Ch 5 VERSE 6

संन्यासस्तु महाबाहो दुःखमाप्तुमयोगतः

योगयुक्तो मुनिर्ब्रह्म नचिरेणाधिगच्छति ॥६॥


sannyāsas tu mahā-bāho

duḥkham āptum ayogataḥ

yoga-yukto munir brahma

na cireṇādhigacchati


sannyasah–the renounced order of life; tu–but; maha-baho–O mighty-armed one; duhkham–distress; aptum–afflicts one with; ayogatah–without devotional service; yoga-yuktah–one engaged in devotional service; munih–a thinker; brahma–the Supreme; na cirena–without delay; adhigacchati–attains.


Unless one is engaged in the devotional service of the Lord, mere renunciation of activities cannot make one happy. The sages, purified by works of devotion, achieve the Supreme without delay.

sannyāsas tu mahā-bāho
duḥkham āptum ayogataḥ
yoga-yukto munir brahma
na cireṇādhigacchati

“Unless one is engaged in the devotional service of the Lord, mere renunciation of activities cannot make one happy. The sages, purified by works of devotion, achieve the Supreme without delay.”

So I’ll just read a small note I have, which is: Giving up material activities is not enough to make a person happy. We need to be engaged in the loving service of the Supreme Lord. This loving service to God purifies our hearts and minds, and gives real happiness to the living entity. The point that’s been established here is actually of critical importance. Before we discuss it, I just want to go back to something that I’ve mentioned before, that full self-realization and full God realization entails the realization of: my essence, fundamentally, what am I constituted of or by; my position, where I fit in relation to everyone and everything else; and my natural function, what is the natural and eternal function of the soul in its uncontaminated and pure state?

There are three experiences of God realization. The first—and these three experiences are also—there is a correlation between them, and these three degrees of self-realization.

You may have heard of these people speaking about this experience of merging into an ocean of spiritual light, the brahmajyoti. In this experience, one is experiencing the limitless ocean of spiritual energy known as brahman, and one simultaneously is having the realization and experience of my essence as being brahman also, as being spirit in nature. In that state one both feels the unlimited relief from all of the anxiousness and fearfulness that’s associated with misidentifying the body as the self, the material consciousness.

The vast majority of yogis, since the most ancient of times, practiced meditation. They engaged in pranayama,  the astanga—fundamentally, the astanga yoga process. They practiced asana, pranayama. They observed the yamas and niyamas. They engaged in what is called pratyahara, the withdrawal of the senses from the world, from the sense objects; dharana, the bringing the mind into a singular focus in preparation for dhyana or meditation, meditation being the absorption in transcendence; and when one experienced—the fruit of meditation was samadhi, to remain fixed in this state of transcendence. And the way in which the focus of the yogic practitioners, the yogis, was to meditate upon this feature of the Lord’s standing within their own heart, or the region of the heart, the Paramatma.

And there are so many descriptions of how incredibly ecstatically blissful that experience was, to have that transcendental Lord revealed to the yogi in their meditation. And in that state one is in full realisation of their position, that I am both one with and simultaneously different from this Lord of my heart, that I am an eternal part and parcel of this Supreme Soul, that He is my Lord, He is my master, and I am his surrendered servant. That was the realisation.

The third way in which a person realised the absolute truth was in the feature of Bhagavan. Bhagavan is this personality of Godhead. Let me just make this distinction first. Paramatma was understood to be manifesting within the heart of all living beings and throughout the material creation. The feature of Bhagavan was the feature of God, the Supreme Personality, the Supreme Soul, who was manifesting within on a spiritual platform. This feature was limitlessly lovable; and the individual who had this realisation, they came to experience how my natural and eternal function is to love and to serve, and the person with whom I can serve and experience the highest possible form of love is Bhagavan.

Not all yoga processes or paths acknowledged, or even were necessarily aware of these three features which are spoken of in the Vedas. There were some who thought that the highest truth, the ultimate manifestation of God was in this limitless ocean of spiritual light and energy, but that is an incomplete understanding. It is perfect, but not completely perfect.

The different categories of transcendentalists, in practicing some of these different spiritual paths, many of them were engaged in one form or other of jnana yoga, the cultivation of spiritual knowledge, but not the engagement and any devotional undertaking. And it was widely considered by many people that the two requirements for full spiritual realisation was the cultivation of knowledge and to be completely renounced, but we understand from the path of karma yoga, buddhi yoga, bhakti yoga (which can be used in replacement of each other practically), that this is not the case, that there is no prerequisite for a person to be engaged in the cultivation of speculative knowledge or the undertaking of severe austerity or renunciation tyaga in order to achieve the highest spiritual realisation.

And in fact Lord Krishna here is being—it’s not critical, He’s just pointing out the reality that by renunciation alone one cannot experience spiritual happiness, that something more is required. It is not that those undertaking the path of devotion were not also engaged in renunciation but the perspective was different. The way in which things were looked at was different.

So I’ll give you an example that one of my spiritual masters has used, I heard in the very beginning of my association with him. He said it’s like when somebody drops money on the street. Say somebody’s dropped fifty dollars on the street, and you’ve got a yogi, you’ve got a materialist, and you’ve got a bhakta, a devotee, walking down the street.

The materialist will see that money and go, “Oh fantastic!” He will celebrate and grab the money thinking, “Now I can enjoy my senses. I can use this money to buy something, an experience, or an object, or something to stimulate my senses and mind,” and he’s celebrating.

The yogi who would see it would look away and go, “Don’t look at it, because if you bend down and pick it up you’ll be drawn into material activity. You’ll be further bound to the world. You will engage in karmic activity that will have a fruit that you’ll be forced to experience and perpetuate your entanglement in the material world. So don’t look at it. Just ignore it. Walk away from it.” He would renounce it.

A bhakta, or one engaged in karma yoga or bhakti yoga, when they see such a thing on the street they would think, “Oh, this is an opportunity to become further engaged in the service of the Lord, that I can pick up this thing, and I can utilize it in the service of the Lord.”

So the term that was used by our spiritual masters is this term yukta vairagya. Vairagya means renunciation, and yukta means a linking. So it is renunciation through practical engagement, my recognizing that this world and everything in it, including my own body, is actually the property of the Lord. This is like the first mantra in this Sri Isopanisad, īśāvāsyam idaḿ sarvaṁ, that everything animate and inanimate is owned and controlled īśāvāsyam idaḿ sarvaṁ, is owned and controlled by the Supreme Lord. And it says that one should not accept things other than the quota that one is set aside: “One should not accept things knowing well to whom they belong.” And so this is the vision of the transcendentalist, and the way in which they approach the world.

If a person is adopting the path of renunciation but with no connection to the attitude of loving service to the Lord then, even though one becomes tremendously renounced, one will not experience happiness, actual blissfulness because all you are doing is negating or avoiding things rather than experiencing the positive blissfulness from engagement.

So I’ll just draw your attention to the term here yoga-yuktah, which was what I spoke to when I spoke about the term yukta vairagya, that it means one who is engaged in service to the Lord in a mood of great devotion, engaging their own body, mind, senses and all the material energy in the service of the Lord.

So I’ll just read a comment that was made by Sridhara Swami in this regard:

“The question may be raised that if persons practicing karma yoga or prescribed Vedic activities without desiring rewards have any way to achieve atma tattva, or realization of the soul, through renunciation, it would be better to renounce action right from the start. And to alleviate this question Lord Krishna advises that it is very difficult and perilous to attempt this (that is the realization of the soul) without performing karma yoga without desire for reward beforehand, because the mind will not have been purified.”

So this is like wow! This is an extremely important point. The path of devotion, the path of bhakti, is a path by which an aspiring transcendentalist learns to engage everything that is within their sphere of influence in the service of God. And in so doing, they become transcendentally purified and develop a positive attraction to that which is spiritual, and experiencing this higher taste they are able to give up a lower taste. The things that previously attracted them, the experiences that worldly people find so thrilling and wonderful, now become quite tasteless and meaningless to one on the path of transcendental discovery and experience. One begins to taste something that is higher and sweeter and more wonderful.

Krishna had previously spoken to this point. Here He is referencing spiritual happiness but previously in the third chapter, in the fourth sloka, the chapter being about karma yoga, Krishna states that:

“Not by merely abstaining from work can one achieve freedom from reaction, nor by renunciation alone can one attain perfection.”

So knowing that, and now hearing the verse that we are currently studying we are hearing a positive endorsement of the need to engage in devotional activity, or the path of devotion.

So reading this verse again:

“Unless one is engaged in the devotional service of the Lord, mere renunciation of activities cannot make one happy. The sages, purified by works of devotion, achieve the Supreme without delay.”

So in the Bhagavat Purana, in the 10th Canto, the second chapter, the 32nd sloka there is an amazing verse, this sloka that states:

“O lotus-eyed Lord, although yogis who do not follow the path of devotion, accept severe austerities and penances to achieve the highest position, may think themselves liberated, their intelligence is impure. They fall down from their position of imagined superiority because they have no regard for Your lotus feet.”

So in this verse—and there are so many examples of it in the Vedas, of how yogis aspire, through the execution of monumental austerities, aspire for the highest transcendental platform, but as is described here the performance of great austerities does not purify the intelligence. There is not that transformation. And because of that one potentially can fall and be drawn again into material activities.

There is a famous account of a great yogi. I think his name was Saubhari Muni, if I remember correctly. He had become so adept in control of the breath that he could actually completely suspend breathing and remain in a deep state of meditation. And one of his favorite places to do this was within a river, because being submerged in water, underwater, it’s like there’s nothing there to distract you, and he would be engaged in this meditation. The yogis, when they meditated they never did it with fully closed eyes. It was like half-closed. They would often stare at the point of their nose, and have a focus of consciousness within the forehead. between the eyebrows, and then be fixed in this deep meditation.

But within this condition, that he had become so adept at and sitting there under the water, he caught a glimpse of fishes procreating. Now it’s just like—I don’t know if you know how fishes procreate but it’s like one, the female, often lays eggs, and the male comes and fertilizes them. But seeing that instantly reminded him of this deep attraction that all living beings carry through material conditioning for sex life, for sexual activity. And just in an instant his meditation was broken, and he had to struggle for breath and rise to the surface. And it led to a great downfall, and there’s a big story attached to that. But the principle that we’re speaking about is the great renunciation and austerity was not enough to purify his intelligence and to satisfy his heart with a positive experience of transcendental joy, and so the danger of being pulled back to something that was formerly known is very strong.

So the process of bhakti is, in all its forms, is often likened to taking an iron rod. An iron rod by nature is heavy. It is cold. It is dull, meaning it doesn’t emit any light or radiance. if I place this in a fire, a very hot fire, that rod will become red hot and then eventually white-hot. If I left it in a hot enough fire would even begin to melt, become liquid. But if I take it out when it’s white-hot this rod is now emitting—it has the same properties as fire. It is emitting heat. It is emitting light. If I touch it to something flammable that thing will burst into flames. So the iron has taken on the characteristics of fire.

In a similar manner when the mind. and the body, and the senses are engaged in devotional activity, activity that is connected to serving God, then these things become spiritualized. And as one grows in their spiritual experience, and the experience of actual love begins to awaken, then one will experience the highest form of transcendental happiness.

This transformation—I mean the yogis endeavored to bring—their endeavor was to bring the mind completely into a non-functioning state. And when everything was suppressed then one begins to discover and experience how their spiritual existence is not dependent on that, that it is something completely different, and there is the beginning of this spiritual awakening. But that battle with the subtle material body, the linga sarira, was a monumental battle.

In the Bhagavata Purana there is a wonderful verse which speaks about the process of the cultivation of this mood, this devotional mood of service to God, and the powerful effect that it has on the subtle body. So it states:

“Bhakti, or devotional service, dissolves the subtle body of the living entity without separate effort, just as fire in the stomach digests all that we eat.”

So this is a wonderful verse that speaks to the power of this spiritual process which Krishna is describing to Arjuna, and how you are assured of success by following this process step by step. And one doesn’t separately have to try artificially to strive for this artificial renunciation because even if you are successful in that, meaning being able to become very renounced, that activity does not purify the mind and the consciousness, citta, nor does it give one a taste for actual spiritual happiness; that one needs to engage, even imperfectly, in the actual function, the natural and eternal function of the soul itself to engage in the loving service of the Lord.

Thank you very much.