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The Bhagavad Gita—Chapter 18: The Yoga of Liberation by Renunciation

Arjuna said:
I desire to know sev’rally,
O mighty-armed one, the truth of
Sannyasa,1 O Hrishikesha,
As also of tyaga,2 Krishna. (1)

The Holy Lord said:
Renouncing desire-based actions
Sages consider sannyasa:
Abandonment of all works’ fruits
The wise declare to be tyaga. (2)

Some say action should be renounced
As an evil, while others say
That sacrifice, austerity,
And gift should not be relinquished. (3)

Hear the conclusion regarding
Tyaga, O best of Bharatas.
Tyaga has been declared to be
Of three kinds, O Tiger of Men. (4)

Sacrifice, gift, austerity–
Should not be relinquished, but done;
Sacrifice, gift, austerity
Are purifying to the wise. (5)

But even these works, Arjuna,
Should still be performed, though leaving
Attachment and the fruits; such is
My best and certain conviction. (6)

But the renunciation of
Required action is not proper.
Abandonment from delusion
Is declared to be tamasic. (7)

The relinquishment of action
From fear of trouble or of pain,
Is rajasic relinquishment,
Producing not the fruit thereof. (8)

When work is done only because
It should be done, leaving aside
Attachment and the fruit as well,
That relinquishment is sattwic. (9)

Relinquishers of sattwic kind,
Steadfast, with doubts dispelled, hate not
Uncongenial work, nor are they
Attached to the congenial work. (10)

Actions cannot be entirely
Relinquished by the embodied,
But the relinquishing of fruits
Of action is relinquishment. (11)

The threefold fruit of all action–
Uncongenial, congenial, mixed–
Accrues to non-relinquishers,
But not to the relinquishers. (12)

Learn from Me these five causes for
The accomplishment of all works
As are declared in the Sankhya
Which is the end of all action: (13)

The body, agent, the senses,
The functions of manifold kind,
The presiding divinity,
And that which is also the fifth. (14)

Whate’er action a man performs
By his body, speech, and the mind–
Whether right or just the reverse–
These five alone are its causes. (15)

He who through a non-purified
Understanding looks on his Self,
The Absolute, as the agent–
He of distorted mind sees not. (16)

He who is free from egoism,
With intelligence untainted,
Although he kills all these people,
He kills not, neither is he bound. (17)

Knowledge, the known, and the knower
Form the threefold cause of action.
The instrument, purpose, agent
Are the threefold base of action. (18)

Knowledge, action, and agent are
Declared by Sankhya to be of
Three kinds, from the distinction of
Gunas: hear them also duly. (19)

That by which in all is seen the
One Indestructible Substance
Inseparate in the sep’rate–
Know that knowledge to be sattwic. (20)

But that by which in all are seen
Many beings of many kinds
As diff’rent from one another,
Know that knowledge as rajasic. (21)

Confined to a single effect
As the whole, and without reason
Or basis in truth, trivial–
Know that knowledge as tamasic. (22)

Action without love or hatred
And without desire for the fruit,
And free from any attachment
Know that action is called sattwic. (23)

Action done desiring desires,
With self-conceit and much effort,
O Dhananjaya, know as truth:
That action is called rajasic. (24)

Action that’s done through delusion,
Without heed to the consequence,
Loss, damage, or ability:
Know that action as tamasic. (25)

An agent free from attachment,
Humble, endued with courage and
Ardor, and unaffected in
Success or failure, is sattwic. (26)

One passionate, desirous of
Action’s fruits, greedy, malignant,
Impure, easily elated
Or dejected, is rajasic. (27)

Unsteady, vulgar, obstinate,
Wicked, dishonest, indolent,
Despondent, procrastinating–
Such an agent is tamasic. (28)

Now hear the triple distinction
Of intellect and fortitude,
According to the three gunas
Exhaustively and severally. (29)

That intellect which knows the paths
Of work and renunciation,
Right and wrong acts, fear, fearlessness,
Bondage and freedom, is sattwic. (30)

That intellect of mistaken
Apprehension of dharma and
Adharma, of right and wrong acts,
That intellect is rajasic. (31)

That intellect enveloped in
Darkness, regarding adharma
As dharma, and seeing all things
Distortedly, is tamasic. (32)

Fortitude by which the functions
Of the mind, prana, and senses
Are regulated, unswerving
By means of yoga is sattwic. (33)

That by which one regulates the
Mind to dharma, desire, and wealth,
From attachment to all their fruits,
That fortitude is rajasic. (34)

That by which the stupid does not
Give up sleep, fear, despondency,
Grief, and overweening conceit,
That fortitude is tamasic. (35)

Now hear from Me of the threefold
Happiness whose enjoyment is
Learned by practice, and by which one
Attains unto the end of pain. (36)

That which is like poison at first,
But like amrita at the end;
Born of self-realization’s light–
That happiness is called sattwic. (37)

That arising from the contact
Of object with sense–at first like
Amrit’ but like poison at last–
That happiness is rajasic. (38)

That which begins and results in
Self-delusion arising from
Sleep, sloth, and miscomprehension,
That is declared as tamasic. (39)

There is no entity on earth,
Or in heaven among the gods,
Found devoid of these three gunas,
Born of Prakriti, Arjuna. (40)

Of Brahmins and Kshatriyas and
Vaishyas, as also of Shudras,
The duties are distributed
According to guna-nature. (41)

Calmness, restraint, austerity
Purity, patience, uprightness,
Knowledge, discernment, piety–
These are the duties of Brahmins. (42)

Valor, splendor, courage, and skill,
Also not fleeing from battle,
Generosity, sovereignty–
These are duties of Kshatriyas. (43)

Agriculture, husbandry, trade,
Are the duties of the Vaishyas,
And Shudras’ duty is service–
Arising from innate nature. (44)

Devoted to his own duty,
Man attains highest perfection.
How by his duty he attains
Perfection, that now hear from Me. (45)

From Whom all beings do come forth,
By Whom all this is pervaded,
Worshipping Him with his duty,
A man attains to perfection. (46)

One’s own dharma, though imperfect,
Is better than another’s though
Done to perfection. The duty
Of one’s own nature brings no ill. (47)

The duty to which one is born
Should not be relinquished, although
Faulty, for as the fire by smoke
So defect envelops all deeds. (48)

He whose mind is ever detached,
With subdued heart, without desires,
Attains by renunciation
To perfect freedom from action. (49)

Arjuna, learn from Me in brief
How, having reached such perfection,
He attains Brahman, that supreme
Consummation of all knowledge. (50)

Endued with a pure intellect;
Subduing body and senses,
Relinquishing the sense-objects;
Leaving attraction and hatred. (51)

Dwelling in a secluded place;
With body, speech, and mind controlled;
Abstemious, e’er engaged in
Meditation; dispassionate; (52)

Forsaking ego, power, pride,
Lust, wrath, possessiveness; freed from
The notion of “mine;” and tranquil–
He’s fit for union with Brahman. (53)

One with Brahman, tranquil-minded,
Neither grieving nor desiring;
The same to all, he thus attains
Supreme devotion unto Me. (54)

Devoted, he knows Me in truth,
What and Who I am; then having
Known Me in My reality,
He forthwith enters into Me. (55)

Though doing all actions always,
Always taking refuge in Me,
By My grace he attains to the
Eternal, immutable State. (56)

Resigning mentally all deeds
To Me, as to the highest goal,
Resorting to buddhi-yoga,
Thus ever fix your mind on Me. (57)

With mind fixed on Me, you shall by
My grace surmount all obstacles;
But if from self-conceit you will
Not hear Me, then you shall perish. (58)

If, filled with pride and self-conceit,
You wrongly think: “I will not fight,”
In vain shall be this your resolve,
For your nature will compel you. (59)

Fettered by your karma born of
Your nature, what you, deluded,
Desire not to do, you shall have
To do–though in spite of yourself. (60)

O Arjuna, the Lord dwells in
The hearts of all beings, causing
Them by His Maya to revolve
As if mounted on a machine. (61)

O Bharata, with all your heart
Take refuge in Him; and you shall
Surely attain unto supreme
Peace and the eternal abode. (62)

Thus has wisdom, more secret than
All other secrets, been declared
To you by Me; now reflect on
It fully, then do as you please. (63)

Now hear again My supreme word,
Most secret of all, because you
Are dearly beloved of Me;
Therefore I shall speak for your good. (64)

Fill your mind with Me, devoted,
Sacrifice and bow down to Me.
You shall reach Me, for truly I
Promise you–you are dear to Me. (65)

Relinquishing all dharmas, you
Should take refuge in Me alone;
Then I shall fully liberate
You from all sins; wherefore grieve not. (66)

Never speak this to one without
Austerities or devotion,
Or one who renders not service,
Or to one who cavils at Me.3 (67)

He who with supreme devotion
To Me teaches this most supreme
Secret unto My devotees
Shall doubtless come to Me alone. (68)

Nor among men is there any
Who does dearer service to Me,
Nor shall there be another on
The earth dearer to Me than he. (69)

And he who studies this sacred
Dialogue of ours, shall worship
Me by knowledge’s sacrifice;
This is My certain conviction. (70)

And even that man who hears this,
Full of faith and free from scoffing,
He, liberated, shall attain
The happy worlds of the righteous. (71)

Has this been heard, O Pritha’s son,
By you with a one-pointed mind?
Moreover, has the delusion
Of your ignorance been destroyed? (72)

Arjuna said:
Yea, destroyed is my delusion,
And I have gained my memory
Through Your grace, and my doubts are gone.
I am firm; I will do Your word. (73)

Sanjaya said:
Thus have I heard this wonderful
Dialogue of Vasudeva
And the high-souled son of Pritha,
Causing my hair to stand on end. (74)

By grace of Vyasa have I heard
This supreme, most secret yoga,
Direct from Krishna, Yoga’s Lord,
Himself the one declaring it. (75)

I recall again and again
This wondrous, holy dialogue
Between Krishna and Arjuna
And rejoice again and again. (76)

As I recall and recall that
Most wonderful form of Hari,
Great is my wonder, O King, and
I rejoice again and again. (77)

Where’er is Krishna, Yoga’s Lord,
Where’er is Arjuna, there are
Splendor, victory, wealth, and right
Order: such is my conviction. (78)

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.


1) Renunciation, “casting aside.” [Go back]

2) Abandonment, “turning from.” [Go back]

3) “This shall not be spoken of by you to one who is without austerity, nor to one who is without devotion, nor to one who does not render service, nor to one who does not desire to listen, nor to one who speaks evil of Me.” [Go back]

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Text of the Bhagavad Gita 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

The Bhagavad Gita—The Song of God A new Translation by Abbot George Burke

  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

Read the Maharshi Gita, an arrangement of verses of the Bhagavad Gita made by Sri Ramana Maharshi that gives an overview of the essential message of the Gita.

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

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

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