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BG 3.1-9

CHAPTER 3
KARMA-YOGA

Dealing with the confusion: Renunciation vs. working in niskama-karma (3.1-9)

In the previous chapter, Krsna stressed the importance of buddhi, intelligence. He instructed Arjuna to "Keep all abominable activities far distant" by buddhi-yoga. Statements like these reinforced Arjuna's misunderstanding that activity is categorically abominable and sinful.
Arjuna proposes that to avoid material bondage one must abandon society and prescribed duties.' This is a common mistake of neophytes in spiritual life. They think that all activity leads to bondage, and that avoiding karma is as simple as giving up activity. In this section, Krsna decisively corrects this misconception.

Main Theme:
Liberation or bondage is not determined by one's activities, but by one's consciousness in performing those activities. Thus, renunciation is not the giving up of activity, but is the giving up of attachment to the fruit of activity.

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Sub Points:
A. Renunciation of activity without the necessary training, knowledge and purification will lead to
destruction on the path of spiritual advancement. Without prescribed duties, an unfulfilled
desire for activity will lead the premature renunciate to sinful action (3.1,4 & 5).
1. By giving up prescribed duties, one gives up the means to gradually purify themselves of the
enjoying mentality. If a desire for fruitive activity arises in the heart of one who has
given up prescribed duties, he has no positive avenue for religiously satisfying the
desire and therefore runs a great risk of resorting to irreligious means of satisfaction. This is the danger of immature renunciation (3.4).
2. Renunciation of activity is not a means of purifcation; it is the result of purification.
3. The soul is active by nature, so there is no possibility of renunciation of activity. Rather
one must act on the pure platform.
4. Taking to quick renunciation before one is qualified may be an attempt to acquire
subtle sense gratifcation through profit, adoration, and distinction. Krsna mockingly
contrasts this pseudo renunciation with the honest attempt at purification through the
regulations of karma yoga(3.6-7).
5. Prescribed duties are too important to be capriciously abandoned. Besides the value in
purifying the heart, they also maintain a balanced society and even one's physical
health (3.8).
B. The path of inaction (sankhya-yoga) and the path of action (karma-yoga) are interdependent,
not contradictory.
1. Sankhya yoga (philosophical discrimination) indirectly leads one to realize Krsna. It
helps one realize the self as spiritual. One can then realize their connection with the
Superself, Krsna.
2. The process of Krsna consciousness (buddhi-yoga or karma-yoga) is to act on the
platform of one's spiritual connection with the Supersoul.
3. Although they are two parts of the same path, Krsna consciousness is a superior
method because it is far more practical. In Krsna consciousness, one fulfills the desire
for activity. And that devotional activity is the purifying agent by which one realizes his
actual position. There is less provocation for fall down, and one makes advancement
quickly and easily (3.3).
C. Action in Krsna consciousness is "work done for the sake of Vishnu" (yajna-arthat). Al beings
are forced to act by their nature. They should act only for the sake of Visnu and thus be
released from the bondage of fruitive action (3.9).

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