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Path of Renunciation

Chapter 5
Arjuna asked: O Krishna, You praise the path of transcendental knowledge, and also the path of selfless service (KarmaYoga). Tell me, definitely, which one is the better of the two paths? (See also 5.05) (5.01)

Renunciation means complete renouncement of doership, ownership, and motive behind an action, not the renuncia­tion of work or worldly objects. Renunciation comes only af­ter the dawn of Self-knowledge. Therefore, the words ‘renunciation’ and ‘Self-knowledge’ are used interchangeably in the Gita. Renunciation is considered the goal of life. Selfless service (Seva, KarmaYoga) and Self-knowledge are the necessary means to achieve the goal. True renunciation is attaching all action and possession---including body, mind, and thought---to the service of the Supreme.

Lord Krishna said: The path of Self-knowledge and the path of selfless service both lead to the supreme goal. But of the two, the path of selfless service is superior to path of Self-knowledge (because it is easier to practice for the beginners). (5.02)

A person should be considered a true renunciant who has nei­ther attachment nor aversion for anything. One is easily liberated from Karmic bondage by becoming free from the pairs of opposites such as attachment and aversion. (5.03)


The ignorant---not the wise---consider the path of Self-knowledge and the path of selfless service (KarmaYoga) as different from each other. The person who has truly mastered one, gets the benefits of both. (5.04)

Whatever goal a renunciant reaches, a KarmaYogi also reaches the same goal. Therefore, one who sees the path of renunciation and the path of unselfish work as the same, really sees. (See also 6.01 and 6.02) (5.05)

But true renunciation (the renunciation of doership and ownership), O Arjuna, is difficult to attain without KarmaYoga. A sage equipped with KarmaYoga quickly attains Nirvana. (See also 4.31, 4.38, 5.08) (5.06)

Selfless service (KarmaYoga) provides the preparation, discipline, and purification necessary for renunciation. Self-knowledge is the upper limit of KarmaYoga, and renunciation of doership and ownership is the upper limit of Self-knowledge.

A KarmaYogi, whose mind is pure, whose mind and senses are under control, and who sees one and the same Spirit in all beings, is not bound by Karma, though engaged in work. (5.07)


The wise who know the truth think: "I do nothing at all.” In seeing, hearing, touching, smelling, eating, walking, sleeping, breath­ing, speaking, giving, taking, as well as opening and closing the eyes; the wise be­lieve that only the senses are operating upon their objects. (See also 3.27, 13.29, and 14.19) (5.08-09)

Senses need not be subdued if the activities of the senses are spiritualized by perceiving that all work, good or bad, is done by the powers of God.


One who does all work as an offering to God---abandoning attachment to results---remains untouched by Karmic reaction or sin, just as a lo­tus leaf never gets wet by water. (5.10)

A KarmaYogi does not work with selfish motives and therefore does not incur any sin. Selfless service is always sinless. Selfishness is the mother of sin. One becomes happy, peaceful, purified, and enlightened by performing one's prescribed duties as an offering to God while remaining detached inwardly.

The KarmaYogis perform action---without attachment---with their body, mind, intellect, and senses only for the purification of their mind and intellect. (5.11)

A KarmaYogi attains Supreme peace by abandoning attachment to the fruits of work, while others who are attached to the fruits of work become bound by work with a personal motive. (5.12)

A person, who has completely renounced the attachment to the fruits of all work from his or her mind, dwells happily in the City of Nine Gates, neither performing nor directing action. (5.13)

The human body has been called the City of Nine Gates (or openings) in the scriptures. The nine openings are: Two openings each for the eyes, ears, and nose; and one each for the mouth, anus, and urethra. The Lord of all beings and the universe who resides in this city along with the individual soul or the living entity (Jiva) is called the Spiritual Being (Purusha) performing and directing all action. (See also 13.22)

The Lord neither creates the urge for action nor the feeling of doership nor the attachment to the results of action in people. The powers of material Nature do all these. (5.14)

The Lord does not take responsibility for the good or evil deeds of anybody. The veil of ignorance covers Self-knowledge; thereby people become deluded and do evil deeds. (5.15)

God does not punish or reward anybody. We our­selves do this by the misuse or the right use of our own power of rea­soning and free will. Bad things happen to good people to make them better.

Transcendental knowledge destroys the ignorance of the Self and reveals the Supreme Being, just as the sun reveals the beauty of objects of the world. (5.16)

Persons whose mind and intellect are totally merged in the Eternal Being, who are firmly devoted to the Supreme, who have God as their supreme goal and sole refuge, and whose impurities are destroyed by the knowledge of the Self, do not take birth again. (5.17)

An enlightened person---by perceiving God in all---looks at a learned person, an outcast, even a cow, an elephant, or a dog with an equal eye. (See also 6.29) (5.18)

Just as a person does not consider parts of the body, such as arms and legs, different from the body itself, similarly a Self-realized person does not consider any living entity different from all pervading Eternal Being (BP 4.07.53). Such a person sees God everywhere, in everything, and in every being. After discovering the metaphysical truth, one looks at everything with reverence, compassion, and kind­ness because everything in the material world is part and parcel of the cosmic body of Lord Vishnu.

Everything has been accomplished in this very life by one whose mind is set in equality. Such a person has realized the Supreme Being because the Supreme Being is flawless and impartial. (See also 18.55) (5.19)

To have a feeling of equality for everybody is the greatest worship of God (BP 7.08.10). Those who do not have such a feeling discriminate. Therefore, the victims of injustice and discrimination should feel sorry for the discriminator and pray to the Lord for a change of the discriminator’s heart rather than get upset, angry, or vengeful.

One who neither rejoices on obtaining what is pleasant nor grieves on obtaining the unpleasant, who has a steady mind, who is undeluded, and who is a knower of the Supreme Being---such a person eternally abides with the Supreme Being. (5.20)

Such a person who is in union with the Supreme Being becomes unattached to external sensual pleasures by discov­ering the joy of the Self (through contemplation) and enjoys transcendental bliss. (5.21)

Sensual pleasures are, in fact, the source of misery (in the end) and have a begin­ning and an end. Therefore, the wise, O Arjuna, do not rejoice in sensual pleas­ures. (See also 18.38) (5.22)

The wise constantly reflect on the futility of sensual pleasures that inevitably become the cause of misery; therefore, they do not become victims of sensual crav­ings.

One who is able to withstand the impulses of lust and anger before death is a yogi and a happy person. (5.23)

One who finds happiness with the Supreme Being, who rejoices with the Supreme Being within, and who is illuminated by Self-knowledge---such a yogi attains Nirvana and goes to the Supreme Being. (5.24)

Seers whose sins (or imperfections) are destroyed, whose doubts about the existence of the Universal Self have been dispelled by Self-knowledge, whose minds are disciplined, and who are engaged in the welfare of all beings, attain the Supreme Being. (5.25)

Those who are free from lust and anger, who have subdued the mind and senses, and who have realized the existence of the Self, easily attain Nirvana. (5.26)

A sage is, in truth, liber­ated by renouncing all enjoyments, focusing the eyes and the mind between the eye-brows, equalizing the breath moving through the nostrils by using yogic techniques, keeping the senses, mind, and intellect under control, having salvation as the prime goal, and by becoming free from lust, anger, and fear. (5.27-28)

The invisible astral channels of flow of energy in the human body are called Nadis. When the cosmic currents---flowing through Nadis in the astral spinal cord---are separated by the opening of the main Sushumna Nadi by the practice of yogic techniques, breath flows through both nostrils with equal pressure; the mind calms down; and the field is prepared for deep meditation leading to trance.

One attains everlasting peace by knowing Me, the Supreme Being, as the enjoyer of sacrifices and austerities, as the great Lord of the entire universe, and as the friend of all beings. (5.29)


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