True Meaning of Renunciation and It's Purpose: Bhagavad Gītā, Chapter 5 (26)


Lesson 26 clears what it means to Renounce the world or action. It is NOT to give up action, but to give up the false notion that “I AM the doer/actor”. Yoga of Renunciation (Saṃnyāsa/Sannyāsa Yoga) does not contradict Karma Yoga because Renunciation is meant for contemplative/Sāttvic Minds. While Karma Yoga is meant for active-Rājasic Minds. Thus they both lead to Liberation.

Topic of Renunciation will be continued in next few lessons. Thus don't assume this is all there is to living life of a sannyasin (renunciate of doership of action; IE: Īśvara is the true author of action).


  1. Purpose and benefit of Karma Yoga

    Karma Yogis (IE: ones actively practicing the Karma Yoga spirit) are not yet free of likes/dislikes.

    Thus their rāga/dveṣa (attractions/repulsions), which are stored in Causal Body as vāsanās (or saṃskāras if we're talking about a collection of similar vāsanās) – continue to guide or dominate the choosing of what activities are done (rajas; which creates desire/passion) and  avoided (tamas; which creates fear, avoidance, lethargy, and cause for no energy/motivation in life).

    Karma Yoga is best (but not limited to as these are general examples) for types who are driven by new arising passions towards living.

    Such types are about making things happen. Activities to do. Objects to engage with. Worlds to experience. Achieve!

    This is state of 99% of world today in Kali Yuga. Everyone is “busy” about something. Always on the move. Constant activity. Continuous cycle of creating problems and living to solve those problems, only to create new problems.

    This cycle is endless because of likes/dislikes which never stop, unless one adopts the spirit of Karma Yoga Spirit. And what is this Spirit? It's letting go of attachment to results of one's actions, and looking all that is returned as good. Whether the results are considered good or bad, either way it is GOOD.

    The Spirit requires you to see all results of your actions, as gift of Īśvara. Not by faith. But through understanding that there is a universal order that governs the world. And as such, this universal order (Īśvara) is the one that determines the results of our actions.

    For example, if I am holding a pen and open my fingers, thanks to Īśvara (in the form of the law of gravity) the pen falls. As such, even when sometimes we get a result that is not aligned with our desires we can take comfort in the understanding that the result is all part of the perfect functioning of Īśvara's order.

    This understanding develops gratitude for life (prasāda buddhi; graceful acceptance) – that no matter what happens – you can take comfort it's Īśvara's world, not yours. Therefore the results given to you are totally impersonal.

    For example, why should you get what you want, at the expense of someone else not getting it. And vice-versa. What is so special about you, that Īśvara should favor your likes/dislikes about the object, instead of someone else's likes/dislikes about that same object.

    In summary: Karma Yoga takes mind AWAY FROM extroversion towards multiplicity of objects – TOWARDS introversion about contemplation of the Lord (Īśvara). Karma Yoga purpose to neutralizes the enticing onset of passions driven by likes/dislikes, which have danger of taking aspirant of course for another couple of years.

    What's more, practice of Karma Yoga reduces excess Rajas/Tamas. So what you say! Consider this…

    Excess Rajas/Tamas in the Mind obscure Self-Knowledge (I AM the Self). Consequence of this is disinterest towards reverence of the Lord (Īśvara), let alone motivation for mokṣa.

    In addition, Rajas/Tamas cause an agitated Mind. Which can only be satisfied in one way: Constantly chasing for novel, new, exciting, fresh things – in the ever changing world.

    The proof of this phenomena is in the world itself. Look around you. It's all about NEW THINGS. NEW EXPERIENCES. Implying what? Ongoing dissatisfaction with what I've already got and what I've gotten yesterday.

    Therefore, Karma Yoga gradually and naturally puts an end to suffering caused by “I WANT, I WANT, I WANT, etc”. And converts one's general life view to “I AM permanently happy with myself, world, God, everything!”. Which is what all humans are seeking for anyway.

  2. What is Yoga of Renunciation (Saṃnyāsa Yogaḥ) as explained in chapter 5 of Bhagavad Gītā?

    Lord Kṛṣṇa's teaching has shown that Arjuna's plan to attain happiness by renouncing action is based on a lack of understanding.

    Arjuna's problems are not caused by action and its results, but by his own likes and dislikes. They will continue to haunt him whether he acts or not.

    In fact, only by performing action with the attitude of karma yoga can he remove his likes and dislikes, the source of his problems.

    Having first taught Arjuna the purpose of karma yoga, Lord Kṛṣṇa also shows him the true meaning of renunciation.

    Giving up action is not renunciation, for giving up presupposes that one is actually controlling an action. This notion is an error. One must see WHAT it is that performs action.

    You are aware of all your mental and physical activities, and of the faculties that perform these; therefore, you are none of them. You are pure Awareness (caitanya), in whose presence all these function.

    You conclude that you are an actor and then resolve to renounce action while there is no action in you in the first place.

    Awareness is actionless. A person who knows the Self to be actionless is ever relaxed, even when engaged in activities.

    A wise person renounces the notion that he or she is the actor, having discovered the actionless nature of the Self. This is the true meaning of renunciation.

  3. How does Karma Yoga (Chapter 3) contrast to Yoga of Renunciation (Chapter 5)?

    Since society is duty-based, a person should perform his or her duty until he or she is motivated by the desire for mokṣa (liberation).

    After leading a life of karma yoga for many years, your attitude will change. You will no longer be swayed by likes and dislikes, but will be objective instead and see clearly that the only goal in life is liberation.

    Then the state of the mind will be, “I don't want anything in this life or in the life hereafter; I don't long for security or pleasures. I am not interested in these; I do not seek them.

    When you have reached this level of understanding, a choice is given to you. You may continue to perform actions with a dutiful attitude while you pursue Self-knowledge by studying with a teacher.


    You may become a sannyāsī, a renouncer, leading a life entirely dedicated to study and contemplation.

    A sannyāsī does not participate in the society; he or she has no obligation to the family or the community and is not governed by anyone. A sannyāsī's only obligation is to engage in study and reflection, to acknowledge the fact revealed by the Śruti that the Self is limitless.

    Let not above statement be misconstrued to mean abandoning the world physically. Realistically this isn't entirely possible in Western countries.

    Thus the closest to Western sannyāsī would be: (1) Appreciate your part time job, treating it's income as general support for food/rent, and (2) When not working, 99% of alone time is invested into immersion of scriptures/contemplation of the Self.

  4. Which is better for Liberation? Karma Yoga or Yoga of Renunciation (Saṃnyāsa Yoga)?

    Arjuna's confusion is understandable, but the Lord cannot tell him which of these lifestyles is better because they are not alternatives, just as one cannot answer the question, “Shall I go to college or get the degree?

    Going to college is the means and the degree is the end — one is not better than the other.

    Similarly, karma yoga is a necessary preparation for the life of a renouncer, a life dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge.

    Since Lord Kṛṣna cannot give Arjuna any clearcut choice, his reply only seems to prolong the confusion.

    Sannyāsaḥ karmayogaśca niśśreyakarāvubhau
    Tayostu karmasannyāsātkarmayogo viśiṣyate (5.2)

    Both sannyāsa and karma yoga lead to liberation. Of these two, however, karma yoga is better than the renunciation of action.

    By this answer, Lord Kṛṣṇa is not recommending karma yoga in preference to sannyāsa. He tries to make Arjuna see that there is no choice between these two: rather, one adopts the life for which one is suited.

    What is achieved by sannyāsa can be achieved equally well by a life of action if one's attitude is right.

    That is why Lord Kṛṣṇa says that both sannyāsa and karma help one discover liberation.

    But sannyāsa is very difficult if one does not possess a contemplative mind.

    Karma yoga gives one a contemplative mind, capable of discovering the fact that true sannyāsa is renunciation of action by the knowledge that the ” I ” (Ātman) is actionless.

    Lord Kṛṣṇa repeats the need for karma yoga in a later verse:

    Sannyāsastu mahābāho duḥkhamāptumayogataḥ (5.6)

    O mighty-armed one, without karma yoga, sannyāsa is very difficult to achieve.

    Lord Kṛṣṇa means that the one who takes to sannyāsa before developing a contemplative mind through the practice of karma yoga, will only denigrate (play down) the very order of sannyāsa, for one who takes sannyasa even when one is unprepared is only a beggar, a nuisance to the society as well as to oneself.

    Arjuna has not developed a contemplative mind. He has just begun to analyse the problem of limitation and sorrow and is seeking a solution. His likes and dislikes are still very much part of him and cannot be given up at will. He cannot take to sannyāsa so easily.

30 Oct

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