In our earlier articles, we briefly touched upon the topic of being a ‘Sanyasi‘ and also introduced the path of action, Karm Yog.
Who is a true Karm Yogi? To learn that, let us understand through The ‘Bhagavad Gita‘, the pitfalls of being a ‘Sanyasi‘, especially in the modern day context and in the age of Kaliyug.
Attracted by the lure of an ascetic life, people often renounce their work, only to discover later that their renunciation is not accompanied by an equal amount of mental and intellectual withdrawal from the sensual fields. This creates a situation of hypocrisy where one displays an external show of religiosity while internally living a life of ignoble sentiments and base motives. Hence, it is better to face the struggles of the world as a karm yogi, than to lead the life of a false ascetic. Running away from the problems of life by prematurely taking sanyās is not the way forward in the journey of the evolution of the soul.
karmendriyāṇi sanyamya ya āste manasā smaran
indriyārthān vimūḍhātmā mithyāchāraḥ sa uchyate
Those who restrain the external organs of action, while continuing to dwell on sense objects in the mind, certainly delude themselves and are to be called hypocrites.
Shree Krishna then draws Arjun’s attention closer towards the path of action in the 7th verse of the 3rd chapter of the The ‘Bhagavad Gita‘.
yas tvindriyāṇi manasā niyamyārabhate ’rjuna
karmendriyaiḥ karma-yogam asaktaḥ sa viśhiṣhyate
But those karm yogis who control their knowledge senses with the mind, O Arjun,and engage the working senses in working without attachment, are certainly superior.
The word karm yog has been used in this verse. It consists of two main concepts: karm (occupational duties) and Yog (union with God). Hence, a karm yogi is one who performs worldly duties while keeping the mind attached to God. Such a karm yogi is not bound by karma even while performing all kinds of works. This is because what binds one to the law of karma is not actions, but the attachment to the fruits of those actions. And a karm yogi has no attachment to the fruits of action. On the other hand, a false renunciate gives up action, but does not forsake attachment, and thus remains bound in the law of karma.
Shree Krishna says here that a person in household life who practices karm yog is superior to the false renunciate who continues to dwell on the objects of the senses in the mind. Jagadguru Shree Kripaluji Maharaj contrasts these two situations very beautifully:
mana hari meṅ tana jagat meṅ, karmayog yehi jāna
tana hari meṅ mana jagat meṅ, yaha mahāna ajñāna
(Bhakti Śhatak verse 84)
“When one works in the world with the body, but keeps the mind attached to God, know it to be karm yog. When one engages in spirituality with the body, but keeps the mind attached to the world, know it to be hypocrisy.”