Chapter 5: The Two Paths

May 15, The Gita, A New Translation of Hindu Sacred Scripture by Irina N. Gajjar

Commentary and Chapter 5, The Two Paths


Hinduism teaches three paths to oneness with God, a state often described as self realization. Yoga means union. Thus, I use the term oneness with God to describe the joining of the divine spirit within us to the great divine spirit of God, howsoever we visualize or understand Him or Her. The three paths to union with God are Karma Yoga, the yoga of action, Jnana Yoga, the yoga of knowledge -which refers primarily to spiritual knowledge- and Bhakti Yoga, the yoga of loving worship.

In Chapter 5 of the Bhagavad Gita we find that Arjun remains perplexed regarding the merits of the paths of action and knowledge. Again, Lord Krishna explains. He says that knowledge is knowing truth while action is doing good. He says both are excellent paths to God, but that doing good is best because it is easiest. A person who does good by doing his duty for God’s sake is known as a Karmayogi. But such a person is also a Sanyasi or a person who has given everything up for God.

Generally, Sanyasis are considered ascetics who have renounced the material world. However, here Lord Krishna equates a Karmayogi to a Sanyasi since both have relinquished themselves as well as the fruit of their activity to God. In effect, Bhagvan’s (God’s) unequivocal message is that both paths are the same:

Only fools think the paths
of knowledge and action are separate.
Because a person reaches God by either path.
The wise man understands
that both paths are really one.

The balance of this chapter describes and praises those who act with detachment as well as those who know and appreciate the nature of God. Such people recognize that they are God’s instrument. A true understanding of God is reflected both in action that is fulfillment of duty and in giving up actions that attach us to bodily pleasures which are really pains because they come to an end. Persons who have given up desire and advanced on the path to liberation are happy, calm, free from anger and at peace. Their souls shine brightly. In describing such people Lord Krishna depicts them in the act of meditation: Their minds shut out everything except God. Their eyes look straight ahead. Their breathing is steady. They want nothing. They are free.

In His discussion of the paths of karma yoga and jnana yoga, Lord Krishna expands upon now familiar ideas. He reminds us that those who seek God are the same as those who are good. They are pure and as untouched by sin as a lotus leaf is by water. The image of a beautiful lotus that thrives in muddy waters is a common Indian visual and reference. It is lovely to see it incorporated in the Gita.

While the path of bhakti yoga, that of loving worship, is not directly addressed in this chapter, it is implicit here because love of God is the ultimate motivation of persons who are selfless and act only for the Lord. It is however discussed in a later chapter which again sees all who follow God’s teachings as dear to Him.

The last verses of Chapter 5 are particularly interesting. While we repeatedly read or hear that Lord Krishna seeks out, helps and loves those who understand Him, those who act on His behalf and those who trust Him, God now goes further. However, He does not speak of Himself. Rather He says that those who love and know Him realize that He is the friend of all beings and the Lord of all worlds.

So, if you wondered what God’s relationship is to those who do not specifically seek Him out or worship Him or love Him, you can take it as a given that God loves and keeps us all anyway.

Please read and enjoy Chapter 5 as presented below:

Chapter 5: The Two Paths

Arjun said: Lord Krishna, You praise knowing the truth and then You praise doing good. Please tell me clearly which of the two is best.

Bhagvan answered: Knowledge is knowing truth; action is doing good. Both are excellent paths to God. But doing good is easier and so it is best.

The man who does good, the man who does his duty for God’s sake alone is called a Karmayogi. Such a man is also a Sanyasi, which means a person who has given up everything for God. This man is beyond the world and is part of God.

Only fools think the path of knowledge and action are separate. Because a person reaches God by either path. The wise man understands that both paths are really one.

He who sees that action and knowledge are the same sees truths.

The Karmayogi does everything for God. His mind is on God while he acts. He wakes, sleeps, hears, sees, touches, smells, speaks, and breathes, thinking of God. He understands that he himself does nothing but that God does everything through him. God uses him to get things done. The person who offers all he does to God is as untouched by sin as a lotus leaf by water. The Karmayogi is pure.

The person who does everything only for God is peaceful and becomes part of God. The Karmayogi is past the world. God does not share the punishments or rewards of people.

God shines like the sun on the wise. The wise are mixed in God.

They are part of God. They adore Him and their sins are washed away.

The wise give the same love to a Brahmin, a cow, an elephant, or a dog. They understand God is in all. The wise live forever.

The wise person considers happiness and unhappiness the same. He is always happy because he is with God. His mind is strong because it is with God.

Pleasures that come from the body are really pains because they come to an end. That is why a wise man does not care about them.

The wise person can stand here on earth and not care about his body which makes him want things and then get angry.

The happy person is wise. His soul shines brightly. The happy person is peaceful. He reaches God and God is peace.

The happiness and joy of the wise man come from inside himself.

Wise happy persons shut everything out of their mind except God. Their eyes look straight ahead. Their breathing is steady. Their mind is calm and concentrates on God. Such persons want nothing. They are not angry. They are not afraid. They are free.

Those who truly love Me know I am God of the whole world.

They know I am the friend of all. They who really love Me know everlasting peacefulness and everlasting happiness.

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