If we believe that trying to stop the activities of the body, mind and feelings in meditation is necessary to reach samadhi and liberation, Lord Krishna is correcting our thinking.
NOTE: For those of you whose spiritual orientation is surrender, as is mine, my commentaries on the next several verses address this approach and tell how this path works. If your orientation is other than surrender, you will draw your own conclusions accordingly.
Not by abstaining from action can one get beyond action. Not by renunciation can one reach samadhi.
One cannot get beyond action by trying to make it stop. One cannot reach samadhi by trying to make it happen.
“Not by abstaining from action can one get beyond action“
You cannot become inactive by not acting. Because it is the nature of nature to move, trying to stop action is an action—not acting is doing something.
You cannot get beyond karma without action. Not acting is not going to clear your karmic slate. It is you believing yourself to be the ‘doer’ of actions that created your karma. Trying to stop action just creates more karma. When this is understood, it is easy to see that…
“Not by renunciation can one reach samadhi“
The word for renunciation is sannyasa, meaning ‘the abandonment of worldly concerns’, which is reflected in most translations. When one ‘renounces the world’ in favor of the spiritual path, what one is renouncing is the sense of ‘doership’, the assumption that one is the doer of actions. The effort of the sannyasi is to perform practices for reaching the direct realization that he is not the doer of actions. Some take vows of renunciation to commit themselves to this, but for those who are sincerely dedicated to the path, renunciation will come of its own accord, in its own time, with or without vows.
The essential meaning of the word sannyasa is ‘to make an effort, or exert oneself’. In this verse, one’s efforts, or practices, concern the renunciation of action, either through intention or realization, depending upon the stage of progress of the seeker. Even so, as it is says in the verse, you still cannot reach samadhi (the state of union) by trying to make it happen.
The Aim of Yoga is Samadhi
If we believe that sitting as still as a stone, mentally and physically, is necessary to reach samadhi, we are being corrected in our thinking in this verse. But this is how most people meditate. Perhaps this is because they are just seeking some peace. That subject was covered in chapter two, but now we are going forward and looking at canceling our karma and reaching samadhi and liberation. Lord Krishna is saying that avoiding action is not going to work for this purpose. Renunciation is not what will get you there.
Following a little logic, we might assume the reverse: Reaching samadhi is precipitated by some kind of action. We tend to think of the mind as our greatest asset, but Lord Krishna’s focus is on action—the union of two opposing forces in the body, represented here as the battle in which He is urging Arjuna to engage.
* The battle - the clashing together of the Kurus (doers), and the Pandavas (risk-takers), that awakens the evolutionary force, kundalini.
Indeed, no one, even for a moment, is ever without action. All living beings are compelled to act by the gunas of nature.
It is the nature of nature to move, so when we try to stop actions from happening, we are trying to control nature. Trying to control nature is doing something, and we are being told that we are not going to get away with this. We cannot stop nature from doing what it does best: it is always moving and always changing.
Some translations say that we are ‘helplessly compelled to act’, or ‘compelled to act against our will’, or ‘compelled to act in spite of our will’. However hard we try to use our will to sit still, and to make our minds be still, nothing is going to change the fact that this is not going to get us to the goal of the highest samadhi and liberation.
It is not you, but the interactions of the modes of nature, the three gunas, that are the cause of all action.
You can think of the gunas as similar to the way weather acts according to the interactions of meteorological conditions. They mix, confront and repel each other to varying degrees to produce numerous unique actions.
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Practical Meditation — Nine progressive courses in authentic meditation for both beginning and experienced meditators. I have designed these courses to provide basic essentials for anyone on any path (or no path), and so that the meditation that is most natural and comfortable for you becomes apparent to you.