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Bhagavad Gita Chapter Eighteen: The Yoga of Liberation by Renunciation

The Bhagavad Gita, the Song of God
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Arjuna said:

I desire to know separately the essential nature of sannyasa and tyaga. (18:1)

The Holy Lord said:

The renunciation of actions arising from desire the sages understand as sannyasa. The abandonment of the fruits of all action the wise declare to be tyaga. (18:2)

Some men of wisdom declare that all action should be abandoned as an evil, while others declare that sacrifice, gift and tapasya should not be abandoned. (18:3)

Hear from me the conclusion regarding tyaga. Tyaga has been designated to be of three kinds. (18:4)

Acts of sacrifice, gift and tapasya should not be abandoned, but should be done. Sacrifice, gift and tapasya are purifiers of the wise. (18:5)

However these works should indeed be performed, abandoning attachment and the fruits. Such is my highest and certain conviction. (18:6)

But renunciation of obligatory action is not proper. Abandonment of these from delusion is declared to be tamasic. (18:7)

He who abandons action from fear of trouble or of pain, does not obtain the fruit of that renunciation; he performs rajasic renunciation. (18:8)

When action is done because it is a duty (ought to be done), disciplined, having abandoned attachment and the fruit as well, that renunciation is considered sattwic. (18:9)

The man of renunciation, wise, filled with sattwa, with doubt eliminated, does not dislike disagreeable work, nor is he attached to agreeable work. (18:10)

Truly, embodied beings are not able to give up actions entirely; but he who relinquishes the fruit of action is called a man of renunciation. (18:11)

For those who have not renounced, the fruit of action is threefold when they depart this world: undesired, desired and mixed. But for the renouncers there is none whatever. (18:12)

Learn from me these five factors for the accomplishment of all actions, declared in the Sankhya: (18:13)

The body, the doer, the functions of various kinds, the various distinct activities, and the divine overseer as the fifth. (18:14)

Whatever action a man performs with his body, speech, or mind–either right or wrong–these are its five factors. (18:15)

This being so, he who sees himself as the actual doer does not really see, because he does not have a perfect (complete) understanding. (18:16)

He whose state of mind is not egoistic, whose intellect is not tainted, even though he slays all these people, he does not slay, neither is he bound (by karmic consequences). (18:17)

Knowledge, the known and the knower are the threefold impulse to action. The instrument, the action and the doer are the threefold constituents of action. (18:18)

It is said in the doctrine of the three gunas (the Sankhya Philosophy) that knowledge, action and the doer are of three kinds: hear them also duly. (18:19)

That by which one sees the one indestructible Being in all beings, undivided in the divided (many)–know that knowledge to be sattwic. (18:20)

But that knowledge which sees in all beings different beings of various kinds, know that knowledge to be rajasic. (18:21)

But that knowledge which clings to a single effect as if it were the whole, and without reason, without basis in truth and trivial–that is declared to be tamasic. (18:22)

Action which is ordained and free from attachment, done without attraction or aversion, with no desire to obtain the fruit–that action is said to be sattwic. (18:23)

But that action done with desire for the fulfillment of desires, with self-centeredness, or furthermore is done with much effort, is considered rajasic. (18:24)

That action which is undertaken because of delusion, without regard to the consequences of loss, injury or one’s own ability–that is said to be tamasic. (18:25)

A doer free from attachment, non-egoistic, endowed with steadfastness and resolution, and unaffected by success or failure, is said to be sattwic. (18:26)

A doer that is passionate, desiring to obtain action’s fruits, greedy, violent-natured, impure, easily elated or dejected, is declared to be rajasic. (18:27)

An agent that is unsteady, vulgar, obstinate, false, dishonest, lazy, despondent and procrastinating, is said to be tamasic. (18:28)

Now hear the three kinds of intellect and steadfastness according to the gunas, set forth completely and severally. (18:29)

That intellect which knows the paths of work and renunciation, when to act and when not to act, what ought to be done and what ought not to be done, what is to be feared and what is not to be feared, bondage and liberation, is sattwic. (18:30)

That intellect which incorrectly understands dharma and adharma, what should be done and what should not be done, is rajasic. (18:31)

That intellect enveloped in darkness, regarding adharma as dharma, and seeing all things pervertedly (turned backward: that is, seeing all things completely opposite to their true nature or state), is tamasic. (18:32)

That firmness of intellect or purpose by which through yoga the functions of the mind, the vital force (prana) and the senses are restrained, is sattwic. (18:33)

But that firmness by which one holds to dharma, enjoyment and wealth from attachment and desire for the fruits of action, is rajasic. (18:34)

That firmness by which a stupid person does not abandon sleep, fear, depression and arrogance, is tamasic. (18:35)

Now hear from me of the threefold happiness that one enjoys through practice and by which one attains to the end of pain. (18:36)

That happiness which is like poison at first, but like amrita in the end, born of the light of one’s own Self, is declared to be sattwic. (18:37)

That happiness arising from the contact of the senses with their objects, which in the beginning is like amrita but changes into that which is like poison, is declared to be rajasic. (18:38)

That happiness which in the beginning and as a result is delusive of the Self, arising from sleep, indolence and heedlessness, is declared to be tamasic. (18:39)

There is no being either on earth, nor yet in heaven among the gods, that can exist free from these three gunas born of Prakriti. (18:40)

Of the Brahmins, the Kshatriyas and the Vaishyas, as also the Shudras, the duties* are distributed according to the qualities of their swabhava. (18:41)

Tranquility, self-restraint, tapasya, purity, patience, uprightness, knowledge, realization and belief in God–these are the duties of Brahmins, born of their swabhava. (18:42)

Valor, splendor, steadfastness, skill, not fleeing in battle, generosity and lordliness of spirit are the duties of Kshatriyas, born of their swabhava. (18:43)

Agriculture, cow-herding and trade are the duties of the Vaishyas, born of their swabhava, and the Shudras’ duty is doing service, born of their swabhava. (18:44)

Satisfied in his own duty, a man attains perfection. Hear how he who is happy in his own duty (swakarma) finds perfection. (18:45)

By worshipping with his swakarma him from whom all beings have their origin, by whom all this universe is pervaded, a man finds perfection. (18:46)

Better is one’s own swadharma, though imperfect, than another’s duty, though well performed. Performing the duty prescribed by one’s own nature (swabhava) produces no fault. (18:47)

The duty to which one is born should not be abandoned, although faulty, for all undertakings are enveloped by defects as is fire by smoke. (18:48)

He whose intellect (buddhi) is unattached, whose lower self is subdued, from whom desire has departed, by renunciation attains the supreme state of freedom from action. (18:49)

Learn from me in brief how one who has attained perfection also attains Brahman, that supreme state of knowledge. (18:50)

Endowed with a supremely pure intellect, controlling the lower self by firmness, turning from the objects of the senses, beginning with sound, casting off attraction and aversion, (18:51)

Dwelling in a solitary place, eating lightly (what is easily digested), with speech, body and mind controlled, constantly devoted to yoga meditation, taking refuge in vairagya, (18:52)

Forsaking egotism, force, pride, desire, anger, possessiveness, freed from the notion of “mine” and peaceful–he is fit for union with Brahman. (18:53)

Absorbed in Brahman, with Self serene, he grieves not nor desires, the same to all beings, he attains supreme devotion unto me. (18:54)

By devotion to me he comes to know how great I am in truth, then having known me in truth, he forthwith enters into me. (18:55)

Doing all actions, always taking refuge in me, by my grace he attains the eternal, immutable state. (18:56)

Mentally renouncing all actions in me, holding me as the highest goal, resorting to buddhi-yoga, constantly fix your mind on me. (18:57)

Fixing your mind on me, you shall by my grace surmount all obstacles; but if from egotism you will not hear me, then you shall perish. (18:58)

If, filled with egotism, you think: “I will not fight,” this your resolve shall be in vain, for your nature will compel you. (18:59)

What you do not wish to do, through delusion, you shall do against your will, bound by your karma born of your own nature. (18:60)

The Lord dwells in the hearts of all beings, causing them by his maya to revolve as if mounted on a machine. (18:61)

Fly unto him alone for refuge with your whole being. By that grace you shall attain supreme peace and the eternal abode. (18:62)

Thus has the knowledge that is more secret than all that is secret been expounded to you by me. Having reflected on this fully, act in the way you wish. (18:63)

Hear again my highest teaching, most secret of all, because you are dearly loved by me; therefore I shall tell you what is for your good. (18:64)

Fix your mind on me, be devoted to me, sacrifice and bow down to me. In this way you shall truly come to me, for I promise you–you are dear to me. (18:65)

Abandoning all duties, take refuge in me alone; then I shall free you from all demerits, do not grieve. (18:66)

This should not be spoken of by you at any time to one who is without tapasya, nor to one who is not dedicated, nor to one who does not desire to listen, nor to one who speaks evil of (mocks) me. (18:67)

He who with supreme devotion to me teaches this supreme secret unto my devotees shall doubtless come to me. (18:68)

And no one among all men shall do more pleasing service to me, nor shall there be another on the earth dearer to me than he. (18:69)

And he who will study this dharmic dialogue of ours, by him will I have been worshipped through the sacrifice of knowledge; such is my conviction. (18:70)

Even the man who hears this, full of faith and not scoffing, he also, liberated, shall attain the happy worlds of those of righteous deeds. (18:71)

Has this been heard by you with a one-pointed mind? Has the delusion of your ignorance been destroyed? (18:72)

Arjuna said:

My delusion is destroyed, and I have regained my knowledge through your grace; I am firm and my doubts are gone. I will act according to your word. (18:73)

Sanjaya said:

Thus have I heard this wondrous dialogue of Krishna and the great-souled Arjuna, which causes the hair to stand on end. (18:74)

By the grace of Vyasa have I heard this supreme and most secret yoga directly from Krishna, Yoga’s Lord, himself declaring it. (18:75)

O King, remembering again and again this marvelous dialogue between Krishna and Arjuna, I rejoice again and again. (18:76)

And remembering again and again that most marvelous form of Krishna, great is my wonder, O King, and I rejoice again and again. (18:77)

Wherever there is Krishna, Yoga’s Lord, wherever is Arjuna the bowman, there will forever be splendor, victory, wealth and righteousness: this is my conviction. (18:78)

* In this section of verses, “duty” is the usual translation of “actions” (karma), and cannot be objected to, but in these verses it also means the actions that will be done by the different castes, impelled by their innate nature (swabhava). In other words, these are the things that will be done, and the qualities revealed, spontaneously by the various castes. Caste is not determined by action, but action is produced by the innate caste-nature, the swabhava.

Om Tat Sat

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.

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Chapters for The Bhagavad Gita–The Song of God

Introduction: The Bhagavad Gita–The Book of Life

  1. Bhagavad Gita Chapter One: The Yoga of the Despondency of Arjuna
  2. Bhagavad Gita Chapter Two: Sankhya Yoga
  3. Bhagavad Gita Chapter Three: The Yoga of Action
  4. Bhagavad Gita Chapter Four: The Yoga of Wisdom
  5. Bhagavad Gita Chapter Five: The Yoga of Renunciation of Action
  6. Bhagavad Gita Chapter Six: The Yoga of Meditation
  7. Bhagavad Gita Chapter Seven: The Yoga of Wisdom and Realization
  8. Bhagavad Gita Chapter Eight: The Yoga of Imperishable Brahman
  9. Bhagavad Gita Chapter Nine: The Yoga of the Royal Science and Royal Secret
  10. Bhagavad Gita Chapter Ten: The Yoga of Divine Glories
  11. Bhagavad Gita Chapter Eleven: The Yoga of the Vision of the Cosmic Form
  12. Bhagavad Gita Chapter Twelve: The Yoga of Devotion
  13. Bhagavad Gita Chapter Thirteen: The Yoga of the Distinction Between the Field and the Knower of the Field
  14. Bhagavad Gita Chapter Fourteen: The Yoga of the Division of the Three Gunas
  15. Bhagavad Gita Chapter Fifteen: The Yoga of the Supreme Spirit
  16. Bhagavad Gita Chapter Sixteen: The Yoga of the Division between the Divine and the Demonic
  17. Bhagavad Gita Chapter Seventeen: The Yoga of the Division of Threefold Faith
  18. Bhagavad Gita Chapter Eighteen: The Yoga of Liberation by Renunciation

Also: The Bhagavad Gita Arranged for Singing

  1. The Bhagavad Gita—Chapter 1: The Yoga of the Despondency of Arjuna
  2. The Bhagavad Gita—Chapter 2: Sankhya Yoga
  3. The Bhagavad Gita—Chapter 3: The Yoga of Action
  4. The Bhagavad Gita—Chapter 4: The Yoga of Wisdom
  5. The Bhagavad Gita—Chapter 5: The Yoga of Renunciation of Action
  6. The Bhagavad Gita—Chapter 6: The Yoga of Meditation
  7. The Bhagavad Gita—Chapter 7: The Yoga of Wisdom and Realization
  8. The Bhagavad Gita—Chapter 8: The Yoga of Imperishable Brahman
  9. The Bhagavad Gita—Chapter 9: The Yoga of the Kingly Science and Kingly Secret
  10. The Bhagavad Gita—Chapter 10: The Yoga of Divine Glories
  11. The Bhagavad Gita—Chapter 11: The Yoga of the Vision of the Cosmic Form
  12. The Bhagavad Gita—Chapter 12: The Yoga of Devotion
  13. The Bhagavad Gita—Chapter 13: The Yoga of the Distinction Between the Field and the Knower of the Field
  14. The Bhagavad Gita—Chapter 14: The Yoga of the Division of the Three Gunas
  15. The Bhagavad Gita—Chapter 15: The Yoga of the Supreme Spirit
  16. The Bhagavad Gita—Chapter 16: The Yoga of the Division between the Divine and the Demoniacal
  17. The Bhagavad Gita—Chapter 17: The Yoga of the Division of Threefold Faith
  18. The Bhagavad Gita—Chapter 18: The Yoga of Liberation by Renunciation

Read about the meanings of unfamiliar terms in A Brief Sanskrit Glossary

Read the Bhagavad Gita for Awakening, a full commentary on the Bhagavad Gita by Swami Nirmalananda Giri (Abbot George Burke).

Visit our e-library page for Free Downloads of this and other ebooks in various formats.

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