Chapter XVIII: Abstention and renunciation

Slowly, steadily and successfully we are now climbing up the last rung of the Gita-Ladder. Here we shall almost have the quintessence of the entire SONG.

Arjuna wishes to learn the nature of abstaining from action and the nature of renouncing the results of action and also the difference between these two.

The Lord tells him that sannyasa is abstention from the desire-prompted action. Tyaga is the renunciation of the fruits of action.

Sannyasa and sankhyayoga are identical, while tyaga and karmayoga are identical.

To our widest surprise, even now in India there is a blind belief that a realised soul does not work or cannot work or even is not supposed to work on the physical plane. Alas, the poor realised soul has to cut off his existence from the activities of the world! If such is the case, then I believe that self-realisation is nothing short of a severe punishment, an undesirable achievement, loaded with the heavy weight of futile frustration.

To be sure, a realised person is he who has liberated himself from the snares of stark bondage. If he does not work with his body, mind, heart and soul in the world, for the world, and if he does not help the seekers on the Path, then who else is competent to lead the struggling, crying and aspiring humanity to its destined Goal?

For liberation, renunciation is essential. Renunciation does not mean the extinction of the physical body, the senses, and the human consciousness. Renunciation does not mean that one has to be millions of miles away from world activities. Renunciation does not say that the world is the fools’ paradise.

True renunciation not only breathes in this world, but divinely fulfils the life of the world.

The Upanishad has taught us: “Enjoy through renunciation”. Let us try it. Unmistakably we shall succeed.

Right action is good. Desireless action is better. Dedication of the fruits to the Lord is verily the best. This dedication is called the true Tyaga.

Some spiritual teachers hold that action is an unnecessary evil. It leads man to perpetual bondage. So they violently and proudly assert that all action, with no exception, must be ruthlessly shunned. Sri Krishna graciously illumines their folly. He says that yagna (sacrifice), dana (self-giving), tapa (self-discipline) must not be shunned, for yagna, dana and tapa are the true purifiers. Needless to say, even these actions must be performed without the slightest attachment.

Renunciation of duty to humanity is never an act of spiritual realisation or even an act of spiritual awakening. The bliss of freedom is not for him who forsakes duty for fear of bodily displeasure and mental suffering. His false and absurd anticipation will undoubtedly lead him to the world of ignorance, where he will be compelled to dine with fear, anxiety and despair.

He is a man of true renunciation who neither hates a disagreeable action when duty demands it, nor is eager to perform only good and agreeable action.

The Lord says: “To renounce all action completely is not possible for an embodied soul. He who renounces the fruit of action is the true renouncer.”

When desire is totally rejected and personal gain is sincerely not wanted by a seeker, then only perfect freedom shines within and without him.

The Gita is the revelation of spirituality. Sooner or later all must take to spirituality. There need not and cannot be any compulsion. To force others to accept the spiritual life is an act of stupendous ignorance. A real Guru knows that his is not the role of a Commander-in-Chief. He never orders even his dearest disciples. He just awakens and illumines their consciousness so that they can see the truth, feel the truth, follow the truth and finally become the truth.

In numerous ways Sri Krishna has imparted the most inspiring wisdom to Arjuna. At the end he says: “Arjuna, having reflected on wisdom fully, do as you like.”

Something more Sri Krishna has to say: “Arjuna, My supreme word, My inmost secret of all, I tell you. To you I unfold My heart’s secret, for dear to Me you always are. Offer your love to Me. Devote yourself to Me. Bow to Me. Give Me your heart. You will without fail come to Me. This I promise you. Arjuna, you are dear to Me. Surrender all earthly duties to Me. Seek your sole haven in Me. Fear not, grieve not, I shall liberate you from all sins.”

Truth is to be offered only to the earnest seekers. Sri Krishna sweetly cautions Arjuna that the truth that Arjuna has learned from Him is not to be offered to a man with no faith, no devotion, and no self-discipline. No, not for him Sri Krishna’s supreme Truth, whose life is tinged with mockery and blasphemy.

Now Sri Krishna wants to know if Arjuna has understood Him, His revelation. He also wants to know if Arjuna is freed from the grip of delusion and the snares of ignorance.

“Krishna, my sole Saviour, gone is my delusion. Destroyed is my illusion. Wisdom I have received. Thy Grace has done it, Thy Grace supreme. Firmly do I stand freed from doubts. My doubts are no more. I am at Thy command. Thy command I implore. I am ready. I shall act.”

The human soul has gloriously succeeded in emptying all his ignorance-night into the Transcendental Soul of Eternal Light. The Transcendental Soul has triumphantly sung the Song of Infinity, Eternity and Immortality in the aspiring heart of the human consciousness.

Victory, victory to the crying and bleeding heart of the finite. Victory, victory to the Compassion-flood and the Illumination-sky of the Infinite.

Victory of the world within glows! Victory of the world without grows!

Victory achieved. Victory realised. Victory revealed. Victory manifested.

Sri Chinmoy, Commentary on the Bhagavad Gita: the Song of the Transcendental Soul.First published by Agni Press in 1971.

This is the 22nd book that Sri Chinmoy has written since he came to the West, in 1964.


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by Sri Chinmoy
From the book Commentary on the Bhagavad Gita: the Song of the Transcendental Soul, made available to share under a Creative Commons license

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