The main theme of the Bhagavad Gita is one of action. Throughout the 18 teachings Krishna explains the qualities of action to Arjuna. Performing action would seem to be a sure way to create more karma which would lead to successive rebirths. Since the goal of the wheel of rebirth is to get off of it, how is it that action can lead to liberation? Krishna's teachings throughout the Bhagavad Gita give insights into the use of action to escape the cycle of rebirth.
Krishna assures Arjuna that action must be done no matter what. The force of action cannot be escaped from by simply not doing anything (3-4). He goes on to say that no one can exist without acting because the qualities of nature require action (3-5). The fourteenth teaching names these qualities of nature as lucidity, passion, and dark inertia. While existing one must act and those actions will always be effected by these qualities of nature (3-27).
Action cannot be avoided because of these qualities, but how is action effected by these qualities? Each of them forms an attachment within the person. Lucidity attaches one to joy and knowledge (14-6). Coming from desires, passion forms an attachment to action (14-7). Dark inertia attaches one to negligence coming from ignorance (14-8). But these qualities in and of themselves are not what holds one in rebirth. One has to interact with these qualities because one's spirit is embodied within nature, however, attachment to these qualities leads to rebirth. Becoming deluded by these qualities, one unwittingly ties oneself to the cycle of birth and death.
Delusion itself, along with ignorance, comes from dark inertia while greed comes from passion, and knowledge out of lucidity (14-17). Leaving the confines of ignorance to gain knowledge is an important step one must take. Knowledge illuminates the ultimate reality and with knowledge, ignorance is destroyed (5-16). One can recognize brahman by lucid knowledge and see the oneness of all things (18-20). Once one recognizes brahman through lucid knowledge, action becomes free of attachment (18-23). Seeing ultimate reality as it really is necessarily creates detachment because brahman is the eternal, unchanging being and nonbeing. Unchanging, brahman is beyond action. Once recognizing brahman , one realizes that all creatures are free from nature (13-34). It is nature, not the self, who is really acting (13-29). Knowing that nature is acting and not the self, one can stay detached from nature's qualities seeing only the qualities in motion (14-23).
After coming to know nature and its qualities, the self, and ultimate reality, one is not born again (13-23). At this point of illumination, the delusions created from dark inertia fall away. One gains understanding. Security comes from understanding and knowing the infinite spirit, one abides within it (5-20). This complete understanding allows the end of the bondage of action (2-30). Absolute joy can only be found by understanding (6-21). Knowledge and understanding become imperative. Understanding leads to a detachment from the actions one performs.
The idea, then, is to perform action without being attached to the fruits of those actions (2-47). Again in 3-19 Krishna tella Arjuna to do all actions in complete detachment. Being within nature one must act. If one ceased to act, then one would cease to exist. So Krishna says as well to avoid an attachment to inaction (2-47). The world is preserved by the wise who continue to act with detachment to the outcomes of those actions (3-25).
The wise who act with detachment to the outcomes are the ones who have discipline (6-1). It is the disciplined only who can be freed from the ties of action to join Krishna (brahman) in eternal, unchanging being (9-28). The wise ones understand and know this discipline in action will lead to freedom. Those who understand Krishna does not desire the fruits of actions will not be tied by actions (4-14). Letting go of the outcomes of action, the disciplined will be freed from the cycle of rebirth.
Krishna also says that action is inferior to the discipline of understanding (2-49). Without discipline there cannot be understanding. Understanding comes from lucid knowledge and leads to a detachment from actions. Renouncing action through discipline, one cannot be tied by those actions and can escape rebirth (4-41).
The totality of all action culminates in knowledge (4-33). Once knowledge is gained comes understanding which leads to freedom by the renunciation of the fruits of action. Knowledge and understanding are the keys to finding discipline in action. Detachment sets one apart who engages in disciplined action and by this discipline one takes control of the senses with the mind 93-7).
When all actions are renounced with the mind, one neither acts nor causes action (5-13). Thoughts are controlled by the disciplined which leads to one being content within the self (6-20). Once content through disciplined action, one does nothing when acting (4-20). One acts because the qualities of nature require it, but there is no connection to the outcomes of those actions. Action becomes dissolved when there exists a detachment from the results (4-23). Through discipline one recognizes brahman . Once recognizing brahman , one comes to exist in peace in the infinite spirit, free from the cycle of rebirth (5-24). With disciplined action, no karma is created to continue the cycle.
It is only through discipline that action can lead to freedom. One cannot avoid acting, so Krishna tells Arjuna to continue to act. However, the key is not to allow oneself to become attached to the results of those actions. By lucid knowledge and understanding one can see the nature of ultimate reality. By seeing ultimate reality, one can act without being tied by those actions and finally gain freedom from the cycle of rebirth.
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