What is the better path to follow in order to get closer to God, Karma Sanyas or Karma Yoga? When Arjun asks Bhagwan Krishna this question, the Lord dispelling any doubt says that both Karma Sanyas and Karma Yoga lead to the same divine goal: awareness of the Supreme Truth. Read NITA AGARWAL’s insights into the issue expounded by Lord Krishna in Chapter 5 of the Bhagavad Gita

Bhagwan Krishna tells Arjun that only the less informed assume that Karma Sanyas and Karma Yoga are two different paths not realising that both lead to the same goal.

However, Karma Yoga may be more achievable or reachable than Karma Sanyas because Karma Sanyas is possible only for those who have already realised the Self. On the other hand, Karma Yoga is the path possible for all people who try. It may not be possible to renounce the material world whole-heartedly, as long as one has desires, attachments or social obligations to fulfil. 

True, a Karma Sanyasi is not an escapist, who feels bondage and entanglement in the material world as a burden and wants to renounce all duties without having renounced the desires from deep within. Escapists are those running away from duties they cannot handle successfully. Such a sanyasi cannot be steadfast on the spiritual path and be a devotee for long.

Nita Agarwal

A true Karma Sanyasi sees the world as it is. He/She sees all beings as one and the same. Having realised Paramatma, a true Sanyasi sees a Brahman, a cow or a dog as the same. He knows that they are but manifestations of material energy of Paramatma, that those advanced spiritually know as Maya. Such an evolved person accepts everything as it is. 

By birth we carry attachments, fears and desires in the form of natural tendencies that we call vasanas. They stem from the type of dominant gunas that we are born with. The material world that we call as Maya is run by these three gunas ―  Satvic, Tamasic, and Rajasic. These gunas are prevalent in every form of existence. When the jeevatma occupies a human form, it has been bestowed with mind, senses and intellect to perform all functions which in turn are influenced by the dominant guna one is born with. This defines the personality of individuals.

Even though Paramatma controls this universe, He does not perform any actions or directs anything. He is not involved in any evil or virtuous actions happening in this world. He remains the non-doer. As we are a minuscule part of Paramatma born as jeevatma, we carry a minuscule free will to act via our individual instrument of mind, body and intellect. We cannot purify our mind till we exhaust our desires that occur due to the lure of material objects.

In ignorance, one believes these objects are a source of happiness. The Inner Self seeks permanent peace and happiness but ignorance attracts the individual to temporary happiness present in objects of this material world that ultimately leads to more suffering. 

That’s why, Karma Yoga is considered the right way for a majority of the people to purify the mind and overcome selfish desires, hate, greed or anger. A Karma Yogi devotes all his actions to God as he sees himself as His mere instrument, while performing all duties. He is no longer bound by the fruits of his action. This detachment and non-doership, eventually leads to freedom from the cycle of birth and death. 

Bhagwan Krishna explains that just like the lotus leaf that grows and lives in water, never gets wet as water droplets cannot stick to its surface, in like manner, when all actions of a karma yogi are done in devotion to Paramatma, karmaphal does not bind him.

He is then free from all bondages of this material world. Like the lotus leaf, he remains unattached even while living and performing actions in the world. This attitude purifies the mind of the karma yogi, which is the biggest devotion to Paramatma. Yog is the path as well as the goal for a seeker, which is being One with God. 

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Karma Sanyasis, who are already One with Paramatma, may appear to eat, sleep and do normal activities, but they are not bound by their karma as they have realised the Self. They become detached observers of all happenings around. 

A person who works only to fulfil selfish desires can never experience lasting peace or happiness. Lasting happiness in the objective world remains elusive because the happiness that most experience is finite — and is one that has a beginning and an end. Only those who are able to understand that desires are the source of unhappiness can overcome them. 

A yogi, who has disciplined his mind by focusing on the middle area between the eyebrows with eyes closed, while concentrating on the incoming and outgoing breath in the nostrils, thinking of Me, slowly becomes devoid of fear and desires, Bhagwan Krishna says. Such a person, experiences lasting peace and happiness within. 

Note from the author: This article is based on a commentary on the Holy Geeta by Swami Chinmayananda and discussions during study classes run by Swamiji’s followers that I attended.

Nita Agarwal is an ex-Table Tennis State player, qualified teacher, self-taught budding painter and a successful blogger, who writes about her observations of life and people; most importantly, she describes herself as a working housewife. 

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