By Sri Swami Sivananda
The Yoga of Liberation by Renunciation
Summary of Eighteenth Discourse
The eighteenth discourse, which is the conclusion of the divine discourse of Lord Krishna, is in many ways a summary of the foregoing portions of the Gita. It covers in brief numerous important points dealt with in the previous discourses. Here you behold the ultimate result or effect of the Lord’s discourse to Arjuna. The drama of Arjuna’s utter despondency and breakdown is finally resolved in triumphant self-mastery, strength and bold resoluteness. Its central message emerges as an assurance that in and through the performance of one’s respective duties in life one can qualify for the highest liberation, if one performs actions by renouncing egoism and attachment and surrendering all desire for selfish, personal gain. By regarding the performance of your duties as worship offered to God, you obtain the Grace of the Lord and attain the eternal One.
Significantly, this discourse opens with a question by Arjuna asking what is true Sannyasa and true Tyaga (renunciation). In reply to this important and crucial query, the blessed Lord makes it clear to us that real Sannyasa or renunciation lies in renunciation of selfish actions, and even more in the renunciation of the desire or greed for the fruits of any action. Very clearly we are told that selfless and virtuous actions, and actions conducive to the welfare of others should not be abandoned. You must engage yourself in performing such action but renouncing attachment and greed. The true and proper renunciation is giving up of selfishness and attachment while performing one’s legitimate duties. This is called Sattwic Tyaga. We neither hate unpleasant action nor are we attached to pleasurable action. As it is not possible for you to renounce all action, the renunciation of egoism, selfishness and attachment in your activity is declared as true renunciation. Karma does not accumulate and bind one who is thus established in such inner renunciation.
The divine injunction is that God must be made the sole object of one’s life. This is the heart of the Gita gospel. This is the central message in its teaching. This is the one way to your welfare here.
Now Sanjaya concludes his narrative by declaring that where there is such obedience as that of Arjuna, and such willing readiness to carry out the divine teachings, there surely prosperity, victory, glory and all blessedness will prevail.
1. I desire to know severally, O mighty-armed, the essence or truth of renunciation, O Hrishikesa, as also of abandonment, O slayer of Kesi!
The Blessed Lord said:
2. The sages understand Sannyas to be the renunciation of action with desire; the wise declare the abandonment of the fruits of all actions as Tyaga.
3. Some philosophers declare that all actions should be abandoned as an evil, while others declare that acts of gift, sacrifice and austerity should not be relinquished.
4. Hear from Me the conclusion or the final truth about this abandonment, O best of the Bharatas; abandonment, verily, O best of men, has been declared to be of three kinds!
5. Acts of sacrifice, gift and austerity should not be abandoned, but should be performed; sacrifice, gift and also austerity are the purifiers of the wise.
6. But even these actions should be performed leaving aside attachment and the desire for rewards, O Arjuna! This is My certain and best conviction.
COMMENTARY: This is a summary of the doctrine of Karma Yoga already enunciated before. The defect in Karma is not in the action itself but in attachment and expectation of a reward.
7. Verily, the renunciation of obligatory action is improper; the abandonment of the same from delusion is declared to be Tamasic.
8. He who abandons action on account of the fear of bodily trouble (because it is painful), he does not obtain the merit of renunciation by doing such Rajasic renunciation.
9. Whatever obligatory action is done, O Arjuna, merely because it ought to be done, abandoning attachment and also the desire for reward, that renunciation is regarded as Sattwic!
10. The man of renunciation, pervaded by purity, intelligent and with his doubts cut asunder, does not hate a disagreeable work nor is he attached to an agreeable one.
11. Verily, it is not possible for an embodied being to abandon actions entirely; but he who relinquishes the rewards of actions is verily called a man of renunciation.
COMMENTARY: Nature, and your own nature, too, will urge you to do actions. You will have to abandon the idea of agency and the fruits of actions. Then no action will bind you.
12. The threefold fruit of action—evil, good and mixed—accrues after death to the non-abandoners, but never to the abandoners.
13. Learn from Me, O mighty-armed Arjuna, these five causes, as declared in the Sankhya system for the accomplishment of all actions!
14. The body, the doer, the various senses, the different functions of various sorts, and the presiding Deity, also, the fifth,
15. Whatever action a man performs by his body, speech and mind, whether right or the reverse, these five are its causes.
16. Now, such being the case, he who, owing to untrained understanding, looks upon his Self, which is isolated, as the agent, he of perverted intelligence, sees not.
17. He who is ever free from the egoistic notion, whose intelligence is not tainted by (good or evil), though he slays these people, he slayeth not, nor is he bound (by the action).
18. Knowledge, the knowable and the knower form the threefold impulse to action; the organ, the action and the agent form the threefold basis of action.
19. Knowledge, action and the actor are declared in the science of the Gunas (the Sankhya philosophy) to be of three kinds only, according to the distinction of the Gunas. Hear them also duly.
20. That by which one sees the one indestructible Reality in all beings, not separate in all the separate beings—know thou that knowledge to be Sattwic (pure).
21. But that knowledge which sees in all beings various entities of distinct kinds as different from one another—know thou that knowledge to be Rajasic (passionate).
22. But that which clings to one single effect as if it were the whole, without reason, without foundation in Truth, and trivial—that is declared to be Tamasic (dark).
23. An action which is ordained, which is free from attachment, which is done without love or hatred by one who is not desirous of any reward—that action is declared to be Sattwic.
24. But that action which is done by one longing for the fulfilment of desires or gain, with egoism or with much effort—that is declared to be Rajasic.
25. That action which is undertaken from delusion, without regard to the consequences of loss, injury and (one’s own) ability—that is declared to be Tamasic.
26. He who is free from attachment, non-egoistic, endowed with firmness and enthusiasm and unaffected by success or failure, is called Sattwic.
27. Passionate, desiring to obtain the rewards of actions, cruel, greedy, impure, moved by joy and sorrow, such an agent is said to be Rajasic.
28. Unsteady, dejected, unbending, cheating, malicious, vulgar, lazy and proscrastinating—such an agent is called Tamasic.
29. Hear thou the threefold division of the intellect and firmness according to the Gunas, as I declare them fully and distinctly, O Arjuna!
30. That which knows the path of work and renunciation, what ought to be done and what ought not to be done, fear and fearlessness, bondage and liberation—that intellect is Sattwic, O Arjuna!
31. That by which one incorrectly understands Dharma and Adharma, and also what ought to be done and what ought not to be done—that intellect, O Arjuna, is Rajasic!
COMMENTARY: That which is ordained in the scriptures is Dharma. That which hurls you into the abyss of ignorance is Adharma. The Rajasic intellect is not able to distinguish between righteous and unrighteous actions.
32. That which, enveloped in darkness, views Adharma as Dharma and all things perverted—that intellect, O Arjuna, is called Tamasic!
33. The unwavering firmness by which, through Yoga, the functions of the mind, the life-force and the senses are restrained—that firmness, O Arjuna, is Sattwic!
34. But that firmness, O Arjuna, by which, on account of attachment and desire for reward, one holds fast to Dharma, enjoyment of pleasures and earning of wealth—that firmness, O Arjuna, is Rajasic!
35. That by which a stupid man does not abandon sleep, fear, grief, despair and also conceit—that firmness, O Arjuna, is Tamasic!
36. Now hear from Me, O Arjuna, of the threefold pleasure, in which one rejoices by practice and surely comes to the end of pain!
37. That which is like poison at first but in the end like nectar—that pleasure is declared to be Sattwic, born of the purity of one’s own mind due to Self-realisation.
38. That pleasure which arises from the contact of the sense-organs with the objects, which is at first like nectar and in the end like poison—that is declared to be Rajasic.
39. That pleasure which at first and in the sequel is delusive of the self, arising from sleep, indolence and heedlessness—such a pleasure is declared to be Tamasic.
40. There is no being on earth or again in heaven among the gods that is liberated from the three qualities born of Nature.
41. Of Brahmanas, Kshatriyas and Vaishyas, as also the Sudras, O Arjuna, the duties are distributed according to the qualities born of their own nature!
42. Serenity, self-restraint, austerity, purity, forgiveness and also uprightness, knowledge, realisation and belief in God are the duties of the Brahmanas, born of (their own) nature.
43. Prowess, splendour, firmness, dexterity and also not fleeing from battle, generosity and lordliness are the duties of Kshatriyas, born of (their own) nature.
44. Agriculture, cattle-rearing and trade are the duties of the Vaishya (merchant class), born of (their own) nature; and action consisting of service is the duty of the Sudra (servant class), born of (their own) nature.
COMMENTARY: When a man does his duties rightly according to his order of life, his heart gets purified and he goes to heaven.
45. Each man, devoted to his own duty, attains perfection. How he attains perfection while being engaged in his own duty, hear now.
46. He from whom all the beings have evolved and by whom all this is pervaded, worshipping Him with his own duty, man attains perfection.
COMMENTARY: Man attains perfection by worshipping the Lord through the performance of his own duty, that is, he becomes qualified for the dawn of Self-knowledge.
47. Better is one’s own duty (though) destitute of merits, than the duty of another well performed. He who does the duty ordained by his own nature incurs no sin.
48. One should not abandon, O Arjuna, the duty to which one is born, though faulty; for, all undertakings are enveloped by evil, as fire by smoke!
49. He whose intellect is unattached everywhere, who has subdued his self, from whom desire has fled,—he by renunciation attains the supreme state of freedom from action.
50. Learn from Me in brief, O Arjuna, how he who has attained perfection reaches Brahman, that supreme state of knowledge.
51. Endowed with a pure intellect, controlling the self by firmness, relinquishing sound and other objects and abandoning both hatred and attraction,
52. Dwelling in solitude, eating but little, with speech, body and mind subdued, always engaged in concentration and meditation, taking refuge in dispassion,
53. Having abandoned egoism, strength, arrogance, anger, desire, and covetousness, free from the notion of “mine” and peaceful,—he is fit for becoming Brahman.
54. Becoming Brahman, serene in the Self, he neither grieves nor desires; the same to all beings, he attains supreme devotion unto Me.
55. By devotion he knows Me in truth, what and who I am; and knowing Me in truth, he forthwith enters into the Supreme.
56. Doing all actions always, taking refuge in Me, by My Grace he obtains the eternal, indestructible state or abode.
57. Mentally renouncing all actions in Me, having Me as the highest goal, resorting to the Yoga of discrimination do thou ever fix thy mind on Me.
58. Fixing thy mind on Me, thou shalt by My Grace overcome all obstacles; but if from egoism thou wilt not hear Me, thou shalt perish.
59. If, filled with egoism, thou thinkest: “I will not fight”, vain is this, thy resolve; Nature will compel thee.
60. O Arjuna, bound by thy own Karma (action) born of thy own nature, that which from delusion thou wishest not to do, even that thou shalt do helplessly!
COMMENTARY: Thou wilt be forced to fight because of thy nature. It will compel thee to fight, much against thy will.
61. The Lord dwells in the hearts of all beings, O Arjuna, causing all beings, by His illusive power, to revolve as if mounted on a machine!
62. Fly unto Him for refuge with all thy being, O Arjuna! By His Grace thou shalt obtain supreme peace and the eternal abode.
63. Thus has wisdom more secret than secrecy itself been declared unto thee by Me; having reflected over it fully, then act thou as thou wishest.
64. Hear thou again My supreme word, most secret of all; because thou art dearly beloved of Me, I will tell thee what is good.
65. Fix thy mind on Me, be devoted to Me, sacrifice to Me, bow down to Me. Thou shalt come even to Me; truly do I promise unto thee, (for) thou art dear to Me.
66. Abandoning all duties, take refuge in Me alone; I will liberate thee from all sins; grieve not.
67. This is never to be spoken by thee to one who is devoid of austerities, to one who is not devoted, nor to one who does not render service, nor who does not desire to listen, nor to one who cavils at Me.
68. He who with supreme devotion to Me will teach this supreme secret to My devotees, shall doubtless come to Me.
69. Nor is there any among men who does dearer service to Me, nor shall there be another on earth dearer to Me than he.
COMMENTARY: He who hands down this Gita to My devotees does immense service to Me. He is extremely dear to Me. In the present generation, there will be none dearer to Me in the world, nor shall there be in the future also.
70. And he who will study this sacred dialogue of ours, by him I shall have been worshipped by the sacrifice of wisdom; such is My conviction.
71. The man also who hears this, full of faith and free from malice, he, too, liberated, shall attain to the happy worlds of those of righteous deeds.
72. Has this been heard, O Arjuna, with one-pointed mind? Has the delusion of thy ignorance been fully destroyed, O Dhananjaya?
73. Destroyed is my delusion as I have gained my memory (knowledge) through Thy Grace, O Krishna! I am firm; my doubts are gone. I will act according to Thy word.
74. Thus have I heard this wonderful dialogue between Krishna and the high-souled Arjuna, which causes the hair to stand on end.
75. Through the Grace of Vyasa I have heard this supreme and most secret Yoga direct from Krishna, the Lord of Yoga Himself declaring it.
76. O King, remembering this wonderful and holy dialogue between Krishna and Arjuna, I rejoice again and again!
77. And remembering again and again also that most wonderful form of Hari, great is my wonder, O King! And I rejoice again and again!
78. Wherever there is Krishna, the Lord of Yoga, wherever there is Arjuna, the archer, there are prosperity, happiness, victory and firm policy; such is my conviction.
Thus in the Upanishads of the glorious Bhagavad Gita, the science of the Eternal, the scripture of Yoga, the dialogue between Sri Krishna and Arjuna, ends the eighteenth discourse entitled:
“The Yoga of Liberation by Renunciation”
Om Shanti! Shanti! Shanti!
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