Chapter 5. Renunciation

1Krishna, you praise sanyasa
and also karma yoga.
Tell me for certain,
which of the two is better?
While the literal meaning of sanyasa is ‘giving up action’, in this context it perhaps refers to sankhya, the path of knowledge.
Karma yoga refers to the path of selfless action. See 3:3.

2Both sanyasa and karma yoga
lead to matchless bliss;
of the two, however,
karma yoga is superior.
Work is the prerequisite for karma yoga; detachment is the prerequisite for sanyasa. It is easier to work and progress on the path of karma yoga. The path of detachment easily drifts towards laziness rather than realization.

3A true sanyasi harbors no hate or desire.
Free from duality, he is free from bondage.
Sanyasi is a person who is on the path of sanyasa. ‘Duality’ refers to relative opposites like success and failure, hot and cold, etc. ‘Bondage’ refers to any sort of clinging.

4Only the ignorant, not the wise,
speak of sankhya and yoga as different.
One who earnestly pursues either
will reap the benefits of both.
Sankhya is the ‘path of knowledge’ and yoga is the ‘path of action’.

5A sankhya yogi and a karma yogi
reach the same state ultimately.
One who sees the truth
sees sankhya and yoga as same.
Yogi is one who is steadfast on the path of yoga.

6It is difficult to achieve sanyasa
by simply avoiding work.
But one who works with diligence
readily attains supreme bliss.

7One who controls his senses
and masters himself
is steadfast in yoga.
He relates to everyone
as he relates to himself.
He is pure within and is not tainted
even as he engages in action.

8,9For even while
seeing, hearing, touching, eating, or smelling;
walking, sleeping, breathing, or speaking;
letting go or grasping; opening or closing the eyes –
one who knows the truth, thinks:
“It is not I who is performing action;
it is simply the Interplay of
the senses with the sensates”.

10Just as water doesn’t stick to a lotus leaf,
sin doesn’t stick to a person
who works unattached and
dedicates the work to the supreme.
One who works without selfish motives and has true humility
has a lesser chance of committing sin.

11Giving up attachments,
a yogi engages in action
with his body, senses, mind, and intellect
merely for purifying himself.
When there is absolute focus on work, there is no craving for rewards. This is self purification of the highest order and also the ideal of karma yoga.

12Endowed with determination,
a man of poise doesn’t care for rewards
and attains lasting peace.

Driven by selfish desires,
a man who lacks self-control,
craves for rewards, and lives in bondage.

13Mentally renouncing all actions,
the inner master lives happily
in the city of nine gates,
neither acting nor causing action.
The body is considered as a city of nine gates
(the nine gates being: two eyes, two ears, two nostrils, a mouth, a genital organ, and an anus).

14God does not command people to act.
God does not create activities
or its associated rewards.
All these arise from Nature.

15God is not responsible
for good or evil in this world.

People are deluded because
their knowledge is clouded by ignorance.
Good and evil are merely results of actions that people perform.
It is foolish to think that god is responsible for this.

16For those who have
destroyed ignorance using Knowledge,
that Knowledge, like the shining sun,
illuminates the supreme within.

17With thoughts absorbed in that,
with the self immersed in that,
with faith in that, and
finding fulfillment in that,
a self-realized person
attains liberation.
Here, ‘that’ refers to the supreme within.

18A wise person treats everyone equally –
a scholar endowed with modesty, a cow, an elephant,
a dog, and one who eats a dog.
A scholar is generally held in high esteem in society and a person who eats a dog is considered to be at the lowest level. The wise see the same inner spirit in all these beings irrespective of their external characteristics; see 4:35 and 6:29-30.

19Those who are always impartial
overcome rebirth in this world.
Brahman is flawless and impartial;
so are those established in brahman.
Brahman is the supreme being.

20They are not overjoyed when good things happen.
They are not dismayed when bad things happen.

With stability of mind and freedom from delusion,
those who know brahman are established in brahman.

21One who is not attached to external objects
finds happiness in one’s own self.

One whose self is united with brahman
attains a state of everlasting bliss.

22Sensory pleasures are the cause of sorrow
as they are short-lived.
The wise do not rejoice in them.
In the original, the expression for ‘sensory pleasures’ is ‘pleasures that are born from contact (of senses and sensates)’.
Sensations of pleasure are short-lived and one is often disappointed when they come to an end.

23In the midst of daily life,
if one can endure the turmoil
caused by selfish desire and anger,
then he is truly happy.
Indeed, he is a yogi.


24A yogi finds comfort, joy, and radiance within himself.
He is liberated and becomes one with brahman.

25He has cleared his doubts,
he is free from flaws, and
he has subdued his senses.
Involved in the welfare of all,
the seer attains supreme bliss.

26He lives in supreme bliss
who is self-disciplined,
self-knowing, and
free from greed and anger.

27,28Keeping away all external contacts;
fixing the gaze between the two eyebrows;
having made equal the inward and outward breaths;
having controlled the senses, mind and intellect;
free from desire, fear, and anger;
with liberation as the highest goal
the sage is free from all bondages.
‘...fixing the gaze between the two eyebrows’ denotes concentration at one point, which helps us elevate our focus to a greater objective. To get the bigger picture, we cannot just look at something, but rather we have to look beyond everything.

29One attains peace
when he realizes that
the purpose and the beneficiary
of all forms of worship
is the Supreme,
the sole lord of the universe,
and the true friend of all beings.

<< Chapter 4. Wisdom in Action


  1. Anonymous7/02/2012

    Can you provide the Sanskrit verses and word to word meaning too ?

  2. We are working on that project currently and hope to have it ready by next year. Thanks for your interest.
    Warm regards,