In our previous discussion about Karm-Yog and working without desires, we learnt how to work without worrying much about the fruit of action. This forms the essence of Karm-Yog. There is another path known as Karm Sanyas, and many intellectuals debate hard on which path is the best one to take.
Is Karm-Yog is best one or is it Karm Sanyas? Some people think that Karm Sanyas is superior and hence the best and only way towards Krishna consciousness.
What is Karm Sanyas?
Renouncing your profession and family to practice sadhana is the path of Karm Sanyas. The word ‘Sanyas‘ means renounce or give up. The life of a renunciate is not cakewalk as it may seem from far. Many difficulties, obstacles and issues need to be resolved, just as in any worldly vocation. At the moment, you may find that along with practicing your profession and family life, you are unable to remember God and Guru, and you wish to take Sanyas. If you were to tread the path of a Sanyasi, and then realize that you are still unable to remember God and Guru as intensely as required, what would be the situation? You would neither be a true Sanyasi nor a Karm Yogi.
Saint Tulsidas states:
ब्रह्म ज्ञान जान्यो नहीं कर्म दिये छिटकाय ।
तुलसी ऐसी आत्मा सहज नरक महँ जाय ।।
“One who does not possess the required enlightenment for Sanyas, and yet prematurely renounces the worldly duties, goes downwards to hell.” This is a path that should be taken only under the guidance of a Guru, who can judge your eligibility for the path.
The Guru, depending upon our sanskars (Personal characteristics, inclinations, and tendencies from our previous lives), will first advise us to do devotion without changing your station in life. Practice living in the world without letting the world live in you. When you have reached the point where you are doing the maximum devotion and seva possible, but you yearn to do even more, then the Guru may instruct you to leave the world. But again, for someone who has already entered family life, it may be socially disturbing to leave the family, and the Guru may instruct you to continue with Karm Yog, until certain events or milestones are reached.
There are so many inspiring examples of great Bhakti Saints who were Karma Yogis, such as Kabir, Guru Nanak, Ekanath, Naamdev, Tukaram, Jayadev, etc. Saint Kabir has put this very nicely:
सुमिरन की सुधि यों करो, ज्यौं सुरभि सुत माहिं ।
कहे कबीर चारो चरत, बिसरत कबहुँक नाहीं ।।
“Just as a cow grazes grass in the field all day, while constantly remembering its calf at home, you too remember your Lord while going about your daily duties.” Many Karma Yogis in ancient history were great kings such as, Ambarish, Dhruv, Prahalad, Prithu, Yudhishthir, etc. They were great kings, discharging their required duties and yet maintaining remembrance of God. The Bhagavad Gita too is all about Karm Yog. Arjun wanted to leave his duties, thinking them to be burdensome, but Shree Krishna repeatedly instructed him in the Bhagavad Gita:
सर्वेषु कालेषु मामनुस्मर युद्ध्य च ।
“Always think of me, and also do your duty.” Swami Vivekananda very aptly summarized this as follows: “Devotion can be practiced even in the battlefield; the Bhagavad Gita was preached there.”
Note that it is only at the end of The Bhagavad Gita that Shree Krishna says:
सर्व धर्मान् परित्यज्य मामेकं शरणं व्रज ।
“Give up all duties, and surrender to me alone.” The instruction of Karm Sanyas has been given at the end. Thus, Karm Sanyas is a also bonafide path, but only for those rare few souls who have acquired the eligibility for it.
Karm-Yog is the most suitable, adaptable and versatile path towards God-realization in today’s age. It can be followed by any person hailing from any cultural, social or economic background! We are all deeply attached to work, family and other material objects. For a vast majority of us humans, Karm-Yog is the only path that gives us an easy chance to remember the Supreme Lord and at the same time, continue to fulfill our essential duties in real life. Not everyone has the courage and determination to abandon his/her possessions for ever and turn ascetic. Very few of us can do it.
Hence, Karm-Yog is the best and most suitable solution for us ‘normal’ souls who have to live a family life and at the same time, hasten our spiritual progress towards God.