This chapter compares the path of karm sanyās (renunciation of actions) with the path of karm yog (work in devotion). Shree Krishna explains that both lead to the same goal, and we can choose either of them. However, renunciation of actions cannot be done perfectly until the mind is sufficiently pure, and the purification of the mind is achieved by work in devotion. Hence, karm yog is the appropriate option for the majority of humankind. Karm yogis do their worldly duties with purified intellect, abandoning attachment to the fruits of their works, and dedicating them to God. Thus, they remain unaffected by sin, just as a lotus leaf remains untouched by the water on which it floats. With the light of knowledge, they realize the body to be like a city of nine gates within which the soul resides. Thus, they neither consider themselves as the doers nor the enjoyers of their actions. They are endowed with equality of vision and see a Brahmin, a cow, an elephant, a dog, and a dog-eater equally. Such truly learned people develop the flawless qualities of God and become seated in the Absolute Truth. Worldly people strive to relish the pleasures that arise from the sense objects, without realizing that they are verily the source of misery. But the karm yogis do not delight in them; instead they relish the bliss of God within.
The chapter then goes on to describe the path of renunciation. The karm sanyāsīs perform austerities to control their senses, mind, and intellect. They shut out all thoughts of external enjoyment and become free from desire, fear, and anger. Then, consummating their austerities with devotion to God, they attain abiding peace.
Arjun said: O Shree Krishna, you praised karm sanyās (the path of renunciation of actions), and you also advised to do karm yog (work with devotion). Please tell me decisively which of the two is more beneficial?
The Supreme Lord said: Both the path of karm sanyās (renunciation of actions) and karm yog (working in devotion) lead to the supreme goal. But karm yog is superior to karm sanyās.
The karm yogis, who neither desire nor hate anything, should be considered always renounced. Free from all dualities, they are easily liberated from the bonds of material energy.
Only the ignorant speak of sānkhya (renunciation of actions, or karm sanyās) and karm yog (work in devotion) as different. Those who are truly learned say that by applying ourselves to any one of these paths, we can achieve the results of both.
The supreme state that is attained by means of karm sanyās is also attained by working in devotion. Hence, those who see karm sanyās and karm yog to be identical, truly see things as they are.
Perfect renunciation (karm sanyās) is difficult to attain without performing work in devotion (karm yog), O mighty-armed Arjun, but the sage who is adept in karm yog quickly attains the Supreme.
The karm yogis, who are of purified intellect, and who control the mind and senses, see the Soul of all souls in every living being. Though performing all kinds of actions, they are never entangled.
Those steadfast in this karm yog, always think, “I am not the doer,” even while engaged in seeing, hearing, touching, smelling, moving, sleeping, breathing, speaking, excreting, and grasping. With the light of divine knowledge, they see that it is only the material senses that are moving amongst their objects.
Those who dedicate their actions to God, abandoning all attachment, remain untouched by sin, just as a lotus leaf is untouched by water.
The yogis, while giving up attachment, perform actions with their body, senses, mind, and intellect, only for the purpose of self-purification.
Offering the results of all activities to God, the karm yogis attain everlasting peace. Whereas those who, being impelled by their desires, work with a selfish motive become entangled because they are attached to the fruits of their actions.
The embodied beings who are self-controlled and detached reside happily in the city of nine gates, free from thinking they are the doers or the cause of anything.
Neither the sense of doership nor the nature of actions comes from God; nor does he create the fruits of actions. All this is enacted by the modes of material nature (guṇas).
The omnipresent God does not involve himself in the sinful or virtuous deeds of anyone. The living entities are deluded because their inner knowledge is covered by ignorance.
But for those, in whom this ignorance of the self is destroyed by divine knowledge, that knowledge reveals the Supreme Entity, just as the sun illumines everything in daytime.
Those whose intellect is fixed in God, who are wholly absorbed in God, with firm faith in him as the supreme goal, such persons quickly reach the state from which there is no return, their sins having been dispelled by the light of knowledge.
The truly learned, with the eyes of divine knowledge, see with equal vision a Brahmin, a cow, an elephant, a dog, and a dog-eater.
Those whose minds are established in equality of vision conquer the cycle of birth and death in this very life. They possess the flawless qualities of God, and are therefore seated in the Absolute Truth.
Established in God, having a firm understanding of divine knowledge and not hampered by delusion, they neither rejoice in getting something pleasant nor grieve on experiencing the unpleasant.
Those who are not attached to external sense pleasures realize divine bliss in the self. Being united with God through Yog, they experience unending happiness.
The pleasures that arise from contact with the sense objects, though appearing as enjoyable to worldly-minded people, are verily a source of misery. O son of Kunti, such pleasures have a beginning and an end, and so the wise do not delight in them.
Those persons are yogis, who before giving up the body are able to check the forces of desire and anger; and they alone are happy.
Those who are happy within themselves, enjoying the delight of God within, and are illumined by the inner light, such yogis are united with the Lord and are liberated from material existence.
Those holy persons, whose sins have been purged, whose doubts are annihilated, whose minds are disciplined, and who are devoted to the welfare of all beings, attain God and are liberated from material existence.
For those sanyāsīs, who have broken out of anger and lust through constant effort, who have subdued their mind, and are self-realized, liberation from material existence is both here and hereafter.
Shutting out all thoughts of external enjoyment, with the gaze fixed on the space between the eye-brows, equalizing the flow of the incoming and outgoing breath in the nostrils, and thus controlling the senses, mind, and intellect, the sage who becomes free from desire and fear, always lives in freedom.
Having realized me as the enjoyer of all sacrifices and austerities, the Supreme Lord of all the worlds and the selfless Friend of all living beings, my devotee attains peace.