Tell me for sure, Oh Krishna, which is better

Action or giving up Action    5.1

 Listen well, Arjuna, both lead to great joy, but

Between the two Action is superior to renunciation  5.2

 Neither liking nor disliking leads to renunciation

Free from polarities one is freed of all bonds 5.3

 It’s childish, not wise, to separate Action from Renunciation

Follow one well and you benefit from both 5.4

 Renunciation stated by Sankhya is achieved by Action through Yoga

Only who is a Seer, sees both Sankhya and Yoga as one  5.5

I acknowledge this picture from the Net.

Chapter 5 of the Gita is about Action and Inaction. Taoism calls this Wu Wei or Wei Wu Wei which is one of its cardinal concepts.  Tao celebrates Action without action or Action in Inaction as the greatest wisdom. Krishna talks about it here.

After Krishna exhorts him to act, while at the same time cautioning him to renounce the outcome of his actions, Arjuna is confused. He asks plaintively, can you make this clear for me, do i act or not act?

Krishna refers to Sankhya and Yoga, two independent schools of thought in Hindu philosophy, often interpreted as in conflict with one another. I am no scholar and see these two as complementary concepts.

Sankhya, simply put is about knowledge and Yoga, about action. Sankhya, one of the six original schools of Vedic philosophy developed under the umbrella of scriptural truths enunciated in the Vedas, talks about two primal forces Purusha and Prakriti. Purusha is universal consciousness, passive and distant, and Prakriti  the reflection of this consciousness in individuals leading them into action.

Yoga, both as defined by Krishna in each of the 18 chapters of the Gita or by Patanjali in his seminal Yoga Sutras, refers to the application of the concepts of Sankhya and other philosophies of Vedas in our day to day life. In another context, some consider Sankhya as dualistic and Yoga holistic.

At least, this is my take. I would leave conceptual disputes to those more learned than I am.

Knowledge and Action are complementary. One without the other is impractical.

Krishna says here that renunciation, which is a central theme of the scriptures can only be relevant is there is action. What is there to renounce if there is no action and no outcome. Krishna’s refrain again is that action should be with no attachment to results. Therefore, what he teaches Arjuna is that action should be practised with renunciation.

Does this make your head swim?

It doesn’t have to. Think about it this way. What if you are obsessed with the outcome of what you are doing. You would be so narrowly focused on your time line and other pressures that you would not really free to focus on the process of what you are doing. Empirical studies have clearly established the futility of verifying quality at the end of our work. All modern management practices, such as Six Sigma, focus on process. If the process is right, end results would be right too.

This is what Buddha said too, ‘If the journey is joyful so would the destination too’.

Try it and you’ll be pleasantly surprised.