Sannyasa-yogah / Topic of renunciation (Ch 5 continued)

Krishna says that the one who has gained this knowledge irrespective of whether he pursued it as a karma yogi or by opting for the lifestyle of a vividisha sanyasi  (as a sanyasi who has got a desire for this knowledge)  is a true sanyasi. This is `jnana lakshana sanyasa’, which I had elaborated in a post in the fourth chapter. He says such a person is a bhutatma bhutatma, the one who has discovered oneself to be the self in every human being and in every form on earth. Such a person, even though he may be doing things,  is not touched by what he is doing. In fact, he elaborates by saying, `I don’t do anything’. The actionlessness we referred to in chapter 4, the same thing he brings in here as sanyasa. He says, `I may be talking, walking, eating, fighting a battle… in whatever I am doing I remain in this nine-gated city called the body… Neither do I do anything nor do I cause anything to be done, because I am one with the self which is infinite, full and complete at all times.’ Therefore, I am free from all actions. I have no actions in me nor do I cause any action to happen. Action happens.

How does an action happen? Action happens because the mind desires something or the mind makes a sankalpa on something; the buddhi, your reasoning, decides on it and through the body you function. And what are you? You are all-pervading awareness/consciousness , the witness of them all, and you are rooted in this knowledge that this self-awareness, this limitless self is what I really am. Once I have identified with that, let the mind and body function in its field of activities but I remain actionless, free from everything.

 Na kartrtvam na karmani lokasya srjati prabhuh

Na karmaphalasamyogam svabhavastu pravartate

Atman creates neither doership nor action for any person nor the connection with the results of action. But one’s own nature leads to action. (5.14)

Krishna says,  `Because I as awareness, neither do I have action nor do I have a sense of doership.’ When you say `I do, etc,’ who is the one who is really acting? It is your conceptual self which we have previously discussed as the ego….If I don’t know what I am I will take what I am associated with as myself. Therefore, on the basis of my body, mind etc I create a self-identity. This is the basic identity that I am a person. On this, depending on how the world has treated me, depending on the roles I play, depending on my upbringing,  culture, exposure etc,  I have layers of personality added on until this is what I am today. I have a conceptual self. This self, actually, is purely conceptual but since I don’t know what I am this is what I take as the self. Now I have to negate these self-concepts and I have to understand that I’m nothing but all-pervading awareness. We spoke about this from the second chapter onwards.

Then you come to the understanding that you are nothing but all-pervading awareness, this is the real you, and the conceptual self is only a self-identity. For the ignorant person, the conceptual self seems to be the reality. Therefore, his thoughts are real, his world is real, his emotions are real. For the one who knows, the conceptual self is only a dress. Like a person who enters the stage, dons a persona, a costume, and acts out a role. Similarly, in the world, a wise person is acting out the role as an ordinary human being. So, along with everyone else, he laughs, he cries, he does the same things everyone seems to be doing, but he knows that he is nothing but all-pervading awareness,  he is free from all these actions. Your conceptual self, the ahankara, has become a dress that you wear. Like the Phantom, you could wear the dress of finitude and walk the streets of Mumbai.


The Phantom is not the Phantom, it’s only a role….Once you have discovered the real you, you can immerse yourself in your role and be free from action.

Are there parallels in Modern Psychology with this concept?

In fact, all that Psychology talks about is the conceptual self, because what they mean as the ego is a pattern of thinking, a pattern of feeling, a pattern of behaviour. All this is the conceptual self. What do I think I am? All of us have a notion of who we are and all of us know that we are something more than this notion. That is why if I make a public announcement that I am going to give a talk on `Who am I?’, you will always find a few people who will attend.  How come? How come they want to listen to a sadhu tell them who they are. I don’t know them, I probably have never seen them before, but still they want to listen to me. Why? Because somewhere deep down they know that they are more than what they have taken themselves to be. Because the problem is self-ignorance. I have veiled myself in ignorance and, therefore, I am building up a conceptual self. Therefore, I negate the conceptual self and know the truth, and once I know the truth the conceptual self becomes a tool for functioning because I may still be playing the role of a father, mother, brother, husband, wife etc and that’s a finite role.

[pullquote]The moment I live a life of karma-yoga, the importance of those likes and dislikes is loosened, they eventually become just preferences, I’m not in their grip[/pullquote]

For the all-pervading awareness, to be in a finite role, the conceptual self becomes the dress that you wear, a persona. Therefore, every wise person will be colored by that person’s personality as well. No two wise people will be alike. Let us say, here’s a wise person who had a talent for music. That talent will still be there after he has discovered the truth. Therefore, you may have a wise person who is a musician. Or a sports person, a cricketer, for all you know, because a highly competitive sport can prepare your mind to know the truth. Or a corporate executive– if he could get a work-life balance and exposure to this knowledge, he could be a wise person. Or a politician. I would  love to see the day when a politician has this wisdom. It looks doubtful the way things are going but I would love to see that day.

Any examples of such people?

It’s easier to give a historical perspective here. Janaka was a king and he was a wise person. Rama was a warrior and a wise person. Look at the difference between Rama’s lifestyle and Krishna’s lifestyle, for example. Rama was called a tapasvi raja, a king who led a lifestyle of discipline etc. , Krishna was also a wise person—his lifestyle was that of a sada-bhogi, a person who enjoyed all the good things of life. So it’s not lifestyle-dependent, it’s not dependent on whether you are married or not…; wisdom is wisdom.

As contemporaries, on one side you had Krishna, on another you had Vyasa who wrote the Mahabharata and the Brahma-sutras, etc…On one side you have a warrior like Krishna and on another a scholar like Vyasa.  Then you have Vyasa’s son Shuka, who emphasised the sanyasa tradition, he led a lifestyle of sanyasa from very early in life. You have Arjuna, the student who became a wise person, again another warrior. You had all the students of Vyasa, all wise people, but they all lived like munis, like scholars. Then in the Mahabharata you have the example of a butcher who was a wise person. So, it’s not lifestyle-dependent. Once you gain the wisdom, the conceptual self is only a dress you wear for functioning, you are free from everything.

In negating this conceptual self, how does karma-yoga play a role and how does ishwara play a role?

My attachment to the conceptual self is very high because this is what my identities are based on. Therefore, the identity is first shaken up by giving you an insight into this knowledge, by the question we asked in the second chapter, `Who am I?’ After that, with the understanding of `Ishwara’  we revealed in an earlier post and the karma yoga we are talking about, we loosen the grip of likes and dislikes in us. It becomes a growth process.

Also, you saw in the second chapter, the mithyatvam of everything, that everything is relative and not real. In this process, the hold of the conceptual self on us is loosened, because if you believe your conceptual self to be yourself, your likes and dislikes become an absolute reality for you. The moment I live a life of karma-yoga, the importance of those likes and dislikes is loosened, they eventually become just preferences, I’m not in their grip. Therefore, the grip of the conceptual self on the mind is also loosened, the conceptual self is negated only by the knowledge and nothing else, and by this process of `dig drishya’, the logic/fact of seer and seen, by which I see myself as being independent of the conceptual self, though I use it for functioning and relating. This becomes clearer by meditation which we will talk about in the next post.


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    • Mohan Sahasranaman

      “”Such a person, even though he may be doing things, is not touched by what he is doing. In fact, he elaborates by saying, `I don’t do anything’. The actionlessness we referred to in chapter 4, the same thing he brings in here as sanyasa”……even though there is cognition of various roles and the realization that we just are picking up the role…why is it that we get entwined so much in some of the roles…like our work or close relationships like husband, father, etc….? How do we live the above statement of i dont do anything? why is the indivisual caught up in some forms of action so much that it gives rise to emotions….anger, etc. which are later on reflection , are reasoned as i went overboard