Musings on the Bhagavad Gita 8: The Way of the Renunciates

Are the monks and the hermits – the renunciates – not wise? Are they all renegades? Is the way of renunciation to be shunned?

The Fifth Chapter of the Bhagavad Gita – The Yoga of Renunciation – raises this very important question. Arjuna asks Krishna, his mentor and charioteer, “Why is it that you keep pushing me to fight? Why should I even be part of this worldly game? Why can’t I join the renunciates?”

Krishna answers: “Both the renunciates and the people actively working in this world attain to perfection. It is not that the renunciates are wrong. But, that is not your life-path, Arjuna… You are destined to act as per your role as a warrior.”

Arjuna argues:

“But the Way of Action is Full of Pitfalls…”

“Yes, but the way of the renunciates is similar. How do you avoid pitfalls? Act rightly…” Krishna answers.

This Yoga of Acting “Rightly” is the secret of life, of a successful, or rather, a fulfilled life. Doing the right thing under a right circumstance – a right person for the right job – this is the secret of success.

Krishna further defines renunciation as “not renouncing action, for who can sit idle without doing anything? Indeed, sitting idle is also a form of action. Doing nothing is also action. You cannot avoid action.

“Renounce your ego, renounce your personal likes and dislikes – renounce your petty concerns. Indeed, renounce your pettiness. Expand your consciousness – rediscover yourself not as Arjuna belonging to the family of Pandavas, but as a warrior to defend truth and justice.

“Thus, renunciation of your personal ego as Arjuna, and acting as warrior to defend righteousness is true renunciation. Thus, you shall act rightly. And, there are no pitfalls on the way of those acting rightly. There are challenges, yes, but those challenges are to strengthen your spirit. Overcome them and win the war in favor of the righteous, and the righteousness.”

The Definition of True Renunciation,

as given by Krishna, does not require you to leave the arena of this world and withdraw to the forest. Not at all…

Krishna speaks about mental renunciation.

Renounce the world mentally and emotionally. Nothing in this world belongs to you. You did not bring anything at the time of your birth, and you shall not carry anything with you when you depart. Play your part right, enjoy the play, and depart with a smile.

All the mental and emotional stresses are caused by the sense of I, me, and my. The true renunciation is the renunciation of this “false” sense. Therefore, Krishna advises his friend, Arjuna:


Find your true self.

You are not your senses, and you are not the sense organs. You have a mouth, but you are not the mouth. You have a pair of ears, but those ears are not you… Similarly, thoughts are appearing and disappearing from your mental screen – but those thoughts are not you,

Your emotional upsurges and outbursts are passing experiences. They are not there to stay. So, free yourself from such passing experiences. Allow not such turbulences affect the flight of your spirit.

Krishna’s renunciation is as dynamic as his way of action. To Krishna life is dynamic. Nay, it is dynamism itself. You can only live fully if you live dynamically.

Similar is Krishna’s definition of meditation. Sitting quietly for some time in a select place is perhaps necessary for the novice, but not so for the advanced practitioners.

Krishna advises Arjuna to live meditatively, to fight meditatively. Krishna’s meditation is, therefore, not for a certain hours each day, but for each hour, each day. Krishna’s meditation is 24/7.

Krishna does not Separate
Meditation from Life…

To Krishna meditation is not part of life, it is the very essence of life. And, to meditate is to live rightfully, to make the right choices.

“Spiritually speaking,” says a friend of mine, “there is no such thing as good or bad..” Yes, there may not be such thing as good or bad – but, as he rightly said, “spiritually”.

Whilst we are living in a material world… Fine, no good and no bad, but certainly there are things, which are rightful to do, and there are things, which are not rightful to do. Meditation bestows upon us this very understanding.

And, therefore renounce what is not right to do, and embrace what is rightful to do – this too is renunciation.

In other words, there is action in renunciation, as there is renunciation in action. Krishna says, “He, indeed is wise, who sees thus… Who renounces whilst acting, and who acts whilst renouncing.”

Be a hermit in spirit…

You don’t have to go to the forest to find peace. You don’t have to change your outerwear to experience bliss. You can be a professional in trousers and jacket, or you can be a salesman in jeans and t-shirt. Whatever you are, wherever you are, and whatever be your profession – you can still experience peace, you can still experience bliss while engaging in your course of action.

Thus ends the fifth chapter of the illustrious Bhagavad Gita – a document that records the dialogue between Krishna and Arjuna on the battlefield of Kurukshetra that is this very life…

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