The words Jnana and Karma in the Gita
The Gita uses many Vedic terms.
Unless one understands the spirit encompassing these terms, one can never understand the mood or spirit of the Bhagavad Gita.
The Gita frequently uses the words Jnana (ज्ञान) and Karma (कर्म) throughout the 700 verses of the scripture.
These terms signify the very crux of Gita’s teachings.
The problem arises, when people casually say Jnana or Karma, making these words a part of the daily colloquial.
In the Gita, when the Lord uses the term Karma alone, one should not confuse it with Karma Yoga (कर्म योग).
Similarly, Jnana and Jnana Yoga (ज्ञान योग) mean two different concepts.
Scriptures recommend Jnana and Karma Marga
According to the Gita, one should only perform actions in accordance with the Vedic scriptures.
Rightly so, Gita discusses the path of Karma, Jnana, and Bhakti in conjunction with Yoga.
The Scriptures give two legitimate paths to follow, so as to benefit through the mode of goodness.
The Scriptures recommend the Jnana Marga (Path of Knowledge) as well as the Karma Marga (Path of Action).
Path of Action does not oppose the Path of Knowledge.
Renunciation of Karma not recommended
According to the Path of Action, the Gita recognizes the performance of action as Sadhana (साधना) or genuine spiritual practice (Chapter 6, Verse25 ).
The Gita proclaims the renunciation of action to be a great hindrance (Chapter 3, verse 4), towards the mode of goodness.
In verses 47 to 51 of Chapter 2, verse 19 of Chapter 3, and verse 42 of Chapter 6, the Lord commands Arjuna to perform an action.
He advised him to follow the Path of Karma (Karma Yoga and not just Karma).
In Chapter 3, verse 28 and Chapter 5, Verses 8, 9, and 13 the Lord explains about Knowledge-based actions.
He advises as to how one should perform actions through the lens of Jnana or from the point of view of Knowledge.
Gita does not recommend Motives (selfish or self-centred)
These discussions make it clear and evident that if one performs actions with interested motives, the words of the scripture do not apply.
The Path of Knowledge nor the Path of Action approves of interested motives.
In the same breath, the Lord points out that men working with interested motives are people with meager intelligence.
These explanations of the Lord refer to Chapter 2, Verse 42 to 44 and 49; Chapter 7, Verse 20 to 23; Chapter 9, Verse 20, 21 and 23, 24.
Meaning of Jnana Yoga
The Gita also does not use Jnana in the sense of Jnana Yoga, the Path of Knowledge alone.
Jnana Yoga signifies Self-Realization (आत्मबोध), which is the culmination of all spiritual knowledge.
Path of Knowledge, as well as the Path of Action, go hand-in-hand.
Only Actions performed for the higher good works in alignment with Jnana.
Such actions commensurate with the elements of Jnana Yoga, release the bondage of the spirit.
Such actions also culminate in the attainment of real knowledge or the Realization of Truth.
Verse 24 and the latter half of Verse 25 of Chapter 4 speak of Jnana Yoga.
Verses 36 to 39 of the same Chapter refer to Jnana as Self-realization.
Sincerity of Intention shall trigger Knowledge or Action
Scriptural Interpretation cannot be according to convenience
We have to interpret the Scriptures in consonance with the intended context.
Only sincerity and a true spirit of knowledge in all humility shall enable the understanding of the context.
Depending on the qualities of the individual, one should take up either the path of Knowledge or Action.
We will find it interesting to look into the highlights of the two paths.
Gunas or our inherent qualitative attributes
The Gita declares that all objects of the world are illusory or unreal like water seen in a mirage or like the world painted inside a dream.
Thus all actions proceeding from the mind, senses, and the body are nothing but a movement within the Gunas (गुण).
The Gunas are born of Maya (माया), Nature (प्रकृति), in the shape of the senses, etc.
The Gunas move in front of us in the shape of sense-objects (इन्द्रिय-विषय).
These trap us and keep us engaged in them without break.
Thus Nature is Maya which keeps us bound to the Gunas or qualities are represented by the sense objects in the form of the objects of the world.
Relinquishing Doership through the Path of Knowledge
Once the practitioner grasps this knowledge, the follower of the Path of Knowledge, no longer claims the doership of actions.
Verse 8-9 of Chapter 5 reveals this.
The practitioner ceases to recognize the existence of any other entity other than God (Chapter 13, verse 30).
He remains constantly established in identity with the all-pervading Supreme Spirit or God, who is the condensed pure form of Truth, Consciousness, and Bliss (सत-चित-आनंद).
The Path of Knowledge unfurls in this manner.
We know this as Jnana Yoga or Karma Sannyasa (कर्म-सन्यास).
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