goes up this ladder from one state into the next higher state, he ultimately acquires greatness in the sphere of the Brahman".

And after that, the following order has been described, namely:–

kaṣāyaṃ pācayitvāśu śrenisthāneṣu ca triṣu |
pravrajec ca paraṃ sthānaṃ parigraham anuttamam ||
  (Śān. 344.3).

That is, "a man should, in the three steps of this ladder, destroy is early as possible his kilbiṣa, that is, his faults in the shape if selfish tendencies, or Attachment to objects of pleasure, md should then renounce the world; pārivrājya, that is, Saṃnyāsa is the most excellent state of all".

This same course of going from one state to another state of life has also been mentioned in the Manu-Smṛti (Manu-Smṛti 6.4). But Manu had fully realised the fact that if in this way there was an inordinate increase in the desire of people to take up the fourth state, the activity in the world would be destroyed, and society would ultimately be lamed.

Therefore, after having definitely enjoined the performance of all activities which are necessary to be performed in the previous states of a householder, and which consisted of acts of valour or of universal welfare, Manu has laid down the clear limit in the- following words, namely:–

gṛhasthastu yadā paśyed valīpalitam ātmanaḥ |
apatyasyaiva cāpatyaṃ tad āraṇyaṃ samāśrayet ||
  (Manu-Smṛti 6.2).

That is, "when his body has become covered with wrinkles, and he has seen his own grand-children, the householder should become a denizen of the woods, and should take Saṃnyāsa". The Manu-Smṛti gives the following reason why this limit has to be followed, namely: in coming to birth, every man brings on his back the three debts (duties) to the Ṛṣis, to his ancestors, and to the deities. Therefore, until a man has discharged all these three obligations, that is, to the Ṛṣis, by the study of Vedas; to the ancestors, by the procreation of offspring; and to the deities, by the performance of sacrificial ritual, he is not in a position to give up worldly life and take Saṃnyāsa; and if he does so, he will go to perdition as a result of his not having discharged the indebtedness which he has acquired as a result of his birth. (See, Manu-Smṛti 6. 35–37; and the canon (mantra) from the Tai. Sam. quoted in the last chapter). According to ancient Hindu Law, a man 's children, and even his grand-children, had to discharge the debts of their ancestors, without pleading the law of limitation; and they used to consider it a great misfortune to have to die without having discharged the debts due to others. When this fact is brought to mind, my readers will clearly understand what the intention of our law-givers was, in referring to the above-mentioned important social duties, as 'debts'. Kālidāsa has said in the Raghuvaṃśa that all the kings belonging to the Solar Dynasty (sūryavaṃśī) led their lives according to the rules laid down by the Smṛtis, and that they used to leave the state of the householder after (not before) installing their sons on the throne, after the sons had grown up and become capable of ruling (Raghu. 7.68). And there is statement in the Bhāgavata (Śrīmad Bhāgavatpurāṇa 6. 5. 35–42), that because Nārada advised the sons of Dakṣa Prajapati named Haryaśva and also again his several other sons named Śabalāśva to take to the Path of Saṃnyāsa before they had married, and made Saṃnyāsins of them, Dakṣa-Prajapati reprimanded Nārada for this his unlawful and objectionable behaviour, and laid a curse on him. From this, the original idea of this arrangement of the four states appears to have been, that when a man has lived his worldly life according to the injunctions of the Śāstras, and his children have become more capable than him, he should not interfere with their enthusiasm yielding to the interfering tendency of old age; but should become imbued solely with the idea of acquiring Release; and should of his own accord and voluntarily give up worldly life.

The same idea is conveyed in the advice given by Vidura to Dhṛtarāṣṭra in the Viduranīti in the following words:–

utpādya putrān anṛṇāṃrāsca kṛtvā vṛttiṃ ca tebhyo 'nuvidhāya kiṃcit |
sthāne kumārīḥ pratipādya sarvā araṇyasaṃstho 'tha munir bubhūṣet ||
  (Śriman Mahābhārata U. 36. 39)

That is, "after a man has begotten sons in the state of a householder, and left no debts to be discharged by them, and made some arrangements for their maintenance, and after having got all his daughters properly married, he should become a denizen of the woods and satisfy his desire of renouncing the world";

And the idea of ordinary people about worldly life in this country is more or less consistent with the dictates of Vidura. Nevertheless, as it was believed that giving up worldly life and taking to Saṃnyāsa was the highest ideal of manhood, the beneficial direction of the three previous stages of life laid down by the writers of the Smṛtis for the successful carrying out of the ordinary affairs of the world, gradually lost importance; and people came to the stage of saying, that if a man had at birth, or in comparatively young age, acquired.

Knowledge, it was not wrong for him to renounce the world at once without waiting to go through the other three stages–

brahmacaryād eva pravrajet gṛhād vā vanād vā
  (Jābā. 4).

For the same reason, Kapila has given the following advice to Syūmaraśmi in the Gokāpilīya catechism in the Mahābhārata, namely:–

śarīrapaktiḥ karmāṇi jñānaṃ tu paramā gatiḥ |
kaṣāye karmabhiḥ pakve rasajñāne ca tiṣṭhati ||[8]
  (Śān. 269 38)

That is, "the object of Karma is to eliminate the disease in the body in the shape of Attachment to objects of pleasure, and Jñāna is the highest and the ultimate goal; when the disease in the shape of ignorance, or the kaṣāya, in the body is eliminated, as the result of Karma, desire for the Knowledge of the essence (rasa) is created".

In the same way, it is stated in the chapter on Release (mokṣa) in the Piṅgalagītā, that,

nairāśyaṃ paramaṃ sukham,

I.e., "despair is the highest happiness"


yo 'sau prāṇāntiko rogas tāṃ tṛṣṇāṃ tyajataḥ sukham,

I.e., "until the fatal disease, in the shape of Desire, has left the body, there can be no happiness" (Śān. 174. 65 and 58).

And in addition to the statements in the Jābāla and Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upaniṣads, there are also statements in the Kaivalya and Nārāyaṇopaniṣads that "na karmaṇā na prajayā dhanena tyāgenaike amṛtatvam ānaśuḥ", i.e., "not by Karma, nor by progeny, or money, but by tyāga (Renunciation), is Release attained by some" (Kaivalyovaniṣad 1.2; Nārā. U. 12.3.3 and 78). If the doctrine of the Gītā is that even a Jñānin must go on performing Action till the end, I must explain how these statements have to be disposed of. The same doubt arose in the mind of Arjuna, and he has in the beginning of the eighteenth chapter asked the Blessed Lord:–"then, explain to me what Renunciation (saṃnyāsa) and Abandonment (tyāga) respectively are". But before considering the reply given by the Blessed Lord to this question, it is necessary to consider here shortly another equally important Vedic Path of Action, which has been mentioned in the Smṛti texts in addition to this Path of Renunciation.

This path of four steps, namely, celibacy, householdership, living in the woods, and asceticism is known as the 'Smārta' path, that is, 'the path prescribed by the writers of the Smṛtis'. This arrangement of the four states has been made by the writers of the Smṛtis, consistently with the growth in a man's age, in order to mutually harmonise the contradictory statements in the Vedas, which enjoin the Performance of Action, as also the Abandonment of Action; and if the literal Abandonment of Action is considered the highest ideal, it would not be incorrect to consider the path of four steps laid down by the writers of the Smṛtis for leading one's life, as the means or the preliminary preparation for reaching that ideal. It is true that if one accepts these rising steps of leading one's life, the activity of the world will not come to an end, and the Karma laid down by the Vedas, can be harmonised with the Knowledge expounded in the Upaniṣads.

Yet, in as much as the state of the householder is the state which provides the other three states with food (Manu-Smṛti 6.89), the importance of the state of a householder has ultimately been frankly acknowledged in the Manu-Smṛti, and even in the Mahābhārata in the following stanza:–

yathā mātaram āśritya sarve jīvanti jantavaḥ |
evam garhasthyam āśritya vartanta itarāśramāḥ ||
  (Śān. 268.6)

That is, "as all living beings (jantavaḥ) live by the support of the mother (earth), so also do the other three states live on the support of the state of a householder" (See Śān. 268.6; and Manu-Smṛti 3.77).

And Manu has referred to the other three states of life as rivers, and to the state of the householder as the sea (Manu-Smṛti 6. 90; Śriman Mahābhārata Śān. 295.39). If the importance of the state of a householder is thus unquestionable, where is the sense of the advice that one must sometime give up the state of the householder, and make a Renunciation of Action (karma-saṃnyāsa)? Is it impossible to perform the duties of the state of a householder even after the acquisition of Knowledge? No; then, where is the sense of saying that a Jñānin should go out of worldly life? The perfect Jñānins who lead their lives desirelessly, are certainly more capable and fit for performing universal welfare, than ordinary people who entertain some selfishness or other in their hearts. There- fore, if a Jñānin is given permission to leave worldly life, just when his capacity has become perfect as a result of Knowledge, that society, for the benefit of which the arrangement of the four castes has been made, will suffer serious loss. The case would be different if some persons left society and went to live in the forest for want of physical strength; and that must have been the idea of Manu in relegating Renunciation (saṃnyāsa) to old age. But, as has been stated above, this beneficial limit was not observed. Therefore, although the writers of the Smṛtis had created the rising ladder of the four states, in order to harmonise the two-fold.order of the Vedas, viz., to perform Action, and to give up Action, the Blessed Lord, who was undoubtedly as competent, or even more competent that the writers of the Smṛtis, to harmonise these dictates of the Vedas, has Himself revived, and fully supported, in the form of the Bhāgavata religion, the Path which combines Karma with Jñāna, and which was followed by Janaka and others in ancient times. The difference between the two is, that in the Bhāgavata doctrine, reliance is not placed only on Metaphysical ideas, but the additional easy remedy of Devotion to Vāsudeva has been added. But, a detailed discussion of this matter will be made later on in the thirteenth chapter. Although the Bhāgavata religion is Devotional, yet, as it has adopted the important principle enunciated in the Path prescribed by Janaka, namely, that after the acquisition of the Knowledge of the Parameśvara, a Jñānin should not take to Saṃnyāsa in the shape of Abandonment of Action, but should go on desirelessly performing all his activities till death for universal welfare, giving Tip the Hope for Fruit of Action (phalāśā), both paths are identical from the point of view of Karma, that is to say, they both embody the union of Jñāna with Karma, or are Activistic. As the first protagonists of this Activistic religion were the two Ṛṣis, Nara and Narayana, who were living incarnations of the Parabrahman, the ancient name of this religion is the 'Nārāyaṇīya Religion'.

Though, both these Ṛṣis had acquired the highest Knowledge, they advised people to perform Action desirelessly, and did so themselves (Śriman Mahābhārata U. 48.21); and therefore, this religion has been described in the Mahābhārata by saying:

pravṛttilakṣaṇaś caiva dharmo nārāyaṇātmakaḥ
  (Śriman Mahābhārata Śān. 347.81),


pravṛttilakṣaṇaṃ dharmaṃ ṛṣir nārāyaṇo 'bravīt

I.e. "the religion propounded by the Ṛṣi Nārāyaṇa was life-long Activistic" (Śriman Mahābhārata Śān. 217.2).

This religion is the Sātvata or Bhāgavata religion, and it has been clearly stated in the Bhāgavata, that the form of this Sātvata or original Bhāgavata religion was 'naiṣkarmya-lakṣaṇa', that is, desirelessly Activistic (See Śrīmad Bhāgavatpurāṇa 1.3.8 and 11.4.6). This Activistic path was also known as 'Yoga', as is clear from the line, "pravṛttilakṣaṇo yogaḥ jñānaṃ saṃnyāsalakṣaṇam" in the; Anugītā [Ma. Bhā. Aśva. 43. 25); and, that is why the religion propounded in the Gītā by Śrī Kṛṣṇa, who was the incarnation, of Narayana, to Arjuna, who was the incarnation of Kara, has- been called 'Yoga' in the Gītā itself. Some persons now-a-days believe that the Bhāgavata and the Smārta paths originally came into existence as a result of a difference between the objects of worship; but according to me, this belief is wrong; because, although the objects of worship in these two paths may be different, yet the Metaphysical Knowledge contained in both is the same; and when the Metaphysical foundation of both was the same, it is not likely that these ancient Jñānins, who were steeped in this Supreme Knowledge, would have kept up differences between themselves, merely on account of a difference in the objects of worship. For this reason, it is stated both in the Bhagavadgītā (9.14) and in the Śivagītā (12.4) that, whatever is worshipped, the worship ultimately reaches one and the same Parameśvara; and these two deities have been described in the Nārāyaṇīya doctrine in the Mahābhārata as being identical, by saying that Nārāyaṇa. is the same as Rudra, that the worshippers of Nārāyaṇa were the worshippers of Rudra, and the enemies of Nārāyaṇa, the enemies of Rudra (Śriman Mahābhārata Śān. 341.20–26 and 342.129). I do not say that the difference between Śaivism and Vaiṣṇavism did not exist in ancient times. What I mean to say is that the original reason for the difference between the Smārta and Bhāgavata paths, was not the difference in the objects of worship, namely, Śiva and Viṣṇu; and that these two paths must have first come into existence as a result of a difference of opinion on an important point, namely, whether Asceticism or Activism should be followed after the acquisition of Knowledge. After a considerable lapse of time, when this Activistic path or Karma-Yoga of the original Bhāgavata religion ceased to exist, and it got its present form of the pure worship of Viṣṇu, that is to say, a more or less Non-Activistic form, and on that account, people began to fight with each other merely on the ground that the deity of one was Śiva, whereas the deity of the other was Viṣṇu, the words 'Smārta' and 'Bhāgavata' became respectively synonymous with 'Śaiva' and 'Vaiṣṇava'; and ultimately the Vedānta of these presentday followers of the Bhāgavata religion (Dualism or Qualified Monism), and their astrology, that is to say, the observance of the eleventh day of the month, as also the way of applying the sandal-wood paste on the forehead, became different from the Smārta way. But, it becomes quite clear- from the word 'Smārta' that these differences were not real, that is, original.

As the Bhāgavata religion was promulgated' by the Blessed Lord Himself, there is no wonder that the object of worship in it should be the Blessed Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa or Viṣṇu. But, as the root-meaning of the word ' Smārta ' is ' prescribed by the Smṛtis ', the deity worshipped according to the Smārta path- need not be Śiva; because, it is nowhere stated in the works of Manu or other ancient Smṛti texts, that Śiva is the only deity which should be worshipped. On the other hand, Viṣṇu has been mentioned more often, and in some places Ganapati and other deities are also mentioned. Besides, as both the deities Śiva and Viṣṇu are Vedic, that is, as both have been, mentioned in the Vedas, it is not proper to refer to only one of them as 'Smārta'. Besides, Śrī Śaṃkarācārya is looked- upon as a protagonist of the Smārta religion; yet, Śāradā (goddess of learning ~Translator.) is the deity worshipped in the Śāṃkara monasteries; and wherever there has been occasion- in the Śāṃkarabhāṣya to refer to the worship of an idol, the Ācārya has referred, not to the Śiva-liṅga, but to the Śāligrāma that is, the image of Śrī Viṣṇu (Śāṃkarabhāṣya 1.2.7; 1.3.14 and 4.1.3; Chāndogyopaniṣad Śāṃ. Bhā. 8. 1. 1). There is also a tradition that the worship of the Pañcayatana (group of five deities) was first started by Śaṃkarācārya. Therefore, it follows that according to the original meaning of these words, people disregarded whether a person worshipped Śiva or Viṣṇu, and considered those as SMĀRTA, whose ultimate ideal; was to first go through worldly life in youth as prescribed by the Śāstras, and consistently with the arrangement of the four states laid down systematically and in detail in the Smṛti texts, and to take Saṃnyāsa, or the fourth state, by giving up Action altogether in old age; and considered those as BHĀGAVATA, who believed that all the Actions appropriate to the state of a householder should be performed desirelessly till death, according to the advice of the Blessed Lord, simultaneously with the acquisition of Knowledge and with the possession of a passionate devotion to the Blessed Lord; and in these meanings, these two words are respectively synonymous with Sāṃkhya and Yoga or Saṃnyāsa and Karma-Yoga. Saṃnyāsa subsequently ceased to exist as a state of life, whether as a result of the incarnations taken by the Blessed Lord, or because the importance of the state of a householder, which included Spiritual Knowledge, began to be realised; and it has been included among the Kalivarjya, that is, those things which are prohibited in the Kali-yuga according to the Śāstras[9]. But, later on the protagonists of the Buddhist and the Jain religions accepted the opinions of the Kapila-Sāṃkhya school, and brought into prominence the doctrine that Release is impossible unless a man takes Saṃnyāsa, and gives up worldly life. It is well-known in history that Buddha himself gave up his kingdom and his wife and children and entered the Saṃnyāsa state in youth. Although Śrī Śaṃkarācārya refuted the Jain and Buddhistic doctrines, yet the path of Asceticism, which was principally put into vogue by the Jains and Buddhists, was allowed to remain by the Ācārya as being the Saṃnyāsa prescribed by the Śrutis and the Smṛtis; and he has, therefore, interpreted the Gītā as supporting the Saṃnyāsa path. But, really speaking the Gītā is not a work which supports the Smārta path; and although the earlier portions of it refer to the Sāṃkhya or the Saṃnyāsa path, the later portions, which contain the conclusion, support the Activistic or Bhāgavata religion, as has been mentioned by me already in the first chapter to have been stated by the author of the Mahābhārata itself. As both' these paths are Vedic, it is possible to harmonise them with, each other to a considerable extent, if not wholly. But harmonising them in this way, is one thing, and saying that, the Gītā supports only the Path of Renunciation, and that the references in it to the Path of Energism as being productive of Release, are merely praise, is quite a different thing. As. a result of difference in taste, one man may prefer the Smārta religion to the Bhāgavata religion; or he may consider as more convincing the reasons which are commonly given in support of the Abandonment of Action. I will not deny that possibility. For instance, no one has any doubt that Śrī Śaṃkarācārya favoured the Smārta or Saṃnyāsa path, and looked upon all other paths as based on ignorance. But, on that account, one cannot conclude that that was the- purport of the Gītā. If you do not accept the doctrines laid, down by the Gītā, do not follow them. But, it is not proper on that account to interpret the statement, "there are, in this world, two independent Niṣṭhās or paths leading to Release for living one's life," made in the commencement of the Gītā, as meaning that: "the Saṃnyāsa path is the only true and superior path". These two paths, which have been described in the Gītā, have been current in the Vedic religion, independently of each other, even from before the days of Janaka and Yājñavalkya; and we see that persons like Janaka, on whom the duty of the maintenance and uplift of society had befallen, as a result of their status as Kṣatriyas, or hereditarily, or as a result of their own prowess, continued their activities desirelessly, even after the acquisition of Knowledge; and were spending their lives in bringing about the benefit of the world.

Bearing in mind this status of certain persons in society, the Mahābhārata contains two Buch distinct statements, according to difference in status, as,

sukhaṃ jīvanti munayo bhaikṣyavṛttiṃ samāśritāḥ,

I.e., "ascetics living in the woods, joyfully accept the status of beggars" (Śān. 178. 11),


daṇḍa eva hi rājendra kṣairadharmo na muṇḍanam",

I.e., "it is the duty of the Kṣatriyas to maintain and uplift people by punishment, and not to shave off the hair on their heads" (Śān. 23.46).

But,. from this, one must not conclude that Karma-Yoga was the proper duty only for the Kṣatriyas, who were responsible for the maintenance of society.

The true meaning of the above statement from the science of Karma-Yoga is, that every man must, after the acquisition of Knowledge, go on performing those duties, which are his according to his qualification (adhikāra); and it is on this account, that it is stated in the Bhārata that,

eṣā pūrvatarā vṛttir brāhmaṇasya vidhīyate (Śān. 237),

I.e., "even the Brahmins used, in ancient times, to continue Yajñas and Yāgas, according to their qualification, after the acquisition of Knowledge";

And in the Manu-Smṛti, the Vedic Karma-Yoga has been considered more proper for all classes "than the Saṃnyāsa path (Manu-Smṛti 6. 86–96). It is also nowhere stated that the Bhāgavata religion exists only for the Kṣatriyas; but on the other hand, it has been praised by saying that it is accessible even to women, Śūdras etc. (Bhagavadgītā 9.32); and there are also definite stories in the Mahābhārata that this religion was followed by the Tulādhāra, or a merchant, and Vyādha, or a hunter, and that these taught it to the Brahmins (Śān. 261; Vana. 215); and the illustrations, which are given in the books on the Bhāgavata religion, of prominent persons who followed the Desireless Karma-Yoga are not only of Kṣatriyas like Janaka and Śrī Kṛṣṇa, but also of learned Brahmins like Vaśiṣṭha, Jaigīṣavya, Vyāsa and others.

Although the Gītā supports only the Energistic Path, it must not be forgotten that it does not look upon the path of performing Action without Knowledge as leading to Release. There are also two paths of performing Knowledge-less Actions. The one is of performing Actions hypocritically '(with dambha), or with an ungodly (āsurī) frame of mind; and the other, is of performing them with religious faith (śraddhā). Out of these, the path of hypocrisy, or the āsurī path, was considered objectionable and productive of perdition, not only by the Gītā, but also by the writers of the Mīmāṃsā; and even in the Ṛg-Veda, religious faith has been extolled in many places (Ṛg-veda 10. 151; 9. 113. 2 and 2. 12. 5). But, the Mīmāṃsā school says, with regard to those who perform Karma without Knowledge, but putting faith in the Śāstras, that if a man performs ritual throughout life merely with religious faith, and relying on the Śāstras, he will ultimately attain Release, though he may not have had a true Realisation of the form of the Parameśvara. I have stated in the last chapter that this path of the Mīmāṃsā school has been current from very ancient times in the shape of the Karma-kāṇḍa. Jaiminī says that it is nowhere stated either in the Veda-Samhitas or in the Brahmanas that the Path of Saṃnyāsa was essential; and that, on the other hand, there are clear statements in the Vedas, that Release is attained by remaining in the state of a householder (Vedānta-Sūtras 3.4.17–20); and this statement of his is not without foundation. Because, this ancient path of the Karma-kāṇḍa came to be first looked upon as inferior only in the Upaniṣads. Although the Upaniṣads are Vedic, yet, they are later in point of time than the Saṃhitās and the Brahmanas, as is clear from the method of dealing with the subject-matter adopted in them. It is not that people had not acquired the Knowledge of the Parameśvara before that date. But the opinion that a man should apathetically abandon lotion, after the acquisition of Knowledge, in order to attain Release, first began to be acted upon only at the time of the Upaniṣads; and thereafter, the Karma-kāṇḍa described in the Samhitas and in the Brahmanas came to be looked upon as inferior. Before that date, Karma was considered superior. When the Path of Saṃnyāsa, that is, of Knowledge coupled with apathy towards the world, thus became preponderant in the time of the Upaniṣads, Jñānins naturally began to neglect ritualistic sacrifices, as also the religious injunctions prescribed for the four castes; and the idea that universal welfare (lokasaṃgraha) was a duty, began to lose ground. It is true that the writers of the Smṛtis have stated in their works, that the sacrificial Karma enjoined in the Śrutis, and the duties proper for the four castes enjoined in the Smṛtis must be performed during the state of a householder; and they have in that way praised that state. But, as even according to the writers of the Smṛtis, indifference towards the world, or the state of Asceticism, was excellent, it was not possible that the inferiority placed on the Karmakāṇḍa by the Upaniṣads, should be reduced by the arrangement of the four stages of life enjoined in the Smṛtis. In this state of things the Gītā has come forward to harmonise the Jñānakāṇḍa with the Karma-kāṇḍa, without deprecating either, by tacking on both of them to Devotion. The Gītā accepts the doctrines of the writers of the Upaniṣads that there is no Release without Jñāna, and that by sacrificial ritualistic Karma, one can at most attain heaven (Muṇḍakopaniṣad 1.2.10; Bhagavadgītā 2.41–45). But, it is also a doctrine of the Gītā, that in order that the affairs of the world should go on, the wheel of Yajnas, or of Karma, must be kept going on; and that it is foolish to give up Karma at any time; and therefore, the Gītā advises that instead of performing the sacrificial ritual and other acts prescribed by the Śrutis, or the worldly activity enjoined by the arrangement of the four castes, merely with religious faith and ignorantly, one should perform them with a frame of mind which combines Spiritual Knowledge with indifference towards the world and merely as- a duty, so that the Karma which is performed will not obstruct Release, and at the same time, the circle of the Yajnas will- not be disrupted. It need not be said that this skill of the Gītā of harmonising the Jñāna-kāṇḍa with the Karma-kāṇḍa (that is, Saṃnyāsa and Karma) is better than what the writers of the Smṛtis have done; because, by the path prescribed in the Gītā, the benefit of the collective Ātman, which pervades the creation is achieved without at the same time in any way prejudicing the benefit of the individual Ātman. The Mīmāṃsā school says that as Karma is eternal, and is enjoined by the Vedas, one must perform it although one may not have acquired Knowledge; many (but not all) writers of the Upaniṣads treat Karma as inferior, and say that it must be given up by cultivating indifference towards the world; or, at any rate, one may safely say, that they are inclined to do so; and the writers of the Smṛtis harmonise these two opinions by differentiating between youth and old age, and relying on the arrangement of the four states, and by saying that Actions should be performed in the three previous states of life, and. that after the Mind has been purified by the performance of Actions, one should in old age give up Action and renounce the world. But the path prescribed by the Gītā is different from all these three paths. Though there is an opposition between Jñāna and Desire-prompted Action, there is no opposition between Jñāna and Desireless Action; therefore, the Gītā asks you to perform all Actions desirelessly, and never to give them up. If these four doctrines are compared with each other, it will be seen that all accept the position that Karma is necessary before Knowledge is acquired. But, the Upaniṣads and the Gītā say that Actions performed in that state and merely with religious faith do not yield any fruit except heaven. As to whether Karma should or should not be performed after this, that is, after the acquisition of Knowledge, there is a. difference of opinion even among the writers of the Upaniṣads. Some of the Upaniṣads say, that the man who has become fit for Release after all desire has been destroyed in his heart as a, result of Knowledge, need not perform Desire-prompted Actions, which lead only to heaven; and, other Upaniṣads, such as, Īśāvāsya etc., insist that all these Actions must nevertheless be kept going on in order that the activities of the world should go on. It is quite clear that the Gītā accepts the second one out of these two paths prescribed by the Upaniṣads (Bhagavadgītā 5.2). But, though it may be said that the Jñānin, who has become fit for Release, should go on desirelessly performing all Actions for universal welfare, a doubt naturally arises here as to why he should perform such Karma like sacrificial ritual, which leads only to heaven. Therefore, this doubt has been raised in the beginning of the eighteenth chapter, and the Blessed Lord has given His clear decision, that in as much as, "sacrificial ritual, charity, austerity" etc., always have the effect of purifying the Mind, and of making the Mind more and more desireless, "these actions also" (etāny api) should be performed by the Jñānin desirelessly, continually, and without Attachment, for social welfare (Gi, 18.6). When all acts are desirelessly performed in this way, that is, with the intention of dedicating them to the Parameśvara, that amounts to the performance of a stupendous Yajna in the wide sense of the term; and then, the Karma performed for the sake of this Yajna does not become a source of bondage (Bhagavadgītā 4.23). Not only that; but as all these Actions have been performed desirelessly, they do not produce the bondage-creating result in the shape of the attainment of heaven, which springs from sacrificial ritual, and do not stand in the way of Release. In short, although the Karma- kāṇḍa of the Mīmāṃsā school has been kept intact in the Gītā, yet, it has been kept intact in such a way, that it definitely leads to Release instead of making a person journey to and from heaven, since all Actions have to be performed desirelessly. It must be borne in mind that this is the important difference between the Karma-mārga prescribed by the Mīmāṃsā school and the Karma-Yoga prescribed by the Gītā; and that both are not the same.

I have, thus, explained that the Bhagavadgītā has advocated the Activistic Bhāgavata religion or the Karma-Yoga, as also what the difference is, between this Karma-Yoga and the Karma-kāṇḍa of the Mīmāṃsā school. I shall now consider the difference in principles between the Karma-Yoga of the Gītā and the arrangement of the four states made by the writers of the Smṛtis on the authority of the Jñāna-kāṇḍa. This difference is very subtle; and strictly speaking, there is no need to enter into a fruitless discussion about this matter. Both accept the position that everyone must perform the duties proper to the first two states of life for the purification of the Mind. The only point of difference is whether after the acquisition of Knowledge, one should continue performing Action or renounce the world. Here, some are likely to think "that as such Jñānin are necessarily few and far between, it is not necessary to trouble much about whether these few persons perform or do not perform Action. But this position is not correct; because, as the conduct of the Jñānin is considered exemplary by other people, and also as every man directs his "behaviour from the very beginning according to what his ultimate end is, the question 'what the Jñānin should do' is a very important question from the general point of view. It is true that the Smṛti texts- say that a Jñānin should finally renounce the world. But, as has been stated above, there are exceptions even to this rule according to the directions of the Smṛtis.

For instance, in the Bṛhadāraṇyakopaniṣad, Yājñavalkya has given a considerable amount of advice about the Knowledge of the Brahman to Janaka; but, he has nowhere said to Janaka:

"you now give up ruling and renounce the world".

It is stated there, on the contrary, that those Jñānins who give up worldly life after the acquisition of Knowledge, do so because they do not like (na kāmayante) worldly life (Bṛhadāraṇyakopaniṣad 4.4.22). From this, the opinion of the Bṛhadāraṇyakopaniṣad seems clearly to be that taking or not taking Saṃnyāsa, after the acquisition of Knowledge, is a matter purely within the discretion of everybody; and that there is no permanent relationship between the Knowledge of the Brahman and Saṃnyāsa; and this statement in the Bṛhadāraṇyakopaniṣad has been explained in the same way in the Vedānta-Sūtras (Vedānta-Sūtras 3.4.15). Śaṃkarācārya has definitely laid down that it is not possible to attain Release unless Action is abandoned after the acquisition of Knowledge; and he has attempted to show in his Bhāṣya that all the Upaniṣads are in favour of that proposition. Nevertheless, even Śrī Śaṃkarācārya has admitted that there is no objection to one's performing Actions till death, according to one's own qualification in life, even after the acquisition of Knowledge, as was done by Janaka and others. (See Śāṃkarabhāṣya 3.3.32; and Gītā Śāṃkarabhāṣya 2.11 and 3.20). From this it is clear that even.the school of Saṃnyāsa or the Smṛtis do not look upon the performance of Action, after the acquisition of Knowledge, as objectionable; and that this school of thought allows some Jñānins to perform Actions according to their own qualifications, though as exceptions. The Gītā widens the scope of this exception and says that every Jñānin must go on performing the duties enjoined on the four castes, even after the acquisition of Knowledge, as a matter of duty, and for universal welfare. It, therefore, follows that though the religion of the Gītā is more comprehensive, the principle established by it is faultless, even from the point of view of the Saṃnyāsa school; and if one reads the Vedānta-Sūtras independently, he will notice that even in them, the KarmaYoga combined with Knowledge has been considered acceptable as being a kind of Saṃnyāsa. (Vedānta-Sūtras 3.4.26; 3.4.32–35).[10] Nevertheless, it is necessary to show what becomes of the fourth state or Saṃnyāsa in the shape of Abandonment of Action, which has been prescribed in the Smṛti texts, if Karma has to be performed lifelong, though desirelessly. Arjuna was thinking that the Blessed Lord would sometime or other say to him that it was not possible to attain Release unless sometime or other Saṃnyāsa in the shape of Abandonment of Action was taken; and that, he would then get a chance of giving up fighting on the authority of some- thing the Blessed Lord had Himself said. But, when Arjuna saw that the Blessed Lord did not even touch the question of Saṃnyāsa by Abandonment of Action till the end of the seventeenth chapter, and that He over and over again advised the Abandonment of the Fruit of Action, he, in the commencement of the eighteenth chapter, has at last said to the Blessed Lord: " then, tell me the difference between Saṃnyāsa (Renunciation) and Tyāga (Abandonment) ". In replying to- this question of Arjuna, the Blessed Lord says: "O Arjuna, if you think that the path of Karma-Yoga which I have described so far, does not include Saṃnyāsa, you are wrong. Karma-Yogins divide all Actions into 'kāmya', that is, Actions performed with an Attached frame of mind, and 'niṣkāma', that is, Actions performed without Attachment. (These two are referred to as 'pravṛtta' and 'nivṛtta' Action respectively in the Manu-Smṛti 12. 89). Out of these, the Karma-Yogin totally gives up all Actions which fall into the category of Desireful Actions, that is to say, he makes a 'Saṃnyāsa' (Renunciation) of them. That leaves the niṣkāma (Desireless) or the nivṛtta Actions. It is true that the Karma-Yogin performs these Desireless (niṣkāma) Actions; but in performing them he has made a 'Tyāga' (Abandonment) of the Hope for Fruit. In short, how does one escape Saṃnyāsa or Tyāga, even in the Path of Karma-Yoga? "Whereas the followers of the Smṛtis literally renounce Karma, the Yogins in the Path of Karma-Yoga renounce instead, the Hope for the Fruit of Action. But, in either case, Saṃnyāsa is a common factor" (See my commentary on Bhagavadgītā 18. -6). Nay, that man who has started performing all Actions desirelessly and with the idea of dedicating them to the Parameśvara, must be said to be an ' eternal ascetic' ('nitya-saṃnyāsin'), though he may be a householder (Bhagavadgītā 5.3). This is the principal doctrine of the Bhāgavata religion; and it is this doctrine which has been preached by Nārada to Yudhiṣṭhira in the Bhāgavata-Purāṇa after he had first explained to him the duties of the "four states of life. As has been stated by Vāman Pandit in his commentary on the Gītā, that is, in the Yathārtha Dīpikā (18.2), it is not that there is no Saṃnyāsa unless a man "shaves off his hair, and throws away the sacred thread"; or, takes a staff in his hand and goes about begging; or, gives up all Action and goes and lives in the forest. Renunciation (saṃnyāsa) and indifference towards the world (vairagya) are properties of the Mind; they are not the properties of the staff, or of the hair on the head, or of the sacred thread. If one says that they are the properties of the staff etc. and not of the Mind or of Knowledge, then even the man who holds the handle of the royal umbrella or of any umbrella, must get the same Release as is obtained by a Saṃnyāsa. It is stated in the conversation between Janaka and Sulabhā, that:–tridaṇḍādiṣu yady asti mokṣo jñānena kasyacit | chātradiṣu katham na syāt tulyahetau parigrahe || (Śān. 320.42).

Because, in either case taking the staff in the hand is a common factor. In short, the control of the body, of the speech, and of the mind is the true 'tridaṇḍa ', (three-fold staff), (Manu-Smṛti 12.10); and the true Saṃnyāsa is the Renunciation of the Desire prompted frame of Mind (Bhagavadgītā 18.2); and as one cannot escape that Saṃnyāsa in the Bhāgavata religion (Bhagavadgītā 6.2), so also can one not escape the Action of keeping the mind steady or of eating etc. in Sāṃkhya philosophy. Then, where is the sense of making childish objections that the Path of Karma-Yoga does not include Saṃnyāsa in the shape of Abandonment of Action, and is, therefore, contrary to the injunctions of the Smṛtis or unacceptable; and fighting about white clothes or saffron-coloured robes?

The Blessed Lord has candidly and without bias said that:

ekaṃ sāṃkhyaṃ ca yogaṃ ca yaḥ paśyati sa paśyati ||
  (Bhagavadgītā 5. 5.)

That is, " that man is truly wise who has realised that Sāṃkhya and (Karma-) Yoga are not two from the point of view of Release, but are one and the same";

And it is stated even in the Bhārata that,

sāṃkhyayogena tulyo hi dharma ekāntasevitaḥ
  (Śān. 348.74),

That is, "the Ekāntika or Bhāgavata religion is equal in merit to the Sāṃkhya religion".

In short, in as much as true indifference to the world (vairagya) or 'eternal renunciation' (nitya-saṃnyāsi), (5.3), consists in merging all selfish interests in universal interests, and in desirelessly performing all duties which befall one in worldly life according to one's own qualifications, so long as life lasts, for the welfare of all created beings, and purely as duties, those who follow the Path of Karma- Yoga never literally abandon Karma and beg. But, though there may be this seeming difference in outward action, the essential principles of Renunciation (saṃnyāsa) and Abandonment (tyāga) continue in the Path of Karma-Yoga; and therefore, the Gītā lays down the ultimate doctrine that there is no opposition between the Desireless Karma-Yoga and the arrangement of states of life according to the Smṛti texts.

From what has been stated above, it might be thought by some that an attempt has been made in the Gītā to harmonise the Karma-Yoga with the Path of Renunciation, because, the Path of Renunciation prescribed by the Smṛtis was an ancient religion; and that the Path of Karma-Yoga was a later creation. But, anybody will see that such is not the case, if the matter is considered from the historical point of view. I have already stated before that the most ancient form of the Vedic religion consisted of the Karma-kāṇḍa. By the Knowledge imparted in the Upaniṣads, the Karma-kāṇḍa gradually became inferior, and Saṃnyāsa in the shape of Abandonment of Action gradually came into vogue. This was the second step in the growth of the tree of the Vedic religion. But even in those times, philosophers like Janaka and others used to harmonise the Karma-kāṇḍa with the Knowledge propounded in the Upaniṣads, and to go on desirelessly performing Actions till death. Therefore, this second stage of the tree of Vedic religion must be said to fall into two classes; the one was the class to which Janaka and others belonged, and the other was the class to which Yājñavalkya and others belonged. The arrangement of stages of life made in the Smṛtis was the third step. But, this third step was also two-fold like the second step. It is true that the Smṛti texts praise the worth of the- fourth state of life entailing the Abandonment of Action; but at the same time, the KarmaYoga, which included Knowledge and which was followed by Janaka and others, has also been mentioned by the Smṛti texts as an alternative for the Saṃnyāsa state. For instance, take the Manu-Smṛti, which is the foundation of all the Smṛti texts. It is stated in the sixth chapter of this Smṛti, that a man should gradually rise from the state of the celibate to the states of the house-holder and of the denizen of the woods, and should ultimately take up the fourth state, which entailed the Abandonment of Action. But, when this description of the fourth state, that is, of the religion of ascetics (Yatins) is over, Manu, after saying by way of introduction that: "I have so far described the religion of Yatins, that is, of Saṃnyāsins; I will now explain the Karma- Yoga of the Vedic Saṃnyāsins", and explaining how the state of the householder is superior to the other states, goes on to describe the Karma-Yoga to be followed in the desireless state of the householder, as an alternative for the Saṃnyāsa state or for the religion of Yatins (Manu-Smṛti 6.86–96); and later on in the twelvth chapter, this religion has been described as the "Vedic Karma-Yoga", and it is stated that this path is as niḥśreyasakara, that is, as productive of Release as the fourth state (Manu-Smṛti 12. 86–90).

The doctrine of Manu also finds a place in the YājñavalkyaSmṛti. In the third chapter of this Smṛti, after the description of the religion of Yatins is over, the conjunction 'or' (athavā) is used, and then it is stated that even the householder, who is a devotee of Knowledge, and who speaks the truth, attains Release (without taking Saṃnyāsa), (See Yājñavalkya-Smṛti 3. 204 and 205). In the same way, Yāska has stated in his Nirukta, that the ascetics, who abandon Action, as also the Karma-Yogins, who perform Action though they have acquired Knowledge, go to the next life by the devayāna path (Ni. 14.9). Another authority in support of this proposition, besides Yāska, is of the writers of the Dharma-Sūtras. These Dharma-Sūtras are in prose and scholars believe them to be earlier in point of time than the Smṛti texts, which are written in verse. Wb are not concerned at the moment with considering whether this opinion is correct or not. Whether it is correct or incorrect, the only important thing we have to consider in the present chapter is that the importance of the state of a householder or of the Karma-Yoga has, in these works, been stated to be more than has been done in the statements quoted above from the Manu and the Yājñavalkya Smṛtis. Manu and Yājñavalkya have referred to the KarmaYoga as an alternative for the fourth state; but Baudhāyana and Āpastamba have not done so; and they have clearly stated that the state of the house-holder is the most important state, and that immortality is subsequently attained in that state only. In the Baudhāyana Dharma-Sūtras, after referring to the statement "jāyamāno vai brahmanas tribhir ṛṇavā jāyate"–that is, "every Brahmin in coming to birth brings with himself the burden of three debts" etc. found in the Taittirīya-Saṃhitā, it is stated that the man who takes shelter into the state of a householder, which entails the performance of sacrificial ritual etc., in order to discharge these debts, attains the sphere of the Brahman; and that those who attach importance to the state of celibacy, or of Saṃnyāsa, are ruined (Bau. and 34); and there is a similar statement also in the Āpastamba Sūtras (Āpa. It is not that the fourth state of Saṃnyāsa has not been described in these two Dharma-Sūtras; but, even after describing that state, the importance of the state of the householder has been stated to be greater. From this fact, and especially from the fact that the adjective 'Vedic' has been applied to the Karma-Yoga in the Manu-Smṛti, the following two things become absolutely clear, namely, (i) that even in the times of the Manu-Smṛti, the state of the householder, which entailed the Desireless Karma-Yoga, was considered more ancient than the Path of Renunciation by Abandonment of Action; and that (ii) from the point of view of Release, it was considered as meritorious as the fourth state. As the leaning of the commentators on the Gītā was towards Saṃnyāsa, or towards Devotion coupled with Abandonment of Action, the above statements from the Smṛtis are not found referred to in their commentaries; but, though they have disregarded those statements, the ancientness of the Karma-Yoga is not thereby in any way diminished. Nay, one may even without objection say that as this path of Karma-Yoga was the more ancient one, the writers of the Smṛtis had to accept it as an alternative for the Path of Renunciation. This is the Vedic Karma-Yoga. This was practised by Janaka and others before the times of Śrī Kṛṣṇa. But, as the Blessed Lord added the creed of Devotion to that Path, and gave it further circulation, His religion came to be known as the 'Bhāgavata Doctrine'. I shall later on consider historically how this Karma-Yoga again came to be looked upon as inferior, and the Path of Renunciation acquired greater importance, although the Bhagavadgītā had in this way declared Karma-Yoga to be superior to Renunciation. All that I have to say for the present is that the Karma-Yoga is not later in point of time than the Path prescribed by the Smṛtis, and that it has been in vogue from the ancient Vedic times.

My readers will now appreciate the inner reason for the words "iti śrīmad Bhagavadgītāsu upaniṣatsu brahmavidyāyāṃ yogaśāstre", used at the end of each chapter of the Gītā. The Upaniṣad which has been sung by the Blessed Lord contains the Brahmavidyā like all other Upaniṣads.

But, these words mean that it does not contain only the Brahmavidyā, and that the principal object of the Bhagavadgītā was to support only the Yoga or the Karma-Yoga, out of the two paths of Sāṃkhya and Yoga (the Vedantic Saṃnyāsa, and the Vedantic Karma- Yoga), which are included in the Brahmavidyā. Nay, one may even without objection say that the Bhagavadgītopaniṣad is the most important treatise on the science of Karma-Yoga; because, although the Karma-Yoga has been in vogue from the times of the Vedas, yet, except for some few references like,

kurvann eveha karmāṇi
  (Īśāvāsyopaniṣad 2),


ārambhya karmāṇi guṇānvitāni
  (Śvetāśvataropaniṣad 6.4),


"simultaneously with the Vidya ritual, such as, svādhyāya etc., should be performed"
  (Taittirīya Upaniṣad 1.9),

There is nowhere any detailed explanation of the Karma-Yoga in any of the Upaniṣads. The Bhagavadgītā is the principal authoritative treatise on that subject; and it is also proper from the point of view of poetic literature that that Bhārata;. which describes the lives of the great heroes in the Bhārata- land should also explain the theory of the Karma-Yoga in its relation to Metaphysics. This also now clearly explains, why the Bhagavadgītā was included in the Prasthānatrayī; Although the Upaniṣads are fundamental, yet, as they have- been written by various Ṛṣis, the ideas contained in them are diverse, and in some places apparently mutually contradictory. It was, therefore, necessary to include the Upaniṣads in the Prasthānatrayī, along with the Vedānta-Sūtras, which attempted to harmonise them. If the Gītā did not contain, anything more than the Upaniṣads and the Vedānta-Sūtras,. there would be no point in including the Gītā in the Prasthānatrayī. But, the trend of the Upaniṣads is principally towards the Path of Renunciation, and they support chiefly the Jñāna-mārga (Path of Knowledge); and when one says that the Bhagavadgītā supports the Karma-Yoga based on Devotion simultaneously with Knowledge, the distinction of the Bhagavadgītā becomes clear, and at the same time the appropriateness of the three parts of the Prasthānatrayī also becomes clear. Because, if the authoritative treatises on the Vedic religion had not dealt with both the Vedic paths of Jñāna and Karma (Sāṃkhya and Yoga), the Prasthānatrayī. would to that extent have remained incomplete. Some people think, that as the Upaniṣads are ordinarily in support of Saṃnyāsa, there will arise a mutual opposition between the three parts of the Prasthānatrayī, if the Gītā. is explained as being in support of Action; and the authoritativeness of the three parts will be endangered. Such a doubt would be appropriate if the Sāṃkhya or Saṃnyāsa was the only true Vedic Path to Release; but, I have shown above, that in some Upaniṣads at any rate, such as the Īśāvāsya and others, the Karma-Yoga has been specifically mentioned. Therefore, if one lays down the proposition, as has been done in the Gītā, that the Vedic Religion is not to be looked upon as a one-handed man, that is, as being only in support of Saṃnyāsa; and that although it has only one head, namely, Brahmavidyā, yet, Sāṃkhya and Karma- Yoga, which, from the point of view of Release, are of equal value, are its right hand and left hand respectively, there remains no opposition between the Gītā and the Upaniṣads. Nay, as the Upaniṣads support the one path, and the Gītā the other path, these two parts of the Prasthānatrayī are seen to be mutually co-operative like two hands, instead of being mutually antagonistic. In the same way, the Gītā does not acquire the subordinate position of merely repeating what has already been said, which it would acquire if it is said to be supporting only what the Upaniṣads have maintained. As the doctrinesupporting commentators on the Gītā have neglected this question, I have shortly set out in the following table in two columns, opposite each other, the principal reasons which the supporters of the two independent paths of Sāṃkhya and Yoga adduce in support of their respective doctrines, in order that the similarity and the difference between the two should be easily ascertained.

This tabular statement will also clearly show the important differences between the arrangement of the states of life according to the Smṛtis and the original Bhāgavata religion:–

After acquisition of the Brahmavidyā or the Knowledge of the Ātman:

[Karma-saṃnyāsa (Sāṃkhya)]: Release is obtained only by Knowledge of the Ātman, and not by Karma. The happiness of heaven, obtained by credulously performing sacrificial ritual, is inconstant.
[Karmayoga (Yoga)]: Release is obtained only by Knowledge of the Ātman, and not by Karma. The happiness of heaven, obtained by credulously performing sacrificial ritual, is inconstant.


[Karma-saṃnyāsa (Sāṃkhya)]: In order to acquire the Knowledge of the Ātman, the Mind must be made steady, desireless, apathetic, and equable by means of the control of the organs.
[Karmayoga (Yoga)]: In order to acquire the Knowledge of the Ātman, the Mind must be made steady, desireless, apathetic and equable by means of the control of the organs.

[Karma-saṃnyāsa (Sāṃkhya)]: Therefore, break the bonds of the objects of pleasure, which please the organs, and be free.
[Karmayoga (Yoga)]: Therefore, do not give up the objects which please the organs; but maintain your association with them apathetically, that is desirelessly, and test the control you have over the organs. Desirelessness does not mean inactivity.

[Karma-saṃnyāsa (Sāṃkhya)]: Action, which is productive of Desire, is causative of pain and bondage.
[Karmayoga (Yoga)]: If you consider in what unhappiness and bondage lies, you will see that lifeless (acetana) Karma does not bind or leave anybody; and that the cause of bondage and unhappiness is the Desire of the hope of reward existing in the Mind of the doer.

[Karma-saṃnyāsa (Sāṃkhya)]: Therefore, though Action has to be performed until the mind is purified, it must ultimately be given up.
[Karmayoga (Yoga)]: Therefore, even after the purification of the Mind, perform all Action courageously and enthusiastically, giving up the Hope for Fruit. One cannot give up Karma, even if one wishes to give it up. Karma is the Creation; and it has no rest

[Karma-saṃnyāsa (Sāṃkhya)]: As Karma performed in connection with sacrificial ritual does not create bondage, there is no objection to its being performed during the stats of a house-holder.
[Karmayoga (Yoga)]: All Actions which are performed with a desireless frame of mind or with the idea of dedicating them to the Brahman are a great 'Yajña' (sacrifice). Therefore, all duties, which are appropriate to one's own- status in life should be performed desirelessly, as pure duties; and these should be performed continually.

[Karma-saṃnyāsa (Sāṃkhya)]: As the natural needs of the Body cannot he escaped from, it Is not improper to beg, for earning one's livelihood, after having taken Saṃnyāsa.
[Karmayoga (Yoga)]: Begging for earning one's subsistence is also Karma, and that too, 'disgraceful'. If this Karma is to be performed, why not perform all other Actions desirelessly? Besides, if the state of a householder is done away with, who is going to give you food?

[Karma-saṃnyāsa (Sāṃkhya)]: After Acquisition of Knowledge, no duty remains to you for your own benefit; and there is no necessity to act for universal welfare.
[Karmayoga (Yoga)]: After Acquisition of Know- ledge, although no duty remains to you for your own benefit, yet, you cannot escape Karma. Therefore, whatever duties are enjoined by the Śāstras should be performed with a selfless (nirmama) frame of mind, saying: 'I do not want it,' and with an eye to 'universal welfare'. No one can escape lokasaṃgraha (universal welfare). For instance, see the life of the Blessed Lord Himself.

[Karma-saṃnyāsa (Sāṃkhya)]: Nevertheless, persons of high authority may, till death, carry on their duties, after Acquisition of Knowledge, as was done by Janaka and others, only as but exceptions.
[Karmayoga (Yoga)]: According to the arrangement of the four castes, which is based on the divisions of the qualities (guṇa- vibhāga), everyone acquire by birth great or small authority; and this authority, which is acquired according to one's own state in life (dharma) must be exercised, till death, desirelessly and without exception; because, this cycle of activities has been created by the Parameśvara for the maintenance of the world.

[Karma-saṃnyāsa (Sāṃkhya)]: But in any case, Saṃnyāsa in the shape of abandonment of Action is the best. The duties of the three other states are the means, or the preparatory stages, for the purification of the Mind; and there is an inherent opposition between Jñāna and Karma. Therefore, acquire purification of the Mind as early as possible in the earlier stages of life, and after having acquired Knowledge, take ultimately to Saṃnyāsa in the shape of Abandonment of the Action. If you have acquired purification of the Mind with birth or in young age, there is no necessity of performing the duties pertaining to the state of a householder. The true state of Saṃnyāsa consists in the literal Abandonment of Action.
[Karmayoga (Yoga)]: It is true that by performing the Actions pertaining to worldly life in the manner enjoined by the Śāstras, one acquires the purification of the Mind. But, purification of the Mind is not the only use of Karma. Karma is necessary in order that the activities of the world should go on. In the same way, though there is an opposition between Jñāna and Desireprompted Action, there is none between Jñāna and Desireless Action; and therefore, after the purification of the Mind, continue the Actions prescribed for the various castes, abandoning the hope of the Fruit of Action, and desirelessly, till death, for the benefit of the world. This is the true Saṃnyāsa; it is neither possible nor proper, to literally abandon Karma (Action) at any time.

[Karma-saṃnyāsa (Sāṃkhya)]: Even after Abandonment of Action, you must observe the rules of śama, dama, etc.
[Karmayoga (Yoga)]: After Acquisition of Knowledge, take Saṃnyāsa in the shape of Abandonment of the Fruit of Action, and observe all the rules arising as a result of Self-identification (ātmaupamya), except śama, dama, etc.; and perform by means of this śama or peaceful frame of mind, all the, duties enjoined by the Śāstras, till death, for the purpose of universal welfare. Do not give up Desireless Action.

[Karma-saṃnyāsa (Sāṃkhya)]: This path is eternal, and has the support of the Śrutis as also of the Smṛtis.
[Karmayoga (Yoga)]: This path is eternal, and has the support of the Śrutis as also of the Smṛtis.

[Karma-saṃnyāsa (Sāṃkhya)]: This path was adopted by Śuka, Yājñavalkya, and others.
[Karmayoga (Yoga)]: Vyāsa, Vaśiṣṭha, Jaigīṣavya, and others, as also Janaka, Śrī Kṛṣṇa and others followed this path.

[Ultimate releae (mokṣa).]

Both these paths or Niṣṭhās are based on the Knowledge of the Brahman, and as the Desirelessness or peacefulness of the Mind is a common factor in both, both the paths ultimately lead to Release (Bhagavadgītā 5.5.). The important difference between the two is that in the one case Karma (Action) is abandoned after Jñāna (Knowledge), and in the other, Desire-prompted (kāmya) Action is abandoned, and Desireless Action is continued.

These two paths of abandoning Action and not abandoning Action have both been adopted and followed by Jñānins after the Acquisition of Knowledge. But Action can be abandoned or performed even when Knowledge has not been acquired. It is, therefore, also necessary to shortly consider here this Action or Abandonment of Action, which is based, not on Knowledge, but on Ignorance. That is why three varieties of Abandonment of Action have been mentioned in the eighteenth chapter of the Gītā. Some persons abandon Action for fear of physical labour, though they have not acquired Knowledge. This is described in the Gītā as a 'rājasa tyāga' (Bhagavadgītā 18.8). In the same way, many persons perform sacrificial ritual only with religious faith (śraddhā), though they have not acquired Know- ledge, But the Gītā says this path of performing Action leads only to heaven and not to Release (Bhagavadgītā 9.20). As the performance of sacrificial ritual prescribed by the Śrutis is not now in vogue, some persons think that the doctrine of the Gītā relating to the pure Karma-mārga supported by the Mīmāṃsā school, is not of much use in these days. But, such a belief is not correct; because, although the sacrificial ritual enjoined by the Śrutis has gone out of vogue, the ritual prescribed by the Smṛtis, in the shape of the duties enjoined on the four castes, is still in existence. Therefore, the dictum of the Gītā with reference to people who perform Desire-prompted Actions like sacrificial ritual, with religious faith, though ignorantly, also applies in the present day to people who perform the duties enjoined on the four castes, with religious faith, though without Knowledge. If one visualises the activities of the world, it will be seen that the majority of persons in society perform their various duties, keeping religious faith in the Śāstras, and according to the accepted moral code. But such persons have not fully acquired the Knowledge of the Parameśvara.

Therefore, these credulous persons, who per- form sacrificial Karma, are in the same position as those who make calculations by mental arithmetic without understanding the reasons for that calculation given in Mathematics. As these persons perform the ritual in manner enjoined by the Śāstras and with religious faith, it is performed correctly, and will be productive of merit (puṇya) or of heaven. But, as the doctrine of the Śāstras themselves is that Release cannot be obtained except by Knowledge, such persons cannot possibly obtain any result more valuable than heaven. Therefore, those persons who wish to obtain that immortality which is beyond the happiness of heaven–and this is, indeed, the true highest ideal of man–should, in the beginning, as a means, and later on, that is, in the state of perfection, for the purpose of universal welfare, (which means, so long as life exists), accept the path of performing Action desirelessly, with a frame of mind chastened by Knowledge, and with the Realisation that, 'in all created beings there is only one Ātman'.

Of all the paths of leading one's life, this path is the best. In the tabular statement above, I have called this path, Karma- Yoga, on the authority of the Gītā; and it is usually referred to by some writers as the Path of Action (karma-mārga), or the Activistic Path (pravṛtti-mārga). But the words Karma- mārga or Pravṛtti-mārga ordinarily also connote the heaven- producing path of performing Action, with religious faith, but without Knowledge. It, therefore, becomes necessary to use two distinct words in order to make clear the difference between the Knowledge-less but Faith-full Karma, and the Desireless Karma performed with Knowledge; and for this reason, the Manu-Smṛti, as also the Bhāgavata, call Knowledge-less Karma, 'pravṛtta-karma', and Desireless Karma based on Knowledge, 'nivṛtta-karma' (Manu-Smṛti 12.89; Śrīmad Bhāgavatpurāṇa 7.5.47). But even these words are, in my opinion, not as unambiguous as they ought to be; because, the word 'nivṛtti' is ordinarily used as meaning 'recoiling (becoming parāvṛtta) from Karma'. In order that such a doubt should not remain, the word 'karma' is added after the word 'nivṛtta', and when that is done, the adjective 'nivṛtta' does not mean 'abstaining from Karma'; and we get the interpretation 'nivṛtta-karma' ='Desireless Action'. But whatever is done, so long as the word 'nivṛtta' is used, the idea of the Abandonment of Action inevitably enters the mind. Therefore, in my opinion, it is better to call the path of performing Desireless Action, after the acquisition of Know- ledge, by the name 'Karma-Yoga' instead of calling it 'nivṛtti' or 'nivṛtta-karma'; because, when the word 'Yoga' is tacked on after the word 'Karma', it naturally means "the device of performing Action without obstructing Release," and Karma based on ignorance is also naturally eliminated. Nevertheless, if one wishes to refer to this path as 'Karma-mārga' or 'Pravṛtti-mārga', without forgetting that the Karma-Yoga of the Gītā is based on Knowledge, there is no objection to the same being done; and in some places, I myself have used the same words for indicating the Karma-Yoga of the Gītā for diversity of language. I have in the following tabular statement shown the opinion of the Gītā as to the two paths of Abandonment of Action and Performance of Action, which are based respectively on Knowledge and Ignorance.

Way of leading life (paths of action)

In short, although Action (Karma) is not necessary for obtaining Release, yet, the Gītā has declared the path of desirelessly and continuously performing Action as the best path of all, for other co-existent reasons, namely, because it is, in the first place, unavoidable, and secondly because, it is essential for the maintenance of the world.

Or, the ultimate doctrine of the Gītā is that the union of Action and Spiritual Knowledge is the best, and that mere Action or mere Spiritual Knowledge is each one-sided, according to the statement of Manu that:

kṛta buddhiṣu kartāraḥ kartṛṣu brahma-vādinaḥ
  (Manu-Smṛti 1.97).

Really speaking this chapter ought to end here. But, it is necessary to say something here about the quotations given.above in various places for showing that the doctrine laid down by the Gītā has the authority of the Śrutis and the Smṛtis; because, many persons have come to the conclusion that all the Upaniṣads support Renunciation (saṃnyāsa or nivṛtti) by reading the doctrine-supporting commentaries on the Upaniṣads. I do not say that the Path of Renunciation is not supported by the Upaniṣads at all.

It is stated in the Bṛhadāraṇyakopaniṣad (4.4.22), that after they have Realised that the Parabrahman is the only Reality,

"some Jñānins do not any more entertain in their hearts the desire for children (putraiṣaṇā), or the desire for wealth (vittaisaṇā), or the desire for higher worlds (lokaiṣaṇā), and saying: 'what have we to do with children? the whole world is our Self (Ātman)', they go about the world contentedly, and earn their livelihood by begging".

But it is nowhere stated in the Bṛhadāraṇyaka that all persons who have Realised the Brahman should follow this path. Nay, there is a statement in this very Upaniṣad that that king Janaka, to whom this advice was given, had reached the highest peak of the Knowledge of the Brahman, and had become immortal. But, it is nowhere stated that he had, like Yājñavalkya, given up the world and taken Saṃnyāsa.

Therefore, it becomes quite clear that the Bṛhadāraṇyakopaniṣad accepted both the Desireless KarmaYoga of Janaka and the Path of Abandonment of Action followed by Yājñavalkya, as alternative paths; and the author of the Vedānta-Sūtras has Taittirīya Upaniṣad 1.9 and Śvetāśvataropaniṣad 6.4). Besides, we do not see it stated in the Upaniṣads, that those who have advised the Knowledge of the Brahman to others, or their disciples who had acquired the Knowledge of the Brahman, adopted Renunciation in the shape of Abandonment of Action, except one or two like Yājñavalkya. On the other hand, they seem to have been householders, from the descriptions which have been given of them. One cannot, therefore, look upon all the Upaniṣads as supporting Saṃnyāsa, and has to say that some of them mention the alternative paths of Saṃnyāsa and Karma-Yoga, whereas others support the union of Jñāna and Karma (jñāna-karmasamuccaya). But, the- doctrine-supporting commentaries on the Upaniṣads do not show these differences, and they usually say that all the Upaniṣads support only one Path–and that too principally the Saṃnyāsa Path. In short, these doctrinesupporting commentators have dealt with both the Gītā and the Upaniṣads in the same way; that is to say, these commentators have had to stretch and mutilate some hymns in the Upaniṣads, as has been done by them in the matter of some of the stanzas in the Gītā. Take, for example, the case of Īśāvāsyopaniṣad, Though this Upaniṣad is short, that is, consisting only of eighteen' stanzas, it is considered to be of greater importance than the' other Upaniṣads; because, this Upaniṣad has been mentioned in the Vājasaneyī Saṃhitā, whereas the other Upaniṣads have been mentioned in the Āraṇyakas; and it is generally accepted that the Brahmanas are of lesser importance than the Samhitas, and the Āraṇyakas of lesser importance than the Brahmanas. This Īśāvāsyopaniṣad is from top to bottom in support of the harmonising of Jñāna and Karma. It is stated in the very first hymn (mantra) of this Upaniṣad that, "whatever existed in the world must be considered as 'Īśāvāsya', that is, located in the Parameśvara; and in the second hymn, there is a clear statement that, "one should desire to live for a hundred years while performing Action desirelessly". This statement from the Īśāvāsya has been quoted as an authority for the harmonising of Jñāna and Karma, wherever there was occasion to deal with the Karma-Yoga in the Vedānta-Sūtras, as also in other places. But, the Īśāvāsya Upaniṣad does not rest there. In order to support the statement made in the second stanza, it subsequently starts the exposition of 'avidyā', that is, Karma, and 'vidyā ', that is, Jñāna; and in the ninth stanza, it is stated that "persons who devote themselves only to avidyā or Karma enter darkness, and those who are steeped merely in vidyā or the Knowledge of the Brahman enter a still darker darkness".

Having in this way shown the inferiority of pure avidyā (Karma), and pure vidyā (Jñāna), this Upaniṣad explains in the eleventh stanza the necessity of the union of 'vidyā ' and,

'avidyā' in the following words:vidyāṃ cā 'vidyāṃ ca yas tad vedobhayaṃ saha | avidyayā mṛtyuṃ tīrtvā vidyayā 'mṛtam aśnute ||
  (Īśāvāsyopaniṣad 11).

The plain and clear meaning of this stanza is:

"that man, who understands both vidyā (Jñāna) and avidyā (Karma) at the same time, goes (easily) through the affairs of the 'mṛtyu' that is, of the perishable illusory world, by means of avidyā that is, Karma; and attains immortality by means of vidyā, that is, of the Realisation of the Brahman";

And the same idea is repeated in the three succeeding stanzas (Īśāvāsyopaniṣad 12–14), in which vidyā is referred to as 'sambhūti', that is, the original cause of the world, and avidyā, which is different from that vidyā, as 'asambhūti' or 'vināśa'. From this, it becomes quite, clear that the Īśāvāsyopaniṣad is in favour of the simultaneous, possession (ubhayaṃ saha) of vidyā and avidyā. In the above stanza, the words 'mṛtyu and 'amṛta ' are mutual opposites, just like 'vidyā' and 'avidyā'. Out of them, amṛta quite clearly means the imperishable Brahman, and it follows that mṛtyu, which is the opposite of it, means the perishable mṛtyu-loka (mortal world) or the life in this world; and both these, words have been used in the same sense in the Nāsadīya-Sūkta of the Ṛg-veda (Ṛg-veda 10.129. 2); When one interprets the- eleventh stanza of the Īśāvāsyopaniṣad, which has been quoted above, taking these clear meanings of the words vidyā etc., that is, taking vidyā as meaning Jñāna, avidyā as meaning Karma, amṛta as meaning the Brahman, and mṛtyu as meaning the mortal world, it will he clearly seen that the simultaneous possession (ekakālīna-samuccaya) of vidyā and avidyā is mentioned in the first line of this stanza: the separate results of both are mentioned in the second part of the stanza, in order to further emphasise that statement. Both these results are considered desirable by the Īśāvāsyopaniṣad, and the simultaneous possession of Jñāna and Karma has been advocated in this Upaniṣad. Carrying on properly the affairs of the mortal world, or going through those affairs successfully is called 'loka-saṃgraha' in the Gītā. It is true that obtaining Release is the duty of every man; yet, as it is also essential that he should simultaneously bring about universal welfare (lokasaṃgraha), the Gītā has laid down the doctrine that the Jñānin should not give up this Karma, which is productive of universal welfare; and the same doctrine has been propounded. in the line, "avidyayā mṛtyuṃ tīrtvā vidyayā 'mṛtam aśnute" mentioned above, with only a verbal difference. In shorty it will be seen that not only is the Gītā consistent with the- Upaniṣads, but that the proposition definitely propounded by the Īśāvāsyopaniṣad has been accepted in toto in the Gītā. The Śatapatha-Brāhmaṇa is a part of that very Vājasaneyī Saṃhitā, of which the Īśāvāsyopaniṣad is a part; and the Bṛhadāraṇyakopaniṣad is to be found in the Āraṇyakas of the Śatapatha-Brāhmaṇa; and this ninth hymn (mantra) of the Īśāvāsyopaniṣad, namely, "persons who are steeped in pure Knowledge (vidyā), that is, in the Realisation of the Brahman, enter a still greater darkness" has been literally adopted in it (Bṛhadāraṇyakopaniṣad 4.4.10). This Bṛhadāraṇyakopaniṣad contains the story of the King Janaka, and the illustration of that Janaka has been taken by the Blessed Lord in support of the theory of Karma-Yoga (Bhagavadgītā 3.20). This establishes all the more firmly, the relation between the Īśāvāsyopaniṣad and the Karma-Yoga of the Bhagavadgītā referred to by me above.

But those commentators whose sectarian doctrine is that there is only one path mentioned in each and every Upaniṣad for obtaining Release, and that too the Path of Indifference (vairagya) or Saṃnyāsa (Renunciation), and that the Upaniṣads cannot prescribe two paths, are driven to somehow or other put a stretched and different meaning on this clear sacred hymn (mantra) in the Īśāvāsyopaniṣad; otherwise, these hymns negative their doctrines; and that is a thing they do not want. Therefore, in commenting on the eleventh hymn in the Śāṃkarabhāṣya, the word 'vidyā' is not taken to mean Jñāna (Knowledge), but upāsanā (worship). It is not that the word 'vidyā' does not mean 'upāsanā' (worship). In the phrases 'Śāṇḍilya-vidyā' etc. 'vidyā.' means 'upāsanā'. But, that is not the principal meaning of that word. It is not that Śrī Śaṃkarācārya did not or could not have realised this fact.

Nay, it is impossible that he did not realise it; because, there are statements in the other Upaniṣads, such as,

vidyayā vindate 'mṛtam
  (Kenopaniṣat (= Talavakāropaniṣat) 2.12);


prāṇasyādhyātmaṃ vijñāyāmṛtam aśnute
  (Praśnopaniṣad 3.12);

And in the seventh prapāṭhaka of the Maitryupaniṣad, the hymn "vidyāṃ cā 'vidyāṃ ca" etc., being the eleventh hymn of the Īśāvāsyopaniṣad, has been taken literally; and immediately before it, the hymn in Kaṭha. 2.4, and after it, the hymn in Kaṭha. 2.5 are to be found; that is to say, these three hymns are to be found in the same place one after the other, and the central hymn is from the Īśāvāsyopaniṣad; and each of the three verses contains the word 'vidyā'. From this it follows, that according to the Maitryupaniṣad, the word 'vidyā' in the Īśāvāsyopaniṣad must be taken to mean the same thing as in the Kaṭhopaniṣad, that is to say, Jñāna. But, in the Śāṃkarabhāṣya on the Īśāvāsya, it is stated that if the words 'vidyā' and 'amṛta' in the eleventh hymn of the Īśāvāsyopaniṣad are taken in their ordinary meaning of 'vidyā' = Knowledge of the Self, and amṛta = mokṣa, one will have to say that the union of Jñāna (vidyā) and Karma (avidyā} has been prescribed by this Upaniṣad; but, in as much as such a combination is logically incorrect, the words 'vidyā and 'amṛta' must be taken in their respective inferior meanings of 'worship of a deity' and 'sphere of the deities' respectively. In short, in order that this hymn in the Īśāvāsya should not falsify the principal doctrine of the Śāṃkara school that: "after the Acquisition of Knowledge, one must not perform Actions; because, the combination of Jñāna and Karma can never be logical", the eleventh hymn of the Īśāvāsya has been interpreted, as mentioned above, in the Śāṃkarabhāṣya, by taking the inferior meaning of the word 'vidyā', with the clear intention of harmonising all the statements in the Śrutis with the doctrine of the Śāṃkara school; and from the point of view of the justification of a doctrine, this mis-interpretation was not only important but necessary. But those, who do not accept the fundamental proposition that all the Upaniṣads must support only one particular line of thought, and that the Śrutis cannot prescribe two different modes of life, have no occasion to pervert the meanings of the words 'vidyā' and 'amṛta' in the above hymn. Although one accepts the principle that the Parabrahman is 'ekamevādvitīyam' (one, and one only), it does not follow that there cannot be more than one path of Realising that Para- brahman. As it is possible to have two stair-cases for going to the same floor, or two roads for going to the same place, so also can there be two methods or Niṣṭhās for acquiring Release; and it has, therefore, been clearly stated in the Bhagavadgītā that "loke 'smin dvividhā niṣṭhā". When it is once admitted that it is possible to have two Niṣṭhās (paths of Release), it does not become impossible that some Upaniṣads should describe the Jñāna-niṣṭhā, and others describe the Jñāna-Karma-combined Niṣṭhā.

Necessarily, there does not remain any occasion to pervert the clear, natural, and unequivocal meaning of the words used in the Īśāvāsyopaniṣad on the ground that they are inconsistent with the Jñāna-niṣṭhā. There is another reason for saying that Śrīmat Śaṃkarācārya aimed rather at insisting on a homogeneity in the Upaniṣads on the question of the Saṃnyāsa-niṣṭhā than at accepting the clear meaning of the hymn. In the Śāṃkara-bhāṣya on the Taittirīya Upaniṣad (Taittirīya Upaniṣad 2. 1), only the portion "avidyayā mṛtyuṃ tīrtvā vidyayā 'mṛtam aśnute", out of the hymn in the Īśāvāsya, has been given; and there has been joined to it a statement from the Manu-Smṛti (Manu-Smṛti 12.104) that, "tapasā kalmaṣaṃ hanti vidyayā 'mṛtam aśnute", and the word 'vidyā' in both, these lines has been taken by Śaṃkarācārya in only one meaning, namely, Brahma-jñāna, which is the original and primary meaning. But, here the Ācārya says that the word 'tīrtvā' = 'swimming over' implies that the action of swimming through the mortal sphere (mṛtyu-loka) is first completed, and afterwards (not simultaneously) the action of obtaining immortality by vidyā follows; but I need not point out that such an interpretation is inconsistent with the words "ubhayaṃ saha" in the first half of the hymn; and it seems that this meaning must have been left out in the Śāṃkarabhāṣya on the Īśāvāsya, possibly for this reason. Whatever may be the case, this clearly shows why a different explanation of the eleventh hymn of the Īśāvāsya was given in the Śāṃkarabhāṣya on it. This reason is merely a desire to support a doctrine, and those who do not accept the doctrinal vision of commentators, may not accept this explanation. I am certainly willing that, as far as possible, one should avoid having to give up an interpretation adopted by a superman like Śrīmat Śaṃkarācārya But, such a position is bound to arise when one gives up the doctrinal vision; and, therefore, even other commentators have, before me, interpreted the hymns in the Īśāvāsyopaniṣad in a way different from that adopted in the Śāṃkarabhāṣya, that is to say, in the same way as has been done by me. For instance, in the commentary by Uvaṭācārya on the Vājasaneyī-Saṃhitā, and necessarily on the Īśāvāsyopaniṣad, it is stated in expounding the canon, 'vidyāṃ cā 'vidyāṃ ca' that, "vidyā means the Knowledge of the Ātman, and avidyā means Karma, and immortality or Release is obtained by the combination of both"; and Anantācārya has in his commentary on this

Upaniṣad.accepted this interpretation, which combines Knowledge and Action; and he has ultimately clearly said that the doctrine expounded in this hymn is the same as that underlying the statement in the Gītā, that: "yat sāṃkhyaiḥ prāpyate sthānam tad yogavr api gamyate" (Bhagavadgītā 5.5); and that the words 'sāṃkhya' and 'yoga' in this stanza in the Gītā respectively connote 'Jñāna' and 'Karma'.[11] In the same way, Aparārkadeva has given the eleventh hymn of the Īśāvāsya in his commentary on the Yājñavalkya-Smṛti (Yā. 3.57 and 205), and interpreted it as supporting the combination of Jñāna and Karma, as was done by Anantācārya. From this it will be clear to my readers, that I have not been the first person to interpret this hymn from the Īśāvāsyopaniṣad in a way different from that in which it has been interpreted in the Śāṃkarabhāṣya.

So far we have considered the hymn in the Īśāvāsyopaniṣad itself. Let us now consider shortly the statement "tapasā kalmaṣaṃ hanti vidyayā 'mṛtam aśnute" from the Manu-Smṛti which has been quoted in the Śāṃkarabhāṣya. This is the 104th stanza of the twelvth chapter of the Manu-Smṛti, and that chapter deals with the Vedic Karma-Yoga, as will be seen from Manu. 12.86. In the course of the disquisition on the Karma-Yoga, Manu says,

tapo vidyā ca viprasya niḥśreyasakaraṃ param |
tapasā kalmaṣaṃ hanti vidyayā 'mṛtam aśnute ||

That is:–"tapa and (ca) vidya, these (that is, necessarily both) are producers of excellent Release to the Brahmin";

And having stated this in the first part of the stanza, he, in order to show the use of both these things, says in the second part of the stanza:

"By tapa (religious austerity) all sin is annihilated, and by vidyā, one obtains amṛta, that is, Release".

From this, it is quite clear that Manu had, in this place, implied the combination of Jñāna and Karma, and that he had in this stanza adopted the doctrine enunciated in the eleventh hymn in the Īśāvāsya Upaniṣad. This meaning is further emphasised by the statements in the Hārīta Smṛti. This Hārīta-Smṛti is available independently, and is also included in the Narsimha-Purāṇa (Nṛ. Pu. 57–61).

The Nṛsiṃha Purāṇa (61.9–11) and the Hārīta-Smṛti (7. 9–11) contain the following stanzas regarding the combination of Knowledge (Jñāna) and Action (Karma):

yathāśvā rathahīnāś ca rathāś cāśvair vinā yathā |
evaṃ tapaś ca vidyā ca ubhāv api tapasvinaḥ ||
yathānnaṃ madhusaṃyuktaṃ madhu cānnena saṃyutam |
evaṃ tapaś ca vidyā ca saṃyuktaṃ bheṣajaṃ mahat ||
dvābhyām eva hi pakṣābhyāṃ yathā vai pakṣiṇām gatiḥ |
tathaiva jñānakarmabhyāṃ prāpyate brahma śāśvatam ||

That is, "In the same way, as horses without a chariot, or a chariot without horses (are of no use), the same is the case with the tapa of the tapasvin, and vidyā. In the same way, as anna (food) mixed with madhu (honey), and honey mixed with food become a potent medicine, so also do 'tapa' and 'vidyā', when combined, In the same way as birds acquire motion by means of two wings, so also is the immutable Brahman acquired as a result of the combination of Jñāna and Karma".

These statements in the Hārīta-Smṛti are also to be found in the second chapter of the Vṛddhātreya-Smṛti. From these statements, and especially from the illustrations which have been given in them, one clearly understands in what way the statements of the Manu-Smṛti are to be interpreted. I have stated before that Maim includes all the Karma (ritual or Action) enjoined for the four castes in the word 'tapa' (Manu-Smṛti 11.236); and it will now be seen that the observance of tapa and svādhyāya-pravacana which has been prescribed in the Taittirīyopaniṣad (Taittirīya Upaniṣad 1.9), has been prescribed accepting the position of the combination of Jñāna and Karma. The same is the summary of the whole of the Yoga-Vāśiṣṭha; because, in the beginning of this book, Sutīkṣṇa has asked whether Release is obtained by Jñāna alone, or by Karma alone, or by the combination of both; and in replying to that question, after first stating that, "just as the movement of birds in the sky is made by two wings, so also is Release obtained by the combination of Jñāna and Karma, and perfection is not attained by only one of them", by taking the illustration of the wings of the birds from the Hārīta-Smṛti, the Yoga-Vāśiṣṭha has been written in order to prove that proposition in detail (Yoga-Vāśiṣṭha 1.1.6–9). Similarly, in the book itself, Vaśiṣṭha has again and again given to Rāma the advice that, "perform all your activities in life, keeping your mind pure like a jīvan-mukta" (Yoga-Vāśiṣṭha 5.17. 18–26); or "as it is not possible to give up Action (Karma) so long as life lasts (Yoga-Vāśiṣṭha 6. U. 2.42), perform the duty of protecting and maintaining that kingdom which has fallen on your shoulders by virtue of your caste" (Yoga-Vāśiṣṭha 5.5.54 and 6, U. 213.50); and the summing up of the work, as also what Śrī Rāmacandra did afterwards, is consistent with that advice. But, as the commentators on the Yoga-Vāśiṣṭha, belonged to the Saṃnyāsa school, they have passed a judgment on their own hook, that Jñāna and Karma are not 'yugapat', that is, 'proper at the same time,' although the illustration of the two wings of a bird is perfectly clear in itself. But, this interpretation is a stretched, unintelligible, and doctrinal interpretation, as will be seen by anyone who reads the original work by itself, without the commentary. There is a well-known treatise in the Madras Presidency known as Gurujñāna-vāsiṣṭha-tattvasārāyaṇa, which is sub- divided into three parts, namely, Jñāna-kāṇḍa, Upasana- kāṇḍa and Karmakāṇḍa. I have stated before that this work is not as old as it is made out to be. But, although, it might not be ancient, yet, as it accepts the position of the combination of Jñāna and Karma, it is necessary to mention it in this place. As the Vedānta in this work is Non-Dualistic, and as it lays a special emphasis on Desireless Action, the doctrine supported by it may safely be said to be different from the doctrine supported by Śrī Śaṃkarācārya, and independent. This doctrine is known on the Madras side as 'Anubhavādvaita'; and really speaking this is only an imitation of the Karma-Yoga in the Gītā. Yet, it is stated in it, that this conclusion is arrived at by all the 108 Upaniṣads, instead of supporting it on the authority of the Gītā; and besides, it also includes two new Gītās, namely the Rāma-gītā and the Sūrya-gītā. This book will correct the impression some persons have, that accepting the Monistic (advaita) theory amounts to an acceptance of the Abandonment of Action; and it will now be clear from the authorities given above, that the statement that the Desireless Karma-Yoga is supported only by the Saṃhitās, the Brahmanas, the Upaniṣads, the Dharma- Sūtras, the Manu and Yājñavalkya-Smṛtis, the Mahābhārata, the Bhagavadgītā, the Yoga-Vāśiṣṭha, and lastly by the Tattvasārāyaṇa, but is not acceptable to the Śrutis and the Smṛtis, and that the Śrutis and the Smṛtis support only the Path of Renunciation, is without any foundation whatsoever.

I have so far proved that in order to carry on the activities of the mortal world or for universal welfare, the simultaneous combination of Desireless Action, according to one's own qualification, with Release-giving Knowledge, is necessary according to the Gītā: or, as has been stated by the Maratha Poet Śivadina-kesari:

"that man who has attained the highest ideal, attending also to his worldly activities; such a man is good indeed, he is good indeed ||";

That this Path of Karma-Yoga has been in vogue from ancient times, and was accepted by Janaka and others; and that it is also known as the Bhāgavata religion, because, it was extended further and revived by the Blessed Lord. It is now necessary, from the point of view of general welfare (loka-saṃgraha), to deal with the question of how the scients, who follow this path, carry on their worldly activities simultaneously 'with' the acquisition of the highest ideal of man. But, as the present chapter has been lengthened out to a considerable, extent, I shall deal with this subject in the nest chapter.


Footnotes and references:


The meaning, in "which the word 'saṃnyāsa' need in the first line is to be taken, becomes clear from the phrase 'karma saṃnyāsa' used in the second line. These questions and answers from the Gītā are found adopted at the beginning of the fourth chapter of the Gaṇeśagītā, and there, the present verse has been given with a slight verbal difference as,

kriyāyogo viyogaś cāpy ubhau mokṣasya sādhane |
tayor madkye kriyāyogas tyāgāt tasya viśiṣyate ||


"And it is equally a mistake to place inactivity above action, for happiness is activity, and the actions of the just and the wise are the realisation of much that is noble". (See Aristotle's Politics trans, by Jowett. Vol. I. p. 212. The italics are ours).


Sulley has in his book Pessimism given the names 'Optimism' and 'Pessimism' respectively to Karma-Yoga and Karma-Tyāga (Sāṃkhya or Renunciation). But, in my opinion, these names are not correct. 'Pessimism' implies the meaning of 'whiner' or 'despondent'. But those persons who give up worldly life, looking upon it as transient, are joyful; and though they give up Buch life, they do so joyfully Therefore, it is not correct, according to me, to refer to them as 'Pessimists'. Bather than that, it would be more proper to refer to Karma-Yoga in English as 'Energism', and to the Sāṃkhya or the Saṃnyāsa path as 'Quietism'. As Knowledge of the Brahman is common to both these paths according to the Vedic religion, happiness or peace is the same according to both; we do not make the difference that one path leads to happiness and the other to unhappiness, or that one is hopeful and the other hopeless.


Ānandagiri has taken this statement as being from the Smṛtis in his commentary on the Śāṃkarabhāṣya on the Kaṭhopaniṣad (Kaṭhopaniṣad 2.19). I have not found where the original is.


There are the following other readings of this part of the second line of the stanza, namely, 'nivṛttiś ca subhāṣitaḥ' and nivṛttiś ca vibhāṣitaḥ. Whichever reading is taken, the words "dvāv imāv" appear in the beginning in each reading, and from this, it is clear that these two paths are independent.


The idea that this verse is from the Śrutis is not correct. It. does not appear in the Śāṃkara-bhāṣya on the Vedānta-Sūtras; but it has been taken by Śaṃkarācārya in his Bhāṣya on the Sanatsujātīya, and it is there stated to be from the Liṅga-purāṇa. It is dearly not in support of Karma-Yoga, but of the Saṃnyāsa-mārga. There are. similar statements in Buddhistic works (See the Appendix).


"thus admitting that for the fanatic, some wild anticipation is needful as a stimulus; and recognising the usefulness of his delusion as adapted to his particular nature and his particular function, the man of higher type must be content with greatly moderated expectations, while he perseveres with undiminished efforts. He has to see how comparatively little can be done, and jet to find it worthwhile to do that little: so uniting philanthropic energy with philosophic calm"–Spencer's Study of Sociology, 8th Ed. p.403. (The italics are ours;. If, in this sentence, one substitute the words 'maddened by the qualities of Matter' (Bhagavadgītā 3.29), or, 'befooled by Individuation (ahaṃkāra)' (Bhagavadgītā 3.27), or, the word ' fool ' used by. the dramatist Bhāsa (see p.430 above ~Translator.) for the word 'fanatic', and one substitutes the word 'vidvān' (scient) (Bhagavadgītā 5.25) for the words 'man of higher type', and the words 'indifference towards the fruit of Action,' or 'abandonment of the fruit of Action', for the words 'greatly moderated expectations', one may almost say that Spencer has copied the doctrine of the Gītā.


This verse has been adopted in the Śāṃkarabhāṣya on the Vedānta-Sūtras, and there it runs aa follows:–

kaṣāyapaktiḥ karmāṇi jñānaṃ tu paramā gatiḥ |
kaṣāye karmabhiḥ pakve tato jñānaṃ pravartate ||
  (Ve. 85. Sam. Bhā. 3. 4. 26).

I have quoted the verse here as I found it in the Mahābhārata.


See the chapter of Kali-varjya in the third part (pariccheda) of the Nirṇaya-Sindhu.

Here, the Smṛti texts,

agnihotraṃ gavālambhaṃ saṃnyāsaṃ palapaitṛkaṃ |
devarāc ca sutotpattiḥ kalau pañca vivarjayet ||,


saṃnyāsaś ca na kartavyo brāhmaṇena vijānatā,

Etc., are mentioned. The first of these two tests means that agnihotra, (perpetual sacred fire), slaughter of cows, Saṃnyāsa, partaking of meat at the time of the performance of the śrāddha (ancestor-worship), and niyoga (procreating off-spring from the wife of another—Translator.), these five are prohibited in the Kaliyuga. The prohibition against Saṃnyāsa, out of these, was removed by Śaṃkarācārya.


This portion of the Vedānta-Sūtras has been interpreted in a slightly different way in the Śāṃkarabhāṣya, But, according to me, the words "vihitattvāc cāśramakarmāṇi" (3.4.32) mean: "there is no objection to the Jñānin doing the various acts prescribed for the various states, because they are proper (vihita)". In short, according to me, the Vedānta-Sūtras have accepted both the positions of the Jñānin performing Actions, and also not performing them.


All these commentaries on the Īśāvāsyopaniṣad have been given in the edition of the Īśāvāsyopaniṣad printed in the Anandashram Press at Poona; and the commentary of Aparārka on the Yājñavalkya-Smṛti has also been separately printed in the Anandashram Press. The translation of the Īśāvāsyopaniṣad included in the translations of the Upaniṣads made by Prof. Max. Müller is not according to the Śāṃkarabhāṣya, and he has stated his reasons for doing so at the end of his translation (Sacred Book of the East Series Vol. I, p. 314–320). The commentary of Anantācārya had not come to the hands of Prof. Max. Müller; and he also does not seem to have understood why different meanings are given for the same words in different places in the Śāṃkarabhāṣya.

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