Up to the verse 2.38 we have seen the Lord establishing the propriety of Arjuna engaging in the war from the point of view of Sankhya Yoga or the Yoga of Knowledge about the soul and the body as also from the angle of duty of a Kshatriya. In conclusion He advised Arjuna to fight in a spirit of equanimity. Now Bhagavan Krishna advocates the same theme from the point of view of Karma Yoga
THE INSIGHT OF YOGA
eshaa te'bhihitaa saankhye buddhir yoge twimaam shrinu
buddhyaa yukto yayaa paartha karma bandham prahaasyasi // 2.39 //
What has been declared to you so far is the wisdom of sankhya. Now listen to the wisdom of yoga, armed with which, O son of Pritha, you will break through the bonds of Karma.
Sri Krishna taught knowledge or Jnana to Arjuna till now. This is called Sankhya Yoga which is the path of Vedantic philosophy by which the true nature of the Self and the methods of attaining Self-Realisation can be comprehended through logic of reasoning.
From this verse onwards the focus of the Gita in this chapter is to explain the technique of Karma Yoga having known which one can break through the bonds of Karma or vasanas.
Let us see what these two yogas mean in the Bhagavad Gita and what is meant by the bondage of karma. Yoga means the technique of attaining knowledge or wisdom.
Sankhya or Jnana Yoga is the path of knowledge about the Absolute reality. It teaches discrimination between the Real and unreal and urges the renunciation of the unreal. The knowledge of Reality directly destroys ignorance, which is the cause of birth and death in the relative world and of grief and delusion inevitably associated with it.
Yoga or Karmayoga is the path of action. The follower of this path engages in action without any desire for or attachment to the result of such action. He regards himself as an instrument of God. It is desire and attachment that create the subtle impressions in the mind (vasanas) which are the seeds of future action. Action performed without attachment or care for the result does not create new karma, but leaves the will free to devote itself to the achievement of Self-realization. This is the secret of Karma Yoga. What are the bonds of karma? Merit and demerit, virtue and sin, pain and pleasure and other pairs of opposites constitute the bondage of all actions performed with a motive.
Sankhyayoga or the path of knowledge, which directly reveals the true nature of the self, is meant for very rare seekers, endowed with keen intellect for discrimination and undaunted will-power for renunciation. But the large majority does not belong to this category. Hence they should first of all purify their minds, through the discipline of karmayoga. They will then become fit to follow the path of knowledge. The pure in heart attain Self-knowledge through the grace of God.
Arjuna can qualify for the highest knowledge only through performance of his duty. Krishna all along adduced various arguments from the Upanishadic, materialistic, mundane standpoints to persuade him to perform his duty. Now Krishna describes karmayoga which is the special contribution of the Gita to the philosophy of life, a user’s manual for every day living.
THE SPECIAL MERIT OF KARMAYOGA
nehaabhikramanaasho'sti pratyavaayo na vidyate
swalpamapyasya dharmasya traayate mahato bhayaat // 2.40 //
In this no effort is ever lost and no harm is ever done. Even very little of this discipline (Dharma) saves a man from the Great Fear.
If a religious ceremony is left incomplete it is a wasted attempt as the performer will not derive any benefit like a house left unroofed. Again in the worship for an object, any imperfection in the process produces positive harm or loss instead of gain as in the case of sickness non-use of right medicines brings about adverse results. But it is not so in the case of Karma Yoga where every action and worship performed without desire brings about immediate purification of heart and protects one from the cycle of birth and death which is termed here as the great fear.
KARMA YOGA LEADS TO THE HIGHEST GOOD
vyavasaayaatmikaa buddhir ekeha kurunandana
bahushaakhaa hyanantaashcha buddhayo'vyavasaayinaam // 2.41 //
O Joy of the Kurus (Arjuna), in this blessed path, there is a concentrated one-pointed determination. Scattered and endless are the thoughts of the irresolute or the undecided.
In this Karma Yoga, even the highest achievement of Self-realization is possible because the man works with single-pointed determination with concentrated mind. Those who perform actions with endless desires for results get their inner personality disintegrated and dissipated. With the scattered minds they are not able to apply themselves to the tasks involved and therefore their attempts invariably end in failure.
Karma yoga is the path in which the seeker with concentrated resolution strives hard to reach his goal while in the Karma Kanda, the seeker, to satisfy his unending desires, performs various rituals as instructed in the Vedas meditating upon the prescribed Devata. As this process is more desire prompted there is always an inner agitation.