The Bhagavad Gita — The God-Song. Chapter V: Renunciation

Comparison was the order of the day. So is it still. Perhaps forever it shall remain so, especially in the field of manifestation. Renunciation and selfless action are now being compared. This is Arjuna’s request.

“Both you extol, O Krishna, renunciation and selfless action. Tell me decisively once and for all, which is the better of the two?”

Sri Krishna’s immediate answer is: “Both lead to the Bliss Supreme, but action is easier, action is superior.”

The Divine Teacher makes it clear, however, that renunciation cannot be achieved in the twinkling of an eye. And to achieve the fruit of renunciation without selfless action is next to impossible.

Yoga is action freed from separativity. The awareness of a separate feeling is the death of renunciation. Action done with a feeling of universal oneness is the glorious birth of renunciation.

Two schools. One school teaches the renunciation of any work whatsoever. The other school teaches the performance of action, right action. One school says: “Stop doing anything.” The other school says: “Start doing everything.” Alas! Since the message of the Gita has not been truly understood in India, that country abounds in both dry ascetics and in unlit men of action.

From action, action springs. Action as such can never put an end to action. Action is continuous. Action is perpetual. No matter how hard we work, how long we work, mere action can never show us the Face of the Supreme. He is a true Karma-Yogi who works for the Supreme and for the Supreme alone. Indeed the Karma-Yogi is also the greatest renouncer, for he seeks nothing, rejects nothing. Likes and dislikes to him have equal importance. At his high command are all pairs of opposites. They exist to affirm him, to fulfil him, to crown him with victory, inner and outer.

Krishna’s teachings aim at one Goal, the Bliss Supreme. Human temperaments are bound to differ. Human beings have varying tendencies and leanings. Such being the case, it is difficult for Arjuna to assess the most immediate and most direct path.

Action and renunciation are identical. Action is the tree. Renunciation is the fruit thereof. One cannot be greater than the other. The tree and the fruit grow in the bosom of Infinity to be loved by Eternity and embraced by Immortality.

Freedom

Is there any freedom? If so, where is it? There is freedom. It lives in our conscious surrender to the Supreme’s Will. Our unreserved surrender is our infallible oneness with the Supreme. Since the Supreme is the Infinite Freedom, we, in essence, cannot be otherwise.

It was Marlowe who said:

"“It lies not in our power to love or hate,
For will in us is over-ruled, by fate.”"

This is true only when our fate is the ego’s extremely limited dictates. This deplorable fate of ours undergoes a radical transformation; stark bondage is transformed into boundless freedom when we, with our ever-mounting aspiration-flame, live in the soul’s unlimited and all-powerful Will. What we have within and what we see without is the consciousness of the evolving, expanding and radiating freedom. No matter what kind of freedom it gives us, physical or spiritual, this freedom is not just to succeed bondage or even to replace bondage, but to transform the very breath of bondage into freedom’s immortality. And it is freedom, as a world-figure once remarked, without quotation marks.

Service

Service can do many things for us. First of all, we should know that service done in a divine spirit is the greatest opportunity that we have in our possession to kill our pride and vanity and to obliterate the stamp of ego. It is in dedicated service that we see the universal harmony, we grow into the universal consciousness.

Our will becomes God’s Will. What we call service is nothing but the fulfilment of the Divine Will. Here on earth one has the capacity; another has the need. The capacity and the need must go together. Capacity offered, not only is the need fulfilled, but the capacity is recognised, the capacity is valued. Capacity by itself receives only partial satisfaction. But when capacity and the need run abreast, full satisfaction dawns.

“From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs.” In our daily life, this truth is significantly applicable.

God has to occupy one’s mind and in this state of divine concentration, one should serve humanity. At that very hour, service itself becomes the greatest reward. In the field of spirituality, although meditation and concentration constitute a totally different approach, work and dedicated service are nothing short of pure meditation.

Krishna now tells us about pleasure and pain. “Sense-pleasure ends in pain. Hence sense-pleasure is shunned by the wise. Constant self-control is the real and perpetual happiness.”

Self-control continued, self-mastery dawns. The world-existence and the world-activity are at the command of self-mastery. The easiest way to achieve self-control is to take the path of self-consecration. Self-concentration is always blessed by the soul’s illumination. The turbulent forces of our senses must needs bow down to the soul’s illumination. He who has the inner illumination knows that his existence on earth is the embodiment of God and his actions are the expressions of God. He feels that he is never the doer; he is a mere instrument.

We now come to learn from the Gita what the body is. “The body is a city within nine gates.”

To quote Wesley La Violette from “An Immortal Song” (The Bhagavad Gita):

"“The body is a city with many gates in which the sovereign mind can rest serenely. Within that city is the sacred Temple of the Spirit, Mind, where there is no desire to act, nor any motivating cause, yet always the glad willingness to follow Duty when it calls.”"

It is true that the body has a sacred temple. Equally true is it that the body itself is hallowed. Whitman’s powerful assertion is to be gratefully welcomed. “If anything is sacred, the human body is sacred.”

Today the body is the insurmountable obstacle. Tomorrow this very body can be and will be the pride of Divinity, for in and through this body God shows the world what He looks like, what He does and what He is.

Towards the end of this chapter, Sri Krishna firmly says that sensuality has to be shunned totally in order to live in and possess Divinity fully. The tiger-passions have to be conquered. The aspirant has to concentrate constantly on his Liberator. Indeed, for him alone is the Goal, the Salvation unique.