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Bhagavad Gītā Lesson 18

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Lesson XVIII

(Sanskrit terms and names can be clicked for explanation)

Arjuna said:

“Of Renunciation, O thou of mighty arms ! I desire to know the true nature; and of Abandonment too, O Hrishīkeśa distinctly, O Slayer of Keśin !” (1)

The Holy One said:

“The forsaking of actions having the nature of desire, the sages known to be Renunciation. The abandonment of all fruits of action, the far-sighted declare to be Abandonment. (2)

“Some of the wise have declared that action is to be given up as [being] evil; and others [say] that action is sacrifice, gifts, and asceticism, are not to be given up. (3)

“Hear thou now my decision as to Abandonment, O best of the descendents of Bharata ! for Abandonment, O tiger among men, is celebrated as of three kinds. (4)

“Action in sacrifice, gifts, and asceticism, is not to be given up: it is even to be done. Sacrifice, gifts, and ascetism, are indeed the purifications of the wise. (5)

“But even these actions are to be performed, O son of Prithā, after giving up attachment [to them] and [desire of] results. This is my best and settled conviction. (6)

“The renunciation of temperate [niyatasya … karmano] action is improper [nopapadyate]. Its repudiation is from delusion, and is said to be of the tamas [quality]. (7)

“He who gives up any action because it is painful, from fear of bodily suffering, thus performing abandonment of the rajas [quality]. Does not receive the fruit of Abandonment. (8)

“Whatever temperate action is performed, O Arjuna, [by one thinking] ‘This is to be done,’ having given up attachment [to it] and [desire of] results, this abandonment is considered to be of sattva [quality]. (9)

“He who abandons, penetrated with the sattva [quality], of sound mind, and with doubts dispelled, neither hates the unpleasant nor clings to the pleasant. (10)

“For the imbodied [being] is not able to abandon actions entirely. So that he who abandons the fruit [results] of action is said to be truly a renouncer. (11)

“Threefold is the fruit [result] of action after death, unwished for, wished for, and mixed, for those who do not abandon. But for the sannyāsins [abandoners, renouncers] there is no fruit [result] anywhere [i.e. at any time now or after death]. (12)

“These five [following causes], O thou of great arms ! [leading to] the completion of all acts, as declared in the conclusion of the Sānkhya [system] learn thou from me: (13)

“The seat [the body], the agent too, the various organs, the manifold efforts separately, and the celestial [daivam] also among these as the fifth. (14)

“Whatever act a man undertakes with body, voice, or mind, whether proper or improper, those five are its causes. (15)

“But he who, from an unformed understanding, sees [i.e. thinks]. his self as the sole agent in what is, he [indeed] sees not [properly] [being of dull wit.] (16)

“He of whom the nature is free from egoism, of whom the understanding is not defiled, although he smite these people [really] neither smites nor is ensnared [by the action] (17)

“Knowledge, the object of knowledge, and the knower, are the threefold impulse to action. Instrument, action, agent, these are the threefold assemblage of [union for] action. (18)

“Knowledge, action [karma], and the agent are said to be threefold, according to the distinction of the qualities, in the enumeration of the qualities. Hear thou these as they really are. (19)

“That knowledge by which one nature is seen in all beings, undecaying, undivided in the divided, know thou to be of the sattva [quality]. (20)

But that knowledge which sees manifold natures of different kinds in all beings, by reason of their diversity, know thou to be of the rajas [quality]. (21)

“Again that [knowledge] which is attached to each [single] action as if it were the whole [of things] and which is unreasonable, unconformable to truth, and insignificant, is announced to be of tamas [quality]. (22)

“That action that is controlled, without attachment [to results], done without passion or aversion, by one who has no desire for fruits [results], is said to be of the sattva [quality] (23)

“But that action which is done by one striving for objects of desire, or gain by one who is arrogant, and which is attended with much exertion, is announced to be of the rajas [quality]. (24)

“That action that is undertaken from delusion, without regard to consequences, loss, injury, or strength, is announced to be of the tamas [quality]. (25)

“The agent is said to be of the sattva [quality] who is free from attachment, not given to talk about himself, who is possessed of firmness and resolution, and unmoved by success or ill-fortune. (26)

“The agent who is passionate, who is desirous to obtain the fruits [results] of action who is grasping, cruel, impure, and who [feels] joy and sorrow, is declared to be of the rajas [quality]. (27)

“The agent who is without perseverance, vulgar, dull, deceitful, malicious, lazy, desponding, and dilatory, is said to be at the tamas [quality]. (28)

“Hear now, o Dhanañjaya, the threefold division of understanding and of steadiness, according to [their] qualities, set forth [by me] fully and in order. (29)

“The understanding, O son of Prithā, that knows activity and cessation [of action], what is to be done and what is not to be done, fear and absence of fear, bondage and freedom, is of the sattva [quality]. (30)

“The understanding, O son of Prithā, by which incorrectly discerns Right and Wrong [dharmamadharmañcha], what is to be done and also what is not to be done, is of the rajas [quality]. (31)

“The understanding, O son of Prithā, which enshrouded by darkness [tamasavritā] thinks that Wrong is Right, and [regardeth] all things incorrectly, is of the tamas [quality]. (32)

“The steady will by which the operations of mind, life-forces, and organs of sense are sustained through yoga [union] – this will, O son of Prithā, is of the sattva [quality]. (33)

“But the will by which, longing for fruits [results], Right, Desire, and goods, is sustained through attachment [to them], O Arjuna, – this will, O son of Prithā, is of the rajas [quality]. (34)

“The will by which the stupid man relinquishes not drowsiness, fear, sorrow, despondency, and folly too – this will, O son of Prithā, is of the tamas [quality]. (35)

“Hear now from me, O Bull of Bharata’s race, the threefold [nature] of happiness. Where one remains happy after practise, and enters upon an end of sorrow, (36)

“Which is like poison in the beginning but in results like the highest nectar, this is declared to be happiness of the sattva [quality], born of limpidity of the self and understanding [ātmabuddhiprasādajam: born of limpidity (purity) of ātman and buddhi]. (37)

“That happiness which in the beginning, from union of the organs of sense with their objects, is like the highest nectar, [but] in [its] results like poison, is held to be of the rajas [quality]. (38)

“That happiness which in the beginning and in consequences is infatuation of the self, which springs from drowsiness [of mind], sloth, and intoxication [of soul], is describes as of the tamas [quality]. (39)

“There is not an entity, on earth, or in the celestial regions among the gods, which is free from these three qualities born of prakriti. (40)

“The acts of Brāhmanas, Kshattriyas, Vaiśyas, and Sūdras. O Harasser of Foes ! are distinguished by the qualities inherent in the character of each [svabhāvaprabhavairgunaih]. (41)

“Calm, self-command, asceticism, purity, patience, and rectitude, knowledge, learning, piety, [āstikyam], are the acts [duties] of Brāhmanas – [acts] born of inherent character [Brahmakarma svabhāvajam]. (42)

“Heroism, order, fortitude, resourcefulness, not fleeing from the battle-field, liberality, and a princely nature, are the acts [duties] of Kshattriyas – [acts] born of inherent character [kshāttram karma svabhāvajam] (43)

“Agriculture, tending cattle, commerce, are the acts [duties] of Vaiśyas – [acts] born of inherent character [vaiśyakarma svabhāvajam]. Service is the essential [ātmakam] act [duty] of the Sūdras – [act] born of inherent character [śūdrasyāpi svabhāvajam]. (44)

“A man engaged in his own [peculiar] acts [duty] obtains perfection. Hear thou then how one finds perfection, engaged in one’s own acts [duty]. (45)

“A human being finds perfection reverencing That by the performance of his own duty – [That] whence [proceed] the manifestation of beings, by which all this [universe] is spread out. (46)

“Better is one’s own [natural, inherent] duty [svadharmo] [even if] without merit, than another’s duty well-performed. Performing the acts [functions: duty] proper to one’s own nature, one incurs no sin. (47)

“Action [duty] born with one [sahajam] [i.e., natural, innate], one should not abandon, even though imperfect, O son of Kuntī. For all undertakings are enveloped by evil, as fire is by smoke. (48)

“He whose understanding is unattached everywhere, of conquered self, who is without longings, enters upon the highest perfection of exemption from action through renunciation. (49)

“Learn from me concisely, O son of Kuntī, how one having obtained perfection then attains to the Brahman, which is the highest culmination of knowledge. (50)

“Rendered devoted through a pure mind and having subdued the self with resolution, having abandoned sound and the other objects of sense, and having cast off attraction and aversion [rāgadveshan], (51)

“He who frequents lonely [i.e. pure] place, who eats little, who is of controlled speech, body, mind, constantly engaged in the yoga of abstract meditation [dhyānayogaparo nityam], who has recourse to dispassion, (52)

“Who has become free from egoism, violence, pride, desire, anger and possession, who is unselfish, and calm, is fit to partake of the nature of the Brahman. (53)

“Having become [one with] Brahman, [being] of tranquil self, he grieves not, he yearns not. The same to all beings, he obtains my highest part. (54)

“By [this] part [of me] he knows me, how great and what I am, fundamentally. Knowing me fundamentally by it [this highest part of my nature], he forthwith enters into [becomes] it [that part]. (55)

“Although performing all actions at all times, taking refuse in me, he obtains from my purity [mātprasādād: from my highest part] the perpetual and undecaying state. (56)

“Having laced by thought all actions in me, devoted to me, having recourse to the yoga [union; i.e. exercise] of the understanding, be thou ever my thought ! (57)

“Being my thought, thou shalt pass over all difficulties through my purity [matprasādāt: see śloka 56]. But if, indeed, from egoism [sense of being ‘I’] [ahankārān] thou wilt not listen, thou shalt perish utterly. (58)

“If, indulging [this] sense of ‘I’ [as different from Me, Krishna]. Thou thinkest ‘I shall not fight, in vain is that resolve of thine. The nature [prakriti] [of thy kshattriya caste: see śloka 43] will constrain thee. (59)

“O son of Kuntī, thou art bound by thy own act [duty] born of [thy] nature [i.e. bound by inherent nature]! What thou desirest not to do, through delusion, that very thing thou will do involuntarily ! (60)

“The Lord of all beings, O Arjuna, stands in the region of the heart, turning all beings [which are as though] mounted on the engine [of the universe] by [his] māyā [mystic power]. (61)

“To Him, the Refuge, repair than with all [thy] nature, O descendant of Bharata. From that purity [tatprasādāt: see above] thou shalt obtain the highest peace, the everlasting state. (62)

“Thus the knowledge which is more secret than any secret, has been communicated to thee by me. Reflecting on it fully, act than as thou wishest. (63)

“Hear thou once more my highest counsel, the most secret of all. Thou art beloved of me, being steady of mind. Therefore I will tell what is advantageous. (64)

“Become then [one with] my mind, be my devotee, my sacrificer, reverence me. Thus thou shalt come unto me. I promise thee truth. Thou art beloved of me. (65)

“Abandoning all [other] duties [sarvadharmān], come to me, the One Refuge. I shall release thee from all evils. Grieve thou not. (66)

“This thou art never to import to one who practises not religious exercises, nor to one who is not devoted, nor to one who desireth not to hear, nor to one who riseth against me. (67)

“He who shall import this highest secret to my devotees, having placed faith in me, will go to me, free from doubt. (68)

“Than he there is none among men who gives me greater joy; nor will there be another than he on earth [who will be] more beloved of me. (69)

“And he who shall study this sacred dialog of ours, I [shall consider] as having reverenced me with the rite [yajñena: sacrifice] of Knowledge. Such is my mind. (70)

“Even the man who listens in trust and without cavil [to it] he, when quit of the body, shall attain the shining regions of those whose acts are righteous. (71)

“Has this been heard by thee, O son of Prithā, with closely attentive mind ? Has thy bewilderment, caused by ignorance, been destroyed, O Dhanañjaya ?” (72)

Arjuna said:

“Delusion is destroyed. Memory has been won by me through thy purity [tvatprasādanmayachyuta], O Unfallen One ! I stand, my doubt gone. I will do they bidding” (73)

Sañjaya said:

“Thus I heard this dialog between Vasudeva and the great-souled son of Prithā [a dialog] wonderful, thrilling. (74)

“From the holiness [purity] of Vyāsa [Vyāsaprasādāchchhrutavāh] I have heard this highest mystery [secret]: Yoga from the lord of yoga, Krishna, himself declaring it face to face [sākshāt]. (75)

“O king, remembering in detail [samsmritya samsmritya] this dialog between Keśava and Arjuna, wonderful, holy, I thrill with rapture again and again. (76)

“And remembering in detail [samsmritya samsmritya] the exceedingly wonderful form of Hari [a name of Vishnu, also of Krishna], my amazement is great, O king, and I thrill with rapture again and again. (77)

“Where the lord of yoga, Krishna, is, where the bowman, the son of Prithā is, there, it is my belief, are glory, victory, prosperity, and unvarying morality. (78)


 Thus in the Holy

Bhagavad-Gītā: the Eighteenth

Address, by name —


(Union by Renunciation of Moksha – i.e. of

Liberation, Deliverance, Beatitude).

(The End)