Bhagavad Gita - Chapter V:
Action In Krishna Consciousness

Text 1
Sanskrit working:

English Wording:

  • arjuna uvaca
  • sannyasam karmanam
  • srsna punar yogam
  • ca samsasi yac chreya
  • etayor ekam.
  • tam me bruhi su-niscitam
English Translation:
Arjun said: 0 Krishna, first of all You ask me to renounce work, and then again You recommend work with devotion. Now will You kindly tell me definitely which of the two is more beneficial?

In this Fifth Chapter of the Bhagavad-Gita, the Lord says that work in devotional service is better than dry mental speculation. Devotional service is easier than the latter because, being transcendental in nature, it frees one from reaction. In the Second Chapter, preliminary knowledge of the soul and its entanglement in the material body were explained. How to get out of this material engagement by Buddhi-yoga, or devotional service, was also explained therein. In the Third Chapter, it was explained that a person who is situated on the platform of knowledge no longer has any duties to perform. And in the Fourth Chapter the Lord told Arjun that all kinds of sacrificial work culminate in knowledge. However, at the end of the Fourth Chapter, the Lord advised Arjun to wake up and fight, being situated in perfect knowledge.

Therefore, by simultaneously stressing the importance of both work in devotion and inaction in knowledge, Krishna has perplexed Arjun and confused his determination. Arjun understands that renunciation in knowledge involves cessation of all kinds of work performed as sense activities. But if one performs work in devotional service, then how is work stopped? In other words, he thinks that sannyasa, or renunciation in knowledge, should be altogether free from all kinds of activity, because work and renunciation appear to him to be incompatible. He appears not to have understood that work in full knowledge is non-reactive and is therefore the same as inaction. He inquires, therefore, whether he should cease work altogether or work with full knowledge.

Text 2

Sanskrit working:

English Wording:

  • sri-bhagavan uvaca
  • sannyasah karma-yogas
  • ca nihsreyasa-karav
  • ubhau tayos tu karma-sannyasat
  • karma-yogo visisyate.
English Translation:
The Personality of Godhead replied: The renunciation of work and work in devotion are both good for liberation. But, of the two, work in devotional service is better than renunciation of work.

Purport: Fruitive activities (seeking sense gratification) are cause for material bondage. As long as one is engaged in activities aimed at improving the standard of bodily comfort, one is sure to transmigrate to different types of bodies, thereby continuing material bondage perpetually. Srimad-Bhagavatam confirms this as follows:

"People are mad after sense gratification, and they do not know that this present body, which is full of miseries, is a result of one's fruitive activities in the past. Although this body is temporary, it is always giving one trouble in many ways. Therefore, to act for sense gratification is not good. One is considered to be a failure in life as long as he makes no inquiry about his real identity. As long as he does not know his real identity, he has to work for fruitive results for sense gratification, and as long as one is engrossed in the consciousness of sense gratification one has to transmigrate from one body to another. Although the mind may be engrossed in fruitive activities and influenced by ignorance, one must develop a love for devotional service to Vasudeva. Only then can one have the opportunity to get out of the bondage of material existence."

Therefore, jnana or knowledge that one is not this material body but spirit soul) is not sufficient for liberation. One has to act in the status of spirit soul, otherwise there is no escape from material bondage. Action in Krishna consciousness is not, however, action on the fruitive platform. Activities performed in full knowledge strengthen one's advancement in real knowledge. Without Krishna consciousness, mere renunciation of fruitive activities does not actually purify the heart of a conditioned soul. As long as the heart is not purified, one has to work on the fruitive platform. But action in Krishna consciousness automatically helps one escape the result of fruitive action so that one need not descend to the material platform. Therefore action in Krishna consciousness is always superior to renunciation, which always entails a risk of falling. Renunciation without Krishna consciousness is incomplete, as is confirmed by Srila Rupa Gosvami in his Bhakti-rasdmrta-sindhu:

"When persons eager to achieve liberation renounce things related to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, thinking them to be material, their renunciation is called incomplete."

Renunciation is complete when it is in the knowledge that everything in existence belongs to the Lord and that no one should claim proprietorship over anything. One should understand that, factually, nothing belongs to anyone. Then where is the question of renunciation? One who knows that everything is Krishna's property is always situated in renunciation. Since everything belongs to Krishna, everything should be employed in the service of Krishna. This perfect form of action in Krishna consciousness is far better than any amount of artificial renunciation by a sanyasi of the Mayavadi school.

Text 3

Sanskrit working:

English Wording:

  • jneyah sa nitya-sannyasi
  • yo na dvesti na kanksati
  • nirdvandvo hi maha-baho
  • sukham bandhat pramucyate.
English Translation:
One who neither hates nor desires the fruits of his activities is known to be always renounced. Such a person, free from all dualities, easily overcomes material bondage and is completely liberated, 0 mighty- armed Arjun.

One who is fully in Krishna consciousness is always a renouncer because he feels neither hatred nor desire for the results of his actions. Such a renouncer, dedicated to the transcendental loving service of the Lord, is fully qualified in knowledge because he knows his constitutional position in his relationship with Krishna. He knows fully well that Krishna is the whole and that he is part and parcel of Krishna.

Such knowledge is perfect because it is qualitatively and quantitatively correct. The concept of oneness with Krishna is incorrect because the part cannot be equal to the whole. Knowledge that one is one in quality yet different in quantity is correct transcendental knowledge leading one to become full in himself, having nothing to aspire to or lament over. There is no duality in his mind because whatever he does, he does for Krishna. Being thus freed from the platform of dualities, he is liberated—even in this material world.

Text 4
Sanskrit working:

English Wording:

  • sankhya-yogau prthag
  • balah pravadanti na
  • panditah ekam apy
  • asthitah samyag
  • ubhayor vindate phalam.
English Translation:
Only the ignorant speak of devotional service [karma-yoga] as being different from the analytical study of the material world [Sarikhya]. Those who are actually learned say that he who applies himself well to one of these paths achieves the results of both.

The aim of the analytical study of the material world is to find the soul of existence. The soul of the material world is Vishnu, or the Supersoul. Devotional service to the Lord entails service to the Supersoul. One process is to find the root of the tree, and the other is to water the root. The real student of Sarikhya philosophy finds the root of the material world, Vishnu, and then, in perfect knowledge, engages himself in the service of the Lord. Therefore, in essence, there is no difference between the two because the aim of both is Vishnu. Those who do not know the ultimate end say that the purposes of Sarikhya and karma-yoga are not the same, but one who is learned knows the unifying aim in these different processes.

Text 5
Sanskrit working:

English Wording:

  • yat sankhyaih prapyate
  • sthanam tad yogair api
  • gamyate ekam sankhyam
  • ca yogam ca yah pasyati sa pasyati.
English Translation:
One who knows that the position reached by means of analytical study can also be attained by devotional service, and who therefore sees analytical study and devotional service to be on the same level, sees things as they are.


The real purpose of philosophical research is to find the ultimate goal of life. Since the ultimate goal of life is self-realization, there is no difference between the conclusions reached by the two processes. By Sarikhya philosophical research one comes to the conclusion that a living entity is not a part and parcel of the material world but of the supreme spirit whole. Consequently, the spirit soul has nothing to do with the material world; his actions must be in some relation with the Supreme.

When he acts in Krishna consciousness, he is actually in his constitutional position. In the first process, Sarikhya, one has to become detached from matter, and in the devotional yoga process one has to attach himself to the work of Krishna consciousness. Factually, both processes are the same, although superficially one process appears to involve detachment and the other process appears to involve attachment. Detachment from matter and attachment to Krishna are one and the same. One who can see this sees things as they are.

Text 6
Sanskrit working:

English Wording:

  • sannyasas tu maha-baho
  • duhkham aptum ayogatah
  • yoga-yukto munir brahma
  • na cirenadhigacchati.
English Translation:
Merely renouncing all activities yet not engaging in the devotional service of the Lord cannot make one happy. But a thoughtful person engaged in devotional service can achieve the Supreme without delay


There are two classes of sannyasis, or persons in the renounced order of life. The Mayavadi sannyasis are engaged in the study of Sankhya philosophy, whereas the Vaisnava sannyasis are engaged in the study of Bhagavatam philosophy, which affords the proper commentary on the Veddnta-sutras. The Mayavadi sannyasis also study the Vedama-sutras, but use their own commentary, called Sdriraka- bhdsya, written by Sankaracarya. The students of the Bhagavata school are engaged in the devotional service of the Lord, according to regulations, and therefore the Vaisnava sannyasis have multiple engagements in the transcendental service of the Lord. The Vaisnava sannyasis have nothing to do with material activities, and yet they perform various activities in their devotional service to the Lord.

But the Mayavadi sannyasis, engaged in the studies of Sankhya and Vedanta and speculation, cannot relish the transcendental service of the Lord. Because their studies become very tedious, they sometimes become tired of Brahman speculation, and thus they take shelter of the Bhagavatam without proper under- standing. Consequently their study of the Srimad- Bhagavatam becomes troublesome. Dry speculations and impersonal interpretations by artificial means are all useless for the Mayavadi sannyasis. The Vaisnava sannyasis, who are engaged in devotional service, are happy in the discharge of their transcendental duties, and they have the guarantee of ultimate entrance into the kingdom of God. The Mayavadi sannyasis sometimes fall down from the path of self- realization and again enter into material activities of a philanthropic and altruistic nature, which are nothing but material engagements.

Therefore, the conclusion is that those who are engaged in Krishna conscious activities are better situated than the sannyasis engaged in simple speculation about what is Brahman and what is not Brahman, although they too come to Krishna consciousness, after many births.

Text 7
Sanskrit working:

  • yoga-yukto visuddhatma
  • vijitatma jitendriyah
  • sarva-bhutatma-bhutatma
  • kurvann api na lipyate.
English Translation:
One who works in devotion, who is a pure soul, and who controls his mind and senses is dear to everyone, and everyone is dear to him. Though always working, such a man is never entangled.


One who is on the path of liberation by Krishna consciousness is very dear to every living being, and every living being is dear to him. This is due to his Krishna consciousness. Such a person cannot think of any living being as separate from Krishna, just as the leaves and branches of a tree are not separate from the tree. He knows very well that by pouring water on the root of the tree, the water will be distributed to all the leaves and branches, or by supplying food to the stomach, the energy is automatically distributed throughout the body. Because one who works in Krishna consciousness is servant to all, he is very dear to everyone.

And because everyone is satisfied by his work, he is pure in consciousness. Because he is pure in consciousness, his mind is completely controlled. And because his mind is controlled, his senses are also controlled. Because his mind is always fixed on Krishna, there is no chance of his being deviated from Krishna. Nor is there a chance that he will engage his senses in matters other than the service of the Lord. He does not like to hear anything except topics relating to Krishna; he does not like to eat anything which is not offered to Krishna; and he does not wish to go anywhere if Krishna is not involved. Therefore, his senses are controlled. A man of controlled senses cannot be offensive to anyone.

One may ask, "Why then was Arjun offensive (in battle) to others? Wasn't he in Krishna conscious- ness?" Arjun was only superficially offensive because (as has already been explained in the Second Chapter) all the assembled persons on the battlefield would continue to live individually, as the soul cannot be slain. So, spiritually, no one was killed on the Battle- field of Kuruksetra. Only their dresses were changed by the order of Krishna, who was personally present. Therefore Arjun, while fighting on the Battlefield of Kuruksetra, was not really fighting at all; he was simply carrying out the orders of Krishna in full Krishna consciousness. Such a person is never entangled in the reactions of work.

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