Chapter 3 – Verse 3 – Part 1
sri Bhagavan uvaca
lokesmin dvividha nistha pura prokta mayanagha
jnanayogena sankhyanam karmayogena yoginam
anagha – O Sinless one
asmin – in this
loke – world
dvividha – two fold
nistha – committed life styles
pura – in the beginning
maya – by me
protka – was told
Jnana-yogena – in the form of pursuit of knowledge
Sankhyanam – for the renunciates
Karmayogena – in the form of the pursuit of karma yoga
Yoginam – for those who pursue activity
Sri Bhagavan said
The sinless one (Arjuna), the two fold committed lifestyles in this world was told by me in the beginning-the pursuit of knowledge for the renunciate and the pursuit of karma yoga for those who pursue activity.
Krishna was not talking here as he was born on a given day, at a given time, but as Ishwara, the Lord. Throughout the gita, he maintains this, excepting in some places where Krishna addresses Arjuna as his friend. In Chapter 4 Krishna talks about his avatara in detail and tells Arjuna who he really is.
Here in the verse, the word nishta means a committed lifestyle. E.g. a person who does japaha chanting lord’s name is called japaha-nishta and when performing austerities, he is called taponishta. For the person who is in pursuit of knowledge he is called brahma nishta and Jnana nishta is commitment to knowledge.
Krishna revealed 2 fold knowledge to Arjuna. First was saankhya yoga and another was karma yoga. Because Arjuna wanted liberation, Krishna told him the two fold methods of yoga. Both the life styles are in accordance with the four stages of life in Vedic culture.
a.Brahmacharya ashram: in this the person lives a studious life with learning as main focus. This ashram prepares one for the next ashram which is Grahasta ashram, marriage. This lasts until the age of 25 or when he gets married.
b.Grahasta ashram – In this person the household is raising a family and his primary focus is to support the family and start preparing for the next stage vanaprastha ashram. This stage lasts until 50 years old.
c.Vanaprastha ashram – In this stage, the person remains married, but lives as friends rather than as married couple. i.e. conjugal bliss and other bodily desires are left as they prepare for the next ashram. The person continues to perform the rituals enjoined by the Veda for householders, but withdraws from worldly activities and lives a contented life. This prepares him for the fourth and final stage, sannyasa (a life of renunciation). This starts from age 50 onwards till the householder becomes a grandfather or his sons, daughters are grown up.
d.Sannyasa – This is the last stage where the person now is interested only in knowledge and renounces whatever one has. Renunciation is possible at any stage. Arjuna who was in Grahasta ashram wanted to renounce. When one discovers the readiness, the dispassion in oneself, on that very day one can take sannyasa. There is a Vedic sanction for this. In this ashram, the person is absolved from performing any karma. One is freed from duties to pursue only knowledge and nothing else.
Chapter 3 – Verse 3 – Part 2
Types of Sannyasa
a.For a person who is already a gyani, there is vidvat sannyasa.
b.The other type of sannyasa is vividsa sannyasa and is meant for knowing. This sannyasa is for those who desire to know the self, atma as Brahman. The person knows exactly what needs to be done. Such a person is not interested in anything else and has certain viveka, discrimination with reference to real and unreal. He or she has dispassion, mumukshatvam, and the desire for liberation.
c.The third type of sannyasa is called apat-sannyasa. When person thinks he or she is going to die and does not want to die a Grahasta or Vanaprastha ashramas, but rather as a sannyasi, he takes apat-sannyasa. Apat means danger. A man who is not about to die will usually want to remain a Grahasta as he is fond of wife and children. But if he knows he is going to die fairly soon, he may opt for this sannyasa. At such time, one does not require a guru, but can simply declare oneself to be a sannyasi. This is how Sankara became a sannyasi. In this ritual, the sannyasi bids good bye to all the ancestors, father, mother then rishis and devas. The person who takes the vows commits that he or she will not compete in the world for the sake of status politically, economically or socially. Knowledge is the main interest.
Becoming a sannyasi is not easy as there is a commitment to study and seek knowledge from day until night. He or she is not even supposed to listen to music, dance or other art forms, have a desire for food, clothes, money, shelter or any material aspects. Imagine if you have to study Gita every day, and if you are not used to it, every time you pick up the book, you fall asleep.
We would have seen people in meditation, snoring and going to sleep or almost falling off only to be woken up by your neighbor. This is because the mind is still not ready for it and sleep comes naturally instead of contemplation on the self. That’s why meditation is different from contemplation. In meditation, you are sitting in one place focusing on an object e.g. an idol, or a candle or something which you relate. So there is duality. Whereas in contemplation, you are always in meditation. You think ishwara in all activities, your japaha is continuous and there is no need to sit in one place and meditate. Your whole life is now contemplation as all attitudes is done with offering to Ishwara.
Arjuna’s thinking was that he could easily take up sannyasa as he had the skills, the patience and the power to meditate. But what he forgot was that when he meditated for 12 years during exile, he was still seeking revenge on Duryodhana for his acts and his prayer to Shiva was to get the pashupata astra which was a weapon that had the power to destroy the entire mankind. Arjuna got this from Lord Shiva and never used.
Krishna knew that Arjuna still harboured the raga dvesas and he was still not ready and hence he was coaxing him to fight instead of just dropping his arms and becoming a sannyasi.