The Bhagavad Gita | Study Guide


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The Bhagavad Gita | Chapter 5 : The Yoga of Renunciation | Summary



Arjuna asks Krishna whether the path of renunciation or the path of action is better for him. Krishna replies that both paths are good but that the path of karma yoga is more direct. The path of renunciation and the path of action both lead to the Self if practiced deeply. Both the wise sage and the doer of karma yoga practice action, whether it be action in battle or action of the mind in studying scriptures, without attachment to the results. Ignorance of the Self is what causes men to "act badly." Krishna insists that "wise men regard all beings / as equal," understanding that the Self at the core of all beings is the same, only clothed in different bodies.


This chapter mixes the concepts of renunciation, or sannyasa, with the previously discussed idea of the knowledge-yoga path. Because both ideas are used relatively interchangeably here, it can be assumed the path of renunciation is also the path of Sankhya yoga, or the yoga of wisdom and knowledge. Krishna posits that both are legitimate paths to the truth and the true Self. In devoting oneself to one of these paths, one can ultimately achieve both. The practices of meditating, renouncing worldly pleasures, and studying the scriptures are actions that lead to the wisdom of understanding the true Self and to liberation from suffering. The path of karma yoga also leads to the same wisdom. Krishna explains that in this way, the two paths lead to the same place and involve both action and gaining understanding. The difference is that some people are led by their circumstances of birth to seek the Self primarily through renunciation or knowledge, and some, like Arjuna, are meant to seek it through the yoga of action.

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