shreyo hi jnyaanamabhyaasaanjnyaanaaddhyaanam vishishyate |
dhyaanaatkarmaphalatyaagastyaagaacchaantiranantaram || 12 ||

 
Knowledge is superior to practice, meditation is superior to knowledge, and renunciation of fruits of actions is superior to meditation, for peace immediately follows renunciation.
 
shreyaha : superior
hi : for
jnyaanam : knowledge
abhyaasaat : practice
jnyaanaat : knowledge
dhyaanam : meditation
vishishyate : superior
dhyaanaat : meditation
karmaphalatyaagaha : renunciation of fruits of action
tyaagaat : renunciation
shantihi : peace
anantaram : immeditately follows
 
The last four shlokas laid out a series of stages that enable us to access Ishvara based on our qualifications. They were laid out in descending order, addressing the most qualified to the least qualified. Jnyaana yoga was prescribed for those who have given up attachment to the body, abhyaasa yoga for those who can sit for meditation, bhakti yoga for those who can perform every action for Ishvara, and karma yoga for those who can dedicate the results of their actions to Ishvara.
 
Here, Shri Krishna provides a recap of those four shlokas as well as providing some additional insights into the nuances of each stage. He first says that knowledge is superior to practice. Here, practice refers to mere mechanical chanting of japas without the involvement of the mind or the intellect. Such inert practice will not lead us anywhere. Shri Krishna cautions us against jumping into meditative practice without the knowledge of what we are doing, how to do it, what is the goal and so on.
 
Next, he says that meditation is superior to knowledge. Here, the word meditation is used in the sense of a higher kind of knowledge, one that does not create a distinction between the knower and the known, one that is a direct, intuitive understanding of Ishvara. This higher kind of knowledge is superior than dry, academic knowledge gained through a cursory reading of the scriptures without the guidance of a guru, and without the perfect internalization of that knowledge through a pure mind and intellect. In this sense, meditation or higher knowledge is superior to purely academic knowledge.
 
Now to get to these two stages, we have to take stock of our qualifications. Shri Krishna knew that the majority of people would have a great sense of attachment to the body, as well as a large stock of selfish desires that prompt them to selfish actions. They need a technique that is appropriate for their qualifications, and that will bring them to a stage where they can eventually practice meditation. For such individuals, renunciation of the fruits of actions, or karma yoga, is superior than meditation. Only renunciation will bring short term peace through reduction of worry for the future, and long term peace by making us qualified for meditation.

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