sannyāsas tu mahā-bāho
duḥkham āptum ayogataḥ
yoga-yukto munir brahma
Translation of Bhagavad Gita 5.6
Merely renouncing all activities yet not engaging in the devotional service of the Lord cannot make one happy. But a thoughtful person engaged in devotional service can achieve the Supreme without delay.
Commentary by Sri A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada of Gaudiya Sampradaya:
There are two classes of sannyasis, or persons in the renounced order of life. The Mayavadi sannyasis are engaged in the study of Sankhya philosophy, whereas the Vaishnava sannyasis are engaged in the study of Bhagavatam philosophy, which affords the proper commentary on the Vedanta-sutras. The Mayavadi sannyasis also study the Vedanta-sutras, but use their own commentary, called Sariraka-bhasya, written by Shankaracarya. The students of the Bhagavata school are engaged in the devotional service of the Lord, according to pancaratriki regulations, and therefore the Vaishnava sannyasis have multiple engagements in the transcendental service of the Lord. The Vaishnava sannyasis have nothing to do with material activities, and yet they perform various activities in their devotional service to the Lord. But the Mayavadi sannyasis, engaged in the studies of Sankhya and Vedanta and speculation, cannot relish the transcendental service of the Lord. Because their studies become very tedious, they sometimes become tired of Brahman speculation, and thus they take shelter of the Bhagavatam without proper understanding. Consequently their study of the Srimad-Bhagavatam becomes troublesome. Dry speculations and impersonal interpretations by artificial means are all useless for the Mayavadi sannyasis. The Vaishnava sannyasis, who are engaged in devotional service, are happy in the discharge of their transcendental duties, and they have the guarantee of ultimate entrance into the kingdom of God. The Mayavadi sannyasis sometimes fall down from the path of self-realization and again enter into material activities of a philanthropic and altruistic nature, which are nothing but material engagements. Therefore, the conclusion is that those who are engaged in Krishna conscious activities are better situated than the sannyasis engaged in simple speculation about what is Brahman and what is not Brahman, although they too come to Krishna consciousness, after many births.
Commentary by Sri Vishvanatha Chakravarthi Thakur of Gaudiya Sampradaya:
Sannyasa gives suffering for the jnani who cannot fix purity in the heart. Karma yoga however gives pleasure. The intended meaning of what was spoken earlier is made clear. Because of not performing karma yoga which can pacify the disturbance of the heart, sannyasa may give rise to suffering, if it is accepted without proper qualification. Thus it is said by the writers of the vartika:
pramadino bahis cittah pisunah kalahotsukah
sannyasino ‘pi drsyante daiva-sandusitasrayah
One sees sannyasis who are absorbed in sense gratification, with evil minds, fond of arguing, who are contaminated shelters of spiritual life.
The personified Vedas also says:
yadi na samuddharanti yatayo hrdi kama-jata
Members of the renounced order who fail to uproot the last traces of material desire in their hearts remain impure, and thus You do not allow them to understand You. SB 10.87.39
Bhagavatam also says:
yas tv asamyata-sad-vargah pracandendriya-sarathih
jnana-vairagya-rahitas tri-dandam upajivati
suran atmanam atma-stham nihnute mam ca dharma-ha
avipakva-kasayo ‘smad amusmac ca vihiyate
One who has not controlled the six forms of illusion [lust, anger, greed, excitement, false pride and intoxication], whose intelligence, the leader of the senses, is extremely attached to material things, who is bereft of knowledge and detachment, who adopts the sannyasa order of life to make a living, who denies the worshipable demigods, his own self and the Supreme Lord within himself, thus ruining all religious principles, and who is still infected by material contamination, is deviated and lost both in this life and the next. SB 11.18.40
Therefore, the jnani (munih) engaging in niskama karma yoga (yoga yuktah) quickly attains brahman.
Commentary by Sri Ramanuja of Sri Sampradaya:
5.6 Renunciation, i.e., Jnana Yoga, cannot be attained without Yoga, i.e., Karma Yoga. A person following Yoga, i.e., following Karma Yoga, being himself a Muni, i.e., one engaged in the contemplation of self, after practising Karma Yoga reaches with ease the Brahman i.e., attains the self soon, i.e., in a short time. But one following Jnana Yoga by itself, completes Jnana Yoga with great difficulty only. On account of this great difficulty, he attains the self after a long period only.
Commentary by Sri Sridhara Swami of Rudra Sampradaya:
The question may be raised that if persons practising karma yoga or prescribed Vedic activities without desiring rewards have anyway to achieve atma tattva or realisation of the soul through renunciation it would be better to renounce actions right from the start. To alleviate this question Lord Krishna advises that it is very difficult and perilous to attempt this without performing karma yoga without desire for rewards beforehand because the mind will not have been purified. Contrarily the munir or elevated sage devoted to actions devoid of ego easily purifies their mind and realises the Brahman or spiritual substratum pervading all existence quickly in the same lifetime. This is why it is iterated that karma yoga is superior to renunciation of action because it can not be maintained without first performing karma yoga. That is why it is said by the author of the Varttika that: One even sees the minds of sannyasins or complete renunciates in abnegation agitated by material desirous and are externalised with thoughts polluted by contact with material nature, becoming careless, malicious, and quarrelsome.
Commentary by Sri Madhvacharya of Brahma Sampradaya:
Lord Krishna is reconfirming that renunciation is advisable for equanimity of mind for without it the possibility of moksa or liberation from the cycle of birth and death in the material existence will not manifest. The desire for sense objects and the motivation for rewards only leads to misery. Moksa itself is should be the goal of all endeavours as all other goals are of little importance as they are material and transitory and in one’s possession for only a limited time. The Padma Purana states: That except for the goal of moksa all other goals are not even worthy of consideration. When an effort is able to bestow superior results, the bestowal of inferior results is of no consequence. The primary effect of equanimity is renunciation thus the word munir is given meaning one who has renounced. Thus it is said that they alone are known as renunciates who are devoid of desire and anger.
Now begins the summation.
The means of moksa or liberation is said to be the state of equanimity and its effect is renunciation. That which is always first offered to the lotus feet of the Supreme Lord for His pleasure is true renunciation and no other forms of renunciation are commendable. In the Agni Purana is stated: That without renouncing the desire of rewards for one’s actions whatever one might offer unto the Supreme Lord has no merit and the rewards received from all forms of renunciation contrary for the satisfaction of the Supreme Lord are similar to the pleasures of hell. Hence it has been declared what is called renunciation know that to be equanimity. Since equanimity has been clarified to be of such paramount importance there is no need to emphasise it further.
Commentary by Sri Keshava Kashmiri of Kumara Sampradaya:
The question may be asked that if the path of karma yoga or prescibed Vedic activities without desiring rewards is anyway realised through the renunciation of action then why not start with renunciation of action in the beginning. To alleviate this doubt Lord Krishna replies that without karma yoga it is impossible to achieve purity of mind and in the absence of a pure mind it is very difficult and even perilous as the chance of disturbance and agitation are prevalent. Whereas the purified mind of the munir or elevated sage endowed with equanimity who practices karma yoga very soon perceives the Brahman or spiritual substratum pervading all existence and achieves atma tattva or realisation of the soul as well.
Commentary by Sri Adi Shankaracharya of Advaita Sampradaya:
5.6 Tu, but, O mighty-armed one; sannyasah, renunciation, in the real sense; duhkham aptum, is hard to attain; ayogatah, without (Karma-) yoga. Munih, the meditative man-the word muni being derived in the sense of one who meditates on the real nature of God; yoga-yuktah, equipped with yoga, with Vedic Karma-yoga in the form of dedication to God without thought of results (for oneself); adhigacchati, attains; brahma, Brahman; na cirena, without delay, very quickly. Therefore it was said by Me, ‘Karma-yoga excels’. [Karma-yoga leads to enlightenment through the stages of attenuation of attachment, withdrawal of the internal and external organs from their objects, and their inclination towards the indwelling Self. (Also see Commentary on 5.12).] The monasticism under discussion is called Brahman because it leads to knowledge of the supreme Self, as stated in the Upanisad, ‘Nyasa (monasticism) is Brahman. Brahman is verily the supreme’ (Ma. Na. 21.2) Brahman means monasticism in the real sense, consisting in steadfastness to the knowledge of the supreme Self.
Commentary by Sri Abhinavagupta of Kaula Tantra Sampradaya:
5.6 Samnyasastu etc. [Here] the word tu is used in the sense of ‘affirmation’ and it is to be construed in a different order. [Hence the meaning is] : For a person without Yoga, it is certainly hard to attain renunciation. Because, as it has been already shown logically, it is difficult to renounce actions. But, it is certainly easy for men of Yoga to attain this. That has been said earlier.
Sanskrit Shloka Without Transliteration Marks:
sannyasas tu maha-baho
duhkham aptum ayogatah
yoga-yukto munir brahma
Sanskrit to English Word for Word Meanings:
sannyāsaḥ — the renounced order of life; tu — but; mahā-bāho — O mighty-armed one; duḥkham — distress; āptum — afﬂicts one with; ayogataḥ — without devotional service; yoga-yuktaḥ — one engaged in devotional service; muniḥ — a thinker; brahma — the Supreme; na cireṇa — without delay; adhigacchati — attains.