According to Krishna, which is more important – karma-yoga, bhakti-yoga or both?
Transcription by – Shalini Mataji
Question: Question from Ranjit Rajagopalan, according to Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita, is bhakti yoga important or is karma yoga important or both?
Answer: Both are important and both are connected. Karma yoga progressively leads to bhakti yoga. So what is more important will depend on what is one’s level of understanding, what is the kind of conception of spirituality and what is the kind of spiritual circle one is going around with. So the Bhagavad Gita clearly talks about how Karma yoga culminates in bhakti yoga. That means when karma yoga rises to the highest level it becomes bhakti yoga. This is seen in 3.30, where the whole third chapter is about karma yoga and is building up towards its climax and in that climax it is said that
mayi sarvani karmani
nirasir nirmamo bhutva
So Krishna is telling that “mayi sarvani karmani sannyasya”, if you look at the previous verses they are all building up towards karma yoga over here and here Krishna is telling that the perfection of karma yoga is “mayi sarvani karmani”, therefore offer all the fruits of your work to me, renounce the fruit of your work, “sanyasya” is there but “sanyasya” is not just giving up to someone arbitrarily, it is to give to Krishna. “mayi sarvani karmani
sannyasya adhyatma-cetasa” be in spiritual consciousness. That spiritual consciousness develops the consciousness of Krishna. Similarly in 5.29 also Krishna says,
jnatva mam santim rcchati
He says that “bhoktaram yajna-tapasam” that ultimately for all activities he is the beneficiary. So this also is talking about how karma yoga culminates in bhakti yoga. And ofcourse when we move forward to Bhagavad Gita’s conclusion,18.66, Krishna is telling us to give up all subordinate religions.
mam ekam saranam vraja
aham tvam sarva-papebhyo
moksayisyami ma sucah
Give up all varieties of religions and surrender to me.And that surrender of course is bhakti yoga as mentioned in the previous verse 18.65. So in this way, by looking at the Bhagavad Gita in its completeness, we will see that it endorses both karma yoga and bhakti yoga. Karma yoga is also good, Krishna talks about this in 5.2,
sannyasah karma-yogas ca
tayos tu karma-sannyasat
So he says that “nihsreyasa-kara ubhau”, both sanyas and karma yoga, both are good, karma yoga is better. So if karma yoga leads to disentanglements of material existence, it also leads to liberation and in that sense karma yoga is also good. But ultimately it is bhakti yoga which is important because that is the conclusive instruction of Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita as mentioned in 18.66. Also from a practical point of view, bhakti yoga is actually easier than karma yoga because in bhakti yoga we have a clear object to fix our mind on. We can fix our mind on Krishna whereas in karma yoga because the conception of the Absolute Truth is not clear so it is much more difficult to practice spiritual life effectively. And it is much more difficult to recognise, to internalise, to apply, how to sacrifice the fruits of the work. What to do the yoga for? What to think of when one is actually doing the yoga. So when people were more in satoguna at that time they could think that I am not the body I am the soul and try to act at that level but that is quite difficult in today’s age. If we focus on thinking about Krishna we also get the higher taste in thinking about Krishna and that way bhakti yoga becomes easier.
Thank you, Hare Krishna!