Knowledge and Renunciation

The next few chapters of the Gita are where it starts to collide with the Yoga Sutras in its emphasis on describing our problem of ignorance of the self and the trouble with the mind’s distractions.

Renunciation is a strange concept for many westerners as we envision the yogi sitting in the cave never to be in the world. However, the Gita clearly states that it is not the world that is the problem, but how we react to it – it is not mere inaction that is effective, avoiding the world, nor is it just going about our business without any reflection on our own truth. We must practice and work toward taking action with pure knowledge of the self within.

“He/She who sees the inaction that is in action, and the action that is in inaction, is wise indeed. Even when he/she is engaged in action, they remain poised in the tranquility of the Atman – the True Self within” (Chapter 4)

“To the follower of the yoga of action, the body and the mind, the sense organs and the intellect, are instruments only: he knows himself other than the instrument and thus his heart grows pure.” (Chapter 5)

But how do we start to piece this together? How do we become knowledgable of our self while living in the world with all its distractions? Chapter 6 of the Gita begins to give a clue about meditation. One of my favorite quotes from the Gita is in this Chapter – in this translation, “Man’s will is the only friend of the Atman: his will is also the Atman’s enemy.” At any moment we have a choice to take action for or against our true self. We are given that free will and it can be our best friend and our worst enemy. It takes practice of turning the mind toward the self in meditation to give clarity along the way.

This Chapter is also a great reminder of moderation in all things in general – freedom does not come to those who overeat or fast, those who sleep to much or keep long vigils. In every action we must turn our mind toward the self and away from all the fruits and distraction and delusion and there we will find a deep contentment.

Yes, yes, yes, this is not “easy” – the mind is like the wind, it fluctuates here and there, Krishna knows this, Arjuna knows this, and we know this, but this is why the Gita is inspiring in its simplicity. No act is wasted, even if you have caught a glimpse just once of this freedom in contact with the Atman, that will not be forgotten. It is not something that GOD is concerned with, but something YOU should be concerned with. The worry, anxiety, stress, and mental trouble we experience is mostly all our own doing and with the right concentrated effort, with knowledge and renunciation, we can free ourself from it at any time.

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