The Gita has been described as an elaborate commentary on the mahavakya of the Chhandogya Upanishad, 'tat tvam asi - that thou art'. The first six chapters elucidate the word 'thou' which stands for the individual self. It is called the Twam-pada. The second set of six chapters deals with the word 'that' which denotes brahman. This is called the Tat-pada. The last set of six chapters establishes the identity of the individual self and brahman. It is called the Asi-pada, which establishes the identity of the individual soul with the Supreme Soul.
Another way of looking at these three sets of six chapters each is to consider the first six chapters as emphasizing karmayoga, the second six bhaktiyoga and the last six jnanayoga. The term 'yoga' here stands for 'path'. Thus we have the three paths of karma, bhakti and jnana. These three paths are, however, not independent of one another, but they together form a synthetic whole. None of these paths can be practiced without the help of the other two; only the emphasis varies according to the temperament and level of spiritual development of the aspirant.
Chapter 2 described the sage of perfection, his mental equipoise and the methods of self-evolution to guide us in pure meditation and detached thinking. Chapter 3 gave a scientific treatment of the Karma Yoga - the path of action. The principle of `Renunciation of action in knowledge' had been propounded in Chapter 4. As there was confusion in Arjuna between the ideas of `action' and `renunciation of action', Chapter 5 explained the `way of renunciation of action' under two methods Viz. 1. Renunciation of the sense of doership and 2. Abandoning attachment and anxiety about the fruits of actions. A person who has followed the teachings of The Lord thus far would have got rid off his doubts. He would be fit for the higher purposes of meditation and Self-contemplation. How this is done is the theme of the present Chapter 6. This chapter concludes one of the sections in the thought-flow of the Gita as explained in the beginning.
This Chapter explains how one can give up one's weaknesses and positively grow into a healthier, stronger and integrated personality. This technique is called “Dhyana Yoga” or `Path of meditation'. It discusses this path as auxiliary to the practice of both Karma Yoga and Sankhya Yoga.
Control over the body, senses, mind and intellect is extremely necessary in Dhyana Yoga. These instruments are collectively called as “Atma” and hence this Chapter is also called ‘The Yoga of Self-Control’. Many classical commentators, particularly Madhusudan Saraswati, have therefore associated this Chapter with the Ashtanga Yoga of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras.
The first nine verses of this Chapter reiterate the three stages of spiritual development as described in the previous chapter. A yogi with worldly vasanas needs karma yoga, the path of action, to evolve spiritually. Through action he sheds his vasanas and becomes a Sanyasi. A Sanyasi, in a state of renunciation, needs meditation and quietitude to reach the ultimate state of Jnani. Both Karma Yogi and Sanyasi aim at the same goal of Self realization but their sadhanas (spiritual practices) differ. Whatever be the sadhana, every seeker has to put in his own effort to raise himself.
Though the Yogi and Sanyasi are both on the spiritual path, the Sanyasi alone, having developed a dispassion for the world, is capable for meditation and realization. Details of the environmental, physical, mental and intellectual preparations necessary to take the seat of meditation are elaborated here. When a seeker follows all these preparations he will become freed from desire, possessiveness, and the consequent sorrow. He will then become established in Yoga and be fully prepared to enter into meditation.
RENUNCIATION AND ACTION ARE ONE
sri bhagavaan uvaacha
anaashritah karmaphalam kaaryam karma karoti yah
sa sannyaasi cha yogee cha na niragnirna chaakriyah // 6.1 //
Sri Bhagavan said
He who performs his bounden duty without depending on the fruits of his actions - he is a sannyasin and a yogin, not he who has merely renounced the sacred fire; even so he is no yogi, who has merely given up all action.
So far, two currents of thought were discussed viz. 1. `Renunciation of the sense of agency' (Sanyas) and 2. `Renunciation of attachment to the fruits of actions' (Yoga).
The Sanyasi is himself the Yogi and the seekers must therefore engage themselves in noble works renouncing both their sense of doership and attachment to the fruits of their actions. Sanyasa or renunciation has little to do with outward works. It is an inward attitude. It is mental purity and intellectual equipoise.
Arjuna thought Sanyasa as mere abandonment of all activities, symbolized here by the word `fire'. To become a Sanyasi, it is not necessary to give up the daily sacrificial fire and other rituals. To abstain from these without the spirit of renunciation is futile.
yam sannyaasamiti praahuryogam tam viddhi paandava
na hyasannyastasankalpo yogee bhavati kashchana // 6.2 //
O Pandava, please know what they call renunciation to be disciplined activity, for none becomes a Yogi who has not renounced his selfish desire.
The word `Sankalpa' means the mental faculty that makes plans for the future expecting the results of the plans so made. No one can become a Karma Yogi who plans future actions and expects the fruits of such actions. Only a devotee who renounced the thoughts of fruits of his actions can become a Yogi of steady mind because the thoughts of fruits of actions always cause mental disturbances.
Sanyasa i.e. renunciation consists in the accomplishment of the necessary action without an inward striving for reward. This is true yoga, firm control over oneself, complete self-possession. This verse says that disciplined activity (Yoga) is just as good as renunciation or Sanyasa.
Karma Yoga practiced without regard to the fruit of actions forms a stepping stone and an external aid to Dhyana Yoga or meditation. How Karma Yoga is a means to a better and greater meditation is explained in the following verses.