Ancient India
Sannyasa: Renunciation

Arjuna

   You praise renunciation of actions 1 and also the pursuit of actions. Tell me for certain which one of these two is superior.


Krishna

   Renunciation and pursuit of action are both instruments of happiness. 2 But of the two, pursuit of action is superior to renunciation of action. He should be understood to be always an ascetic, who has no aversion and no desire. 3 For, O you of mighty arms! he who is free from the pairs of opposites 4 is easily released from all bonds.

   Children —not wise men—talk of sankhya and yoga as distinct. 5 One who pursues either well obtains the fruit of both. The seat which the sankhyas obtain is reached by the yogas, also. He sees truly who sees the sankhya and yoga as one.

   Renunciation, Arjuna, is difficult to reach without devotion; the sage possessed of devotion attains Brahman 6 without delay. He who possesses devotion, whose self is pure, who has restrained his self, and who has controlled his senses, and who identifies his self with every being, is not tainted even though he performs actions.

   The man of devotion, who knows the truth, thinks he does nothing at all, when he sees, hears, touches, smells, eats, moves, sleeps, breathes, talks, excretes, takes, opens his eyes or closes his eyes: he knows that the senses deal with the objects of the senses. He who, casting off all attachment, performs actions dedicating them to Brahman, is not tainted by sin, as the lotus-leaf is not tainted by water.

   Devotees, casting off attachment, perform actions for attaining purity of self, with the body, the mind, the understanding, or even the senses—all free from individualistic notions.

   He who possesses devotion, abandoning the fruit of actions, attains the highest tranquillity. He who is without devotion, and attached to the fruit of action, is tied down by his desires.

   The self-restrained, embodied self lies at ease within the city of nine portals, 7 renouncing all actions by the mind, not doing nor causing any thing to be done.

   The king or lord is not the cause of actions, or of the capacity of performing actions amongst men, or of the connection of action and fruit. But nature only works. The king or lord receives no one's sin, nor merit either.

   Knowledge is enveloped by ignorance, hence all creatures are deluded. But to those who have destroyed that ignorance by knowledge of the self, such knowledge, like the sun, shows forth that supreme principle. And those whose mind is centered on it, whose very self it is, who are thoroughly devoted to it, and whose final goal it is, go never to return, having their sins destroyed by knowledge. 8

   The wise look upon a Brahmana possessed of learning and humility, on a cow, an elephant, a dog, and a Svapaka, as alike. 9

   Even here, those have conquered the material world, whose mind rests in equanimity, since Brahman is free from defects and equable, therefore they rest in Brahman. He who knows Brahman, whose mind is steady, who is not deluded, and who rests in Brahman, does not exult on finding anything agreeable, nor does he grieve on finding anything disagreeable.10

   One whose self is not attached to external objects, obtains the happiness that is in one's self, and by means of concentration of mind, 11 joining one's self with the Brahman, one obtains indestructible happiness. For the enjoyments born of contact between senses and their objects are, indeed, sources of misery; they have a beginning as well as an end. 12 O son of Kunti, a wise man feels no pleasure in them.

   He who even in this world, before his release from the body, is able to bear the agitations produced from desire and wrath and remain a devoted man, he is a happy man. The devotee whose happiness is within himself, whose joy is within himself, and whose light of knowledge is also within himself, becoming one with the Brahman, obtains the Brahmic bliss. 13

   The sages whose sins have perished, whose misgivings are destroyed, who are self-restrained, and who are intent on the welfare of all beings, obtain the Brahmic bliss.

   To the ascetics, who are free from desire and wrath, and whose minds are restrained, and who have knowledge of the self, the Brahmic bliss is on both sides of death.

   The sage who excludes from his mind external objects, concentrates the visual power between the brows, 14 and making the upward and downward life-breaths even, 15 confines their movements within the nose, who restrains senses, mind, and understanding, whose highest goal is final emancipation, from whom desire, fear, and wrath have departed, is, indeed, for ever released from birth and death. He knowing me to be the enjoyer of all sacrifices and penances, the great Lord of all worlds, and the friend of all beings, attains tranquillity.

Translated by Kashinath Trimbak Telano, 1882
Edited and annotated by Richard Hooker



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1997, Richard Hooker
Updated 10-18-97