Bhagavad Geeta Chapter 5 (Sannyasa Yoga)

Bhagavad Geeta Chapter 5 SannyasaYoga – (Yoga of Renunciation)

School of Yoga explains Chapter 5 – Introduction.
  • In chapters 2, 3 and 4, Sri Krishna guides the student from disillusionment, fear of outcome and grip of illusion (maya) to action and then, renunciation of action.
  • In chapter 5, he moves to the next step, what happens after a person has cleaned up his action (karma)? How does one evolve to the next level of personal development?
  • Importantly, one must recognise that development in Yoga is experiential and everything that is said in the Bhagavad-Geeta can only create value when there is introspection and practice.
School of Yoga explains Chapter 5 – verse 1-6.

Arjuna starts off by expressing confusion – which is better, performing action or renouncing it? Sri Krishna says, both jnana-yoga (saamkhya) and karma-yoga are one (ekam) and reach the same goal, Brahman. However, the path of renunciation is very difficult and painful. In any case, even renunciation requires action, so renouncing the outcome of action is an easier method of reaching Brahman.

School of Yoga explains Chapter 5 – explaining verse 2-11
  • First, the yogi should try and smoothen internal turbulence during experience of change. This is called purification of the soul (atmashuddiye). This is done by discriminating permanent from impermanent (vivekam) and approaching all actions with dispassion (vairagyam).
  • Next, the yogi attempts to remain in this state at all times and in all situations. This includes seeing, hearing touching, smelling, eating, evacuating, sleeping breathing or speaking. Consequently, the cognitive apparatus (indriyas) is conditioning one to move among similar sense objects without getting affected by stimulus.
  • In fact, the yogi should perform karma (activity) with sentience (awareness of his senses) withdrawn from the environment, viewing all creation as one (sama-darshana).
  • Lastly, the yogi should be detached from the surroundings like a lotus leaf in water (water on a lotus leaf slides off without making the leaf wet) and remain in an isolated state. This is done by performing action using the body, cognitive apparatus, logical reasoning and senses with the attitude of not acting nor causing action.
  • So, the yogi’s awareness is absorbed in the Brahman, his or her Soul is established in the Brahman and with the Brahman for the goal and nothing else. This is called ekagrat (single-pointed focus).
Synopsis of verse 12-19: Brahman
  • Brahman is neutral – it is neither the initiator, creator nor the doer, nor does it get attached to creation – this is because this is it’s the innate nature. Also, Brahman does not accept from anyone their demerits or even merit, this occurs in people on account of illusion (maya) and lack of knowledge (ajnana). 
  • The reason for this delusion is that the Self (atma) experiences existential doubt (am I alive? do I exist? who am I?) and this insecurity gives rise to the need to form bonds and attachments that reinforce a sense of existence and increase the feeling of self-worth (asmita).
  • Consequently, this need for reinforcement of its sense of identity creates a veil of ignorance (maya) over the true nature of the Self (ajnana) which is dispelled by knowledge of the Self (jnana).
  • Also, this makes maya (illusion) very difficult to overcome unless the person is able to overcome the need for self-reinforcement, distance and finally detach the Self from impact of the environment on the Self (atma).

A person merges with Brahman when he has advanced in cleansing of the Soul (atma-shuddhiye), views everything as one (sama-drishtiye), has an intellect that is immersed in an unchanging state of peace (Brahman) with complete focus on an unchanging state of peace (Brahman) (Ch5verse 18-19).

School of Yoga explains sannyasa-yogathe concept:

  • We get stimulus through our senses – sight, sound, touch, taste and smell. Then, we react through our motor organs – legs, hands, tongue, anus and sexual organs.
  • Consequently, we get into a cycle of stimulus and response, which is driven by our senses, cognition and intellect that creates an illusionary world called maya that veils the Brahman.
  • So, to merge with the Brahman, we need to transcend maya (Illusion or farce).
    • One way is to isolate ourselves from the environment so that stimulus is controlled, so that impact of maya is slowly controlled. This is renunciation (sannyasa) and the path is called jnana-yoga.
    • The other way is to perform karma (action), but control the senses (indriyas), cognition (manas) and logic (buddhi). Consequently, during the performance of action, we remain calm, unruffled in every experience and look at effort & outcome without fear or favour. This path is called karma-yoga.
  • However, both paths are difficult. In fact, isolating ourselves from society requires enormous ability to come to terms with loss of self-worth or self-esteem (asmita).
  • Also, the difficult effort of isolating the Self from society itself is action (karma). 
  • Therefore, whether we practice renunciation (sannyasa) or control of action (karma-yoga), action is required. However, by practicing karma-yoga, we give ourselves the ability to improve continuously without bringing catastrophic damage to our self-esteem (asmita) that sannyasa-yoga could bring. 
  • Since the risks are lower, this karma-yoga is seen by Sri Krishna as more practical and thus achievable.
School of Yoga explains Chapter 5 – verse 18-29, increasing free-will
  • To get jnana (knowledge of the self), one must anchor the seat of cognition (manas) and seat of logic (buddhi) with the Brahman and view everything with sama-darshana (equal gaze), whether it is a learned person, a cow, an elephant, a dog or even an outcast. 
  • As a result of sama-darshana (equal gaze), the seat of cognition (manas) becomes spotless (nir-dosha) and without bias because it allows the yogi to separate the stimulus from the source of the stimulus.
  • Consequently, a sense of equality gets established and this ensures that the yogi becomes a detached soul.
  • As a result, the yogi recognises all actions are born out of impulses of desire and his happiness or peace comes from the removal of duality and reacts with equanimity to pleasant and unpleasant stimuli, being neither too happy at good news nor grieving at unpleasant news.
  • Self-controlled ascetics (sanyasi) does this by shutting out external objects, fixing the gaze between the eyebrows (nasikagra-drishti) and equalising their incoming (prana) and outgoing (apana) breath (vayu) and moving it within the nostrils (naasa-abhyaantara-chaarinau).

School of Yoga explains – interplay between guna, chitta, dharma and karma.

  • When we are in our natural state (dharma), we experience a sense of peace, the three attributes (gunas – tamas = delusion / rajas = passion / satva = harmony) are in balance. 
  • Then, stimulus coming in through the senses (indriyas) is collated by the centre of cognition (manas). This stimulus is compared with conditioning (dharma) before a response is formulated.
  • Chitta (consciousness) is the medium that recognises the object, stimulates the senses, collates the data at the cognitive centres (manas), carries the information to the intellect (buddhi) for comparison with conditioning (dharma) and formulates a response.
  • If there is congruence, ahamkaara (I am the doer) pulls the object towards it because it wants continued engagement. If there is dissonance, ahamkaara pushes the object away to avoid discomfort. As a result, there is give-take or a transaction.
  • Any transaction or give-take results in karma (action). When there is congruence / like (raaga) or dissonance / dislike (dwesha) with the object, a give-take transaction results in pull-push movement between the subject and object. In like (raaga), the subject and object try to come closer to each other and in dislike (dwesha), they try to push each other away. 
  • However, in give-take transactions karma is always unequal between the giver and taker, this results in an imbalance, since one always gives or takes more from the other. Consequently, this imbalance results in debt (rinn) which has to be repaid, even if it means taking another janma or rebirth.
The chitta (consciousness)
  • Chitta (consciousness) performs the following action:
    • It transmits projection of self-worth (asmita) of other entities,
    • Also, it seeks and identifies other entities,
    • Then, it relays feedback from other entities as experience,
    • Chitta carries the stimulus through the senses (indriyas), to the centre of cognition (manas), then to the centre of logic (buddhi). 
    • Then, it acts as bridge, comparing stimulus with conditioning (dharma),
    • The outcome is integrated with the sense of self-worth/ identity (asmita) which takes ownership of the response (ahamkaara).
    • Finally, chitta then carries out the response as a projection of the identity (asmita). 
  • In short, chitta (consciousness) is the thread (sootra) that runs across the complete transaction spectrum, from identifying another entity, acquisition of information to formulation of response, the response and feedback.
  • One can experience consciousness (chitta) flowing out of the frontal lobe when one is transacting with anyone.
    • When chitta (consciousness) examines itself, this internal awareness of its own existence is called jnana.
    • Next, the projection of chitta (consciousness) to the environment is called vijnana (macro or system transaction).
    • Also, the experience of chitta of the Identity’s (Purusha) projection perceived by others is called asmita (self-esteem/ self-worth).
    • Additionally, the experience of being a doer by Purusha is called ahamkaara (I am the doer).
    • Lastly, awareness of consciousness (chitta) and its movements is called prajnya (awareness). This awareness is primordial and can be experienced with practice, when a person steps back from any situation and watched his own actions as if he or she we a different person.
  • When a person focuses on the action and not the experience, there is no experience of like (raaga) or dislike (dwesha), which results in the effort of Purusha to project itself being nullified. 
  • This effort is yagnya or sacrifice.
Example of chitta and in daily life:

When we go to a funeral or cremation, our Purusha has already been conditioned (dharma) about how the identity must be projected.

Hence, we dress and act sombre at a funeral; in a temple or church, we are serious; at a wedding we are happy. Similarly, when we meet a friend, we show happiness and at a business meeting, we present appropriate consciousness. Finally, when we are alone, our consciousness keeps reaching out for subjects, we dream, imagine situations and sometimes reflect on ourselves.

This projection of our Self and our experiences is our consciousness (chitta). The fact is, the change in our demeanour occurs because our consciousness (chitta) takes on the atmosphere of the environment naturally. Consequently, chitta always mirrors with the same identity as its environment.

If the individual were to behave contrary to dharma (conditioning or accepted practice), the environment will reject the projection of the individual (dwesha) leading to psychological damage of the asmita (self-esteem)

School of Yoga explains Chapter 5 – How should we perform karma?

Maya (illusion) is driven by guna (attitude) which drives conditioning (dharma). Guna comprises tamas (delusion), rajas (passion) and sattva (harmony). So, we can transcend maya and experience the nature of Self by taking the following actions:

  • First, avoid hatred (tamas) and anger (rajas). Then, try to stay balanced (sattva) with sama-darshana (equal gaze).
  • Next, bring the senses under control.
    • Start by physically avoiding sensory stimuli.
    • Also, try controlling flow of stimuli at the cognition area (manas) where the stimuli are collated. This corresponds to the area of the amygdala where “flight or fight” responses are processed. One may increase one’s ability by practicing pranayama and meditation.
    • Finally, practice control of conversion of stimulus to response by separating the intellect (buddhi) from conditioning (dharma) and logically redirect response to a sattvic (harmonic or balanced) one and preventing rise of tamas or rajas.
  • Also, avoid duality such as like/dislike, happy/ sad etc as these result in tamasic and rajasic experiences which can hijack the intellect (buddhi).
  • Additionally, view everything with sama-drishti (sama = equal + drishti = gaze), this way tamas and rajas are brought under control.
  • Finally, do not get attached to action, its resource requirements, efforts or outcome. Always step back and recognise it as maya. For example, perform action as a duty as sincerely as possible without expecting any return.

As a result, we step back, senses become controlled and Self is isolated from the actions. Also, this allows clarity in cognition (vivekam) and dispassion (vairagyam), the two key requirements for betterment in Yoga which allow the Soul to transcend maya and merge with the Truth (Brahman).

School of Yoga explains Chapter 5 Physiology and awareness in verse 27

The sanyasi does this by shutting out external objects, fixing the gaze between the eyebrows (nasikagra-drishti) and equalising their incoming (prana) and outgoing (apana) breath (vayu) and moving it within the nostrils (naasa-abhyaantara-chaarinau) (Ch5verse 27).

It is important for any student of Yoga to understand the physiology and prana movements that occur in this practice.

Part 1 – Flow of air into the nasal passage:

First, air is sucked into the respiratory system through the nostril. How does this occur?

  • The diaphragm is a muscle which separates the abdominal cavity from the thoracic cavity. In fact, it is anchored on the lower ribs. So, during inhalation, the diaphragm moves down, creating a negative pressure in the thoracic cavity. Consequently, this draws in air from the atmosphere.

    Respiration dynamics

    Respiration dynamics

  • Next, the movement of the diaphragm is against the movement of the rib cage and abdomen. So, both systems expand to allow the downward movement of the diaphragm. As a result, a reverse pressure is created within the abdomen and rib which forces the diaphragm to move upwards again. Consequently, there is an upward movement of the diaphragm which changes the intra-thoracic pressure from negative to positive, resulting in air being forced out of the lungs.
  • Importantly, breathing is a reflex action. Also, it is a parasympathetic process which is controlled by the medulla oblongata. In fact, the rate of breathing is dependent on the concentration of O2 / CO2 and blood ph. Additionally, the pons controls the speed of inhalation (speed of the movement of the diaphragm).
Part 2 – Flow of air and awareness (pragnya).
  • Initially, when breathing in, air crosses the sinuses. Uniquely, sinuses are pockets of air which secrete mucous into the nasal cavity through orifice called ostia. These open into small recesses called meati and are protected by shelf like projections called turbinates.
  • Next, the incoming air is compressed at the bridge of the nose, called septum. This is a venturi like structure which results in the air getting compressed when entering the nose. Therefore, due to the venturi effect in the septum, the air exits the septum into the nasal cavity under pressure which is lower than atmospheric pressure. Consequently, this causes the air to swirl within the nasal cavity.

    Upper Respiratory Tract Anatomy

    URT Anatomy

  • Meanwhile, the fins of the turbinator direct the swirl and split the incoming air.
  • One part of the incoming air is guided by the nasal concha over the olfactory epithelium and activates the olfactory bulb.
  • Next, the inferior concha guides air over the nasopharynx. This results in a resonating column effect within the auditory tube, which activates the middle ear. 
  • Importantly, the sinuses are air-pockets, so they resonate to the flow of air and differential pressure between the nasal passage and sinus.
Part 3 – Upper Respiratory Tract dynamics

The result of the above movement of air is;

  • First, there is a creation of a resonance at the sphenoidal sinuses due to turbulence in the incoming swirling air flow.
  • Next, the rush of air across the olfactory bulb energises the olfactory nerves and amygdala as well as the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenalin (HPA axis) and the immune system.
  • Finally, the flow of air across the nasopharynx creates a vibrating column effect in the auditory canal.

All this results in an awareness of being alive. 

There is a slight drop in temperature of the incoming air due to the venture effect, which is compensated by the warm air in the nasal cavity and sinuses. This is why, there is often condensate over the bridge of the nose and, also the reason for the nose being the coldest part of the face.

When the yogi equalises the incoming and outgoing breath at the nasal cavity, the air flow gets regulated to one where turbulence is slowly minimised and then made insignificant. As a result, the main senses of touch, smell and hearing are shut down. When the Yogi focuses his awareness by gazing between the eyebrows, sight is also brought under control. This is why the above verse 27 is so important.

School of Yoga posits views that may be contrary to accepted positions: 

  • Availability of free-will is critical for renunciation.
  • The ability to control free-will in action is limited in action (karma) because our response is controlled by conditioning (dharma).
  • Increase of free-will is only possible when control over movement of consciousness (chitta) increases.
  • All efforts to control consciousness will be opposed by the sense of Self (Purusha or Siva) because of fear of loss of Identity. This results in increased internal conflict, pain and a sense of dissociation from society.
  • However, this effort also increases awareness of the Self (pragnya), discrimination between permanent and impermanent (vivekam) and dispassion (vairagyam).
  • Consequently, free-will increases,

School of Yoga explains the lesson learned in Chapter 5

  • Sannyaasa is easier said than done. It requires effort, sacrifice and ability to endure pain and grief.

The Transliteration of The Bhagavad Geeta – Chapter 5 follows:

The Sanskrit words are in red italics and meaning, before the words, are in black.

Bhagawad Geeta Chapter 5 – (1) Arjuna said – On the one hand you praise renunciation of action and at the same time recommend its performance. So, tell me conclusively, between these, which is better? (samnyaasam-karmaNaam-punah-yogam-cha-samsasi-yat-shreya-etayoho-ekam-tat-me-bruhi-sunischittam)

(2-3) Sri Krishna said – Both renunciation and performance of action lead to the highest bliss but of the two, renunciation of action is superior to merger with action (sannyasa-karma-yogah-cha-nih-shreyas-karaou-ubhau-tayoh-tu-karma-sannyasah-karma-yogah-visisyate). Know this that he is a complete ascetic who neither hates nor desires, is free from opposites, truly that person becomes free from bondage easily (jneyaha-sah-nitya-sannyaasi-yo-na-dvesti-na-kaanksati-nir-dvandanah-hisukham-bandhaat-pramuchyate).

(4-6) The harmonisation of knowledge philosophy is distinct and only the childish speak of them not the learned even though when one is established then truly fruits of both are obtained (saamkhya-yogau-prthak-baalaaha-pravadanti-na-panditaha-ekam-api-aasthihi-samyak-ubhayoho-vindate-phalam). The philosophical state obtained by yogis is also reached when one that sees knowledge also sees action (yat-saamkhyaihi-sthanam-prapyate-tat-yogaih-api-gamyate-ekam-saamkhyam-cha-yogam-cha-yah-pashyati-sah-pashyati).  Renunciation is painful to obtain without implementation of yoga but when harmonised in yoga, the ascetic quickly goes to Brahman (sannyasa-dukhamapyum-ayogatah-yuktaha-munih-brahma-nachirane-adigacchati).

(7-9) A purified soul is harmoniously merged and becomes a victorious soul when it has subdued the senses (yog-yukto-vishuddh-atma-vijit-atma-jitendriyaha), that soul which sees sentient souls in all souls when acting is also not tainted (sarva-bhuta-atma-bhutatma-kurvann-api-na-lipyate). I do not do anything is what the yogi who knows the Truth should cognise even when he is seeing, hearing, touching, smelling, eating, sleeping, breathing, speaking, evacuating, holding, opening the eyes, closing the eyes also. (na-evan-kimchit-karomi-iti-yukto-manyeta-tattvavit-pashyan-shravan-sparshan-jigran-ashnan-swapnan-svasan-prapalan-visarjan-grahan-unmishan-nimishan-api). In fact, his senses move separated from sense objects (indriyaani-indriyartheshu-vartante-dhaarayan).  

(10-11) He who has based his actions in the Brahman and who acts after abandoning all attachment (brahmany-aadhaaya-karmaani-sanga-tyaktva-karoti-yah), he is not tainted by consequences and is like a lotus leaf in water (lipyate-na-sa-paapena-padma-paatram-iva-ambasa). The yogi performs action using the body, cognitive apparatus, logical reasoning, senses; abandoning attachment and acting for purification of the Soul (kayena-manasa-budhhyaha-kevalaihi-indriyaih-api-yoginah-karma-kurvanti-sangam-tyaktva-atma-shudhhaye).

(12-13) Having merged with abandonment of fruits of action he obtains highest peace (yuktah-karma-phalam-tyaktva-santhim-aapnothi-naishthikeem). However, he that is driven by desire and clings to outcome is bound to karma (ayukta-kaama-karena-phale-saktah-nibhadyate). So, he that has detached cognition from all action controls happiness (sarva-karmani-manas-sannyas-asthe-sukham-vashi), resting in the ramparts of his nine-gated city, not acting, nor causing action (nava-dvare-pure-dehi-na-eva-kurvann-na-kaarayan).

(14-15) Brahman is neither the initiator nor the doer in the created world, also not driven by the embrace of the union of desire for fruits with inherent personality (na-kartratvam-na-karmaaNi-lokasya-srjati-prabhuhi-na-karmaphala-samyogam-svabhaava-astu-pravartate). Brahman does not accept of anyone their demerits or even merit (na-adatte-kasyaachit-paapam-na-cha-eva-sukrtam-vibhuh), this occurs on account of ignorance shrouding knowledge in deluded people (ajnanena-aavrtam-jnanam-tena-muhyanti-jantavah). 

(16-17) Wisdom destroys ignorance of anyone the Soul shines like the Sun with highest knowledge (jnanena-tu-tat-ajnanam-yesam-nashth-aatmaanaha-teshaam-aadityaavat-jnaanam-prakaashayati-tatparam). Those with intellect absorbed in that, Soul established in that, with focus on that, with that for the goal go without return when wisdom removes all impurities (tadbuddhya-tadatmaanas-tannishta-tat-paraayan-gacchanti-a-puhan-avrittim-jnana-nirdhooth-kalmashah).

(18-19) Those endowed with knowledge and humility will view a Brahmana, cow, elephant, dog, and even an outcast, and learned people with equal gaze, (vidya-vinaya-sampanne-brahmane-gavi-hastini-shuni-cha-eva-shvapaake-cha-panditaha-sama-darshinaha). Thus, even they conquer creation by which inequality is established, the cognition remains spotless, consequently the equal Brahma is therefore established in Brahman (iha-eva-taih-jitaaha-sargah-yeshaam-saamye-sthitham-manahanir-dosham-hi-samam-brahma-tasmaat-brahmaNi-sthitah).

(20-21) Importantly, one should not rejoice at obtaining a favourable outcome, nor grieve when an unfavourable outcome (na-prahrsyet-priyam-prapya-na-udvijet-prapya-cha-apriyam), with steady intellect that is undeluded, one that has knowledge of Brahman get established in the Brahman (sthira-buddhih-asam-moodaha-brahma-vid-brahmaNi-sthithah). The detached soul, when dealing with external contacts, finds within the Self, that infinite happiness as one that has merged with the Brahman enjoys (bahya-sparsesu-asaktatma-vindhati-aatmaani-yat-sukham-sa-brahma-yoga-yuktatma-sukham-akshayam-ashnute). 

(22-23) In fact, all outcomes born from external contact, they cause suffering only (ye-hi-sama-sparsha-jhaha-bhoga-dukkh-ayona-eva-te) they have a beginning as well as an end, so wise people do not find delight in them (adyanta-vantah-na-teshu-ramate-buddhah). Anyone who can withstand before liberation from the body, impulses born of desire and anger, he becomes united with Brahman, he is a happy man (shaknoti-iha-eva-yaha-sodhum-prak-shareera-vimokshanaath-kaama-krodha-bhavam-vegam-sah-yuktah-sah-sukhih-naraha) 

(24-26) Who finds happiness within, even who has internal pleasure from illumination from Brahman, that yogi attains absolute freedom and merges with Brahman (yah-antah-sukhah-antar-aaraamah-thatha-brahma-nirvaanam-eva-yah-sa-yogi-brahma-nirvaaNam-brahma-bhootah-adhi-gachhati). Rishis (seers) achieve absolute freedom due to cleaning of impurities, cutting of duality, rejoicing in the welfare of all beings (labhante-brahma-nirvanah-hrisheeyaha-ksheena-kalmasah-chinna-dvaidah-yat-atmanah-sarva-bhoots-hite-rataah). Detached from desire and anger ascetics control their consciousness in all situations (abhitaha = on all sides), are evolved souls who exist in absoute freedom (kaama-krodha-viyuktaanam-yatinam-yat-chetasaha-abhitaha-brahma-nirvanam-vartate-vidita-atmanam).

(27-29) Excluding external stimuli outside bring gaze inside between the eyebrows (sparsan-kritva-bahih-bahyan-chaksuh-cha-eva-antare-bhruvoh). Then, equalise inhalation and exhalation, moving it within the nostrils (prana-apanau-samau-kritva-nasa-abhyantara-charinau). With the senses, cognition and logical apparatus of the sage are focused on liberation, desire, fear, anger leave and he forever and truly becomes free (yat-indriya-manor-bhuddhih-munihi-moksha-parayana-vigat-iccha-bhaya-krodho-yah-sada-mukt-eva-sah). He enjoys fruits of his austerity and becomes Lord of all worlds who is affectionate to all creation and comes to me in peace (bhoktaram-yagnya-tapasam-sarva-loka-maheswaram-suhridamsarva-bhootanam-jnaatva-maam-shantim-hracchati).

Editor at School Of Yoga
School Of Yoga is a single point resource for all aspects of Classical Yoga practise. We try to achieve this by placing Yoga's traditional methodology in front of the reader and eliciting his or her experience. We value everyone's Yoga experience and would like you to share and enrich other practitioners so that everyone benefits.
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