Bhagavad Gita- Chap 4 (Part-1) Jnaana Karma Sanyaasa Yogah- Yoga of Renunciation of Action in Knowledge

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Life  is constituted of moments of activity and inactivity. Through inactivity  neither progress nor deterioration is ever possible. Periods of activity alone  create man. Such creation of man depends upon what type of activity he  undertakes. Activity or Karma need not imply only ritualism but it encompasses  all dedicated actions. It is known to all that action means movement of the  body etc., and inaction means absence of such movements or to sit quiet. But  these two terms imply much more than these familiar ideas.

Activity  can be broadly classified as constructive and destructive. Constructive  activities are termed here as Karma (i.e. actions to be done) which contribute  towards the evolution of an individual. Destructive activities are those which  debase the individual and hence totally condemned by the Sastras; these are  referred to here as Vikarma (actions to be avoided).

Karma  (Constructive activity) can be of three types:
1. Nitya Karma:  constant duties
2. Naimittika Karma:  special duties on special occasions and
3. Kamya Karma:  duties done expecting rewards.

Sri  Krishna advises Arjuna to avoid prohibited actions (Vikarma) and to pursue the  constructive and creative activities of self-development (Karma) and to totally  reject inactivity (Akarma). It is essential that a true seeker should know the  triple classification of activities constituting life. Sri Bhagavan admits that  it is not easy to understand these concepts of activities implying that for  evaluating actions one should go beyond the actions as such and look into the  motive or desire or intention behind such actions. If motives are pure actions they  will be noble and if motives are impure so also actions will be mean.

karmanyakarma yah pashyed akarmani cha  karma yah
    sa buddhimaan manushyeshu sa yuktah  kritsnakarmakrit // 4.18 //
    He  who recognizes inaction in action and action in inaction is wise among men; he  is a Yogi and a true performer of all actions.

This  verse conveys the central theme of this Chapter. Sri Krishna describes the  nature of action and inaction by introducing the concepts of seeing inaction in  action and action in inaction. Bhagavan  asserts that he who so recognizes is a wise person, a Yogi and is deemed to  have preformed all actions.

Although  these terms are common and familiar they are used in the Gita with special  meaning and implications. They are examined hereunder.

Inaction  in action:
  It  is only the ignorant that regard the Self as active. But the wise person  regards the Self as actionless even when he himself is engaged in action.  Activity belongs to the senses, the body and the mind. It is a function of the  Gunas.

Action  in inaction:
  The  body, the senses and the mind, regarded by the ignorant as actionless, are  perceived by the wise to be active. Hence he sees action in what the ignorant  think to be inaction.

Performed  all actions:
  A  wise person devoid of the idea of agency is really a free soul, though he  participates in action. Action does not bind him.

The  terms ‘action’ and ‘inaction’ are not rightly understood; the one is mistaken  for the other. The Lord tries to remove this misunderstanding. The Self of man  is actionless. Action pertains to the physical body, the senses and the mind.  But an ignorant person falsely attributes action to the Self and says to  himself that ‘I am the doer, mine is the action, and by me is the fruit of  action reaped’ and so on.

Similarly,  he falsely imputes to the Self the cessation of activity, which really pertains  to the body, the senses and the mind. So he says to himself ‘I shall be quiet,  I may be free from work and worry and be happy’ and so on.

Through  right knowledge a man sees inaction in action; he sees that action commonly  associated with the Self really belongs to the body, the senses and the mind  and that the Self is actionless. Likewise, a man with right knowledge sees  action in inaction; he knows that inaction is also a kind of action. Inaction  is a correlative of action and pertains to the body. The Self is beyond action  and inaction.

Sankara  explains that in atman there is no action; in the body, however, there  is no rest, even when there seems to be rest.

He  who knows the meaning of action and inaction as explained above is wise among  men; he is a Yogi. He does all action without being bound; he is free from the  evil result of action. He has achieved everything.
    yasya sarve samaarambhaah kaamasankalpa  varjitaah
    jnaanaagni dagdhakarmaanam tam aahuh  panditam budhaah // 4.19 //

Whose  undertakings are all devoid of desires and self-will and whose actions have  been burnt by the Fire of Knowledge, the wise will call him the sage.

Realization  of `inaction in action' and `action in inaction' is praised here. Sri Krishna  says that he is a perfect sage whose actions in the outside world are without  desires or the thoughts which cause such desires. Such actions performed are  mere movements without any attachment for the actions and for their results  because of the absence of any selfish purpose.

They  are undertaken for preventing people from going astray or merely for the  maintenance of the body or to set an example to others. When a sage performs  these actions in the community such a learned person really does no action and  his action is equivalent to inaction since all his actions are consumed by the  fire of wisdom in having known the truth about action and inaction through the  knowledge of Self.

The  Self knowledge is a spiritual fire which consumes the results of all kinds of  actions, good or bad, making the enlightened sage free from the bonds of  action. Even when such a saint works in the world outside he is only expressing  the will of the Divine and not his own desires and therefore, it is said that  his actions are burnt by the fire of knowledge.

tyaktwaa karmaphalaasangam nityatripto  niraashrayah
    karmany abhipravritto'pi naiva kinchit  karoti sah // 4.20 //

Giving  up attachment to the fruits of actions, ever content, depending upon nothing,  he does not do anything though engaged in actions.

A  man of wisdom is described here. He who has abandoned all concern for actions  and has also renounced all his attachments for their fruits is a perfect  worker. This, however, does not mean that the Path of Action is to act without  an eye upon the fruits of activities. It only means that we should avoid our  mental dependence and intellectual attachment to the desired or expected  results of our activities. Only when one gets pre-occupied with the expected fruits  of actions, he gets worried and anxious and thereby becomes ineffective.  Hence we are advised to work for the  happiness and welfare of the society by forsaking (Tyaktwaa) our clinging  (Sangam) to the fruits of action (Karma phalam).

If  an attitude of non-attachment to fruits of actions is developed one becomes  anxiety-free and his intellect can have no more desires because anxiety is the  direct result of desires. He thus becomes ever content (Nitya-Tripta) in his  experience of the Self acting in the world not seeking any fulfillment for  himself.

An  ordinary man lives entirely depending on the fruits of his actions and derives  joy out of such fruits.  In the case of a  sage, he expects no fruits of his activities and his very actions are by  themselves a reward for him.  Hence he  depends on nothing (Niraashraya).

The  weaknesses of anxiety for the fruits of action, a sense of discontentment and a  feeling of dependency on things and beings of the world, belong to the Ego.  When the seeker ends his ego and realized his identity with the Self, he though  seemingly engaged in activity does not do anything. He is an emancipated soul  who sees inaction in action and action in inaction.

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