“If you cannot take to this practice, then engage yourself in the cultivation of knowledge. Better than knowledge, however, is meditation, and better than meditation is renunciation of the fruits of action, for by such renunciation one can attain peace of mind.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 12.12)
Friend1: I got three words for you.
Friend2: And you’re going to spell them out?
Friend1: Umm do you want me to? I think you’ll know how to spell them.
Friend2: What are the words?
Friend1: Jnana, dhyana and karma.
Friend2: In this context, they mean knowledge, meditation and work?
Friend1: What I want to know is why the work in this case is superior to both knowledge and renunciation.
Friend2: Where are you getting that?
Friend1: There is a verse in the Bhagavad-gita.
Friend2: You are remembering a verse, but also remember the word “averse.”
Friend1: Can you get serious here?
Friend2: I am being serious. The context of the verse you’re talking about is in relation to being averse to something. But I’ll get to that in a minute. Why do you have a question on this? Do you think the three should be ranked differently?
Friend1: Karma is fruitive work. It leads to reactions to the temporary body. Karma is action and reaction.
Friend1: Jnana is knowledge. I would think it is automatically superior to work. With jnana I come to know the difference between matter and spirit.
Friend2: What about meditation?
Friend1: That is concentrating on something. I would think that is the fruit of knowledge. When you know things as they are, you meditate instead of work.
Friend2: Of course you omitted a key term in your original premise.
Friend1: What’s that?
Friend2: It’s working without attachment to the results. That is superior to knowledge and meditation. Phala-tyaga. When there is such renunciation, a person attains peace.
Friend1: Okay, but the question remains. Why is the ranking that way?
Friend2: It’s pretty simple to understand. First off, the premise is that you can’t take up devotional service, bhakti-yoga. For some reason it is too difficult for you. You don’t understand the importance of things like chanting the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
Friend2: What are you left with? How do you advance anyway? Shri Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is so merciful that He doesn’t shut anyone out from making progress, from getting closer to Him. If they are struggling, then He gives them a path where they can reach Him eventually. The three things you mentioned are progressive.
Friend1: How so?
Friend2: You start out with knowledge. You sort of mentioned that already. Then you get to dhyana. Meditation is obviously better since knowledge is only theoretical. Meditation is actually doing something. Then working is superior to that since you are doing something but not attached to the results.
Friend1: But in meditation you are concentrating. Isn’t that better than working?
Friend2: Here’s the secret. By staying detached from the results you are still concentrating. You are working at the same time, which means that others are benefitted. The ranking system is perfect to the situation. Arjuna was contemplating casting aside his weapons and retreating to the forest. Krishna said that He Himself works, to set the example for society.
“O son of Pritha, there is no work prescribed for Me within all the three planetary systems. Nor am I in want of anything, nor have I need to obtain anything – and yet I am engaged in work.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 3.22)
Friend1: Is that in the section where Krishna mentions great kings like Janaka?
Friend2: Yes. The idea is that what great men do, others follow. Work with a renounced spirit is superior because the benefit of meditation is there and others get an example to follow. Remember, this is all in the case where the principles of devotional service can’t be followed. If you are in bhakti, then basically everything is equal. Meditation is the same as knowledge. The person who thinks of Krishna’s feet all day is the same as someone who reads about Him and studies His transcendental features. The karma is even transformed into bhakti; so there is automatic renunciation.
Superior with detachment work to do,
Better than knowledge and meditation too.
But how this ranking accurate to be?
When while working forgotten is He?
The Supreme Lord, objective’s end,
Why not always in contemplation to spend?
Fruits to the work renounced when,
Meditation and example for others then.