Gita Series 35. III -3-4 Krishna begins his teachings on Karma Yoga by addressing Arjuna “Oh! The sinless one! I have already explained at the time of creation, two types of salvation. For those who pursue the path of sankhya yoga, salvation will be through jnana yoga and for yogis, salvation will be through karma yoga. Without performing actions, none can reach the stage of inactivity. Without doing work, none can reach the stage of perfection”. Yoga means spiritual union. Krishna advocates two different types of paths to unite individual consciousness with universal consciousness. One is Sankhya yoga and another is karma yoga. Sankhya means enumeration and mental discrimination. The enumeration refers to tatwas or principles and mental discrimination means understanding the difference between the reality and illusion, using jnana or wisdom. Sankhya yoga and jnana yoga are one and the same, where wisdom is considered as important. But the wisdom that Krishna talks about here is not the ordinary knowledge gained from the study of Vedas, scriptures, etc. It is the supreme wisdom that is to be explored within, by a process called meditation. Meditation without clarity and concentration leads nowhere.
During proper meditation, the process of dissolving ego begins, leading to mental clarity. This kind of spiritual knowledge is to be gained and cannot be imparted. But this does not undermine the role of guru, in one’s spiritual life. It is the guru who initiates the process of self realization and the techniques of meditation. This is what Krishna does here to Arjuna. One should understand the difference between spiritual pursuit and spiritual practice. The spiritual pursuit is seeking the Brahman through mind, by refining one’s consciousness. Spiritual practice is where, one is associated with rituals. Performing rituals certainly lays the foundation for spiritual pursuit, but over a period of time, practice should pave way for the pursuit. This is an example where karma yoga paves way for jnana yoga. Krishna also emphasizes the above point. He says one cannot attain perfection without actually getting involved in actions. Only the actions make a man perfect. In fact, these actions purify the mind and heart of a person.
Only by repeated actions, one can realize the eternal truth that the fruits of actions do not belong to the person who performs such actions. This reality remains veiled by the effects of maya. Only through meditation, the consciousness is refined to unveil the effects of maya. Refraining from actions normally belong to those who have obtained sanyasa or renunciation. Krishna says that refraining from actions, without performing karma yoga do not make a person as renounced. Purification of mind and thought is more important than externally appearing like a renounced person. Such internal purity is attained only by wisdom. By pursuing such paths the practitioner is able realize that his soul and the Brahman are one and the same. It is easier for a person to realize the above fact by performing his prescribed actions and at the same time realizing that he is not responsible for the cause and result of all the actions. By explaining this to Arjuna, Krishna asks Arjuna to take on the battle.