Srimad Bhagavad-Gita :
Chapter-3. ( Karma-yogam )
Slokam-3. ( The Lord said: O sinless Arjuna, I have already explained that there are two classes of men who realize the Self. Some are inclined to understand Him by empirical, philosophical speculation, and others are inclined to know Him by devotional work. )
Lokesmin dvividha nishtha pura prokta mayanagha,
Jnanayogena sankhyanam karmayogena yoginam.
Lord Krishna said ( replied )
anagha = O sinless one;
asmin loke = in this world;
sankhyanam jnanayogena = ( firstly ) of the empiric philosophers by the linking process of knowledge;
yoginam karma-yogena = ( secondly ) of the devotees by the linking process of devotion;
dvividha nishtha = two kinds of faiths;
maya pura prokta = was said by Me very long ago.
Lord Krishna's reply begins with O sinless one infering that Arjuna is fit to be instructed. But as you are doubting understand that the Lord did not prescribe two unrelated paths, karma yoga the yoga of actions and jnana yoga the yoga of knowledge. Lord Krishna states that in this world these are the two paths aspirants can take which lead to moksa or liberation. But they both depend upon qualification as jnana yoga is suitable for one type of human being and karma yoga is suitable for another type. What has been presented in the previous chapter was from the point of view of jnana yoga.
There is a distinction to be found regarding qualification as there are yogis who have also cultivated knowledge while performing activities and realised the atma or soul by dint of their actions. Their minds becoming pure by meditation directly worshipping the Supreme Lord within their heart without desire for rewards as Lord Krishna states in chapter II verse sixty-one beginning with tani sarvani controlling all the senses. But those aspirants who have not acquired spiritual knowledge must purify their minds by the yoga of actions without desiring any reward. Then selfless actions like these can be utilised to cultivate the desire for spiritual knowledge. Lord Krishna states in chapter II verse forty-seven that we have the right to perform actions but not to desire the fruits.
One should not assume that the distinctions in qualification is merely the differences between the aspirants because one may have an entirely different nature according to the situation. An example of this is a person overcoming death in the form of negligence by performing actions designated to overcome nescience as given in the Isavasopanisad II the text states: overcoming death with nescience one attains liberation through knowledge which means removing the impurities of the mind with knowledge which is caused by nescience and attain liberation. Following this line of reasoning the purport is that one is not qualified for jnana yoga as long as the desire for liberation is present. Only when the mind has become purified and is completely free from all desires by performing karma yoga without any desire for reward does one become qualified. So for this reason the Supreme Lord Krishna has presented this twofold spiritual path.
In closing it should be understood that one who without performing karma yoga in their present life but is situated in jnana yoga cultivating spiritual knowledge, their purity of mind should be considered as a result of performing karma yoga in their previous birth and this is how they were able to attain jnana yoga so easily. Thus there is no contradiction in the presentation of the two in any way.
Even though jnana yoga or the yoga of knowledge may appear to be superior to him, anyway due to Arjuna's ineligibility he is only qualified for karma yoga, the yoga of actions. Hence karma yoga is being recommended for him. The Supreme Lord Krishna states loke in this world there exists two types of humans who follow these two paths. Those who renounce the ordained activities of family life and society, to fully contemplate and meditate on the ultimate truth like Sanaka referred to by the word sankyanam and those who adhere to the ordained guidelines of family life and society and yet glean knowledge like King Janaka referred to by the word yoginam. Both types are firmly situated in righteousness. Even though those who are eligible for karma yoga perform actions for the protection and benefit of the worlds as willed by the Lord are also deemed as yogis, men of equanimity. Lord Krishna is informing Arjuna that he is ineligible to perform activities of renunciation like Sanaka and others but he is eligible to perform auspicious activities for the benefit of the world like Kind Janaka and others. This is the purport of this verse.
It is observed that by following the will of the Supreme Lord Krishna through authorised disciplic succession and the ordained injunctions of the Vedic scriptures many rulers situated as yogis became men of knowledge although performing countless actions. An example of this is King Priyavrata who was emperor of the entire universe engaging in unlimited material activities in total knowledge as given in Srimad Bhagavatam ( skandham-5. Chapter-1. Slokam-23. )
The method which promotes spiritual knowledge is known as jnana yoga. Other methods are those which promote actions. The demi-gods as well as the renunciates are known as sankhyas because in them spiritual knowledge predominates actions. The demi-gods by dint of additional attributes even though engaged in the actions of universal management are more dominant in spiritual knowledge. Men of action even though possessing spiritual knowledge because of the predominance of activities are known as yogis. Without either spiritual knowledge or selfless actions neither could attain moksa or liberation. No being can even for a moment exist without performing actions and without spiritual knowledge one's actions will never benefit one's existence and lead it to the ultimate truth. This has been revealed in the Brahma Vaivartaka Purana.
The word nishta means deep faith, abidance in this under direction of authorised guru leads to liberation without fail. Actions performed under such authorised guidance causes an increase of bliss and a decrease in inauspicious actions. The scriptural statements of the Vedas such as: not by actions and not by progeny, are not contradictory. If contrarily statements like : not by abstention of action had been made then there could be occasion for contradiction. In the same way a similar approach towards jnana yoga and karma yoga should be accepted. In this verse the emphasis of the two paths is that spiritual knowledge must be inherent in both indicating that jnana yoga is more suitable for moksa.
The Supreme Lord Krishna explains to Arjuna that he is looking at jnana yoga and karma yoga as two independent paths but He informs him that He has not stated this point of view. Lord Krishna has taught that both can give unadulterated devotion to the ultimate truth. Which yoga is superior or subordinate to the other is not a question as they each can attain the desired goal. They are two different paths to a singular destination suited to the ambiences of different aspirants. Lord Krishna, the omniscient one has explained very clearly in chapter two of the two classes of aspirants in the human race being the sinless of pure mind and the sinful of impure mind. Lord Krishna has explained that for purified minds jnana yoga or the yoga of knowledge is appropriate as in chapter two verse sixty-one states: the self controlled one sits in meditation on Him. But for minds not yet purified karma yoga or the yoga of action is more suitable as in chapter two verse thirty-one states there is no greater fortune for a ksatriya warrior than a righteous war. Therefore in respect to the two paths they are actually two stages of the same path separated only by purity and impurity of mind. You have already been taught the requisite state of mind conducive to realisation of the soul in jnana yoga now learn of it from the point of view of karma yoga.
Lord Krishna is telling Arjuna that he has not clearly understood what has been previously spoken by Him. He tells Arjuna that in this world abounding in diversity there are two paths for two types of humans. Jnana yoga the path of knowledge and karma yoga the path of actions each suited to the capacities and qualifications of the type concerned. Not all humans in this world are born with the ambition for moksa or liberation. Neither are all humans able to embark upon the path of knowledge directly. But all humans must engage in actions at all times they cannot stop but they must perform these actions unattached without desiring any reward, perfecting them in the process as factual activities of divine worship. Then in fact all actions become divine activities as revealed forthcoming in Chapter XVIII. Slokam forty-six worshipping God by one's actions. Performing actions in this way humans evaporate the inauspicious qualities lurking in their minds and hearts and the senses give up their turbulence and become calm and peaceful. It has already been established in chapter II. verse forty-seven that there must be no anticipation of rewards as the reason for performing activities. When this platform has been attained then after one has risen in wisdom beyond the turmoils of the quest of satisfying one's sense with sense objects then jnana yoga the cultivation of spiritual knowledge is appropriate. In chapter II. slokam fity-five Lord Krishna has stated when one gives up all desires, to confirm this point. Sankhya refers to spiritual knowledge or spiritual wisdom. Those who possess this are called sankhyas as real spiritual knowledge is the knowledge that leads to realisation of the atma or soul, firmly resides within them. Those who are ineligible not fit for this course due to their own inherent qualities are the yogis who are eligible for karma yoga the path of actions. So it can be seen that there is not even the slightest contradiction when it was asserted that for one who is beguiled by the objects and distractions of the phenomenal world, karma yoga is suitable for them and for those who are not beguiled and able to renounce these objects and distractions are suited for jnana yoga the cultivation of spiritual knowledge.
It will next be shown that even if a wish for moksa or liberation arises still one may not be fully competent to experience the cultivation of knowledge by jnana yoga.
To be continued ....