Renouncing all actions to the Supreme
Having emphasized performance of all activities with wholesome reliance on the Supreme, Krishna leads the seeker to the inner sphere of the mind and links his sādhanā there. In a way, it is a definite progression in the sādhaka’s life. In another way, it also implies a recession, in the sense that the sādhaka seeks to delve into his own within for joy and fulfillment, in preference to getting entrenched with the external objects. In fact, this is the true refinement, which elevates human life from sheer transitoriness.
Mentally renouncing all activities, thereby placing them on the supreme Reality, making the Supreme as the sole object of interest, let your mind, resorting to buddhi-yoga (the practice of equalness) abide constantly in the Supreme.
Krishna brings the concept of sannyāsa as the foundation for the purpose. He has spoken about sannyāsa, renunciation, earlier too (3.30). His emphasis there was on performing all activities meticulously, but with ceaseless ‘reliance’ on the Supreme.
Here he goes a step further. This is natural, in a way inevitable too. The emphasis is on the mind, where the seeker should install the notes of real renunciation. In spirituality, renunciation is not only important, but also indispensable. There cannot be any spirituality without the spirit of sannyāsa. Krishna does not conceal the point. He is quite explicit about the need for renunciation, and his description becomes more and more appealing.
Krishna lays down the loftier principle of ‘abdication or renunciation’. In other words, he wants the seeker to completely ‘disown’ his actions, whatever they are, by assigning and ascribing their origin, prevalence and conclusion completely to the domain of the Supreme. This will be possible only when the performer regards the supreme Reality as everything and all in his life.
The seeker has to understand and accept that the world, including his life in it, is but a beautiful display of the Supreme. All kinds of physical and chemical, bio-physical and bio-chemical, psychological and other laws operating in the world have their place and purpose only within the domain of the Supreme. The seeker should not fail to include himself in it. His mind works under the Supreme. His intelligence also operates under the same canopy. The potential and possibilities, as well as the facilities for all that he does are but provisions designed and enabled by the Supreme Itself. Where is then any question of owning up anything at all – whether materials or activities?
This note of non-ownership makes the seeker extremely sublime and dedicated. The mind gets infused into the Supreme. Any pulsation arising from such a mind will be fully in tune with the Wish and Will of the Supreme.
Krishna’s words – maccittaḥ satatam bhava (abide constantly in the Supreme) – are very suggestive. The inner renunciation or abdication makes the mind a full non-possessor. As a result, the Supreme and that alone fills it. Thoughts, outlooks, emotions and the like emanating from such a mind will start revealing a new confidence and blessedness. In fact, true compassion and benevolence are the very expression of such a renunciation-enriched mind.
From reliance to renunciation
The difference between performing all activities with full reliance on the Supreme and renouncing all activities to the Supreme is quite subtle but distinct, and the seeker should grasp it with discretion.
In one, there is a distinct play of ego: “I am doing activities, and these are the ends I have to gain through them. For these, I rely upon the Supreme.” In the other, the attitude and assessment are different. All work belongs to the Supreme, from which has sprung the world, and everything in it. That source alone is the full owner and possessor of all beings, including the seeker. If the seeker belongs to the Supreme, whatever he does from time to time also equally belongs to the same source. The seeker finds no place besides the Supreme. All that he has is verily of the Supreme.
This clearly means renouncing everything to the Supreme. This is a feeling of wholesome sublimity that the mind gains and preserves. In a way it is a kind of deep, unwavering attunement.
How can such renunciation be adopted or made true of oneself? Krishna says buddhi-yoga is the means for it. What is buddhi-yoga? He explained this concept first in the 2nd chapter. Any renunciation has to be brought about by the intelligence (buddhiḥ). The process first works in the intelligence, as a result of the evaluation, assessment and insight it seeks and gains.
One given to spiritual introspection, Krishna says, renounces all the results, good or bad, accruing from the activities – buddhi-yukto jahātiiha ubhe sukṛta-duṣkṛte (2.50). Results of activities are inseparable from them. Hence, where is the question of rejecting or refusing the outcome?
To abandon or renounce the results of what one does is only an inner development, by dint of which the seeker inwardly disclaims and dispossesses the very actions. Krishna says that such dispossession is gained by ascribing all activities to the supreme Reality Itself, whose display is this variegated world of objects.
The one factor that facilitates this kind of inner renunciation is the mind becoming Godly and spiritual. Maccittaḥ denotes infusion of such a note into the mind. For the mind, it is a wholesome transformation from worldliness to Godliness. And the whole process is an outcome of the assessment about what constitutes Divinity, how the world is a Godly display, and how even the seeker stands included in this Divine aggregate. The intelligence plays the key role in the whole sublimity. Hence it is called buddhi-yoga.
Surmounting all hurdles by the grace of the Supreme
Can such a state be had? Is it possible for one to completely eschew all doership about whatever he does? Is not even the basic discrimination like good and bad, virtue and vice, necessary in such all-fold renunciation? What happens when any slip or error takes place? Questions like these are quite common, because the normal mind is unable to rise to the level of wholesome piety or sublimity.
Krishna takes note of it and provides his own striking clarification:
With the mind resting on the Supreme, you will surmount all hardships by Its grace. But if, due to obstinacy, you do not heed these words, you will be led to ruin. Resorting to ego should you think “I will not fight”, such a decision will be in vain. For, Nature will surely compel you to fight.
For one taking to such an inner renunciation and the resulting transformation of the mind into one of full-fold Godliness, no anxiety of any kind need be there at all. One given totally to the Supreme (maccittaḥ) will tide over all trials and tribulations by the grace of the Supreme Itself.
World thrives on dvandvas and therefore it is likely to cause even grave difficulties and torments at times. It is not due to any wrong or sin of the seeker. It is part of the natural life of anyone in the world. Even if, as a part of this duality some risk or trouble arises, the seeker need not have undue doubt or concern. The unalterable laws of Nature will ensure that the seeker survives all that with enrichment and elevation, provided his renunciation to the Supreme is complete.
After giving insight into the lofty state, Krishna pronounces a warning, which will persuade the seeker to accept and comply with the message. If anyone, due to his own ill-conceived ego, resists the call for renunciation and the resultant abidance in all-fold Godliness, then he will be ruined. In the face of such a stern warning, there is no option at all. He has to make his mind wholesomely Godly. He must take to the path of inner renunciation, abdication of all activities to the Supreme.
Krishna goes a step further. Addressing Arjuna, he says: “You told me in the beginning that you would not fight (na yotsya iti -2.9), and laid your bow and arrow down. You were not then aware of the immortal Self, inexorable Nature and the supreme Reality. Now that you understand the place and supremacy of all these, you have no reason to feel or say that you will not fight. Even if you tend to think in these lines, it is merely a mental indulgence. Such options and deliberations of delusion can only be in the mind, in its imagination. Any such resolve or insistence would be clearly wrong. Being under the grip of Nature, its three guṇas, you will be forced to fight (prakṛtis-tvām niyokṣyati).”
In reality, a good man as well as a bad one is under the grip of Nature. Diversity is the core of Nature, the display of which is the world. It is Nature that shapes one as good and another as bad. There is no special place for anything in the world. All have equal place.
Nature’s grip is so infallible and wholesome that one cannot escape it, says Krishna:
O Kunti’s son, that which you are unwilling to undertake because of delusion, you shall still perform, irresistibly bound by your own nature.
You are, says Krishna, inextricably bound by the activities born of your own inner nature (svabhāva). Even if you feel or say that you will not fight, it is but sheer delusion. At best it can remain an imagination. In reality, you will irresistibly be led to fight.
The whole creation exists and survives under Nature. Any move, says Krishna, against its trends will only be wrong and impractical. Any desire to abstain from any action is merely an indulgence of the mind. Mind may bring up its preferences and prejudices. But whether one can really abstain from action is a far different consideration. Taking Arjuna’s psychic constitution, his kṣātriya nature, the fact that he had all along been preparing for this war, and also considering the societal and other compulsions behind the great event, Krishna is sure that Arjuna’s verbal assertion will not be able to sustain itself.
Any thought, disregarding the constitution of the world, the human nature and the society, can never be realistic. One may say he will not do this or that. But that will be more a wish or imagination, not an eventual outcome.
Krishna has taken the discussion to an absolute level, where any kind of ego becomes false. The seeker has to rise above his constrictions and understand the harmonious note of Nature prevailing everywhere. To think and act in tune with such a harmony will alone be meaningful, truthful and practical. Anything else is pretentious and self-defeating.
To summarize the position:
1. That prakṛti with its guṇas has a full hold over everyone is the primary message of Bhagavad Gita (3.5,27, 9.7, 13.21,30). None in the world can escape or exit from this hold (18.40).
2. All activities, no matter whether they have an individual locus or not, are governed by Nature. “I am doing” is simply a wrong notion. It is the result of delusion enveloping the mind and intelligence.
3. This does not negate the role of the intelligence and the mind, which are free to think and understand matters. But the moment desire and possessiveness overtake them, they inevitably lead to chaos and downfall. Freed of desire, they radiate brilliance and benevolence, the real intent of Nature.
4. To renounce all activities to the Supreme, is verily to eschew desire, and generate harmony and felicity.
5. Then, all questions on virtue and vice along with all doubts and indecisions become irrelevant, and the human becomes the best instrument for Nature. He also begins to enrich the world.
6. The difference between doing all activities having a full reliance on the Supreme and renouncing all activities to the Supreme is that in the former the actional ego reigns, while in the latter what prevails is the renunciational sublimity.
7. Such a one, Krishna assures, will irresistibly surmount all hardships, by virtue of ego-renunciation. His personality begets the required strength and power to assimilate any kind of input from the world.
8. One failing to heed this message, says Krishna, will be led to downfall.
9. Even if Arjuna were to decide not to fight, as he proposed first, that would be a sheer fallacy. Prakṛti’s hold will compel him to fight.
10. The more the seeker reflects on these ultimate truths, the sooner will dwindle his ego, to become extinct before long. That will usher in an abiding harmony with Nature, which will make life facile and effective.
The four verses beginning from ‘cetasā sarva-karmāṇi’ (18.57) and ending with ‘kariṣyasy-avaśo’pi tat’ (18.60) go together. They constitute the formula of inner renunciation, adopting which one can do all activities, without getting into the least torment or bondage. The whole refinement, imbued with ample spiritual purity and non-possessiveness, rests on the mind.
Like the centre in a huge circle, this purity of non-possessiveness acts centrally in the mind. Despite the variety and magnitude of activities, this central embellishment is resourceful enough to make everything light, easy and harmonious. The seeker must go on reflecting upon the point, until it begins to govern all his activities and interactions.
(From Essential Concepts in Bhagavad Gita - Volume 6)