The Essence of the Bhagavad Gita Chapter 2:
The Path of Knowledge (Part II – Shlokas 39 – 72)
Shri Krishna said, “O Partha (Arjuna) whatever I told you so far is from the ‘Knowledge of the Ultimate Reality’ point of view. Now, I will tell you from the Karma Yoga point of view. This will help you to perform your responsibility without being bound by its consequences. (39)
In this path of Karma Yoga (the path of action) no effort is ever lost and there is no ill consequence of any action. Even a small effort made in this path saves a person from the Great Fear (the cycle of birth and death). (40)
O Kurunandan (Arjuna)! In this path, a Karma Yogi possesses single-minded determination and purposefulness. The thoughts of the people who do not follow Karma Yoga and just work for their selfish reasons such as sense pleasures, worldly gain, and heaven are irresolute. Their thoughts go in all directions and never become conclusive. (41)
No resolute and unwavering thought is formed in the minds of those who:
(1) are deeply attached to pleasure and power,
(2) allow their discrimination to be stolen by the flowery words of the unwise,
(3) permit their souls to be ridden with desires,
(4) regard the attainment of heaven as the highest goal,
(5) think that the Vedas (the scriptures) promise rebirths as the reward of their actions and lay down specific rites for the attainment of pleasure and power, and
(6) take great delight in quoting the ritualistic parts of the scriptures which promise enjoyment in heaven as the fruit of sacrifices and worship, and declare that besides these, there is nothing more to attain from the scriptures. (42-44)
O Arjuna! The Vedas deal with the three Gunas; you must go beyond the three Gunas. Remain balanced in the pairs of opposites like joy and sorrow, praise and blame, etc. Establish yourself in Sattva. Do not desire any worldly thing which you do not have and do not try to preserve what you have. Remain steadily focused on your Self (Atman). (45)
When everything is flooded with water from all sides, one does not need a reservoir of water. Similarly, when a person realizes the Ultimate Reality (Brahman), he/she has attained the highest goal described in the Vedas and has no further need of the Vedas. (46)
(Note: Sri Ramakrishna said that if a relative asks you in a letter to bring a couple of things, once you acquire these things, the letter is no longer important.)
You are entitled to perform an action, but you have no control over its result. Let not the result of the action be your motive to work. You should not be inclined to be inactive either. (47)
(Note: A seeker of the highest truth works only for inner spiritual development and wishes to acquire knowledge and devotion by performing any action. He/she is not interested in worldly gain or loss.)
O Dhananjaya (Arjuna): Perform your responsibilities remaining unattached towards their results and keep your mind balanced in success and failure. Performing responsibilities with a balanced mind is called Yoga. (48)
The performance of those who work for worldly results is inferior to those who work for the highest knowledge. Therefore, acquire the attitude to work for the highest knowledge. The people who work for the worldly results are beggars. (49)
(Note: The highest knowledge or the goal of spiritual development is to realize that our true identity is Divine which is called the Self or Atman and that Brahman is the Ultimate Reality underlying the whole universe. Brahman relative to an individual is called Atman. The nature of Atman and Brahman is Sat-Chit-Ananda (Existence-Knowledge-Bliss Absolute).)
A person with a balanced mind goes beyond the ideas of acquiring merits to go to heaven and the worries of sins to go to hell. Therefore, perform your responsibilities to acquire the highest knowledge, keeping your mind balanced. Skillfully performing all responsibilities to acquire the highest knowledge is called Yoga. (50)
Wise people, keeping their mind balanced, perform actions for the highest knowledge and thus renounce worldly results. They then become free from the bondage of the results of their actions. Ultimately, they attain the state which is beyond all evil. (51)
When your intellect gets rid of delusion, then you will be indifferent to the various ideologies you have heard and many yet to be heard. (52)
Your intellect has been confused by various ideologies you have heard. When your intellect is established firmly in the Self (Atman), then you will attain the goal of Yoga (Self-Realization). (53)
Characteristics of a person with steady intellect:
Arjuna asked, “O Keshava (Shri Krishna)! What are the characteristics of a person whose intellect has been steadily established in the Self? How does such a person speak and behave in the world? (54)
Shri Krishna said, “O Arjuna! When a person has cast off all worldly desires from his/her mind and is completely satisfied to remain focused in the Self (Atman) alone, then that person is called a person of steady intellect. (55)
(Note: A person with a steady intellect has been fully convinced that the world cannot give him/her the infinite bliss, love, satisfaction, knowledge, immortality, fearlessness, and freedom which he/she can get from realizing one’s true identity (Atman). That is why such a person gives up all worldly desires.)
When a person does not get disturbed or depressed by the sufferings of the world, does not seek any longer-lasting happiness in the world, and has given up attachment, fear, and anger, such a person is said to be of a steady intellect or steady wisdom. (56)
One who is not attached to anyone and loves all equally, and does not get elated or agitated when good or evil things come, such a person is said to have a steady intellect. (57)
As a turtle withdraws its limbs when it is in danger, if a person completely withdraws one’s senses from worldly objects, then that person is said to have steady wisdom (or steady intellect). (58)
(Note: This means that one may work with one’s senses in the world, but should keep the mind focused on the Atman so that the mind does not get deviated by the sense-experiences.)
Many times people withdraw their senses from their objects, but their taste (desire) for sense-enjoyment does not go away. However, even the taste (desire) of sense-enjoyment drops away from a person who has realized the Highest Truth (Brahman). (59)
(Note: A person who has realized Brahman experiences infinite bliss within and all other sense-pleasures become so insignificant that they do not attract the person, just as the light of the moon becomes insignificant when the sun comes out.)
O Arjuna! The turbulent senses forcefully drag away even the mind of a wise person who is making efforts to realize the Ultimate Reality (Brahman). (60)
Therefore, a wise person should control all senses and focus his/her mind on Me (Brahman). A person attains steady wisdom (intellect) when all his/her senses are under control. (61)
How a person falls:
– By thinking about sense objects, one develops attachment to those objects.
– From attachment arises the desire to attain these objects.
– When obstacles come in the way of fulfilling these desires, then anger comes.
– Anger covers the mind with one thought and deludes a person.
– In the state of delusion, one forgets all the good things one has heard in the past.
– With such a loss of memory, one loses the sense of discrimination that enables him/her to distinguish right from wrong.
– When the power of discrimination is gone, then that person falls from righteousness. (62-63)
On the other hand, a person with self-control, moving among objects with his/her senses under restraint, and free from attachment and hate, attains serenity of mind. (64)
The serenity of the mind removes all sufferings of the world because the intellect of a person with a serene mind is easily focused on the Self (Atman). (65)
A person who does not have control over his/her senses cannot have a steady intellect. A person without a steady intellect cannot have the inclination to realize the Self (Atman). Without realizing the Self there is no peace of mind. How can a person be happy without peace of mind? (66)
Even one of the roving senses, if the mind yields to it, carries away the intellect (the discriminating power) as a storm carries away a boat in the river. (67)
Therefore O Mighty Armed (Arjuna)! A person has steady wisdom when his/her senses are completely restrained from their objects. (68)
In that which is night to all beings, a person with self-control is awake; where all beings are awake, a person with self-control (who is the seeker of the Ultimate Reality) sleeps. (69)
(Note: This means that whereas most people are enthusiastic and active to acquire sense-pleasures, the seeker of the Ultimate Reality does not have much interest in such endeavors. On the other hand, a seeker of Self-Knowledge is very enthusiastic to make spiritual efforts, though people seeking sense-pleasures do not have much interest in those efforts.)
Those who are seeking sense-pleasures do not attain peace of mind. But, peace is attained by a person in whom all the desires enter and get absorbed without creating any disturbance in the mind just as an ocean being full to its brim with water remains clam and grounded even though many rivers dump their water into it. (70)
A person who lives completely free from worldly desires, without longing, devoid of the sense of “Me and Mine” and is egoless attains peace. (71)
O Arjuna! This is the state of a person who has attained the Self-Knowledge (the knowledge of the Ultimate Reality, Brahman). By attaining this state one never becomes deluded. Being established therein, even in the hour of death, one attains final liberation in Brahman. (72).
Thus, in the Bhagavad Gita— the essence of the Upanishads, the science of Brahman, the scripture of Yoga, and the dialogue between Shri Krishna and Arjuna— ends the Second Chapter, entitled “The Path of Knowledge.”
Om Tat Sat.
(Thanks to Sonali Tatapudy and Rushil Desai for editing this post.)