In the last article, Shree Krishna was convincing Arjun to fight the war. But, Arjun is under the misconception that if one takes refuge in the knowledge of the Divinity of God and the soul, then one does not have to engage in physical action on this mundane plane. Is this correct?
If the goal is God-realization, what is the need for performing any actions in the world?
Shree Krishna explains to Arjun that it is not possible to refrain from physical action, even though the ultimate goal is to transcend material existence and attain God. As long as we are in this world, we inhabit a body and must engage in some kind of karm, at least to maintain that material body (chapter 3, verse 8). Even a God realized Saint must engage in physical action to support his physical body – for as long as he stays in his body he must also eat and sleep like the rest of us. Thus, we cannot negate the necessity of this physical world, nor our involvement in it.
Just as it is not feasible to maintain a state of physical inactivity, it is impossible to maintain a state of mental inactivity. The human mind cannot remain still, even for a fraction of a second (chapter 3, verse 5). It is always driven to activity by our inner desire for happiness, so it always dwells on the objects of desire, thus keeping us in a constant state of inner activity. After a long day, we may be sitting on the couch relaxing, but internally our mind is still running at the same speed. These inner thoughts also count as karm. If someone thinks that by solely giving up their involvement in the outer world, they have become action-less (and free from the bondage of karm), they are mistaken. Because internal worldly attachments still exist and are the main cause of bondage (chapter 3, verse 6). Even if someone leaves all their possessions and goes to the jungle, he/she may still find themselves longing for the luxury car and beautiful house they used to own. In that case, his inner activity hasn’t ceased. In fact, he is in the same state as when he was fully involved in the world, even though he has outwardly renounced the world.
So, how to liberate oneself from the binding effect of actions?
There are two ways of freeing oneself from the binding effects of our karm (chapter 3, verse 3). One is called gyan yog, in which the person renounces the sense of doership by understanding that he is the soul, and not the body, senses or even the mind. It is the body, senses and mind which are the doers, not the soul. Thus, if you keep your mind established in this state of self-realization, the actions you perform will have no binding effect. The other way is called karm yog, in which a person keeps his mind established in a state of equanimity, unattached to the fruits of his actions, and unaffected by the success or failure of his efforts. Due to the absence of attachment, his actions will also have no binding effect. In either case, the person doesn’t need to abandon the performance of his duties.
Yet, this does not fully explain why Arjun should fight the war. Could he not practice gyan yog or karm yog in solitude somewhere far away from the battlefield? In the next article, we will discuss Shree Krishna’s explanation to this question.