Bhagavad Geeta Chapter 18 (Moksha Sannyasa Yoga)

Bhagavad Geeta Chapter 18 – moksha-sannyasa-yoga (Yoga of liberation by renunciation).

School of Yoga explains Chapter 18 – moksha-sannyasa-yoga: Introduction:

Much of the last chapter is a recap of chapters 1-17. Some of the important aspects that are covered are:

  • Difference between sannyasa and tyaga
  • Delineation of yagnya – sacrifice, dana – donate without expectation of return and tapas – self restraint
  • Description of attributes (guna): tamas (attitude of indolence), rajas (attitude of passion) and sattva – (attitude of balance or harmony).
  • Constitution of action (samgraha):
  • How attributes affect people in action and contribution in society (varna). Importance of understanding that varna does not affect personal development.
  • Recap of natural state (dharma) and its impact on excellence in action (karma).
  • His own (Sri Krishna’s) ability to affect the outcome of any effort in Yoga.

School of Yoga comments on Bhagavad Geeta Chapter 18 (verse 1-18) :moksha-sannyasa-yoga:

Arjuna said: I wish to know the truth about sannyasa and tyaga (renunciation)

Sri Krishna said:

  • Sannyasa is renunciation of action motivated by desire (kaama).
  • Abandonment of fruits of action is called tyaga.
  • One must treat desire (kaama) like an affliction (dosha).
  • Relinquish all action except;
    • Yagnya – sacrifice
    • Daana – donate without expectation of return
    • Tapas – self restraint
  • Even when performing yagnya, dana and tapas, do not expect any return.
  • Recognise that behaviour is driven by attributes (guna):
    • Tamas (attitude of indolence) – ignorance, when duty is abandoned.
    • Rajas (attitude of passion) – when duty is abandoned because of fear.
    • Sattva – (attitude of balance) – when duty is performed because it must be done, not for fruits.
  • It is impossible to renounce action entirely. However, it is possible to renounce fruits of one’s action.
  • 5 components of action are adhishtana – place or body, karta – the doer, kaaranam – causation or reason for operation, prthak-cheshta – discrete aspect and deivam – presiding deity
  • Any person can free himself from the effects of karma by discarding the attitude of being the doer (ahamkara). 
  • Threefold constitution of action (samgraha):
    • Karmachodana – motivators of action.
      • Jnanam – wisdom.
      • Jneyam – cognition of wisdom.
      • Parijnyata – knower.
    • Organ of karma or equipment.
      • Karma – action.
    • Karta – doer.

School of Yoga explains Chapter 18 – Moksha Sannyasa Yoga: verse 1-18:

Sri Krishna’s explanation on karma in this chapter gives the best understanding on the subject. This chapter is almost completely devoted to action in its various forms. Therefore, one could conclude that Sri Krishna in a subtle manner, indicates that everything related to existence is action (karma).

  • Difference between sannyasa and tyaga sannyaasa is renunciation of desire (kaama) for an outcome in an act. For example – a soldier charging an enemy position does not know whether he will succeed. However, tyaaga is the renunciation of all fruits from the action. The soldier charging an enemy position can have 3 possible outcomes; he may die, in which case all further discussion ends; he may succeed in overcoming the enemy or he may be defeated and captured. Tyaaga is acceptance of both, success and defeat with same attitude, one of indifference. (Ch 18 verse 12)
  • In this chapter, Sri Krishna explains the gross components of any act. There are five;
    1. adhishtana – place or body
    2. karta – the doer
    3. kaaranam – causation or reason
    4. pathak-cheshta – discrete aspect and
    5. deivam – presiding deity.

Four are obvious; every action has discrete or subtle underlying aspect, but why should action have a deity or deivam? This goes to the heart of sanatana-dharma, where everything is a manifestation of Brahman, so action is also the manifestation (Shakti) of an Identity (Siva). The identity has a presiding deity depends on its affiliation.

  • Additionally, when action is performed, it has three components (samgraha), these are:
    • karmachodana – motivators of action comprising of three sub elements
      • jnanam – wisdom
      • jneyam – cognition of wisdom
      • parijnyata – knower; followed by
    • Action (karma) itself
    • karta – doer.
  • What is the difference between gross and subtle aspects of action or karma? We can compare these two aspects to the hardware (gross) and software (subtle) of any action! In the gross aspect lies visible components of action, while in the subtle aspect are embedded components of Identity (Siva). The subtle elements drive both, cognition of the system (vijnana) and cognition of the Self (jnana).
  • Another important aspect which Sri Krishna highlights is the difference between prarabda-karma (action that is occurring on account of previous debt or destiny) and free will (sankalpa). The question which is never clearly answered is to what extent do we control our own actions? Some of the points made by Sri Krishna are:
    • No one can stop karma from occurring, Prakriti (nature’s own instinct) will force action. (Ch 18 verse 59)
    • Next, karma or action occurs on account of our natural instincts (svabhaava) which is driven by our conditioning (dharma).
    • This means that events occur due to repayment of debt (prarabda-karma) and response to stimulus occurs in conformance with one’s conditioning (sva-dharma).
    • Dharma occurs at various levels. For example, humans eat food, but unlike other creatures’ humans also eat when they are not hungry, this is conditioning. Next, humans eat a variety of foods and in various ways, called cuisines. Animals eat without variation, a cow will eat grass and some vegetation, a lion will eat a cow. Humans wear clothing and follow cultures which they protect very assiduously. This type of existence that exists on earth is unique to Earth because the natural conditioning (dharma) of the earth allows it.
    • The important aspect of all the above examples is that no entity has a choice of the positions they occupy – not the human, animal, Earth, Solar system, nor the fire, snow or rain, all manifest according to their natural states with no control.
    • Then, how does Sri Krishna say, renounce desire and fruit of your action? All this indicates free will! The root and span of control can be found in the chitta or consciousness. From first principles;
      • Brahman is an infinite, unchanging, immutable sea of peace.
      • From Brahman emerges Purusha and Prakriti
      • From the weave of Purusha and Prakriti comes karma (action).
      • The common thread in this process is the consciousness (chitta). Chitta plays the role of a messenger, carrying the projection of Purusha through Prakriti to the object, bringing feedback, carrying it through the senses (indriya) to cognition (manas) where the intellect (buddhi) compares data with conditioning (dharma) before initiation of reaction.
      • Chitta is an outward projection of Purusha through Prakriti. When it is not projecting, it is in turmoil because the Purusha (experiencer) is constantly anxious about loss of Identity.
      • The chitta can be quietened when one becomes aware of its movement as a agency external to the Self (atma). This awareness is called pragnya.
      • When awareness (pragnya) quietens consciousness (chitta), reactions become independent of self-worth (asmita) and free-will or ability to control response increases. 
      • When pragnya is combined with sacrifice (yagnya), which requires acting for a selfless purpose, (daana) donating without expectation of return and self-restraint (tapas) which is possible only if the consciousness (chitta) has been quietened, self-will is exerted to ensure that the Self is removed from the action.
      • This is “Om-tat-sat”; Brahman exists in any sacrifice (yagnya) that adds value (sat), and this requires dedication, sincerity and focus on contribution (shraddha).
      • To achieve this, one must follow the law of rta (excellence)  which has been explained in Chapter 16.

School of Yoga explains karma-sannyasa:

  • First, to achieve karma-sannyasa, stop applying logic to everything. When acting, sacrifice to add value (Om-tat-sat).
  • Next, ensure that logic is consistently discriminating between permanent-impermanent and dualities such as raaga-dwesha (like-dislike). This attitude is called vivekam.
  • To reach the above state, live in solitude eat sparingly and control speech, body and cognitive apparatus through meditation.
  • Also, practice dispassion (vairagyam) and avoid arrogance, passion, anger and greed. Abandon feelings of being a doer (ahamkara).
  • Finally, when the yogi has no attachments and has reached a state of sublime peace, that person becomes fit to merge with the Brahman.
  • On merging with the Brahman, this serene soul neither grieves nor has expectations.
  • Also, the person treats all alike. In fact, he sees the Brahman is all creation (samah-sarveshu-bhuteshu). As a result, the yogi realises that “I” and “Truth” are the same and attains indestructible, everlasting bliss.
  • So, consciously surrender all actions unto the Guru (in this case, Sri Krishna) with complete devotion and follow the Yoga of discrimination. Then, when acting, fix your consciousness on the Guru to overcome all obstacles, by his grace.
  • However, if anyone retains the attitude of being the doer (ahamkarat), then they will lose everything.

School of Yoga comments on Bhagavad Geeta Chapter 18 (verse 20-40): Moksha Sannyasa Yoga:

  • No one can escape the power of gunas (attributes).
  • Jnanam, karma and karta can be further sub-classified according to the three gunas (gunabhedataha). Verses 20 to 40 cover this sub-classification.
  • Duties of a brahmana, kshatriya, vaishya or shudra can be attributed to their gunas.
  • However, no matter what varna one is, that person can realise the Self by performing work with an attitude that is in congruence with his personality trait and being consciously aware of the Brahman.
  • Importantly, one should act in accordance with one’s own conditioning or dharma, rather than try to satisfy someone else’s dharma. So, one must not convert to another dharma, nor ask anyone to convert from his or her dharma. 
School of Yoga explains dharma, guna and human stratification.
  • Karma acts continuously. In fact, action, inaction and inappropriate action are all karma.
  • Also, even if a person were to exercise free will to avoid action (karma), Prakriti (creation) will force the person to act through his or her svabhaava which are driven by the gunas, to ensure an outcome.
  • All activities look daunting at the start, like smoke envelopes fire. Let go your fear, control yourself, abandon duality such as like-dislike, stop judging and take one step at a time. (Ch 18 verse 48)
  • Guna comes out of Prakriti and drives conditioning (dharma).
  • Everyone has a competence that aligns with one’s own natural state (dharma). Dharma drives behaviour (svabhaava). So, it is always better for one to act in congruence with one’s own competence in a bad situation that try to function on borrowed competence. The outcome will never be satisfactory. (Ch 18 verse 47)
  • The mix of gunas determines the personality and behaviour (svabhaava) of individuals and consequently, the duties that they are expected to perform in society. There are 4 categories (vaarna) of people – brahmana (one who has cognised the state of Brahman), kshatriya (warrior and leader in any situation requiring honour and virility), vaishya (trader, businessman, farmer or arbitrator) and shudra (workman).
  • An examination of the definition will confirm that these structures are defined by capability, so generally people who act according to their dharma would acquire specific competencies and become SME’s (Subject Matter Experts).
  • Since vaarna comes from dharma which is driven by guna, one can conclude that everyone’s behaviour (svabhaava) is driven by guna.  
  • Also, anyone acquiring a particular specialisation would require an ecosystem as well as conditioning (dharma) and oftentimes, this comes from DNA and upbringing during childhood, which makes family and community living important. 
  • Consequently, specific communities end up specialising in particular tasks. These are called jaati (community). It is important to note that jaati is not caste but community, because caste has a hierarchy, which jaati does not have. 
  • Finally, anyone from any community can reach Brahman by focussed application in performance of duties. For example: Shri Sant Gora Kumbhar (1236 to 1317 A.D) (link: was a potter by profession who merged with the Brahman. (Ch 18 verse 49)
  • So, no matter what activity a person may perform, everyone should be respected for their competence and contribution and not personality or position (samah-sarveshu-bhuteshu). (Ch 18 verse 45-46)
School of Yoga explains dharma, implementation and surrender to Sri Krishna.

Renounce all conditioning (dharma) and surrender unto me. Then, I shall liberate you from all sins. This verse is critical in understanding the process of Yoga. (Ch 18 verse 65-66)

  • All Yoga is about transcending the material Self and merging with Brahman.
  • The material Self is maya and created and operationalised by Purusha and Prakriti that drive karma.
  • Karma has a circular relationship with dharma (natural state), it creates dharma and in turn, gets governed by rules of sanatana-dharma.

Hence, to transcend the Self, one would need to transcend dharma. What are the types of dharma that a person needs to transcend?

  • Sva-dharma (personal conditioning) – here a person will need to overcome all inhibitions and influences of DNA, education, upbringing, conditioning arising from employment, life experiences etc., truly a formidable challenge!
  • Vishesha-dharma (specific dharma) or conditioning of society,
  • Saamaanya-dharma (generic dharma of a genus) or instincts of being human and
  • Sanatana-dharma (universal dharma) or state, such a dharma of creation.

Obviously, transcending sva-dharma should allow a person to overcome all existence (maya) because all macrocosm dharma is embedded in the microcosm (sva-dharma).

How does one transcend dharma? Sri Krishna answers this in the opening verses, by sannyasa which is renunciation of action motivated by desire (kaama) or abandonment of fruits of action (tyaga). At an activity level, there are three main actions, these are; yagnya – sacrifice, daana – donate without expectation of return and tapas (self-restraint). Daana adds advantage to internal development, but without sacrifice (yagnya), daana cannot be performed. Tapas is self-control and integral to development, but tapas required sacrifice (yagnya). Also, sannyasa and tyaaga, both require sacrifice. Hence, yagnya is the most important of all, without which transcending maaya and merger with Brahman is not possible.

All sacrifice (yagnya) creates debt (karma) that we take for granted, some examples;

  • Parents sacrifice for us; we incur two debts to them – debt of birth and debt of upbringing. Debt of birth, we can repay by ensuring a decent funeral and appropriate remembrance ritual while for debt of upbringing, we can repay them by looking after them when they are old and infirm, ensuring grace and dignity.
  • We take our teachers for granted. We think that paying fees is adequate repayment of debt, an incorrect assumption. Also, we forget that we learn from many people whom we never even acknowledge. Education has no value because it prepares us for life, hence repayment to teachers has to extend beyond school and monetary elements.
  • The earth sacrifices everything so that we may live well, but we take the Earth for granted, thereby incurring a debt. We pollute the five cardinal elements – earth, water, fire, air and space unthinkingly. This debt has to be repaid.

While there is no doubt that much of karma is out of personal control, repayment cannot be denied and this should be done to the extent free will permits. That, in itself is sacrifice (yagnya).

Conclusion of Srimad Bhagawad Geeta (63-78)

Sri Krishna said – Thus, I have declared to you the profound wisdom. Hereafter, reflect and decide what you wish to do. Also, you are beloved to me and steadfast of heart. So, fix your cognition on the Brahman, or on Me. Them, be devoted to me, sacrifice to me, prostate to me, you will then merge with me. This is my pledge to you.

Renounce all conditioning (dharma) and surrender unto me. Then, I shall liberate you from all sins.

This information should not be shared with one who is not disciplined or one who does not perform service. But if you teach this to the deserving, you will surely reach the Brahman and such a person will understand the meaning of sacrifice of his identity. Also, one who learns with an open mind shall also attain liberation. So Arjuna, has your delusion been destroyed?

Arjuna said – my delusion has been destroyed. Also, I have regained my awareness through your Maya. Consequently, I am firm and free from doubt and will do as you say.

Sanjaya said: I heard the wonderful dialogue between Arjuna and Sri Krishna, causing my hair to stand on end. Also, I have heard, through the grace of Vyasa, the secret of the supreme yoga espoused by the Lord of Yoga himself. Indeed, I rejoice again and again at the dialogue. Consequently, when I recall the wondrous form of Hari, I continue to remain astonished and rejoice again and again. Now, I am convinced that where there is Arjuna and Sri Krishna, there will be victory, prosperity, wealth and correct policy.

School of Yoga posits views that may be contrary to accepted positions: 

From verses 64 onwards, Sri Krishna advises Arjuna to surrender to him (Sri Krishna) for liberation.

Herein lies the problem, of existence and availability of free will, whether a person will be able to surrender out of personal volition and whether there will be any results. Will conditioning (dharma) or prarabda-karma allow such a surrender? If Prakriti forces action, it stands to reason that all situation, action and reaction is pre-ordained.

Next comes the question as to whether a person should surrender to Sri Krishna – the person, or Sri Krishna – the primordial sacrifice (adi-yagnya).

  • If surrender is to Sri Krishna the person, then obviously one should be able to surrender to any favourite deity (ishta-deivata) and results should be the same (Bhakti-Yoga).
  • However, if the surrender is to Sri Krishna as primordial sacrifice, then the surrender becomes process driven, one of systematic destruction of personal sense of Identity (Jnana-Yoga, Raja-Yoga, Hatha-Yoga etc). 

School of Yoga explains the lesson learned in Chapter 18

  • Sannyasa is expectation management, it is renunciation of action motivated by desire. This means – perform action because you need to, not because you want to.
  • Tyaaga is renunciation of fruits of action. This means letting go the fruits once the results come in, whether good or bad. Being content with the result and using the outcome to move forward to the next goal post. It is the attachment to an expected outcome that brings pain.
  • When we perform action as a sacrifice (yagnya), charity (daana) or austerity (tapas), then selfishness reduces and selflessness increases, this ensures that we are not dependent on others for our self-worth (asmita) and our thought that the action occurred because of our effort (ahamkara) reduces.
  • This increases discrimination between value/ non-value (vivekam) and dispassion (vairagyam).
  • Segregation of people according to their attributes (guna) is natural and occurs everywhere because each person has a natural state (sva-dharma) which is a result of prarabda-karma. This endows people with different attributes (guna) and each adds different values to society and each other.
  • However, it is essential that when dealing with people, all are treated as the same (Brahman). Brahman does not discriminate and the only requirement to reach Brahman is dedication (shraddha).

The Transliteration of The Bhagavad Geeta Chapter 1 follows:

The Sanskrit words are in red italics and meaning, before the words, are in black.

Arjuna said: (1) I wish to know the truth about renunciation and abandonment (sannyaasasya-tattvam-icchami-veditam-tyaagasya-cha).

Sri Krishna said: (2-3) Sages understand sannyasa as renunciation of actions motivated by desire (kaama). Similarly, abandonment of fruits of all activity is declared abandonment (tyaga) by the wise (kaamayaanam-karmanaanm-nyaasam-sanyaasan-vidhu-sarva-karma-phala-tyagam-prahus-tyaagam-vichakshana). Abandon some types of actions as noxious but sacrifice (yajna), gifting without expectation (dana) and self-restraint (tapas) should not be relinquished (tyaajyam-doshavat-iti-eke-karma-praahu-maneeshiNaha-yajnya-daana-tapah-karma-na-tyaajyam-iti-cha-apare). 

(4-6) With certainty, it has been declared that there are 3 types of abandonment (nischayam-shrunu-me-tatra-tyaage-tyaago-hi-trividhaha-samprakirtitah).  Sacrifice, donation and austerity should not be abandoned when performing action. Indeed, yajnya, dana and tapas are purification acts of the wise (yagnya-daana-tapah-karma-na-tyaajyam-kaaryam-eva-tat-yagnyo-daanaha-tapa-cha-eva-paavanaani-maneeshiNaam). Even these, when these actions are performed, it is my best belief that one should abandon the fruits of such actions also (etaani-api-tu-karmaaNi-sangam-tyaktva-phalaani-cha-kartavyaani-iti-me-nischitam-matam-uttam).

(7-10) Importantly, abandoning obligatory duty is not proper. Abandonment arises out of ignorance, and is tamasic (niyatasya-tu-sannyaasaha-karmaNo-na-upapadyate-mohaat-parityaagaha-taamasaha-parikeertitaha). When action is abandoned on account of fear of bodily harm or pain, it is rajasic and when a person abandons it, he does not get the fruits of tyaaga (dukkham-iti-eva-yat-karma-kay-klesha-bhayaat-tyajet-sah-kritva-raajasam-tyaagam-na-eva-tyaagaphalam-labhet). Thus, even when obligatory work is performed after abandoning the fruits of such action, such abandonment is known as sattvic (kaaryam-iti-eva-yat-karma-niyatam-kriyate-sangam-tyaaktva-phalam-cha-eva-sah-tyaagah-saatvika-mathah). Such a person does not loathe disagreeable action, nor gets attached to that which is agreeable duty. Also, a person who is imbibed in Sattva is self-contained, wise, with doubts torn asunder (na-dveshti-akushalam-karma-kushale-na-anusajjate-tyaagi-sattva-sama-vishtaha-medhavi-chinna-samshaya). 

(11-12) Without a doubt, it is impossible to renounce action. But he who renounces the fruits of one’s action, can be regarded as one who has renounced action (na-hi-dehabhrta-shakyam-tyaaktum-karmaaNi-asheshatah-yah-tu-karma-phala-tyaagi-sah-tyaagi-iti-abhidheeyate). Disagreeable, agreeable, mixed, these threefold outcomes of karma accrue when not abandoned, on death, but not when renounced (anishtam-ishtam-mishram-cha-trividhamksrmsnsh-phalam-bhavati-atyaaginaam-pretya-na-tu-sannyaasinaam-kachit).

(14-15) Additionally, learn the 5 causation components of all actions which are declared as vital in philosophy (panch-etani-kaaranaNi-nibhoda-samkhya-krtaante-proktaani-siddhaye-sarva-karmaNaam). Adhishtan (place/ body or kshetra), karta (doer), karanam (causation / operation), prathagvidham (various points of view), and deivam (deity) (adhiashtaan-tatha-kartha-karaNam-cha-prthagvidham-vividhaaha-cha-prthag-cheshtah-deivam-cha-eva-atra-panchamam). Whenever man in involved in dissolution of righteous or contrary karma involving body, cognition and verbal skills, these 5 components will be used (shareera-vaq-monobhih-yat-karma-prarabhate-narah-nyaayam-va-vipareetam-va-pancha-ete-tasya-hetavaha).

(16-17) Thus, there the person sees the Self as the doer alone, truly he who does not see this owing to untrained intellect is ignorant (tatra-evam-sati-kartaaram-aatmanam-kevalamtu-yaha-pashyati-akrta-buddhitvaat-na-sah-pashyati-dyrmati). He who is free from the intellectual (buddhihi) sentiment (bhaava) of being the doer (ahamkrta) is not bound (nibhayate) by his action, even if he slays other people (hanti), (yasya-na-ahamtrtaha-bhaava-buddhihi-yasya-na-lipyate-hatva-api-sah-imaan-lokaan-na-hanti-na-nibhadyate).

(18-19) Wisdom (jnanam), cognition of wisdom (jneyam) and knower of wisdom (parijnata) are three-fold motivators for normal action (karmachodana) (jnaanam-jneya-parijnaata-trividha-karmachodana). Next, the organ, instrument or equipment (karnam), karma (act) and karta (doer or performer) form the threefold constituents (samgraha) of action (karNam-karma-karteti-trividaha-karma-samgraha). Wisdom (jnanam), action (karma) and doer (karta) are split according to the mix of attributes (gunabhedataha guna = attribute + bhedataha = split into) are describes in the philosophy of attributes (gunasankhyaguna = attributes + saankhya = philosophical enumeration), hear those also (jnaanam-karma-cha-karta-tridheiva-guna-bhedhataha-prochate-guna-samkhyena-yathavat-shrnu-taani-api).

(20-22) First, when one sees the indestructible one-ness (Brahman) in all creation, not separated from each other, that wisdom is known is sattvikam (sarva-bhuteshu-yena-ekam-bhaavam-avyayam-ikshate-abhivaktam-vibhakteshu-tat-jnyaanam-viddhi-sattvikam). Next, when one perceives distinct differences or variances in all creation, such wisdom is rajas (prthaktvena-tu-yat jnyaanam-naanaabhaavaana-prthagvidhaana-vetti-sarveshu-bhooteshu-tat-jnaanam-viddhi-raajasam). When one extrapolates a single event into a phenomenon (krtsnavat), is attached to anything without reason (ahaitukam), does not look for evidence of reality (athathvarthvath) or is trivial (alpam), that is declared to be tamasic (yat-tu-krtsnavad-ekasmin-kaarye-saktam-ahaitukam-attattvaarthvat-alpam-cha-tat-taamasam-udaahrtam).

(23-25) Also, always indifferent, acting without longing or hatred, with no desire for the fruits of action, that action is sattvic (niyatam-sanga-rahitam-araaga-dveshatam-kritam-aphala-prepsuna-karma-yat-tat-sattvikam-ucchayate). Action which is done due to craving or passion, a feeling of being the doer, lots of effort, that action is rajasic (yat-tu-kaamepsunaa-karma-sa-ahamkaareNa-va-punah-kriyate-bahu-laayaasam-tat-raajasam-udahrtam). Lastly, action which is undertaken without heed to consequences, loss or wastage, injury, with only virility, arises from delusion, is called tamasic (anubandham-kshayam-hinsaam-anapekshya-cha-pourusham-mohaat-aarabhyate-karma-yat-tat-taamasam-ucchayate).

(26-28) Furthermore, anyone free from attachment, without self-doer-ship, with firm enthusiasm and resolve, unaffected by success or failure (siddi-asiddhyoh-nirvikarah) is sattvic (muktasangah-anahamvaadi-dhrit-utsaaha-samanvitah-siddih-asiddhiyoh-nirvikaaraha-karta-sattvikah-ucchayate). Passionate, attached to the fruits of effort, greedy, inclined towards violence, impure, full of joy and sorrow, is called rajasic (raagi-karma-phala-prepsuh-lubdah-himsatmakah-asushi-harsha-soka-anvitah-karta-raajasaha-parikeertitaha). Generating absurd positions, vulgar, stubborn and arrogant, cheating, malicious, lazy, despondent, procrastinating, is called tamasic (ayukta-praakrita-sthabdha-sathah-naishkrithikah-alasaha-vishaadi-deerga-sootri-cha-karta-taamasaha-ucchayate). 

(29-32) They have the intellect, ability to delineate, firmness to understand the threefold attributes that I declare to the granular level (buddhih-bhedam-dhrteh-cha-eva-guNataha-trividham-shruNu-prochyamaanam-ahesheN-prthaktvena). They have the intellect to discriminate action from renunciation (nivrittim), action which should be done from that which should be left alone, fear from fearlessness and bondage from liberation are sattvic (pravrttim-cha-nivrittim-cha-kaarya-akaarye-bhaya-abhaye-bandham-moksham-cha-yaa-vetti-buddhihi-sa-saathviki). An intellect that is unable to discriminate between natural human state and chaos, correct and improper action is rajasic (yayaa-dharmam-adharmam-cha-kaarya-cha-akaaryam-eva-cha-ayathaavath-prajaanaathi-buddhih-sa-raajasika). That intellect which is confused by what constitutes natural state and what does not and views everything in a perverse or contrary manner is tamasic (adharma-dharmam-iti-yaa-manyate-tamasa-aavrta-sarvaarthaan-vipareetaan-cha-buddhih-sa-taamasi).

(33-35) He who has unswerving control over the functioning of cognition, life-force and senses through practice of yoga is sattvic (dhrtya-yaya-dhaarayate-manaha-praNa-indriya-kriyah-yogena-avyabhicharinya-dhrtih-sa-saatviki). However, where control over the natural state desire and material possessions is exerted for fruits of one’s action, that firmness is rajasic (yayaa-tu-dharma-kaama-arthaan-dhrtyaa-dharayate-prasangena-phalakaakshi-dhrteehi-sa-raajasi). When a person refuses to give up expectations, fear, grief, despair, arrogance, and firmly refuses to abandon delusion, such a person is tamasic (yaya-svapnam-bhayam-shokam-vishaadam-madam-eva-cha-na-vimucchati-durmegha-dhritihi-sa-tamasi).

(36-39) Hear from me, the 3 kinds of happiness, the practice of which there is rejoicing from end of sorrow (sukham-tu-idaaneem-trividham-shrnu-ne-abhyaasaat-ramate-yatr-dukkha-antam-cha-nigacchati). In that which is like poison at first but like nectar on reaching self-realisation is sattvic (yat-tat-agre-visham-iva-pariNaame-amrit-upamam-tat-sukham-saatvikam-proktam-aatma-buddhi-prasaadajam). That happiness which arises from the senses and sense-objects, and is like nectar at first but ends up like poison is rajasic (vishaya-indriya-samyogaat-yat-tat-agre-amrita-upamam-parinaame-visham-iva-tat-sukham-raajasam-smrtam). Finally, that delusive pleasure (mohanam-atmanah) which arises from excessive sleep, laziness and negligence (nidra, alasya, pramada-uttam) is tamasic (yat-agre-cha-anubhande-cha-sukham-mohanam-aatmanaha-nidra-aalasya-pramaada-uttam-tat-taamasam-udahrtam).

(40) Nothing, not even the Gods are free from the influence of the gunas, which is born from Prakriti (na-tat-asti-prthivyaam-va-divi-punah-sattvam-muktam-yat-ebhi-syaat-tribhihi-gunaiuhi).

(41-44) The duties of brahmanas, ksatriyas, vaishyas and shudras are distributed according to their personality traits (svabhava) and these traits are driven by gunas (brahmana-kshatriya-vishaan-shoodraaNaam-cha-karmaaNi-pravibhaktaani-svabhaavprabhaivaha-guNaihi).  Personality traits of brahmanas are – serenity, subdued/ restrained, self-restraint/ denial, cleanliness, peacefulness, uprightness, awareness of the Self, sentience of the environment or kshetra (vijnana) and belief in the Vedas (samah-damah-tapah-shoucham-kshaanti-aarjavam-eva-cha-jnaanam-vijnaanam-aasthikyam-brahma-karma-svabhaavajam). Next, personality traits of kshatriyas – valour, virility, firmness, skill and cleverness, not flying in battle, generosity, and behaviour of a lord (shouryam-tejoh-dhritih-daakkshyam-yuddhe-cha-api-apalaayanam-daanam-eeshwarabhaavaha-cha-kshaatram-karma-svabhaavajam). Personality traits of vaishyas can be found in activities such as agriculture, taking care of cattle and trade. Sudras are born for service. (krishi-gourakshya-vaanijyam-vaishya-karma-svabhaavajam-paricharyaatmakam-karma-shoodrasya-api-svabhaavajam).

(45-46) Everyone has a zone of competence and when activity is performed in this zone (sva-karma-nirataha) with dedication, person finds utopia (samsiddhi) (sve-sve-karmaaNi-abhirataha-samsiddhim-labhate-naraha-sva-karma-nirataha-siddhim-yatha-vindati-tat-shrnu). When acting within one’s competence (sva= self + karmana = action), if dedication of the act is to the Brahman, (sarva = all + idam = this + tatam = pervaded + pravrittih = evolution), mankind attains utopia (siddhim) (yathaha-pravrthi-bhootanam-yena-sarvam-idam-tatam-sva-karmaNaam-tam-abhyarchya-siddhim-vindati-maanavaha).

(47-48) It is better to act in conformance to one’s conditioning even though it may have fewer merits, rather than to perform good work which is the conditioning of others. Action performed in conformance to one’s own personality traits, no matter how badly performed, incurs no negativity (kilbhisham) (shreyaan-sva-dharma-viguNa-para-dharmaat-su-anushtitaat-svabhaav-niyata-karma-kurvaan-na-apnoti-kilbisham).  Innate nature is action. Even though action comes with its own challenges/ defects one should not abandon it, because when whenever activity is started, each effort will have challenges, like smoke which covers the fire (sahajam-karma-sadosham-api-na-tyaajet-sarva-aaramba-hi-dosheNa-dhoomena-agni-iva-aavrita).

(49-51) A person whose logic is unattached at all times, has subdued the Self and is devoid of desire, who is completely without desire, that person attains supreme renunciate state (asakta-buddhihi-sarvatra-jitaatma-vigatspraha-naish-kaamya-siddhim-param-sannyaasena-adhigacchati). Learn from me in brief, that supreme knowledge of how to reach the highest state of perfection and attain Brahman (siddhim-praapto-yatha-brahma-tatha-aapnothi-nibhegha-me-samaasen-eva-nishta-jnaanasya-yaa-para). Purify the intellect and join firmly to the Self through self-control. Then, relinquish sound related subjects and abandon duality such as like-dislike (buddhyaa-vishuddhaya-yukto-dhrity-aatmanam-niyamya-cha-shabdaadeen-vishayaan-tyaaktva-raaga-dveshasau-vyudasya-cha). 

(52-53) Live in solitude, eat sparingly, keep speech, body and cognition yoked by meditation, while constantly taking refuge in dispassion (vairagyam) (vivita-sevi-laghvaasi-yat-vaaq-kaaya-manasa-dhyaan-yoga-paraha-nityamvairaagyam-samupaashrithaha. Abandon feeling of being the doer, all forms of power, arrogance, passion, anger, greed, then freed from non- possessiveness, peaceful Brahman transformation occurs (ahamkaaram-balam-darpam-krodham-parigraham-vimuchya-nirmamaha-shaantaha-brahmabhooyaaya-kalpate). 

(54-56) On realising Brahman, this serene soul neither grieves nor has expectations. Treating all alike my devotee attains supreme (brahma-bhoota-prasanna-atma-na-shochati-na-kaangsati-sam-sarvaeshu-bhooteshu-madbhaktim-labhate-param). Devoted to me, he perceives Truth in the Self. Then, recognising that “I” and “Truth” are the same, thereafter there is merger (bhaktya-maamabhijaanaathi-yaavaan-yah-cha-asmi-tattvataha-tataha-maam-tattvataha-jnyaatva-vishate-tat-anantaram). Performing all actions always while taking refuge in me, by my grace, he attains, the indestructible, eternal abode (sarva-karmaNi-api-sada-kurvaaNo-mad-vyapashyraya-mat-prasadat-avapnoti-sasvatam-padam-avyayam). 

(57-58) Consciously renounce all actions in devotion to me, always be with the approach of joining the intellect with the consciousness on me(chetasa-sarva-karmaaNi-mayi-sannyasya-matparaha-buddhi-yogam-upashritya-ma-chittaha-satatam-bhava). Devoted to me, you will overcome all obstacles, by my grace. However, if you listen to my words with the attitude of a doer, then you will lose everything (macchitta-sarva-durgaaNi-matprasaadaata-tarishyasi-atha-cheta-tvam-ahamkaaraat-na-shroshyasi-vinankshyasi).

(59-60) In fact, even if you take refuge in your attitude of doer-ship and use your cognitive abilities in refusing to fight, prakriti will compel you and your resolve will be in vain (yad-ahamkaaram-aashritaha-na-yotsye-iti-manyase-mithya-esha-vyavasaayaha-te-prakrtih-tvaam-niyoksyati). Despite your delusion, you are bound by karma which drives your own nature and you cannot do as you wish. Indeed, you are helpless (svabhaavajena-nibaddhah-svena-karmaNaa-kartum-na-icchasi-yat-mohaat-karishyasi-avashah-api-tat). 

(61-62) The Brahman is present in all beings. However, it is Brahman’s maya (brahmayan) which causes all beings to imagine that they are mounted on a machine (eeshwaraha-sarva-bhootaanaam-hrddese-tishtati-brahmyam-sarva-bhootaani-yantra-aaruDaan–maayaya). So, seek refuge in that, with all your faculties in the grace of Brahman you will gain supreme peace and obtain eternal abode.

(63-64) Thus, an exclusive wisdom that is a secret has been declared by me to you. Reflect over it completely and take the course of action that you wish (iti-te-jnaanam-aakhyaatam-guhyaat-guhyataram-mayaa-vimrshya-etat-asesheNa-yatha-icchasi-tatha-kuru). The biggest secret of all, hear my supreme word. Deeply beloved you are to me; therefore, I will tell you that which is favourable to you (sarva-guhya-tamam-bhooyah-shrnu-me-param-vachaha-ishta-asi-me-drdham-iti-tataha-vakshyaami-te-hitam).

(65-66) With your cognition fixed on me, devoted to me, sacrifice to me, prostrate to me, verily you will come to me, this truth I confirm to you because you are beloved of me (manmanA-bhava-madbhakto-maDhaajee-maam-namaskuru-maam-eva-eshyaasi-satyam-te-pratijaane-priyah-asi-me). Abandoning all conditioning (sarva-dharma-parityajya) to me alone, take surrender, I will liberate you from all wretchedness, do not grieve (sarva-dharma-parityajya-maam-ekam-sharaNam-vraja-aham-tva-sarva-paapebhyaha-mokshayishyami-ma-suchah).

(67-68) You should not share this with anyone who does not practice austerities, never to one who is not devoted, one who does not pay attention or is can be blamed in his actions or one who is jealous (idam-te-natpaskaaya-na-bhaktaaya-kadachana-na-cha-shushroosh-eva-vaachyam-na-cha-maam-yah-abhisooyate).  This supreme secret shall be declared to those who are supremely devoted to me, who undoubtedly shall come to me (ya-idam-param-guhyam-madbhakteshu-abhidhyaasati-bhaktim-mayi-param-kritva-maam-eva-eshyati-asamsayaha).

(69-70) And there is none dearer to me among men who works with happiness, there shall be none dearer on Earth (na-cha-tasmaan-manushyeshu-kaschit-me-priyakrtam-bhavati-na-cha-me-tasmaat-anya-priyataraha-bhuvi). And who shall study this consensual conversation (sam-vaadam) of ours on natural states through sacrifice of intellect (jnyaana-yagnena), him I shall like and this is my intuition (adhyeshyate-cha-yah-imam-dharmyam-sam-vaadam-aavayoho-jnaana-yagnena-tena-aham-ishta-syaam-iti-me-matihi).

(71-72) Even that person who hears with integrity (shraddha), without envy (anasooyah) will also be liberated and be in a happy world, begetting the benefits of stain-free action (puNya-karmaNaam) (shraddhavaan-anasooyaha-cha-shrNuyaat-api-yaha-naraha-sah-api-muktaha-shubham-lokaan-praapnuyaat-puNya-karmaNaam). Have you heard this with a single pointed focussed consciousness, Arjuna? Have the delusions arising from ignorance been destroyed? (kachit-etat-shrutam-paarth-tvaya-ekaagreNa-chetasa-kachit-ajnyaana-sammohah-pranasht-te-dhananjaya)

(73) Arjuna said – My delusions have been destroyed, mindfulness has been gained through your grace, I am freed from doubts and firm. I will do as you say (nashto-mohah-smrtir-ladhdaa-tvat-prasaadaat-maya-sthithaha-asmi-gata-sandeha-karishye-vacanam-tava).

(74-78) Sanjaya said – Thus I heard this high-level dialogue between Vaasudeiva and Parth, this visionary, wonderful experience that causes my hair to stand on end (vaadam-imam-aham-vaasudeivasya-paarth-cha-mahat-manaha-samvaadam-imam-ashrousham-adbhootam-romaharshaNam). Through the grace of Vyaasa, I have heard this supreme secret on Yoga from the Lord of Yoga, Krishna directly, declaring himself (vyaasa-prasaadaat-shrutvaan-etat-guhyam-aham-param-yogam-yogeswaraat-krishNaat-saakshaat-kathayathah). King, have remembered again and again, this wonderful and virtuous dialogue between Krishna and Arjuna, I rejoice again and again (raajan-samsmrtya-samsmrtya-samvaadam-imam-adbhutam-keshava-arjunayo-punyam-hrshyaami-cha-muhuh-muhuh). And then having remembered again and again the most wonderful form of Hari I wonder, my great king, again and again (tat-cha-samsmrtya-samsmrtya-roopam-athyadbhootam-hare-vismai-me-mahaan-raajan-hrshyaami-cha-punah-punah). Wherever there is the Lord of Yoga Krishna, wherever there is Partha the archer, there will always be prosperity, victory, happiness, stable conduct is my conviction (yatra-yogeswarah-krishnah-paarth-dhanurdharaha-tatra-shreehi-vijayaha-bhootihi-dhruva-neetihi-matihi-mama)  

With this ends The Bhagavad Geeta.

Editor at School Of Yoga
School Of Yoga is a single point resource for all aspects of Classical Yoga practise. We try to achieve this by placing Yoga's traditional methodology in front of the reader and eliciting his or her experience. We value everyone's Yoga experience and would like you to share and enrich other practitioners so that everyone benefits.
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