Gita Series 62. Bhagavad Gita Chapter V. Verses 4 – 7.
“It is only the ignorant who say that the paths of samkhya yoga (knowledge of discrimination) and karma yoga (selfless action) lead to different results. If one firmly establishes himself in either of this, receives the fruits of both. The state attained by samkhya yogi is also attained by karma yogi. The one who conceives that both samkhya yoga and karma yoga are the same, realises the Reality. Without karma yoga, samkhya yoga is difficult to accomplish. But Arjuna, a karma yogi who fixes his consciousness on God, quickly attains Him. The karma yogi, whose has conquered his mind and senses with a pure heart and identifies himself with all other beings remains free from blemishes in spite of performing actions.”
A brief note on samkhya yoga (it is also written as sankhya yoga): Sankhya yoga is the oldest among the philosophical systems. Sankhya yoga accepts perceptions, inference and authenticity. Authenticity means Vedic testimony beyond the realms of perception and inference. As per Sankhya yoga, the mind of a yogi can come into contact with a hidden object through meditation. The supernormal perception of a yogi is aided by the mind uninfluenced by senses. Sankhya yoga says mind is all pervading. It says that one’s experience is due to the experience derived from inner activating spirit or force. It says consciousness precedes all mental operations and the Self (the Brahman) is totally free in its essence. In order to get liberated from the illusory bondage, prakriti produces the world. When pain is created by the Matter, pleasure (opposites) is mixed with it leading to aversion. This aversion gives rise to four kinds of modification of consciousness. 1. The consciousness of the effort. 2. The consciousness of distinction. 3. The consciousness of oneness. 4. The consciousness of having subdued everything. All these modifications become possible if one understands the philosophy of tatvas or principles. Understanding the tatvas is the basic level and realising the oneness is the highest level. That is why Sankhya yoga means knowledge. It deals with evolution of the highest knowledge of the spiritual world from the primitive knowledge of the mundane word. Sankhya yoga is considered one among the six philosophical systems to attain the Brahman. The other five are Yoga system of Patanjali, Purva mimamsa, Vedanta, Vaisheshika and Nyaya systems.
Krishna says that there is no difference between samkhya yoga and karma yoga. One can choose either of the two to realize the Brahman. But whatever the path chosen, one has to firmly stick with it and purse it to the logical conclusion which is the realisation of the Brahman. Realization of the Brahman does not depend upon the path that is pursued but on one’s faith in the path that he chooses. The option of choosing the path is left to the practitioner. He can attain the Brahman through knowledge or by performing selfless actions. None should be under the impression, according to Krishna that one is higher than the other. Liberation through knowledge is no way different from liberation through selfless actions. Samkhya yoga is the process of meditation when a practitioner by means of his knowledge is able to connect his individual self with the Cosmic Self. Karma yoga is another process whereby the practitioner by means of his actions is able to connect his individual self to the cosmic Self. A karma yogi acts on behalf of God himself. Krishna has earlier said that karma yoga in a sense better because, a karma yogi while performing his selfless actions helps others in the process. The significance is that the Self within all living beings is the same and helping others means helping Self, the Brahman. Jnana yoga is a long route whereas karma yoga is the shortest route to bliss. Whatever the path one chooses, he has to pursue the path with faith and confidence. It is not the path that gives emancipation, but the sincerity of the practitioner alone leads to emancipation.
Krishna is very fond of karma yogis, as karma yoga can be pursued by anybody. The only factor that is required in karma yoga is one’s ability to surrender the effects of his actions to the Brahman. Surrender means destroying egotism. Ego is the dreadful enemy for a karma yogi. One is called karma yogi only if he is devoid of ego. Ego is also a product of the mind. Its main enemies are forgiveness and compassion, the two important states of mind in spirituality. Krishna says that attaining bliss is difficult for the one who has only knowledge. Unless a practitioner has enough experience of karma yoga, he cannot pursue the path of samkhya yoga. Karma yogi’s mind is well tuned by withering sensory afflictions, bondage and ego. When mind annihilates sensory afflictions and ego, it gives rise to pure thoughts which means he means he has a pure heart. It is often talked about purification of heart. It is believed that God or the Brahman resides in the biological heart. Katha Upanishad (I.ii.12) says “guhahitam” which means ‘hidden as if in a cave’ and the same Upanishad says (II.i.12) ‘atmani madhya tishtati’ which means ‘in the centre of the body’. This Atman or the Brahman in the form of self illuminating light in a cave in the heart cannot be realized without the help of mind. Unless mind is stilled Self cannot be realized, as the focus or concentration on the Brahman would be lost if the mind footles around afflicted by sensory influence. If one has purified mind and thought, it leads to the thought of universal brotherhood. He considers all his co-habitants as his own self. While involving in the act of protecting his fellow beings from the onslaught of evils, he may have to do certain evil acts. But the effect of such acts does not affect his karmic account. For example, a soldier protecting the borders of his nation during war may have to kill enemy troops. Here the act of killing does not cause any karmic afflictions.