Chapter 5

Arjuna asks Krishna, ?Both you extol, O Krishna, renunciation and selfless action. Tell me decisively once and for all, which is the better of the two?? (5.1)

Krishna answers, ?Both lead to the Bliss supreme, but action is easier, action is superior.? (5.2)

But Krishna makes it clear to Arjuna that renunciation is very difficult to attain. ?But renunciation, O Arjuna is difficult to attain without yoga; the sage who is trained in yoga attains soon to the Absolute.? (5.6) True renunciation can be attained only through selfless action. Sri Chinmoy explains:

?God is 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. Although meditation and service constitute totally different approaches in the field of spirituality, work and dedicated service are nothing short of pure meditation.?

Krishna refers to the human body as the city of nine gates, ?The body is a city of nine gates. Within this city resides the embodied self, neither working nor causing work to be done.? (5.13)

Krishna now tells how a person can be enlightened. He says, ?For those in whom ignorance is destroyed by wisdom – for them wisdom lights up the Supreme Self like the sun. Thinking about the Supreme Self, directing one’s whole conscious being to Him, making Him their whole aim, with Him as the sole object of their devotion, they reach a state from which there is no return, their sins washed away by wisdom.? (5.16-17) Krishna then goes on to teach Arjuna about the joy within oneself, ?He who finds happiness, joy and light within, that person becomes divine and attains God.? (5.24)

Of pain and pleasure Krishna says, ?Sense-pleasure ends in pain. Hence sense-pleasure is shunned by the wise. Constant self-control is the real and perpetual happiness.? (5.22-23)

Towards the end of this chapter Sri Krishna stresses the importance of shunning sensuality totally in order for man to realise God. Sri Krishna says, ?To those austere souls who are delivered from desire and anger and who have subdued their minds and have knowledge of the Self – are close to God.? (5.26)


(The following English translation is taken from ‘A Sourcebook in Indian Philosophy’ Edited by S. Radhakrishnan and Charles A. Moore. 1957 Princeton University Press)

Chapter 5: True Renunciation

Samkhya and Yoga lead to the same goal

Arjuna said:
1. Thou praisest, 0 Krsna, the renunciation of works and again their unselfish performance. Tell me for certain which one is the better of these two.

The Blessed Lord said:
2. The renunciation of works and their unselfish performance both lead to the soul’s salvation. But of the two, the unselfish performance of works is better than their renunciation*.

3. He who neither loathes nor desires should be known as one who has ever the spirit of renunciation; for, free from dualities, he is released easily, 0 Mighty-armed (Arjuna), from bondage.

4. The ignorant speak of renunciation [Samkhya] and practice of works [Yoga] as different, not the wise. He who applies himself well to one gets the fruit of both.

5. The status which is obtained by men of renunciation is reached by men of action also. He who sees that the ways of renunciation and of action are one-he sees truly.

6. But renunciation, 0 Mighty-armed (Arjuna), is difficult to attain without yoga; the sage who is trained in yoga [the way of works] attains soon to the Absolute.

7. He who is trained in the way of works, and is pure in soul, who is master of his self and who has conquered the senses, whose soul becomes the self of all beings-he is not tainted by works, though he works.

8. The man who is united with the Divine and knows the truth thinks, ? I do nothing at all,? for in seeing, hearing, touching, smelling, tasting, walking, sleeping, breathing,

9. In speaking, emitting, grasping, opening and closing the eyes he holds that only the senses** are occupied with the objects of the senses.

10. He who works, having given up attachment, resigning his actions to God, is not touched by sin, even as a lotus leaf is untouched by water.

11. The yogins [men of action] perform works merely with the body, mind, understanding or merely with the senses, abandoning attachment, for the purification of their selves.

12. The self in union with the Divine attains to peace well-founded, by abandoning attachment to the fruits of works, but he whose self is not in union with the Divine is impelled by desire, and is attached to the fruit of action, and is therefore bound.

The enlightened self

13. The embodied self who has controlled his nature, having renounced all actions by the mind [inwardly], dwells at ease in the city of nine gates***, neither working nor causing work to be done.

14. The Sovereign Self does not create for the people agency, nor does He act. Nor does He connect works with their fruits. It is nature that works out these.

15. The All-pervading Spirit does not take on the sin or the merit of any. Wisdom is enveloped by ignorance; thereby creatures are bewildered.

16. But for those in whom ignorance is destroyed by wisdom-for them wisdom lights up the Supreme Self like the sun.

17. Thinking of That, directing one’s whole conscious being to That, making That their whole aim, with That as the sole object of their devotion, they reach a state from which there is no return, their sins washed away by wisdom.

18. Sages see with an equal eye, a learned and humble brahmin, a cow, an elephant, or even a dog, or an outcaste.

19. Even here on earth the created world is overcome by those whose mind is established in equality. God is flawless and the same in all. Therefore are these persons established in God.

20. One should not rejoice on obtaining what is pleasant or sorrow on obtaining what is unpleasant. He who is thus firm of understanding and unbewildered-such a knower of God is established in God.

21. When the self is no longer attached to external contacts [objects], one finds the happiness that is in the Self. Such a one who is in union with God enjoys undying bliss.

22. Whatever pleasures are born of contacts with objects are only sources of pain: they have a beginning and an end, 0 Son of Kunti (Arjuna); no wise man delights in them.

23. He who is able to resist the rush of desire and anger-even here before he gives up his body, he is a yogin, he is the happy man.

Peace from within

24. He who finds his happiness within, his joy within, and likewise his light only within, that yogin becomes divine and attains to the beatitude of God.

25. The holy men whose sins are destroyed, whose doubts [dualities] are cut asunder, whose minds are disciplined, and who rejoice in doing good to all creatures attain to the beatitude of God.

26. To those austere souls who are delivered from desire and anger and who have subdued their minds and have knowledge of the Self – near to them lies the beatitude of God.

27-28. Shutting out all external objects, fixing the vision between the eyebrows, making even the inward and the outward breaths moving within the nostrils, the sage who has controlled the senses, mind, and understanding, who is intent on liberation, who has cast away desire, fear and anger-he is ever freed.

29. And having known Me as the Enjoyer of sacrifices and austerities, the Great Lord of all the worlds, the Friend of all beings, he [the sage] attains peace.


This is the fifth chapter, entitled ?The Yoga of Renunciation of Action.?

* The Samkhya method involves the renunciation of works and the Yoga insists on their performance in the right spirit. The two ways are not inconsistent. In Samkhya, Jnana (insight) is emphasized. In Yoga, volitional effort is stressed. In one, we know the Self by thinking away the alien elements; in the other, we will them away.

** ?Only the senses? : that is, not the self.

***The nine gates are the two eyes, the two ears, the two nostrils, the mouth, and the two organs of excretion and generation.