Real Yoga is usually thought of as requiring renunciation by taking vows of poverty, wandering, begging for food, having no possessions and no desires. But the truth is, by virtue of being a yogi with a sacred fire and action, one is already a renunciate.
One who performs actions while renouncing their fruits is a renunciate and a yogi. But not one who is without the sacred fire and action.
This verse defines renunciation and Yoga.
One who performs prescribed actions (kāryaḿ karma) without any pre-conceived or desired expectations regarding their results, is a renunciate and a yogi. But one who performs prescribed action without the sacred fire, his are not purifying actions (kriya) and he is not a renunciate or a yogi.
The interaction of the qualities of nature (guna)
‘Prescribed action’ is sometimes translated as ‘ritual actions’ and taken to mean sacred rituals (pujas) and/or the duties of ones stage in life (ashrama). This interpretation of ‘ritual actions’ is pertinent to the student and the householder stages of life, but not to the yogi.
- Prescribed action (kāryaḿ karma) – proper specific actions to be done.
- Prescribed action (kriya) – purifying actions.
The yogi understands that prescribed actions (kāryaḿ karma) arise spontaneously in meditation, that he is not the doer of these actions, and that this kind of action (kriya) is purifying and only possible with the sacred fire. The same actions without the sacred fire do not purify. Actions performed without it, are not the actions of a yogi.
To the yogi, the sacred fire is Shakti, the activating energy of nature that initiates and directs spontaneous actions for the purpose of purification (kriyas). When this primal force operates as the life force within the body, She called Prana; when She operates in an evolutionary capacity, She is called Kundalini.
“Renouncing their fruits”
Setting aside all desires and intentions regarding the results of actions that occur in meditation.
By letting go of expectations and desires for certain outcomes (renouncing) through the surrender of oneself to God/Truth in meditation, purifying Divine Action (kriya) occurs spontaneously as directed by Shakti.
“A renunciate and a yogi”
Renunciation is Yoga
We are used to thinking of renunciation as taking vows of poverty, wandering, begging for food, having no possessions and no desires, and so on. But here we are told that by virtue of being a yogi with a sacred fire and kriya, one is naturally a renunciate.
You may wonder why I am assigning this idea to meditation. Meditation practiced correctly requires a place of assured privacy and solitude. This affords the proper conditions to be surrendered enough to accept the unknown, what these kriyas will be like, and what effects they will produce.
Purification is taking place through kriya, and all purifications have effects of their own. If we are not in a situation where they will not affect others, we will not let them happen. One can apply this to life in general in a limited way, but it will not get you to liberation because you cannot go beyond the ego without the proper conditions. (These conditions are described later, beginning with verse 10).
- Ego – Identifying oneself as the doer of actions (ahamkara, “I do”).
Know that what is called ‘renunciation’ is Yoga, for without renounced purpose one cannot be a yogi, Son of Pandu.
“Renunciation is Yoga”
We are to understand that a yogi is a renunciate: the yogi renounces, lets go of, having to have things be any certain way. He renounces all actions to God/Truth in meditation, and accepts what happens as the Divine Action of Shakti.
Abandoning self-motivated actions, actions performed for purposes of one’s own. Without the right conditions for abandoning self-motivated purposes, one cannot surrender enough to become a renunciate and a yogi.
“Son of Pandu”
Lord Krishna is addressing Arjuna by this epitaph for a reason. Arjuna’s people, the Pandavas, represent risk-taking. Now it may seem strange to you that the ‘good guys’ in this tale are gamblers. But that is exactly what you are every time you enter into spontaneous meditation by letting go of your control over what happens. When you truly surrender yourself to God/Truth, it is a gamble. You won’t know what the outcome will be.
Until you do surrender yourself to God, you may never know God. In the beginning you don’t know God but you surrender to That anyway. You are taking a chance on God now, but in time, you will come to know what That is, and your surrender and your meditation will get easier and deeper.
To get there, you abandon all your own desire-based purposes. You are taking a change that God is Good, that God is perfect, divine and absolute, that God loves you. You are taking a chance that you have not had the wool pulled over your eyes by some guru telling all this, and telling you that by taking this risk, you will find God and be liberated.
Well, this is exactly what Arjuna has done, and he has been having his doubts, so if you have doubts, you are in very good company. You are here, reading the Gita to see how all this works out. This is wise. You have taken this gamble, and you deserve some answers. You came to this juncture because you wanted God and liberation. Now you want some reassurance that you’re going to get it. Bravo for you! You have come to the right place. The Gita will give you the answers to all your doubts. You have but to read and realize them for yourself.
Namaste (I bow to the Divine One that You really are),