Baghawat Geeta, Class 79 – Chapter 5 Summary


Gita, Class # 79, Ch 5, 7/15/17:

Continuing his teaching of Gita and concluding chapter five Swami Paramarthananda summarized the chapter today.

Sri Krishna has given us the entire teaching of the Gita in chapters 2, 3 and 4 respectively. Chapter 5 is a summary of all the previous three chapters and in a sense it gives us the very essence of the Gita and the Vedas. This chapter can be classified into following four parts.

  • Nishta Dvayam or two types of life styles.
  • Sadhana Dvayam or two types of spiritual disciplines.
  • Sadhana phalam or benefits of these sadhanas.
  • Introduction to meditation as foundation for chapter six.

The Nishta- dvayam are: 1) Grihasthashrama, and 2) Sanyasashrama. In grihasthashrama one has possessions and is part of society while in Sanyasahrama one has no possessions nor is one a part of society. Grihasthashrama is called Pravrithimarga, an active life, and Sanyasashrama is called Nivrithimarga, a secluded life.

The other two ashramas, Brahmacharya and Vana-prastha, are preparations for these two lifestyles. Thus brahmacharya is a preparation for grihasthashrama. vanaprastha is a preparation for sanyasashrama. These ashramas are called nishtas. The two lifestyles have been prescribed by the Vedas.

In chapter five, Arjuna starts off the chapter saying he is confused about Sanyasa. He wants to know if Sanyasa is a requirement for liberation. Answering him, Sri Krishna says that Sanyasa is not compulsory. Any one of the two life styles can be chosen. Thus, we have a choice with respect to ashrama or lifestyle. One has to decide if one wants to be a monk or get married. There are advantages and disadvantages to both lifestyles. In Grihasthashrama the advantage is that one has wealth and supportive people. This gives him a feeling (real or unreal) of security. Sanyasi does not have wealth nor people and thus no security as well.

The disadvantage in grihasthashrama is that one has a lot of responsibility that can be burdensome. Sanyasi does not have this responsibility. In life, whenever a choice is involved, conflict always comes in.

Sri Krishna tells Arjuna that the Grihasthashrama is more suitable for him. He says this ashrama is suitable for most of the people. Human relationship is very important in maintaining mental sanity. Thus, both ashramas are acceptable. However, only a prepared person should consider taking up sanyasashrama. Shloka 1 through # 6 discusses this topic of lifestyle.

2) Sadhana Dvayam: They are Karma yoga sadhana and Gyana yoga sadhana. Both sadhanas are required to be followed. Sri Krishna says there is no choice between the sadhanas.

Swamiji says there is a very big misconception in this area that there are several paths to liberation. Thus, some people feel karma yoga alone will lead to moksha while others feel bhakti yoga alone will lead to moksha. Others think raja yoga will get them moksha while still others think kundalini yoga will also get them moksha.

He clarified that neither the Vedas nor Gita supports this point of view.

Everybody has to go through Karma yoga followed by Gyana yoga. They should be performed, in sequence, one after the other, that too gradually. Karma Yoga has to be learnt and adopted first, as it is a required preparation for Gyana yoga. Then, through Gyana yoga, one obtains liberation. This is the Vaidic margaha. Thus, in first phase, karma yoga is dominant while in second phase Gyana yoga is dominant.

Karma Yoga: Shlokas # 7 through 12 deals with karma yoga. Chapter # 3 also discussed karma yoga at great length. Karma Yoga can be defined as Proper action performed with a Proper attitude.

Proper action: Proper action can be graded based on the spiritual progress that it can provide. In this gradation, selfless actions come on top, as most people are benefited by such actions.  Nishkama karmani also called satvika karmani are the best kind of actions that contribute to the maximum purity and spiritual progress.

Therefore, a karma yogi should give utmost importance to satvika karmani and then to rajasa karmani and lastly to tamasa karmas. Performance of Tamas karmani should be negligible or none at all. This is called proper action.

Sakama karma is action that leads to benefits for one-self. They are Rajasic in nature and provide least benefit spiritually.

Tamasic karmani are actions that are harmful to society.  Here I get the benefit but society is injured. They pull down a person spiritually.

Therefore, in karma yoga, our focus should be on actions that are Satvic in nature.

Proper Attitude: Here I perform all actions as worship to God. All my actions (satvic, tamasic and rajasic) are dedicated to God. And then, whatever the consequences of my action, I accept it as a prasadam. This is the proper attitude.

Citing an example, swamiji says, even thieves in India were devotees. They prayed to God before going on a theft.  Even their mind changes with time through association with God. Shankaracharya says even a nishidha karma should be performed as an offering to God.

 Every experience in life is a result of my own actions. What have I done for this great suffering, when I have not done any great wrong, is a question that comes to our mind. Remember our experiences include ones from our previous lives as well. Whatever I get, I deserve. Don’t ask, “why me”, at all. Rather ask, O God, give me the strength to go through this and learn. This attitude called padmapatram iva ambasa and has been defined in chapter 5, shloka # 10. This is proper action with the proper attitude.

And what will happen as a result of karma yoga? The result is that the mind becomes oriented towards the spirit, materialistic tendencies weaken, spiritual tendencies strengthen and interest in Gita increases. With this interest in the shastra also increases.

Thus, everyone has to go through purifying actions. Even a Sanyasi has to go through them. While the type of actions may differ, between a Sanyasi and a Grihastha, both have to go through karma yoga.

Gyana Yoga Sadhana: Shlokas # 13 through 21 deals with this topic. Gyana yoga is a requirement for moksha. Many consider Gyana yoga a dry path while they consider Bhakti yoga as a wet path. It is considered a wet path as you shed tears in a state of bhakti. Swamiji says this again is a misconception. Chapter # 7 discusses Bhakti yoga.

So, what is Gyana yoga? It is Vedanta vichara consisting of sravanam, mananam and nidhidhyasanam. It consists of the systematic, consistent and continuous study of scriptures under a competent acharya. Jumping from one Guru to another is not recommended as each Guru will have a different way of communication.

What will such a study lead to? This study will lead to the recognition of atma, the real nature of every individual. This study will lead to the recognition of atma, which is the real nature, the essential nature, the core nature and the higher nature of the individual.

What is the nature of this discovery or the nature of atma?

We have studied this elaborately in the Chapter 2.

Krishna hints at it here again as follows. The atma is of the nature of consciousness. What is the nature of consciousness? Important features of consciousness include:

  • Consciousness is not a part, property or product of the body.
  • Consciousness is an independent entity that pervades and enlivens the body.
  • Consciousness is not limited by the boundaries of the body. In short, it is all pervading.
  • Consciousness survives or continues to exist even after the fall of the body.
  • Consciousness is the only one, that pervades all the bodies of the creation, which means bodies are many, but the pervading consciousness is one.
  • Consciousness being one and all pervading like space; it is free from all the actions.
  • Consciousness is not only an akarta but also an abhokta as well.
  • Consciousness is, thus, also free from all karmas. Therefore, it also does not have papam or punyam.

Citing an example, while all actions occur in space, space itself does not act. Similarly while light illumines, it does not act. So also with consciousness, it does not act.

The stages of Gyana yoga:

First stage is identification with this consciousness.  Citing an example, when I ask you what is here you will say there is a hand. Even if I ask you 100 times you will still say it is only a hand. Then, when I tell you that this hand itself is seen because of a light principle that is pervading the hand only then you realize that the light alone is pervading.  Consciousness is like the light. This is the teaching of the Upanishad.

Second stage is learning to identify with the consciousness as myself.  At present we have learnt to identify with the body; and this learning is so intense and so ingrained in our mind; that the moment we use the word I, we remember, I am a male, I am a female, I am so many years old; I am the child of so and so. In fact, you remember all the bio-data associated with the body alone. So, therefore, we have to do a lot of unlearning. And the new process is learning to identify with the consciousness and instead of saying I-am-the-body I have to learn to say that I-am-the-consciousness-pervading-the-body. This body is subject to arrival and departure. This body belongs to the material world. This body is a temporary gift from the Lord. I can use it for sometime, as a medium of transaction but I cannot hold on to it permanently. So, I have to learn to say that “ I am the consciousness in the body” and not “I am the body”. This is shifting the “I”.

If I know I am consciousness, I will look at you as well as the consciousness of your body. Right now I only see your physical personality. I am atma, You are also atma. This unity of vision is possible only through unity of spiritual wisdom. All other talk of unity is only lip service. On one side we all say we are Indians, but we still fight and kill others. We can never have a true transformation without getting this wisdom.

With this knowledge the fear of mortality also goes. I realize that I am the immortal consciousness functioning through this body. Our problem is not with mortality of body, rather it is that I think “ I” am mortal. This notion changes with Gyanam. I realize “I” am immortal. This leads to wisdom and poornatvam.

With this, Sri Krishna concludes the topic of gyana yoga, shlokas #13. to 21. Here karma yoga was the first stage and gyana yoga the second stage. Gyana yoga leads to the wisdom that I am full, that I am immortal and  Aham poornah. This is freedom from limitation.

Benefits of Gyana Yoga :

Shloka 21 through 26 discusses benefits. One benefit is the development of the spiritual value known as Vairagyam. Vairagyam is independence from external factors for happiness. We normally tend to depend upon external factors for our happiness and this poses a big problem. External factors are not in my control. Most situations that we come across related to family, servant, children etc. are not in our control. Psychological dependence is sorrow. Physical dependence may be difficult to avoid. The problem is with us and not with the world. The solution is to go from dependence to independence. Learn to depend upon your Self (higher self) for security, shanti and poornatvam. This attitude is called Vairagyam. This is dropping psychological dependence.

The benefits include: Jivan mukti. It means inner independence here and now. Regarding outer freedom, I am still bound by rules of society. Chapter # 2 discusses Sthitha Pragyaha Lakhanani. So this is jivan mukthi and he will live like that until the prarabdhah karma is over. Until then the physical body will continue.

Therefore, as long as karma is there the body survives. Once the karma is gone, body also goes and thereafter he is one with Brahman, without any individuality. This stage is called videha mukthi and Sri Krishna calls it brahma nirvana.

With shlokas # 22 through # 26 the chapter five’s main purpose is over.

In Shloka’s 27-29 Sri Krishna introduces meditation.

The last three shloka are beeja shlokas. They are seed verses for the tree of 6th chapter, which is to come next.

This chapter, the sixth, is called sanyasa yogah or karma sanyasa yogah. Here Sri Krishna clarifies what is sanyasa to Arjuna. What is this clarification? That, the outer sanyasa is not important rather it is the inner sanyasa alone that is real. That external renunciation is not compulsory, however, inner renunciation is the real renunciation.

Take Away:

  1. Karma Yoga can be defined as Proper action performed with a Proper attitude.
  2. Every experience in life is a result of my own actions. What have I done for this great suffering is a wrong question to ask. Karmas from our past lives are also a factor.
  3. “ I am the consciousness in the body” and not “I am the body”. This is shifting of the “I”.

With Best Wishes

Ram Ramaswamy