Knowledge, Action and Renunciation – Way to Freedom
Freedom can be obtained by either following the path of Knowledge, Action or Renunciation and the path differs based on the individual’s latent tendencies.
As per Hindu philosophy, there is reincarnation. Everybody has had multiple births and death but are not aware of it. And that there is a definitive pattern behind taking birth. Natures decide the course. Everyone is born with certain tendencies and these latent characters of one decides one’s preferences and orientation in life. There also exists the reason behind everyone’s birth and the success is in knowing our purpose of being born, our areas of work, field of operation and tendencies which we must harness and fine tune so that our purpose in life can be fulfilled. In Bhagavad Gita Krishna states his life purpose as – “whenever there is decay of “Dharma” – morality, virtue, righteousness – and there is rise of “Adharma” – decay, decadence, injustice, wickedness, – I am born in this world; for the protection of good people, for the destruction of evil-doers, for re-establishing the right.” Only different being his birth and ours is that his is not guided by the desires and karma but by his own determination and based on the needs of time. He is not bound by the life-death cycle which we are. And the ultimate freedom for a human being is supposed to be getting liberated from this cycle.
Knowledge as-a-way to freedom:
Krishna says – Those who know me, my action, my birth obtains freedom. Those who can get rid of desire, fear and anger, worship me, get purified in the fire of wisdom, or whichever way they reach out to me get liberation from the cycle of birth and death.
Ways of Action and Organizing Society:
Men are endowed with different temperaments and tendencies. All are not equal and each one has some tendencies that are prominent. Action is the easiest way to achieve material success in this world. For this purpose, the society and people working are divided into four divisions, based on the energy requirements for effective functioning, each function being complementary. The four castes or varnas are created, are aligned with types of tendencies and actions, being the tendency for knowledge acquisition and exposition, for warrior-ship, for commerce and business and for production involving ground level work. Four division of labors, based on their tendencies and capability, each meant for specific purpose or excelling in certain works to express themselves to fulfill societal functions. There is no work that is low or high and all are equally important for the effective functioning of the society. This division helps in one expressing themselves freely based on their inherent tendencies. It is not that others cannot do it but something like the economic concept of comparative advantage. This we find still prevalent in organizations and more akin to consultant, architects, authors, teachers forming intellectual class, Military, Police, CEOs, Controllers, Sales and Marketing, forming part of warrior clan. And Business, trading, Farming and producing class constituting the third section and service oriented work forming the other sections of the society. It is important to note here, that as Krishna says in the opening verses of this chapter, these knowledges has however deteriorated and collapsed in the course of time, when being handed over from generations to generations and societal imperfections that this has becomes the most mis-interpreted concept in Hinduism and India currently.
Way of doing work:
Do work without doers-ship. Do without enjoyer-ship. Work. Engage. Be amidst work. But do not think that you are doing it. Because the nature that is present in the world does it. Circumstances make it happen. It is a collective action. To understand this better, if you have put a seed to grow, for it to start giving fruit, in addition to you, the sun, water, nutrients from soil, may be birds for pollination need to work together for the tree to start giving fruit. And when it starts fruiting may be the enjoyer could be somebody else. In the same manner, your duty is just to work without bringing into thinking that it is who you are doing and you are the enjoyer. When engaging in action, understanding that the circumstances and my inherence tendencies is making me do this, without getting impacted by the ego, you are free from the sorrow of individuality and not bound by the suffering born out of work.
Action, Inaction, Prohibited Action
In familiar parlance action means movement and inaction is absence of movement. Any action against law is prohibited action. Life means activity, a way to evolve, is dynamic and cannot even for a second cease to work. When life cases death occurs. So, action is inevitable.
Action is imperative if one lives. One cannot renounce action. Every action has a reaction and one has to bear the fruit of their karma. However, any action that is performed without attachment, that I am the doer or for the fruits of action does not bind the soul. Work is needed for purification of the self. Even if one is high up in the ladder in the society and can do without performing any work, it has to be done so that no wrong precedent is set for others still in the lower spectrum of evolution.
Action in inaction and Inaction in Action:
Performing action with an understanding that it is being done by body and mind, not induced by once nature, one self and the soul is not involved in it is inaction though action is being done. Here action essentially means those actions that is needed to be done and not the ones impelled by one’s desires, likes and dislikes and circumstances. Similarly, when one thinks no action is being performed while say sitting, sleeping etc., it means no perceptible bodily action is taking place. It needs to be understood that the bodily action of breathing, digesting, circulation of blood etc. is happening involuntarily. Our mind may be busy in thinking, dreaming, extrapolating and visualizing. So seemingly inactive one is active.
And the man whose work is devoid of desires and purposes to enjoy the result of action, and whose actions are based on knowledge he is called a sage by the wise. Such a man, even when involved in worldly action performs it because he had to do it and to set example for others rather than for fulfilling his desires or expecting any results. If he is a renunciate he works to maintain his bodily functions only. Free from desire, with the mind and the self-controlled, having relinquished all possessions doing mere bodily action, he incurs no sin.
Satisfied with that which comes to him by chance, or in course of nature, rising above the dualities or like and dislikes, pleasure and pain, hot and cold etc., being equipoise both in success and failure, working with such frame of mind even though he is working he would not be bound by the actions.
That man from whom all attachment is gone, from whom all cause of bondage, right and wrong has fled away, whose mind is ever fixed in wisdom alone, who acts with a view, to the performance of a sacrifice, his action with its result is reduced to nothing meaning does not create bondage arising out of action. Thus, work not prohibited in scriptures, work performed with the right knowledge of doing, without the desire for its action and with a sacrificial mindset frees one from the bondage arising out of such actions.
Know that, Brahman is the “Real, Consciousness and the Infinite”. He is cognized by all and is the innermost self of all. It is instrument of action. He is all pervading. He manifests himself as an instrument of action, and the five forms actions and its accessories.
Work as a Yagna-Sacrifice:
Sacrifice is not limited to fire sacrifice or yagna alone as known in the traditional circle. It includes all work done with restraint, focus and effort. Thus, there are multiple ways in which sacrifice is performed. Controlling one’s senses, Imparting knowledge one had gained to others, charity by donating wealth, following austerity, sacrifices by way reading, writing, acquiring knowledge, following scriptural vows are of different ways of sacrifice. Essentially all works that require discipline, excellence and renunciation of something is what is meant as Yagna here. It is work for work’s sake and duty for duty’s sake.
Controlling food, sensory intake, engaging in pranayama – Controlling one’s incoming and outgoing breath, and performing the sacrifices one is said to obtain freedom.
The sacrifices performed with material objects produces material effects, whereas wisdom-sacrifice does not. Therefore, sacrifice where knowledge is involved is superior to the sacrifice performed with material objects. For, wisdom, which is the means to moksha comprehends all action.
Superiority of Wisdom:
Wisdom being the means to one’s freedom, Krishna says that it should be the basis for all actions. Then he describes why, how, from whom, with what mindset one gets to acquire wisdom. And what is this wisdom and benefit of acquiring this wisdom.
Approach the Guru, the teacher who is a realized self, with a sense of humility, enquiry and respectful mindset and by providing him service. Enquire what is the cause of bondage and how to get relieved from it. And What is wisdom (Vidya) and what is ignorance and mistaken belief (Avidya). Guru can then impart knowledge of action, renunciation and wisdom.
Once this wisdom is obtained, clarity sets in and one will not be confused again as one is now. One is also able to perceive that all beings, all manifestation say from self to grass is of same Creator (Brahma), consciousness and the whole universe exists in oneself and one in the universe. There is a oneness, a unity of all things and all beings which is essence of Upanishadic wisdom.
With the right knowledge one can cross this samsara. While prarabdah karma, responsible for this life, that has commenced has to run its course, the result of future action, accumulated karma from actions of previous life that has not commenced (sanchita karma), yet to start and yet to fructify can be nullified by right knowledge.
Thus, the seeker of freedom, who has perfected himself by practice in yoga of action, knowledge and renunciation will attain peace and spiritual wisdom. On the other hand, the man who knows not the Self, the man who has no faith in the teachings of his Guru, the main whose mind is full of doubts is ruined.
Therefore, the man by practice of Karma Yoga has all his doubts and ignorance cleared and by knowledge acquires wisdom. Hence Krishna commands – Arise! O Arjuna! Fight. And thereby energizing us also to get out despondency and perform in this world with knowledge and wisdom.
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25th April, 2017