In common parlance karmasannyasa yoga, renunciation in action, is understood to be the abandonment of work in pursuit of wisdom, knowledge of the limitless and actionless self. A sannyasi, the renouncer, is supposed to give up action and dedicate his entire life to study and contemplation. But Bhagavad Gita does not approve of renunciation of work. It rather insists upon performance of action with renunciation of the rewards of action.
Chapter five of the Gita has delved upon the concept of karmasannyasa yoga and has also compared it with karma yoga. The same theme has further been elaborated in the opening shlokas of chapter six and chapter eighteen. It has been clarified in these verses that karmasannyasa yoga is not incompatible with karma yoga. Both renunciation of works and their unselfish performance are means of spiritual upliftment. He who is truly established in either of the two, obtains the rewards of both.
Difference between karma yoga and karmasannyasa yoga is only of the emphasis. Whereas an aspirant for karma yoga focuses on performance of his worldly duties, a seeker on the path of karmasannyasa wanders in search of wisdom, knowledge of the imperishable and the unchanging self. Whereas a karma yogi merely gives up attachment to actions and their results, a sannyasi renounces the very notion of doership. A sannyasi renounces the ownership of actions. While performing any action, he gives up the very perception that he is undertaking that action.
Though both, karma yoga and karmasannyasa yoga lead to freedom of the embodied soul, unselfish performance of works has been declared to be better than renunciation because activity comes more naturally to human beings. Leading an active life is easier than indulging in intricate metaphysical speculations. Moreover, a karma yogi gets the real experiences of life which mature into spiritual wisdom.
Practice of karma yoga prepares one for sannyasa. It has been stated that without karma yoga, it is very difficult to attain renunciation. But when a man of contemplation pursues the path of karma yoga sincerely ; the impurities of the mind such as anger, greed, lust, fear and jealousy get slowly and slowly washed away. And his mind becomes more and more pure. Such a purified mind enables one to comprehend the reality of his own true nature. To him the truth of the soul is revealed. He gets a direct experience of the self. He finds himself to be an integral part of the undifferentiated timeless consciousness. He becomes aware of the fact that soul, the formless essence, of every being is the same. He is then united with the Divine because the truth of the individual soul is not different from the truth of the Supreme Self. In other words, he realises the Eternal Truth.
The one who has attained perfection on the path of renunciation realises that he, as the eternal soul, was the subject who was aware of all other objects including his own body, mind and the intellect. He comes to understand that while doing any activity such as seeing, walking, sleeping, breathing or doing any other work ; it were only the senses which were interacting with their respective objects. And he himself was different from all of these. Thus, even while remaining fully engaged in all works, he does not consider himself to be the doer of works or enjoyer of the rewards.
Outward action or apparent inaction do not determine renunciation. True renunciation and the consequent freedom of the soul lies in relinquishment of false ego and inculcation of an impersonal outlook. A sannyasi renounces all actions inwardly, even while remaining fully active on the surface.
Renunciation is not a state of inertia or non-action. Those who give up the necessary action, in the garb of renunciation, without first purifying their mind through the practice of karma yoga ; suffer double whammy. Neither can they enjoy worldly goods nor can they gain spiritual advancement. Renunciation of the one who is not fully qualified to take sannyasa becomes a cause of misery for himself and the society at large.
Attainment of perfection on the path of sannyasa does not imply cessation of work. Rather the one who has gained an inward attitude of renunciation performs action with full vigour. A pure and equanimous mind of a sannyasi overflows with spontaneous vitality. His capacity to work arises out of his own inexhaustible energy. He works without attachment, fear or worry ; only to fulfil the purpose of God. He is cheerful as he has gained inward freedom.
Those who have not relinquished the fruits of their actions are confronted, even after death, with three kinds of results – desirable, undesirable and mixed. But no consequences whatsoever accrue to the one who has renounced. Being aware of his true nature as pure consciousness, he transcends the fruits of his actions.
To conclude, all impurities of the mind of a sannyasi are burned by the fire of his knowledge. As a result, he discovers that as a soul, he is not the doer of various actions. While performing all actions outwardly and renouncing all rewards internally, he lives a life of bliss.