sreyo hi jnanam abhyasaj
jnanad dhyanam visisyate
tyagac chantir anantaram
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.
Commentary by Srila Prabhupada
As mentioned in the previous verses, there are two kinds of devotional service: the way of regulative principles and the way of full attachment in love to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. For those who are actually not able to follow the principles of Krishna consciousness it is better to cultivate knowledge, because by knowledge one can be able to understand his real position. Gradually knowledge will develop to the point of meditation. By meditation one can be able to understand the Supreme Personality of Godhead by a gradual process. There are processes which make one understand that one himself is the Supreme, and that sort of meditation is preferred if one is unable to engage in devotional service. If one is not able to meditate in such a way, then there are prescribed duties, as enjoined in the Vedic literature, for the brahmanas, kshatriyas, vaishyas and shudras, which we shall find in the last chapter of Bhagavad-gita. But in all cases, one should give up the result or fruits of labor; this means to employ the result of karma for some good cause.
In summary, to reach the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the highest goal, there are two processes: one process is by gradual development, and the other process is direct. Devotional service in Krishna consciousness is the direct method, and the other method involves renouncing the fruits of one’s activities. Then one can come to the stage of knowledge, then to the stage of meditation, then to the stage of understanding the Supersoul, and then to the stage of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. One may take either the step-by-step process or the direct path. The direct process is not possible for everyone; therefore the indirect process is also good. It is, however, to be understood that the indirect process is not recommended for Arjuna, because he is already at the stage of loving devotional service to the Supreme Lord. It is for others, who are not at this stage; for them the gradual process of renunciation, knowledge, meditation and realization of the Supersoul and Brahman should be followed. But as far as Bhagavad-gita is concerned, it is the direct method that is stressed. Everyone is advised to take to the direct method and surrender unto the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krishna.
Commentary by Sri Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakur
In this verse, the Lord makes clear the successive superiority of abhyasa, manana and smarana spoken of previously.
Better than practice is fixing the intelligence in me (jnanam or mananam). By performing practice alone it is difficult to achieve meditation. By performing manana, easily one can come to meditation. But meditation (mayi mana adhatsva, or smarana) is better than jnana or manana. Why? From meditation one becomes devoid of desire for fruits of sakama karma in the form of svarga, and the fruits of niskama karma in the form of liberation. Even though these are attained without his endeavor, the devotee is indifferent to them. Before the devotee reaches steady meditation, when he has not yet attained rati (bhava), he has just a desire to give up liberation. But one who is fixed in meditation (at bhava stage) is repelled by moksa. He takes liberation as insignificant. That meditation is the cause for indifference to moksa. This is stated in Bhakti Rasamrta Sindhu, where bhakti is glorified with six qualities:
klesa-ghni subhada moksa-laghutakrt sudurlabha
sandrananda-visesatma sri-krsnakarsani ca sa
Bhakti is characterized by destruction of suffering, bestowal of good qualities, disregard for liberation, rarity, intense spiritual bliss and attracting even Krishna. Bhakti Rasamrta Sindhu 1.1.17
na paramesthyam na mahendra-dhisnyam
na sarvabhaumam na rasadhipatyam
na yoga-siddhir apunar-bhavam va
mayy arpitatmecchati mad vinanyat
The devotee who has offered his soul to Me does not want anything if it is separate from Me – not the position of the supreme demigod of the universe, Brahma, nor that of Lord Indra, nor kingship over the entire earth or over the lower planetary systems, nor the mystic perfections of yoga, nor even freedom from the cycle of rebirth. SB 11.14.14
In that verse, the phrase mayy arpita atma means “fixed in meditation on me.”
After developing distaste for the fruits of action, one then attains peace in the form of stopping the senses from dwelling on all objects except my form and qualities. This explanation directly links the succession of stages from the two words sreyah and visisyate in the first line to anantaram in the second line. No other explanation can be considered.