A fisherman casts his net to four kinds of fish. One does not get ensnared in the net and is always free. A few struggle to escape and manage to swim away. Others strive to get out but are still imprisoned. The majority, however, bite the net and relax. They are not even aware that they are in a life-threatening situation. They do not feel the danger. Yet a few moments later they are dead.
Similarly, there are four types of people. Most belong to the fourth category. Caught in the net of maya, delusion, they are oblivious of the dangers in life. They, the bhogis, are quite content in the bondage of worldly life. There are some who have awakened to a higher dimension and are aware of life’s pitfalls. They make sincere attempts to free themselves. They are the yogis. A few among them, the sannyasis, succeed and escape. Rare is the person who, even while living in the world, remains out of it. Ever-free. He is the jnani.
The chapter describes the three types of spiritual aspirants and shows a way out of bondage to liberation while transacting with the world and enjoying its offerings.
A yogi is a spiritual novice who still has very many desires. He has to tread the path of action. A sannyasi has already divested himself of the bulk of his desires and is ready for contemplation and meditation. He neither hates nor desires and is unaffected by the pairs of opposites in the world. He is easily liberated. However, one has to plough through Karma Yoga, the path of action, to be fit for meditation. Krsna underscores the importance of action before plunging into meditation. A jnani has purified his soul, conquered his mind and subdued the senses. He sees himself in all beings. He is not tarnished even while acting.
Verses 8 to 12 speak of how the three – yogi, sannyasi, jnani – act in the world. A jnani is a dynamic actor but maintains his objectivity right through. He thinks, “I do nothing at all” while actions are going on. A sannyasi dedicates all actions to Brahman and lives like a lotus leaf in water. As the lotus leaf is untouched by water even though it is in constant touch with it, a sannyasi is detached from the world in spite of living in it, transacting with it and giving of himself to it. He is anchored in the thought of Atman while fulfilling his obligations in the world. A yogi is focussed on self purification while acting detachedly in the world.
The Bhagavad Gita expounds on the glory of renunciation. Ignorant people misunderstand the concept. This spells disaster. A few people follow their wrong notions and suffer. Others reject the teachings of the Gita and suffer. Rare is the person who understands, implements and benefits from the power of renunciation.
Renunciation is not life denying. It is life enabling. It is the turning away from a trivial present for a more significant future. The sacrifice of an easy this for a beckoning yet-to-be. A sportsperson who turns his back on every indulgence for the trophy gets the trophy and enjoys the celebration.
Renunciation is not giving up action. It is acting in a spirit of renunciation. Giving up impeding forces that retard action. Renunciation is not giving up the grain for the chaff. It is preventing the clutter of inconsequential things from interfering with the important aspects of life. It is intelligent waste disposal.
Renunciation is not giving up things that are dear to you. It is growth to appreciate far more fulfilling avenues of enjoyment. Then your own erstwhile preoccupations seem petty. Like the child who outgrows toys when he learns the thrill of computer games.
Renunciation is not keeping away from the world and living a life of seclusion. It is learning to live a life of inclusion. Weeding out that which comes in the way of a fulfilled life.
In the end renunciation opens the doors to Realisation. A life in which you are not hampered by the limitations of the body, mind and intellect. You sail aloft, unaffected by the finitude of the world and enjoy the realm beyond.
Learnings from Chapter 5
1. There are four types of people – bhogi materialistic, yogi spiritual novice, sannyasi spiritual master, and jnani the enlightened one. Assess yourself to determine which category you belong to and make a concerted effort to move up the ladder.
2. Renunciation is not giving up action. It is acting in a spirit of renunciation.
3. Renunciation is not turning your back on enjoyment. It is growing to enjoy more meaningful things in life.
4. Renunciation is not moving away from your family. It is giving up attachment that comes in the way of relationships.
5. The test of development is the ability to see oneness with all beings.
6. Live life like a lotus leaf in water – unattached and unaffected.
7. Renunciation leads to happiness.
8. Gain knowledge which destroys ignorance. Ignorance is the cause of all suffering.
9. Develop equality of vision.
10. Contact-born pleasures are wombs of sorrow. The wise do not delight in them.
11. You will be happy if you withstand the force of desire and anger.