3. Krsna begins his sermon on the doctrine of action. He addresses Arjuna as Anagha – one without sin, pure. Arjuna is not a perfect person. He has many faults. Yet Krsna sees only virtue and purity in him, indicative of His love for Arjuna. A child may be mischievous and rebellious but the mother sees goodness alone because of her love for the child. Knowledge is best taken in an environment of affection and oneness.
Krsna speaks of a dual path. There are three aspects of our interactions in life. The world enters us as stimuli through the five sense organs. These stimuli then react with desires in the mind and intellect. The reactions are expressed as responses through the organs of action. This constitutes the traffic of life.
There are two types of people – those with many desires or vasanas and the few who have a handful of high quality vasanas. The ones with many desires react to almost every stimulus that enters them and therefore tend to be active. When such people take to the spiritual life they need to convert actions to worship – Karma Yoga or the Path of Action. The other category has already followed Karma Yoga and reduced their stock of vasanas. They are contemplative by nature, disinterested in the happenings of the world. The stimuli of the world enter them but there are almost no reactions or responses. Such people convert perception to worship – Jnana Yoga or the Path of Knowledge.
Arjuna, though unselfish, is replete with vasanas and hence not qualified for Jnana Yoga. He needs to wade through action and divest his personality of desires before taking to the path of renunciation and meditation. Hence Krsna’s message is – act! If one follows neither path it is suicidal, as the Isavasya Upanisad says.
Karma Yoga is the unique technique by which one uses action to get to the state of inaction! Keep the mind in lofty thought while the body acts dynamically in the world.
4. The second topic dealing with the intellectual appeal for action begins. One cannot get to the state of Perfection by either giving up present actions or not initiating new ones. Perfection is described as the state of actionlessness which tends to mislead the ignorant. Action is driven by desire. Desire comes from thought which is triggered by vasana. The action of playing tennis comes from a desire for tennis. The desire springs from the thought for tennis which can only emerge when one has a vasana for tennis. Perfection is thus the state of vasanalessness which means thoughtlessness, desirelessness and actionlessness. But you cannot become actionless without getting rid of desire, thought and vasana.
The pathway to reducing desire is the Path of Action. Just as you need a thorn to remove another thorn embedded in your foot, you need to deploy action to free yourself of action. Remove action from its very root. Symptomatic relief does not cure a disease.
Well meaning, sincere spiritual seekers stop acting in the belief that they can reach Realisation through contemplation and meditation. Though meditation is the ultimate gateway to Realisation it requires a lifetime of preparation and practice to qualify for it. The practice is Karma Yoga which offloads your personality of desires and prepares you to take off into the sublime realms of meditation. Karma Yoga is working in the area of one’s talent for a higher ideal.