III:4-5 Attaining Samadhi

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.

4
Not by abstaining from action can one get beyond action. Not by renunciation can one reach samadhi.

Alternate translation:

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

Action
Karma

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

Renunciation
Sannyasa

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.

5
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.

Gunas-ed

Namaste (I bow to the Divine One that You really are),
Durga Ma
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III:1-3 Arjuna’s Angst

Bhagavad Gita, Chapter Three
“The Yoga of Action”
Verses 1 to 3

Arjuna is rattled at this apparent contradiction of Krishna’s and addresses him as Agitator of Men, and in the same breath tries to mend his own agitation with a compliment calling him Handsome Haired One! Clever boy. But his question is a good one, for in chapter two, verses 38 and 39, Krishna extolls buddhi*, which we have mostly read as ‘knowledge’ or ‘wisdom’, yet He urges Arjuna to act. Arjuna is still confused about all this, so with his next breath he says to Krishna, Just tell me what to do!

1
Arjuna spoke:
If you consider knowledge to be superior to action, O Agitator of Men, why do you urge me to terrible action, O Handsome Haired One?

2
With speech that seems equivocal you confuse my mind. This one thing tell me for certain: By which shall I attain the highest good. 

Buddhi is the ability to form and retain concepts, ideas, etc. It translates as knowledge, wisdom, intellect, reason, discernment, discrimination, judgement, mind, opinion, perception, thought, belief, and so on, depending upon its usage in the text.

3
The Blessed Lord spoke:
In this world there are two paths taught previously by me, Blameless One: the Knowledge Yoga of the followers of Sankhya*, and the Karma Yoga of the Yogis.

* Sankhya means 'taking into account all that can be known'. Sankhya is one of the divisions of Hindu philosophy. The followers of Sankhya are said to be knowledge-oriented.

“Blameless One” Oh, good. Krishna has exonerated Arjuna’s angst, so we too, can relax.

Krishna previously addressed Knowledge Yoga and Action Yoga in chapter two, but by attempting to discover which is better, it appears that Arjuna has not understood that both are valid paths to the same end. It is not a question of one being better than the other, but that Arjuna’s personal orientation is best suited to Action Yoga.

“The Knowledge Yoga of the followers of Sankhya”

The word for knowledge, jñāna ( ज्ञान ), refers to ‘knowing’, not just knowing by learning from an external source, but the knowing that is gained through meditation. In meditation, one comes to ‘know’ without the aid of the senses and the mind, and though one might not be able to prove the veracity of what gets ‘known’ to anyone else, it is proved to the meditator with certainty. This kind of knowledge is very different from the knowledge gained through conventional sources. It is in this sense that followers of Sankhya refer to Knowledge Yoga, knowledge (jnana) gained through union (yoga).

“The Action Yoga of the Yogis”

The word for action is karma ( कर्म ). Karma and yoga are practically synonymous terms, for one cannot have yoga (union) without action—the action of uniting one thing with another. Where the follower of Knowledge Yoga has knowledge as his focus, a yogi’s focus is on the action that delivers it.

Beyond this enlightenment, the yogi also seeks liberation from rebirth, which can only be attained when both the credits and debts of previous actions are settled. To this end, the yogi seeks the realization of non-doership and considers all actions as not his own.

Three Paths

It is generally taught that there are three paths—Knowledge, Action and Devotion. These three are said to reflect the different natures of people and their personal orientations: mentally-oriented, action-oriented, and feeling-oriented. So why are only Knowledge and Action mentioned in this verse?

Devotion, or bhakti, is necessary for Knowledge Yoga and Action Yoga to be effective, so it is automatically included in both. Some take the path of Devotion solely, believing that it alone is sufficient. It is conceivable that Devotion is enough, for when practiced comprehensively it will inevitably lead one to knowledge and action as well, as these two are inevitable for the serious seeker.

Knowledge Yoga – Jnana Yoga
Karma Yoga – Action Yoga
Bhakti Yoga – Devotional Yoga

Self-reference: To which are you most inclined? Throughout your day, whenever you think of it, see if you can determine which motivates your own actions the most. Are you mostly knowledge oriented, action oriented, of feeling oriented? Which one appeals to you, inspires you, and motivates you the most? Which is strongest for you?

Ultimately, whatever one’s personal orientation, after a time, sadhana (spiritual practices) will lead to all three, and one will be no stronger or weaker than the other.

Namaste (I bow to the Divine One that You really are),
Durga Ma
durgama.com
phoenixmetaphysical.com

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