"Deciding for good, which is better, tell me the one thing by which I shall gain liberation". If there is choice between two means, it would mean two means are giving the same result. But karma only gives qualification for jñāna, and jñāna alone gives moksa, hence how to do comparison between these two? Moksa is not produced by karma. Being the very nature of ātmā - oneself, moksa is already accomplished. The self is liberate-self all the times and only need to be recognised as such. And this recognition is achievable only by knowledge. Because knowledge is as true as the object, it is not dependent upon our will. We can will to know, but knowing take place not based on our will. To have the knowledge of an object which is form based, what we need to employ is our sight. When the correct means is employed, knowledge just took place. But action to open the eyes to see and also to remove any obstruction for seeing are will based. In the case of self knowledge, the means is śastra, but karma helps us to remove the obstruction of the mind to see this fact. Therefore we can not decide which one to choose as the means of moksa, every one need to go through karma-yoga either in this life or previous lives, when one has reached qualification for knowledge then jñāna is the only means.
"With words that are seemingly contradictory, you seem to confuse my mind". Arjuna's confusion about karma-yoga and jñāna-yoga mainly was based on his incorrect understanding of renunciation. If any karma creates result which is the capital for rebirth and life of samsāra, therefore sannyāsa had to be the only solution for moksa. This is how Arjuna thinks. But Krsna asked him to do karma. To resolve Arjuna confusion, Lord Krsna further explains in details.
śrībhagavān uvāca |
loke'smin dvividhā niṣṭhā purā proktā mayā'nagha |
jñānayogena sāṅkhyānāṃ karmayogena yoginām ||3.3||
Śrī-bhagavān said, The sinless one (Arjuna)! The two-fold committed life style in this world, was told by Me in the beginning - the pursuit of knowledge for the renunciate and the pursuit of karma-yoga for those who pursue activity.
Niṣṭhā means committed lifestyle. Here Krsna explains the difference between means and lifestyle. Means for moksa is only jñāna, but there are two lifestyles which a sādhaka (one who follows the means for moksa) can choose to live based on his/her disposition. One is in sannyāsa lifestyle where one lives in the life of renunciation. Here one withdraws from any family duty and social activities. Another one is called karma-yoga lifestyle where one actively live in family and society. These two lifestyles are in accordance with the four stages of life found in Vedic culture. First is brahmacarya-āśrama, the stage where the person life is focus on learning, preparing oneself to get in to the society. Second is grhastha-āśrama, where being a householder and raising a family is the primary focus. Here is where karma-yoga lifestyle falls into. When moksa is the goal for one, he/she does all the activities with karma-yoga attitude for purity of the mind. This make a difference between a karma-yogī who transform the result of karma for moksa pursue and a karmī who pursue the result in the form of worldly enjoyment. They are both same life as householders. Third is vānaprastha-āśrama, where one withdraws from social activities but still doing certain prescribed karma. This is a preparatory stage to sannyāsa which is the last stage.
Sannyāsa-āśrama is a stage of life where one is exempted from performing family and social duty. This exemption is given so one can commit fully in śravana, manana, and nididhyāsana. Pursue of self knowledge is all that is to be done. Therefore, the person must already be a jñānī or want nothing but self knowledge alone fit to be in sannyāsa-āśrama.
Why sannyāsa-āśrama is only for jñānī or one who only occupied oneself in ātmā-jñāna? To understand this, two types of sannyāsa are to be understood. First is vidvat-sannyāsa, where one renounce due to his/her abidance in self knowledge. Because there is no more sense of limitation and ahankara (notion of an isolated "I") in this person, therefore there is no more pursue and obligation for him/her. A jñāni here may or may not take sannyāsa formally. One outgrown karma because he/she owns up the truth of "I am non-doer, I perform no action". This is naiskarmya, the state of actionlessness.
Another type is called vividisā-sannyāsa where renunciation is taken by a person whose only desire is abidance in ātma. Despite of pursuing ātmā-jñāna is the only desire, one should have certain composure and maturity to be in this āśrama. When one is very active, mind couldn't stop for family or social activities, how can one contemplate on self knowledge which is the main occupation being a renunciate? This āśrama is exclusively exempted from other duties and activities, so one can fully do śravana, manana and nididhyāsana. Therefore Arjuna is not suitable to take sannyāsa. It doesn't mean one can attain moksa only being sannyāsa.
Even though the only means for moksa is knowledge alone, but there are two lifestyle for two different qualification of people in pursuing self knowledge. One is the lifestyle of sannyāsa, and another one is lifestyle of karma-yoga.
In karma-yoga lifestyle, one is doing one's duty and activities in family and society with karma-yoga attitude, with the main priority for gaining clarity of mind and neutralising attachment - rāga-dvesa. In here one pursues knowledge in the same time continuing one's karma. When one becomes firmly abide in the self, one does karma without sense of doership, and the karma one's does is called karma-bhāsa (karma which is done due to exhaustion of one's prārabdha-karma or just to set as an example for others). It is an internal renunciation. Another option is to take formal renunciation.
Sannyāsa is only possible if one has lived a life of karma-yoga, otherwise one will become a sannyāsī who has attachment. If rāga-dvesa (like and dislike / attachment) toward worldly pursue are still strongly cling-on, this person would engage in the activities which are not supposed to do as a renunciate, which is a wrong conduct. And even only the mind is dwelling on worldly object (not physically pursuing them), one doesn't have mind to contemplate on self knowledge which is the main activities in sannyāsa-āśrama. While being exempted from other duty, and having too much time but not doing contemplation, he/she will get into activities which is not supposed to do in sannyāsa-āśrama. Then he/she will be caught in the cycle mentioned in verse 2:62-63.
Therefore Lord Krsna asked Arjuna to be a karma-yogī, instead of taking sannyāsa as he wanted. Both lifestyle are meant for the same end - moksa.