Arjuna notes that Krishna praises both renouncing action and yoga, which seem to be opposites. He asks which is better. Krishna says that, while both “lead to the highest bliss,” yoga is better because its practice creates an “eternal renouncer.” The wise also see that samkhya and yoga are not separate, but rather that yoga includes samkhya, and that renunciation is difficult without yoga.
Again, Krishna seems to advocate different paths to the same end: renouncing the fruits of action, samkhya (knowledge), and yoga, which includes the other two and is therefore the most reliable strategy even though it is merely a means to these pure orientations.
When acting through yoga, one conquers the senses and attains “the self of all beings,” knowing the truths that “I am not doing anything at all” and “the senses dwell in their objects.” Such a person is incorruptible and purifies the self, achieving peace as they give up the fruit of action and the illusion of control over their actions. They do not imagine themselves as an agent, nor do they see a causal link between themselves and action’s outcomes. Instead, they continue to evolve and take no interest in the good or harm that others do.
The enlightened combine dutiful action with a knowledge of action’s separateness from their true selves. Since they are detached from the material world, enlightened people cannot be influenced by others’ deeds. This suggests that Arjuna should not take issue with his cousins’ desire to fight him. However, is unclear how Krishna squares people’s ability to choose proper, wise action with his insistence that they are not the agents of that action. The solution may be that action and blame are both properties of the lower, earthly self, whereas the higher, eternal self is never structurally affected by the properties of the bodies it inhabits.
Wisdom destroys ignorance about the self and prevents people from being reborn, letting them see that an educated brahmin and an outcaste dog-cooker are one and the same. They overcome reincarnation (samsara) by submitting to the unity of Brahman, refusing to budge at the sight of something loved or unloved, giving up on worldly sensations and finding “endless joy” in the self’s unity with Brahman. Sensory pleasures cannot be appreciated because they have beginnings and ends—they are not timeless, but those who endure them in order to release themselves from them through yoga achieve “cessation / in Brahman, / of one being / with Brahman.”
Curiously, even though Krishna has argued that Arjuna must fight because his dharma is closely tied to his caste status as a warrior, he nevertheless suggests that wise people do not see people differently because of caste. This reflects the Gita’s ambivalent relationship to caste throughout: Krishna argues that people should fulfill their caste functions on earth and maintains that all beings are foundationally equal as parts of Brahman despite their worldly differences.
Such cessation leads sages to “rejoice in the friendship / of all beings” and achieve a release from all emotions. The sage reaches peace in knowing Krishna, the “great lord of the whole world” who holds everything in his heart.
Brahman—which is beginning to seem identical with Krishna—figures as the joyous unity of beings, creating another ostensible paradox: one achieves peace and pleasure in eternity only by relinquishing one’s commitment to them on earth.