Time Magazine

*These two approaches to spirituality can be found in most major religious traditions. In Christianity, for example, one learns of via activa and via contemplativa, which manifest in the Roman Catholic Church as "active" communities and "contemplative" communities, though both share the same theological tenets.

Whichever form, or approach, one chooses, says Krsna, detachment from sense objects is mandatory. The difference, then, lies only in one's external involvement with the world. Krsna asserts that contemplative, or inactive, yoga is difficult because the mind can become restless or distracted. He recommends the active form of yoga, which He calls karma-yoga. This is safer, He says, because one still strives to focus the mind, using various techniques of meditation, but augments that with practical engagement in the material world.

Krsna elaborates on how to perform karma-yoga in the sixth chapter, again emphasizing its superiority to mere renunciation and philosophy:

One who is unnattached to the fruits of his work and who works as he is obligated is in the renounced order of life, and he is the true mystic, not he who lights no fire and performs no duty. What is called renunciation you should know to be the same as yoga, or linking oneself with the Supreme, O son of Pandu, for one can never become a yogi unless he renounces the desire for sense gratification. ( 6.1-2 )

Krsna's instruction here is especially useful for us today, living in the Western world. He is saying that we needn't go off to a forest to contemplate our navel. In fact, He says that such endeavors will most likely fail for most of us. Rather, we can achieve the goal of yoga by learning the art of "detached action," one of the Gita's main teachings. Krsna will explain that art to Arjuna and, by extenuation, to the rest of us. The Gita teaches how we can, in modern terms, be in the world but not of it.


  *Conrad Grebel Review, Volume 18 number 3, Fall 2000, Miroslav Volf: One of the New Theologians, Page 8 (optional reading)