Of duties and giving all up…

संन्यासस्तु महाबाहो दु:खमाप्तुमयोगत: |
योगयुक्तो मुनिर्ब्रह्म नचिरेणाधिगच्छति || 6||

sannyāsas tu mahā-bāho duḥkham āptum ayogataḥ
yoga-yukto munir brahma na chireṇādhigachchhati

Perfect renunciation (karm sanyās) is difficult to attain without performing work in devotion (karm yog), O mighty-armed Arjun, but the muni who is adept in karm yog quickly attains the Supreme.

Bhagavad Gita 5.6

Living in a cave in the Himalayas, a yogi may feel that he has renounced, but the test of that renunciation comes when he returns to the city. 

There is the story of this sadhu who practiced tapasya for twelve years in the mountains of Garhwal.  He came down to Haridwar to participate in the Kumbh Melā.  In the hustle and bustle of the Mela, someone accidentally placed his shoe on the sadhu’s bare foot.  The sadhu  was infuriated, and screamed, “Are you blind?  Can you not see where you are going?” 

Later he repented for permitting anger to overcome him, and lamented, “Twelve years of austerities in the mountains got washed away by living one day in the city!”  The world is the stage on which our ‘renunciation’ gets tested.

In this pada, Sri Krishna says that while performing one’s duties in the world, a person should slowly learn to rise above anger, greed, and desire.  Instead, if one first gives up duties, it is very difficult to purify the mind; and without a pure mind, true detachment remains a distant dream. 

We are all compelled to work by our nature.  Arjun was a warrior, and if he had artificially renounced his duty, to retire to the forest, his nature would make him work there as well.  He would probably gather a few tribesmen and declare himself their king.  Instead, it would be more fruitful to use his natural inclinations and talents in the service of Krishna. 

And so Sri Krishna instructs him, “Continue to fight, but make one change.  At first, you came to this battleground on the presumption of saving a kingdom.  Now, instead, simply dedicate your service unselfishly to God.  In this way, you will naturally purify the mind and achieve true renunciation from within.” 

A tender and unripe fruit clings fast to the tree that bears and nourishes it.  But the same fruit, when fully ripe, severs its connection from its sustainer.  Similarly from the material existence, the karm yogi gets the experience that matures into wisdom.  Just as sound sleep is only possible for those who have worked hard, deep meditation comes to those who have purified their minds through karm-yog.