17. Outward Action: A
Mirror Of The Mind
something very terrible. It is often compared to an ocean. If
you are in the midst of an ocean, you see water wherever you
look. Same is the case with samsara. It has surrounded us
from all the sides. Even if a man leaves his home and devotes
himself to public service, samsara does not leave his
mind. It is there even if one retires to a cave to lead a
hermit’s life. He may have got only a few possessions there, but
they become the centre of his attachment and samsara
engulfs him there too. Just as a single currency note can hold
one thousand rupees, a loin-cloth too can hold unlimited
attachment. There is, therefore, no attenuation of samsara
simply through reduction in the involvement in worldly business
and/or reduction in one’s possessions. Whether you say 10/25
or 2/5, it means the same. We may be in the midst of our family
or alone in a forest, the mind remains attached to samsara.
Two yogis may go to the Himalayan caves for doing
penance, but even there they may burn with envy if they happen
to hear each other’s
praise. The same thing happens in the realm of social service.
Samsara has thus engulfed
us and is ever tormenting us. It does not leave us even if we
decide to remain within the bounds of swadharma. Even if
we curtail our activities, engagements and affairs, attachment
to ‘I and mine’ remains
the same. It is said that the demons could become small or big
at will. Samsara too is like a demon. And a demon remains
a demon, whatever be its size. You may live in a palace or in a
hut, samsara is equally inescapable. Even if we limit
samsara by choosing to remain within the bounds of
swadharma, there would still be conflicts and you will feel,
‘Enough of it!’
Therein too you will have to deal with a whole lot of
individuals and institutions and that will exasperate you; you
would become disgusted. But then that is the time of trial for
your mind. Detachment does not automatically result from the
performance of swadharma. To curtail activities is not
the same thing as getting detached.
How can then one attain detachment? For this, the mind must cooperate fully. Nothing can be
achieved without the cooperation of the mind. Parents sometimes
keep their wards in a residential school. There the boy leads a
disciplined life. He wakes up early, takes exercises regularly
and is generally away from bad habits. But as soon as he comes
home, he abandons all the good habits. A man is not like a lump
of wet clay to which you can give any form you like. He has a
mind of his own, which must be receptive to assume that form. If
there is no cooperation on the part of his mind, all efforts to
educate him would be in vain. Cooperation of the mind is,
therefore, extremely necessary irrespective of the means
Outward performance of
swadharma and the inward mental vikarma—both are
necessary. Outward work is, of course, necessary. The mind
cannot otherwise be tested. In the stillness of early morning,
we feel that our minds have become calm. But the moment a child
cries, we lose our calm and it becomes clear that the peace of
mind is illusory. There is, therefore, no point in avoiding
outward work. The true nature of our minds, the real quality of
our minds is revealed through outward work. Water in a pond
appears clear, but throw a stone in it and the dirt settled at
the bottom will immediately rise up. That happens with our minds
too. There are heaps of dirt at the bottom of the mind’s
lake. They come to the surface when disturbed by an external
agent. When a man gets angry, it is not that the anger comes
from without; it was already there within him. Otherwise it
could never have shown itself.
People say that coloured cloth does
dirty; white cloth does. But coloured cloth too gets dirty,
although it does not appear to be so. White cloth says,
“I have become dirty; wash
me please.” People do not
like such ‘talking’
cloth. Our action too talks. It proclaims whether we are given to
selfishness or to anger or something else. Action is the mirror that
reflects our true form. We should, therefore, be grateful to it. If
the mirror shows that our face is unclean, would we smash the mirror? No. We would rather thank it and wash our face. Likewise, should
we avoid action because it reveals the dirt in our minds—our defects
and weaknesses? Is the mind going to be pure simply by avoiding
action? In fact, we should continue to act while trying continually
for the purification of mind.
A man living alone in a mountain
cave, cut off from all human contact, may imagine that he has
attained perfect peace of mind. But let him leave the cave and
go for meals to somebody’s
house and let a child playfully rattle the bolt of the door
there. The innocent child may be absorbed in the music of that
sound, but the recluse will find it jarring and curse the child
in his mind. His stay in the isolated cave has made his mind too
weak and over-sensitive to stand even the slightest disturbance.
His peace of the mind may get disturbed by just a little
rattling noise. It is not good that one’s
mind should be in such a weak state.
To sum up, karma is very
much needed to enable us to understand the state of our minds.
We can remove our defects only when we become aware of them. If
we are not aware of them, all efforts for progress and growth
will come to naught. It is while doing work that we become aware
of our defects. Vikarma is then to be employed to get rid
of those defects. With ceaseless application of vikarma
inwardly, we will gradually come to know how to remain detached
while performing swadharma, how to remain beyond desires
and passions, anger, greed, temptations and delusions. When
there is a constant endeavour to purify karma, pure
karma will follow naturally and effortlessly. When detached
and passionless action begins to take place frequently and
effortlessly, we would not even be aware of its occurence. When
karma becomes effortless and burdenless, it is
transformed into akarma. Akarma, as we have
seen in the Fourth Chapter, means effortless, burdenless,
natural karma. The Lord has also told at the end of the
Fourth Chapter that one could learn how karma is
transformed into akarma at the feet of the saints. This
state of akarma cannot be described in words.
18. The Nature Of The
State Of Akarma
Let us take a familiar example to
understand the naturalness of an action. When a child first
learns to walk, how much effort he puts into it! We encourage
him, appreciate his efforts. ‘Hey,
he has learnt to walk!’,
we say with pride. But later, walking becomes natural; the child
can then walk and talk at the same time. It is the same with
eating. When a child is given solid food for the first time, we
celebrate the occasion, as if the act of eating is something
in the course of time, it becomes quite natural. How hard it is
to learn swimming! In the beginning, one finds it tiring; but
later one goes for swimming to relax, to shake off fatigue.
Swimming is then no longer a tiring activity; the body floats
over water effortlessly. The mind is in the habit of getting
tired; it gets tired when it is consciously engaged in work. But
when actions flow naturally, no strain is felt. Karma
then becomes akarma. It is then a matter of joy.
Such transformation of karma
into akarma is what we want to achieve. It is for this
purpose that we should perform karma in accordance with
our swadharma. In doing so, our defects will come to
light. To remove them, we should take recourse to vikarma.
If all this is constantly practised, the mind reaches a stage
where it is no longer perturbed by actions. It remains calm and
clear even though we are doing thousands of actions. If we ask
the sky whether it gets scorched by the sun and drenched in the
rain and shivers with the cold in winter, what reply will we
get? Will it not say, “You
can settle what happens to me; I know nothing.”
नेसलें कीं नागवें लोकीं येऊन जाणावें ।’—It is for others to see
whether a mad man is naked or clad; he is totally unaware of it.
In short, when we go on performing
actions in the pursuit of swadharma with the help of
vikarma, they gradually become detached and purified, and
eventually become natural and effortless. Such actions then become
second nature. Even the most trying situations are not then felt to
be daunting. This is the key to karmayoga. Our hands will
simply get bruised in trying to force open a lock without a key;
with the key we can open in no time. The key to karmayoga
makes all the actions light and of no bother. This key can be
secured by conquering the mind. There should, therefore, be
continuous efforts to subdue desires and passions in the mind.
Whenever we become aware of any impurities in the mind in the course
of action, we should try to cleanse the mind. Outward actions then
cease to be troublesome. The egoistic feeling that
‘I am the doer’ vanishes.
The powerful forces of desires, passions and anger subside. There is
then no feeling of anguish. Even the awareness of performing an
action is no longer there.
Once a gentleman wrote to me,
“We have decided to
recite Ramanama (Lord Rama’s
Name) a certain number of times. Please join us and inform us
how much japa you are going to do daily.”
The gentleman was acting according to his lights. I do not mean
to disparage him. But should we count how many times we have
taken the name of the Lord? Ramanama is not a thing to
be counted. A mother cares for her child. Does she publish a
report on it? Were she to do so, we could just say,
and be free from our obligations to her. But a mother does not
submit any report. She rather says,
“What have I done? I
have done nothing. Is this a burden to me?”
Karma ceases to be karma when one does it with
full dedication and with the aid of vikarma. Karma
then becomes akarma. There is then no question of any
strain or tension to anything untoward.
It is impossible to describe this
state. One can at best give a rough idea. The sun rises daily.
But does it rise to remove darkness, urge the birds to fly and
set men working? It just rises and that is all. Its very
existence makes all the world go round. But it is not aware of
it. If you thank him for dispelling darkness, he would be at a
loss to understand what you are saying. He will say,
“Have I really done so? Please bring a little darkness. If I could dispel it, then only
I would claim any credit for doing so.”
Can we carry darkness to the sun? The existence of the sun
dispels darkness and brings light. Some may read good books in
that light and some may read bad ones; some may harm others
while some may help others; the sun is not in any way
responsible for the merits or sins committed in his light. He
will say, “Light is my nature. What else but light could there
be in me? I am not conscious of giving light. For me, to be
means to shine. I do not feel any strain in giving light. I do
not feel that I am doing anything.”
Giving light is natural to the sun.
Same is the case with the saints also. Their very existence is
enlightening. If you praise a man of wisdom for his
truthfulness, he would say, “If
I adhere to the truth, what is so special about it? What else can I
do?” Untruth just cannot
exist in such a man.
This is what akarma means.
Actions become so much a part of one’s being and nature that one
is not even aware of their happening. The sense-organs are then
naturally disposed to what they should be doing; right action
flows from them on its own accord. ‘सहज
of wisdom flows out without any self-conscious deliberation and
effort. When this happens, karma becomes akarma.
For a man of wisdom, performance of good actions becomes as
natural and effortless as singing is to the birds. Just as a
child thinks of his mother naturally, the saints think of God.
Another example of such a natural action is the crowing of a
cock in the early morning. Panini3 has
given this example while explaining swaras (musical
notes). The cocks have always been crowing every morning. But
has anybody presented them scrolls of honour? Crowing is a
cock’s natural action. Similarly, it is natural for a sage to
speak the truth, to have compassion for all the living beings,
not to find fault in others, to serve everybody. He cannot, in
fact, live without this karma. Do we honour anybody for
having taken his food? Just as eating, drinking, sleeping are
normal and natural actions for worldly persons, serving others
is natural to a man of wisdom. Helping others is his second
nature. Even if he were to decide not to help others, it is
impossible for him to do so. Karma of such a sage can be
said to have become akarma. Such a state has also been
given the sacred term ‘Sannyasa’.
Sannyasa is nothing but the blessed state of akarma.
It can also be called karmayoga. It is karmayoga
since the man of wisdom goes on acting; and it is sannyasa
since there is no feeling of doing anything even while actions
are done. The man of wisdom acts with such ingenuity that
the actions do not bind; hence it is yoga; and as nothing
is done even after doing everything, it is sannyasa.
19. Yoga: One
Aspect Of Akarma
What does sannyasa
mean, ultimately? Does it mean renunciation of some actions,
while doing others? No. Sannyasa has, in fact, been
defined as renunciation of all actions, freeing oneself
absolutely from all actions. But what does
mean? How can we give up all action? Action is a queer thing.
It has pervaded all life. Even sitting is an action:
is a verb. Sitting is not only an action in a grammatical sense,
but also in physical sense. If one sits for quite a long time,
the legs begin to ache. There is strain in sitting also. When
such is the case, how can there be renunciation of all actions?
The Lord showed ‘vishwaroop’4 to
Arjuna. That all-encompassing vision terrified Arjuna and he
closed his eyes. But even then the vision did not disappear; the
vishwaroop appeared before his mind’s eye. How can one
escape from a thing which continues to be visible even after
closing one’s eyes? How
can one avoid action when it takes place even when we are doing
There is a story of a man who
had a lot of precious gold ornaments. He wanted to keep them
safely locked up in a box. His servant got a big iron box made
for them. He looked at it and said,
“You idiot! Don’t you
have a sense of beauty? Should these valuable ornaments be kept
in this ugly iron box? Go and get a good gold box.”
The servant did as he was told. The master then ordered,
“Now bring a gold lock.
Only a gold lock would suit the gold box.”
The fellow wanted to hide his gold from other’s eyes. But what
was the result? There was then no need for the thieves to
search for the gold; just taking away the box would have been
enough. When not doing is also a form of doing, how to renounce
action which is so all-pervasive?
The way lies in continuing to
do all actions in such an ingenuous way that they are shed as
soon as you complete them. Only then sannyasa can be
attained. How to do an action without letting it stick to you?
Look at the sun. It is working continually; even during the
night it is working in the other hemisphere. Still one can say
that it does not act at all. That is why the Lord says in the
Fourth Chapter, “I
taught this yoga first to the Sun, and from him the
thoughtful and contemplative Manu learnt it.”
The sun does no work even while working all the time. This is
truly a wonderful state.
The Other Aspect Of Akarma
But this is only one form of
sannyasa. To act, and still not be the doer, is one
aspect; while the other aspect is to make the whole world act
without doing anything oneself. In this state there is immense
power to impel others to act. This is the beauty of akarma. It is packed with power that is capable of infinite work. It is
like steam which, when compressed, does enormous work. It can
even move big trains easily. The sun also does no work
outwardly, but still works round the clock and is not aware of
doing anything. Working day and night and still not doing
anything outwardly is one aspect and setting in motion an
infinite number of actions without doing anything outwardly is
another aspect. This is the two-fold splendour of sannyasa.
Both the aspects are far from the
ordinary. In one aspect, the action is manifest and the state of
akarma is hidden. In the other aspect, the state of akarma
is manifest, yet endless activity is continuously going on. In
this state, akarma is packed with power, resulting in
enormous work. This state of akarma is diametrically
different from laziness. A lazy man easily gets tired and bored; but
a sannyasi, in the state of akarma, concentrates his
energy inside him. He does not work with his limbs and organs, but
still he inspires work in enormous measure.
Suppose someone gets angry with
us. If it is because of our fault, we go to pacify him. But he
refuses to talk to us. How great is the effect of his keeping
mum, of this renunciation of the action of speaking! Another
man in the same situation may pour abuse on us. Both are angry,
but one keeps mum and the other speaks out. Both the reactions
express anger. Keeping mum is also an expression of anger and it
too works. When a mother or a father stops speaking to the
child, its impact on the child is far more decisive than that of
any action. Silence can have an effect which speaking can never
have. Such is the state of a jnani. His akarma,
his being still, accomplishes much; it generates great power.
While being in the state of akarma, he does work that no
activity can accomplish. This is another type of sannyasa.
In such type of sannyasa, all
enterprise, all frenetic efforts cease. Saint Tukaram describes such
a state :
धांव बैसली आसनीं
नारायणीं मोटळें हें ।
झाली हा भरंवसा
येणें ऐसा ।
नाहीं आम्हां जिणें
नेला देवें ।
तुका म्हणे चळे
आपुलें मी रितेपणें असें ।।’
all enterprise, all activity has ceased. The body is lying like a
little sack at the feet of the Lord. All care is now over; I now
feel assured that I shall not be born again. I have not to live now
on my own strength, as the Lord has emptied me of my ego. I am no
more master of my life; it is His power that moves me. I have been
reduced to zero.’)
Tukaram is empty—his sense of
‘I’ has dissolved. But there
is tremendous power in that emptiness. The sun gives call to no one;
yet, when it rises, birds soar in the sky, lambs begin to prance
around, cows head for grazing, shopkeepers open their shops, farmers
start out towards their farms. The whole world is on the move as it
makes its appearance on the horizon. The sun’s mere existence is
enough; that gives rise to innumerable activities. Its state of
akarma has potentiality to stimulate those activities; it is
packed with power. Such is the other wonderful aspect of sannyasa.
21. To Compare The Two
Is Beyond The Power Of Words
In the Fifth Chapter, these two
forms of sannyasa are compared with each other. In one
form, nothing is done while doing work twenty four hours a
day—there is inaction within—and in the other, there is no
actual action even for a moment, but still everything is done—it
is caused to be done. The former shows how one could speak while
being silent within, and the latter shows how one could be
outwardly silent and still communicate. Now, there is a
comparison between the two. To have a look at them, think over
them, ruminate over them—there is sheer bliss, unprecedented joy
in doing so.
In fact, this whole matter is
incomparably novel and noble. The idea of sannyasa is
indeed grand and sacred. How thankful should we be to him who
first thought of such a sublime idea! This idea, one may say,
is the highest point reached by human imagination and reason,
although man has been, and even now, trying for higher and
higher flight. As far as I know, it is the highest point reached
by man’s intellect and his power of thought. There is a rare joy
in the very contemplation of this idea. The joy recedes when we
step into the domain of speech and of everyday life. We then
feel like having fallen down. I am never tired of talking to my
friends about this idea. For years, I have been meditating over
it. Language falters in describing it. It is clearly beyond the
reach of words.
Doing everything without acting,
and doing nothing while ceaselessly acting—how noble, enchanting
and poetic the idea is! What more can poetry offer? Compared
with the joy, ardour, inspiration and exaltation embodied in
this idea, the most highly praised poetry pales into
insignificance. The Fifth Chapter has thus been raised to a very
high plane. Karma and vikarma have been explained
upto the Fourth Chapter and then the Fifth Chapter has soared
sky-high. In the Fifth Chapter two forms of the state of
akarma have been directly compared with each other. Language
falls short in this attempt. Who is greater: a karmayogi
or a sannyasi? It is impossible to say who works more.
In fact, remaining inwardly inactive while doing everything and
doing everything while outwardly remaining inactive, both are
forms of yoga. But for the purpose of comparison, one is
called yoga and the other is called sannyasa.
22. Two Analogies:
Geometry And Mimamsa5
How are we to compare the two? It
will have to be done with the help of some analogies. While
doing so, one does have a feeling of falling down from the high
altitude of these ideas, but it cannot be helped. In fact,
absolute karma-sannyasa and absolute karma-yoga
are ideas too magnificent to be expressed in a living person.
These ideals cannot be fully realised when one is confined
within the body. An attempt to live these ideals here in this
world would shatter the body. Hence we have to take
illustrations from the lives of great men who had realised these
ideals to the extent possible. Analogies are never perfect, but
for the time being one has to assume that they are.
It is said in geometry,
‘Let ABC be a triangle.’
Why is the word ‘let’
used here? Because the lines forming the triangle are not
really lines according to the definition of a line. A line, by
definition, has length but no breadth. How to draw such a line
on a blackboard? Breadth invariably accompanies length whenever
one attempts to draw a line. Hence one has to use the word
One has to assume that what has been drawn is a line. Is not the
same thing applicable in bhakti-shastra—the science of
bhakti (devotion)? There too the devotee says,
‘Let this tiny idol be
the Lord of the universe.’
If someone calls it idiocy, you may ask him,
“Is there idiocy in
geometry? We are seeing quite a thick line and you are asking
us to assume that it has no breadth!”
Just as certain postulates are
made in geometry, certain postulates are made in
bhaktishastra too. It asks us to assume that there is God in
an idol. If one says that God is indestructible, but the idol
could break on being hit, it would not be a thoughtful
statement. If postulates are valid in geometry, why cannot they
be so in bhaktishastra? Geometry asks us to assume a
point also. Definition of a point is akin to that of Brahman.
A point is defined as having neither length, nor breadth, nor
thickness. It is without any dimension; still we try to draw it
on a blackboard. What we draw is practically a circle, but it is
assumed to be a point. A true triangle and a true point exist
only in definitions. Yet we have to proceed on the assumption
that they actually exist. In bhaktishastra too, we have
to postulate the existence of the indestructible all-pervading
God in an idol.
What the mimamsakas
(adherents of the system of Mimamsa) have done in this
context is striking. Vedas refer to different deities like Indra
(the king of the deities), Agni (the god of fire) and Varun (the
god of rain and water). While on the subject of these deities a
question is asked, ‘What
does Indra look like, what is his nature, where does he reside?’
The mimamsakas answer, the word
is itself the form of Indra; he resides in the word
Same is true about Varuna, Agni etc. The words, made up of
certain syllables arranged in certain order, are the forms of
the deities; the deities are not apart from the words. This
concept of the deities having the form of words is indeed
fascinating. In fact, the concept of the deities cannot be
contained in any form; it cannot be adequately described.
Syllables comprising the words may therefore be taken as
adequate representation. What is God like? The answer is,
‘It is like the word
‘God’ containing the
syllables G, O, D.’ The most striking example of this is the
means God. A term for God has thus been coined. It is necessary
to coin such terms for great ideas which cannot be contained in
any concrete material form. It is man’s strong and earnest
desire which makes him invent symbolic forms for them.
23. The Sannyasi
And The Yogi Are One Like Shuka And Janaka
Sannyasa and yoga
represent the highest flights of the human spirit. Sannyasa
and yoga are ideals which are impossible to attain in
their fullness here on the earth while we are confined within
the body, but human thought can rise to such heights. A true
yogi and a true sannyasi will exist only in
definitions; the ideals will always be beyond our reach. But we
have to take as examples persons who have approximated the
ideals, and say, on the lines of geometry,
‘Let so and so be taken
as a perfect yogi and so and so be taken as a perfect
talking about sannyasa, the names of Shuka and
Yajnavalkya are usually mentioned. As examples of karmayogis,
Janaka and Krishna have been mentioned in the Gita itself.
Lokmanya Tilak has listed a number of yogis and
sannyasis in his treatise ‘Gita-Rahasya.’
He has written that King Janaka, Lord Krishna etc. took the path
of karmayoga while Shuka and Yajnavalkya took the
path of sannyasa, implying that these two paths are
mutually exclusive. But a little reflection will show that they
are not so. Yajnavalkya was a sannyasi and Janaka was a
karmayogi. Janaka, the karmayogi was a disciple of
Yajnavalkya, the sannyasi and Shuka, a disciple of Janaka
took the path of sannyasa. What this means is that
yogis and sannyasis are parts of the same chain;
yoga and sannyasa constitute a single order; they are
not mutually exclusive paths.
Vyasa told Shuka, his son,
“Shuka, my son, you have
certainly attained Self-knowledge, but it lacks the seal of
confirmation from a guru6.
So, I would like you to go to Janaka, the King for this purpose.”
Shuka thereupon proceeded to meet King Janaka. On the way to the
palace, he passed through the capital city, observing the urban
scene which was unknown to the young hermit. When he reached the
palace and met the King, the following conversation took place—
Janaka - What brings you here, young
Shuka - To gain knowledge, sir.
Janaka - Who has sent you?
Shuka - Vyasa, my father, has asked
me to meet you.
Janaka - Wherefrom have you come?
Shuka - From the ashram.7
Janaka - While coming here from the
ashram, what did you observe in the market?
Shuka - I observed sweetmeats made of
sugar piled up everywhere.
Janaka - What else did you see?
Shuka - I saw sugar-statues walking
on the streets and talking with each other.
Janaka - What did you see next?
Shuka - I then saw the palace steps,
made of sugar.
Janaka - And what thereafter?
Shuka - Everywhere I found pictures
made of sugar.
Janaka - What are you seeing now?
Shuka - A sugar-statue is talking to
Janaka - Well, you may go now. You
have indeed attained Self-knowledge.8
Thus Shuka got what he wanted: a
certificate from Janaka that he has attained Self-knowledge. The
point is that Janaka, the karmayogi, accepted Shuka, the
sannyasi as his disciple.
There is another interesting story
about Shuka. King Parikshit had been cursed that he would die after
seven days. He wanted to prepare himself for the impending death; he
wished to be instructed by a guru as to how to be so
prepared. He sent for Shuka. Shuka came and sat in cross-legged
position, narrating the Bhagawata9 to
him continuously for full seven days. He never changed his sitting
position. What was remarkable is that he felt no strain although he
was made to exert himself so much. Though he was constantly working,
it was as if he was not doing anything. There was no feeling of
fatigue. Thus it is clear that yoga and sannyasa are
not mutually exclusive.
That is why the Lord says,
च योगं च, यः
truly sees who sees both sankhya and yoga, that
is, knowledge and selfless action as one’).
He who realises that yoga and sankhya are one
understands the true secret. Let a true sannyasi, with
mind completely pure and still, dwelling in the divine
consciousness, stay amongst us for just a few days. Imagine how
much he will illuminate and inspire our lives! His mere sight,
mere presence will achieve what good works accumulated over
years cannot. Even a look at a photograph can cleanse the mind,
pictures of dead persons can arouse devotion and love in the
heart and purify it. Imagine then the inspiration one can derive
from being in the presence of a living sannyasi!
Both the sannyasi and the
yogi do loksangraha.10 In
the case of sannyasi action appears to have been
renounced, but the apparent inaction is full of action. It is
packed with infinite inspiration. A jnani sannyasi and a
jnani karmayogi are on the same plane. Terms differ, but
meaning is the same. Yoga and sannyasa are two
modes of the same reality. A wheel in rapid motion seems at
rest. This is the case with a sannyasi. Mahavira, Buddha,
such realised souls. Although all the activity of such a
sannyasi appears to have come to a standstill, he is doing
immense work. Thus, a yogi is a sannyasi and a
sannyasi is a yogi. These terms are synonymous and
24. But Still Yoga
Is Better Than Sannyasa
Nevertheless, the Lord has given a
little more weight to yoga. He says that karmayoga
is superior to sannyasa. Why does He say so when there is
no difference between them? What does it mean? When the Lord
says so, it is from the standpoint of a seeker. Doing everything
without being active oneself is possible for a realised soul,
not for a seeker. But it is possible for a seeker, at least to
some extent, to follow the way of doing everything without
getting attached to work, i.e. acting outwardly but remaining
inactive within. Working without acting will be a riddle for a
seeker; he will be at a loss to understand it. For a seeker,
karmayoga is both the way and the goal. But sannyasa
is only the goal; it cannot be the way. Hence, from the
standpoint of the seeker, karmayoga is superior and
preferable to sannyasa.
By the same reasoning the Lord
has, in the Twelfth Chapter, said that saguna is
preferable to nirguna.12 All
the organs can be put to use in saguna sadhana;13 it
is not so in the nirguna sadhana where there is no work
for the organs. This is difficult for a seeker to follow. In
saguna sadhana, eyes can behold the Lord’s
form, ears can hear His praise, hands can worship Him (in the
form of an idol) and serve the people, feet can be used to go on
a pilgrimage. In this way, all the organs can be given some
work; putting them to such use, they can be gradually saturated
with the divine consciousness. This is possible in saguna
sadhana, not in the nirguna one where there is no use
for any organ; there is, as it were, a ban on the use of all the
organs. Such a blanket ban could very well frighten the seeker.
How can then nirguna get imprinted on his mind? If he
sits still, his mind will get filled with all sorts of useless
and untoward thoughts. The nature of the sense-organs is such
that they invariably tend to do what they are told not to do. Do
not the advertisements exploit this very fact? They start with
the headline: ‘Don’t
read this’. So the
reader is intrigued and invariably reads what follows. That is
the very purpose of the advertisements—to induce the people to
read their contents attentively. In nirguna sadhana, the
mind will wander aimlessly, while in saguna bhakti
it will be engaged in something or the other. In saguna
bhakti, there is place for worship, service, compassion.
The organs have something to do in it. If the organs are so
engaged, the mind will not go anywhere even if given freedom to
do so; it will get interested in the activities and will
automatically get concentrated without even being aware of it.
But if you try to concentrate the mind forcibly, it will run
away in no time. It is, therefore, better to engage the organs
in some good work and let the mind go anywhere; it will not do
so. But if you try to force it to be still in one place, it will
invariably run away.
Saguna is superior to
nirguna for a man encased in the body, because it is easy.
The ingenuity in seeing that the actions leave no trace on the
mind even while continuing to do them is better than doing work
without acting, because it is easier. In karmayoga there
is scope for efforts and practice. In it one can control the
organs and then try to withdraw the mind from all the activities
gradually. This effort can succeed some day, even if it is not
immediately possible. Karmayoga is thus easier to follow. It is its special plus point. Otherwise karmayoga and
sannyasa are one and the same in their perfect states. In
karmayoga, hectic activity appears on the surface but
there is perfect peace within, while in sannyasa there is
power of moving the whole world without doing anything. Thus
both are not what they appear to be. Perfect karmayoga is
sannyasa and perfect sannyasa is karmayoga;
there is no difference; but karmayoga is easier for a
seeker to follow.
Changdeva sent a letter to
Jnanadeva. It was nothing but a piece of blank paper, as he
could not make up his mind on how to address Jnandeva; Jnanadeva
was much younger in years but superior in wisdom. Should he
address him respectfully as one addresses an elder or as one
addresses a younger person? Unable to decide, he sent the
blank letter. It first reached the hands of Nivrittinath. He
‘read’ it and passed it
on to Jnanadeva who too ‘read’
it and passed it on to Muktabai, their youngest sister. Reading
the letter, Muktabai exclaimed,
“Hey, Changdeva, you are so old, but still you are blank14!”
Nivrittinath had read something different in that letter. He
said, “Yes, Changdeva is
blank, which means that he is pure and innocent, and therefore
deserves to be taught.”
So he asked Jnanadeva to send a reply to this letter. Jnanadeva
sent a letter comprising 65 small stanzas. This letter is
therefore called ‘Changdeva
is the charming story of this letter. It is easy to read written
words, but difficult to read what is not written. There is no
end to reading it. A sannyasi appears to be empty and
blank, but he is full of infinite work.
Although sannyasa and
karmayoga are of equal worth in their perfect states,
karmayoga has an additional practical value. A currency note
and a gold coin of the same denomination have the same value as
long as the government is stable; but if the government
collapses, the currency note is reduced to a paper whereas the
gold coin will have some worth under all circumstances as it is,
after all, made of a precious metal. In the perfect state,
karmayoga (action) and renunciation of action have the same
value as Self-knowledge is there in both of them. Value of
Self-knowledge is infinite. In mathematics there is a principle
that you may add any quantity to infinity, the total remains
equal to infinity. Karmayoga and renunciation of karma
are of equal value when coupled with Self-knowledge, but
when Self-knowledge is deleted from both the sides, karmayoga
is preferable for a seeker. Action through inaction is a riddle
beyond the understanding of the seeker. Karmayoga, as
already said, is a path as well as the destination while
sannyasa is only the destination. In the terminology of the
scriptures, karmayoga is a means as well as the
nishtha while sannyasa is only the nishtha,
that is, the ultimate state.
Samsara, in fact,
is untranslatable in English. It includes the whole of
man's this-wordly life and affairs in the material world in
which he is totally immersed and to which he is attached.
The term has to be understood contextually.
Reference is to a
custom named 'ushtavan' prevalent in Maharashtra.
A great grammarian
of ancient India.
Chapter 11 of the
Gita describes the transfiguration of Lord Krishna into
vishwaroop, i.e. the supreme, divine cosmic form.
One of the six
systems of Indian philosophy. It is divided into two
parts: Poorvamimamsa and Uttaramimamsa. The former is
usually referred to as Mimamsa. It deals with the
interpretation of the rituals in the Veda.
In the Indian
tradition, having a guru (a master) was considered a must for
spiritual seekers to guide them.
Ashram here means
a hermitage, a dwelling of ascetics.
A man who has
attained Self-Knowledge sees that all things in the world are
different forms of the same single substance. Shuka has
used the word 'sugar' to indicate that substance.
A great religious
and spiritual epic, said to be written by Vyasa.
Here it means
bringing the people together, holding them together and guiding
them along the path of virtue and righteousness.
Elder brother and
guru of saint Jnandeva.
'with attributes' while 'nirguna' means 'without attributes'.
These are two aspects of Brahman, or God, who could be saguna
(Personal God with attributes) as well as nirguna (Impersonal,
Unmanifest and Absolute). Saguna sadhana or bhakti
includes service and idol-worship. Brahman can also be 'sakar'
(with form) as well as 'nirakar' (formless). Different
religions and traditions believe in one or more of these
aspects. For example, for an idol-worshipper devotee, God
is saguna as well as sakar. In Islam, God is
spiritual pursuit, i.e. efforts for Self-Realisation or
attainment of Self-Knowledge.
that he had yet to acquire true knowledge.
Pasasht means 65.