Om Namo Bagavathe Vasudevaaya
3rd Chapter – karmayogaḥ
लोकेऽस्मिन् द्विविधा निष्ठा पुरा प्रोक्ता मयानघ।
ज्ञानयोगेन साङ्ख्यानां कर्मयोगेन योगिनाम्॥ ३॥
loke’smin dvividhā niṣṭhā purā proktā mayānagha |
jñānayogena sāṅkhyānāṁ karmayogena yoginām || 3 ||
Meaning: The Lord said: In this world, O Arjuna, a twofold path of Sadhana (or the spiritual practice) has been stated by Me in the past. The path of Self-knowledge (or Jnana-yoga) for the contemplative, and the path of unselfish work (or Karma-yoga) for the active. (03)
श्रीभगवानुवाच = the Lord said; लोके = in the world; अस्मिन् = this; द्विविधा = two kinds of; निष्ठा = faith; पुरा = formerly; प्रोक्ता = were said; मया = by Me; अनघ = O sinless one; ज्ञानयोगेन = by the linking process of knowledge
साङ्ख्यानां = of the empiric philosophers; कर्मयोगेण = by the linking process of devotion; योगिनां = of the devotees.
Explanation: The Lord starts answering Arjuna’s question. Arjuna’s question is whether it should be knowledge (Jnana Yoga) or action (Karma Yoga) he should adopt. Lord gives an elaborate answer for that. Arjuna’s confusion drove him to think of quitting the war (i.e. not doing the action) and be settled in a quiet place with a changed lifestyle. He developed an understanding that change in lifestyle would become the key for solving the debacle which has enveloped him, that is how to fight the war, where it involves all his kith and kin. This approach surely reflects the escapist mindset and is looking for peripheral solutions. Hence Lord is addressing it thus:
Krishna introduces two aspects here with respect to Karma and Jnana. They are Nishtaa (lifestyle) and Saadhana (practice). This means, there is Karma Yoga Nishtaa and Karma Yoga Saadhana and similarly Jnana Yoga Nishtaa and Jnana Yoga Saadhana. We will see about them elaborately:
- Karma Yoga Nishtaa(KYN) – Householder’s Lifestyle (Grihastaashrama) – Living life as Grihastaa (householder) and leading a dharmic life interacting with the world. In this lifestyle the opportunity to do lot of action and respond to the world around is more. This is a lifestyle in the din of the society and is not a secluded lifestyle. Potential to interact with the sense objects is more here and hence the risks of getting attached to the sense objects are high.
- Jnana Yoga Nishtaa(JYN) – Renunciate’s Lifestyle (Sanyasa Ashrama) – Living life as a Sanyasi (Monk) in a quiet place with less interaction with the world. In this lifestyle the opportunity to do action is less and the potential to interact (physically) with the sense objects is less.
- Karma Yoga Saadhana(KYS) – Practicing Karma Yoga. As earlier seen, adopting karma kaushalam, isvaraarpana buddhi and prasaada buddhi while performing action. Thereby, developing vairaagya (dispassion) which is nothing but chittha suddhi (clarity of mind)/ Chittha ekaagratha (single pointed focus). Such a prepared mind is the prerequisite for gaining knowledge and realizing the truth about oneself.
- Jnana Yoga Saadhana(JYS) – Practicing Jnana Yoga. As earlier seen, undergoing Shravanam (active listening), Mananam (Contemplating) and Nidhidhyasanam (meditating on the truth about oneself). Such practices will lead one to remove the ignorance and help one to realize the truth.
Let us analyze the above 4.
Does practicing the lifestyles (KYN or JYN) guarantee one the necessary emotional development? The answer is an emphatic no. Why? Lifestyles provide a form of living and they indicate mainly the activities of a person and highlight his primary engagement. Such activities would be governed by traditions and are meant as guide for a systematic living.
If it is a householder’s lifestyle (KYN), then it would be running a house hold, earning a living, providing for the family, contributing to the society.
If it is a renunciate’s lifestyle (JYN), then it would be handling the ashrama, committing to the study, contributing to the society.
Keenly observing one can find out that both KYN and JYN, involves activities for a living and one is not superior to the other. This confirms, no matter where one lives, the spiritual evolution is a step by step process and the mere life style will not compromise the steps of spiritual progress. One should become an integrated personality (person with chittha suddhi and chittha ekaagratha) in order to realize one’s true nature and be liberated. Therefore the deduction that can be made is lifestyles can be different, however, saadhana (practices) have to go in an order and can’t be compromised.
Consider this example, in chartered accountancy examinations; there are two levels namely intermediate and final. However, big a person can be, he has to clear the level 1 exam (intermediate) and then only he can write the level 2 exams (final). No one would be allowed to write the level 2 exam directly, because clearing the level 1 exam is a prerequisite for one to write the level 2 exams.
One can prepare for those exams privately through self study or one can attend the coaching classes provided by the institute of chartered accountants. How the preparation is made has no bearing on the process and no compromises will be made in the sequence. It will always be writing the level 1 exam first and clear that and then only one will be allowed to write the level 2 exam.
In this example liken, private self study to Karma Yoga Nishtaa (Householder’s lifestyle); coaching classes to Jnana Yoga Nishtaa (Renunciate’s lifestyle) and Level 1 exam to Karma Yoga Saadhana and Level 2 exam to Jnana Yoga Saadhana.
Recapping, lifestyle can be different; however, practice has to be in that order and no compromise can be done because, for one to become a Jnani, prequalification as a vairagi (dispassionate) is essential.
What does the Lord convey to Arjuna here? The Lord highlighted that Arjuna should have clarity of thought (become dispassionate), which will help him to understand the truth which was revealed to him in the earlier chapter, which will indeed provide him the permanent solution for his problem. One can become dispassionate any where he is living and there is no need to change the lifestyle.
However, the Lord by indicating to Arjuna earlier that he should resort to performing action indicates that a householder’s lifestyle is better than that of a monk. Why? The reason is that in householder’s lifestyle, the opportunity to perform action is more. Only when the action is done one will get an opportunity to receive the result and the opportunity to analyze the result, the cause for taking an action everything will be evaluated. Such evaluation process will strengthen the discriminative ability of the intellect. With that discriminative ability one will get dispassion.
Whereas, in a monk’s lifestyle, as the opportunity to interact with the world is less in comparison, thereby opportunity to perform action is less, one who is not yet dispassionate, but has changed his lifestyle to a monk’s lifestyle, will have to live with the reduced chances to get dispassion.
This is why the Lord is advising Arjuna to stay put and perform the action that is enjoined for him. The Lord will also elaborate the other hidden question of Arjuna, which is what if one becomes inactive. The reason Arjuna is thinking like this is that action produces result and that becomes the reason for the reaction and thus the cycle. If one is inactive then no problems but the Lord will address this beautifully in the next 3 verses and we will see them next.