The Bhagavad Gita – Chapter 5

The Yoga of Runciations of Actions

Arjuna said:
1. Krsna, you praise the renunciation of actions,
And then again, their disciplined undertaking.
Which one of these is the better one:
Tell me quite decisively.

The Blessed One said:
2. The renunciation and the yoga of action
Both bring the ultimate good,
But of the two, the yoga of action is better
Than the renunciation of action.

3. He who neither hates nor desires,
Is to be known as one who constantly renounces.
For free from dualities, O Strong-Armed,
He is easily released from bondage.

4. It is the childish, not the men of learning,
Who declare Sāmkhya and Yoga to be diverse.
He who takes his stand in either one properly,
Obtains the fruit of both.

5. That place and standing
Which is attained by (the men of) Sāmkhya,
Is reached also by Yoga.
Sāmkhya and Yoga are one:
He who sees this sees truly.

6. Renunciation, O Strong-Armed,
Is difficult to attain without yoga.
The sage who is disciplined in yoga
Attains to Brahman quickly.

7. Committed to yoga, himself pure in mind,
His senses conquered, his self conquered
And his self having become the self of all beings,
He is not polluted even when he acts.

8. “Ί am doing nothing at all.”
So the disciplined one who knows the truth thinks:
Seeing, hearing, touching, smelling, tasting,
Walking, sleeping, breathing,

9. Talking, grasping and letting go,
Opening and closing his eyes,
He keeps present that in these,
Only the senses are active among sense-objects.

10. Having placed his actions in Brahman,
Having relinquished attachment,
One who acts is not touched by sin,
Just as the lotus leaf is not wet by water.

11. For self-purification, men of disciplined effort (yogins)
Are active only by way of the body, mind,
Understanding or the senses,
Without attachment.

12. The disciplined man, having relinquished the fruit of action,
Attains perfect peace.
The undisciplined man, impelled by desire,
Is attached to the fruit and is bound.

13. Having renounced with his mind all actions,
The embodied one sits at ease,
In the city of nine gates (the body),
Neither acting nor causing action.

14. That one stands over what is born,
Neither creates agency of the world, nor actions,
Nor the conjunction of action with the fruit
Rather, this is a natural power (svabhāvah).

15. This pervasive one does not take on anyone’s sin
Nor his good deeds either.
Knowledge is concealed by ignorance:
With this, creatures are deluded.

16. But for those in whom ignorance
Is destroyed by knowledge,
For them knowledge brightens
The highest (in them) like the sun.

17. Fixed on that (highest vision), the self open to that,
With commitment to that,
They attain a condition from where there is no return;
Their sins removed by knowledge.

18. Men of learning view with equal eye
A Brāhman of knowledge and good learning,
A cow, an elephant, and even a dog and an outcaste.

19. Creation is overcome, even here on earth,
By those whose minds are established in equality.
For Brahman is the same, without defect to all.
Therefore they are firm and abiding in Brahman.

20. One should not exult on gaining the pleasant,
Nor should one be dismayed on meeting the unpleasant.
His understanding steady, undeluded,
The knower of Brahman is centered on Brahman.

21. The self which is unattached to external contacts
Finds happiness in himself.
Being joined by yoga to
Brahman He obtains undecaying happiness.

22. For those pleasures which are born of contact
Are merely sources of sorrow,
Possessing a beginning and an end.
The man who is awake takes no delight in them, O Son of Kuntī.

23. The man who here on earth, before giving up his body,
Is able to hold out against the force
Born of desire and anger,
He is disciplined, he is happy.

24. He who is happy within, whose joy is within,
And whose light is within,
He becomes Brahman and goes on to
The happiness of Brahman.

25. Those sages whose sins are destroyed,
Whose indecisions are dispelled,
Whose selves are disciplined,
And who rejoice in the welfare of every being,
Attain to the happiness of Brahman.

26. To those wise men who have destroyed desire and anger,
Who have controlled their minds, and realized the self,
The happiness of Brahman is near.

27. Having shut out external contacts
And fixed the eye in the middle between the two brows,
Having equalized the two breaths moving within the nostrils,

28. Having controlled the senses, mind and intelligence,
The sage who has freedom as his goal,
Who has cast away desire, fear and anger, Is freed forever.

29. Knowing me as the enjoyer of sacrifices and austerities,
As the great lord of all the worlds,
A friend of all beings,
One attains peace.

This is the fifth chapter, entitled
“The Yoga of Renunciation of Action”

About Sunday morning

Sunday Morning Contemplation is informed by Eastern and Western contemplative traditions. The first, lectio divina has its origins in 6th century Europe. It unfolds in four steps or stages: reading (lectio), reflecting (meditatio), responding (oratio), and silent abiding (contemplatio). Our Eastern inspiration come from the Indian Upanishads (800-200 BCE), where contemplative practice consists of three steps or stages: listening (śravana), reflecting (manana), and meditating (nididhyāsana or dhyāna). Our contemplative practice on Sundays embraces both approaches, and each contemplation will be based on a reading from either tradition.

The texts and teachers I have chosen played a significant role in my life and I believe have much to offer. I will read presellected texts, slowly, with pauses between verses or quotes. The readings will be accompanied by soothing background music. To lessen distraction, I suggest participants close their eyes and listen. However, the screen will display the text so that people can choose to read along or mute the sound and read on their own. If there is time remaining after the contemplative period, participants can choose to either leave or stay for a short discussion.

As a preface to the reading, I will provide a 10-15 minute introduction to the text. When relevant, I’ll review facts about the author/teacher’s life. I will also present a brief explanation of the terms and language encountered in the reading.

Finally, when the contemplation is over, all texts read will be available online to read and/or download at any time on the website.

What I mean by
The Symbolic Life

This website makes liberal use of classical Indian visual art and refers mostly to traditional Indian texts (for example, the Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita and Yoga Sutras) in the courses, seminars, and discussions on offer. However, I am not presenting lessons in Hinduism; in fact, teaching mainstream Hinduism is neither my area of interest nor expertise. Rather, my interest in Yoga and Tantra is grounded in the concrete situation in which we find ourselves, in the places where we arrive and from which we depart. Beginning in the here and now, we will explore the underlying meaning of the symbols, stories, images, philosophies, and techniques found in Indian philosophical texts and practice, in light of our world and our current circumstance. We will excavate the meaning of the aphorisms and teaching stories; the symbolic figures of gods, people, and nature; and the sometimes terse, sometimes poetic, philosophy of the texts. Thus, in referring to the Symbolic Life of Yoga and Tantra, I mean not just the symbols themselves, but the rich explication of life that the symbols represent.

Our lived, concrete situation is wonderfully captured in the Sanskrit word loka, whose ancient meaning is “the world.”  The root meaning of both the Sanskrit loka and the English locate (and local, locale, and location) is identical. In the ancient Indian mind, the world is where we are located, in our current circumstance. Thus, the meaning of the symbols of Yoga and Tantra can occur only in the now, in the places where we find ourselves, and not in any imagined ancient and/or foreign world.

To emphasize our place of origin and return, I use the terms “archetypal” and “symbolic” quite frequently. Archetypal meaning is associated with the universal and collective aspects of human experience—what we intimately share with all others regardless of culture or era or epoch—while symbolic language forms a bridge between the realms of the universal with the culturally specific and local. Symbols are the scaffolding upon which human beings build a world and imbue it with meaning.

Think for a moment of pain and pleasure, sorrow and joy, hatred and love, and greed and generosity—universal experiences that ancient Indian thinkers called the dvandva-s. This Sanskrit term is a combination of two words, or rather, one word spoken twice: the word dva (meaning the same as the English “two”) duplicated. Dvandva is commonly translated as “the pair of opposites” or literally “the two-twos” (dvadva). The ancients who coined this compact symbol gave voice to an archetypal human experience that can be further unpacked to reveal deep insights into the human condition. Once we gain an understanding of the various symbols of Yoga and Tantra, we can further excavate their meaning and the archetypes they convey, and thus gain access to, in a practical and meaningful way, the vision of life experienced by the sages. These insights are available to us and are still relevant today, as are the resilient and adaptable techniques and forms of practice that can help us lead richer and more fulfilling lives