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Adhyaya 18 : Mőksha Sanyăsa Yoga

Introduction :

In the 16th adhyăy the discussion regarding the true nature of the world of matters and living beings ended. The expanse of the universe and its vast variety was the product of Prakriti acting through unseen material forces known as Gunas making various shapes, forms, qualities and activities by different combinations. The eternal principle immanent in the whole creation is Bramhan which is a generating as well as resting place of everything that manifests for short period of time. The knowledge of the Absolute and the knowledge of true nature of the manifested world is referred to as Dnyăna - ViDnyana. The discussion on that knowledge concluded in 17th Adhyăya. Path of knowledge, path of action and path of devotion though outwardly appear different, are in reality one and the same and all lead to liberation called mőksha.

In the 18th Adhyaya Arjuna asks a penetrating question. He wants to know the distinction between Sannyăsa and tyăga since actions are inevitable for all embodied beings. 18th Adhyăya begins with in-depth analysis of various aspects of Karma and then giving classifications of Dnyăna, Karma, Dhriti, Sukha etc. deals extensively with idea of swaDharma attached to the innate nature of living beings. This Adhyăya ends with the glorification of supreme devotion which is based on total surrendering to God.

juna wants to know the real nature of ‘Sannyăsa’ and ‘tyăga’ separately since both the terms literally mean "renunciation." He wishes to know the difference between the two.

When all actions motivated by derres are completely given up the learned calls it ‘Sanayăsa’ and when the fruits of actions are given up the wise call it ‘tyă ga’

The idea of renunciation is viewed differently by different people. The Lord refers to some of them. He explains:

Some thinkers declare that all kinds of actions should be renounced since they always carry faults with them. Whereas others maintain that the acts of sacrifice charity and penance are not to be given up but they must be practised because sacrifice, charity and penance are the means of purification for the learned people.

Even these actions are to be performed without attachment to their fruits.

Verses 7 to 17

The Lord turns to classification of actions in order to confirm his preference to detached action by condemning the rest.

Prescribed duties are never to be renounced. If they are renounced out of ignorance such renunciation is said to be tămasik.

Out of fear of bodily harm when a man gives up his duty considering it as sorrow his renunciation is răjasik and such renunciation never gets any reward of fruits. But when one performs one’s action ordained by scriptures as a matter of duty, renouncing all attachment and fruits his renunciation is said to be săttvik.

Intelligent renounce whose all doubts are dispelled and whose nature is săttvik, does not hate action which is disagreeable and does not like it because it is agreeable.

It is quite impossible for any creature who possesses the body to give up his actions altogether. Therefore he who renounces the fruits of action is called a true renouncer.

Those who have not given up the desires of fruits, get after death, the threefold fruits of bondage, pleasant, unpleasant and mixed. But those who have truly renounced do not get any fruit at all.

The Lord’s insistence on giving up one’s ego and sense of belonging to become a true sanyasi or tyagi is further strengthened by metaphysical reasoning. The Lord explains:

"Oh Arjuna, according to Sănkhya school of thought there exist five causes that bring all actions to fruition. Learn them from me."

First is the place of action, the body, second comes the doer, the ego, the third various instruments like sense organs etc., fourth, different kinds of life movements in body and the fifth one certainly is providence.

Whatever endeavour, right or wrong, a man undertakes through his body, speech and mind it has these five causes.

Any action initially is in a thought form and subsequently culminates into reality taking a concrete form through these five causes.

This being the position, one Who thinks that he himself is the doer, that fool does not really see the truth due to his immature knowledge.

But he who has no sense of ego and whose intelligence is not tainted by any selfish motive even if he kills these men, he is not at all a killer. Thus he is not tied up to the fruit of his action.


Such a doer being pure in heart, free from any selfish motive and treating all living and non living creatures equally shall not be harmful to anybody. So killing anybody for no reason remains out of question, When the Lord says that one is not a killer even after killing men this is not to be misunderstood. Any duty ordained by scriptures or prescribed by law or sanctioned by conscience when performed without any attachment and ego becomes a pure action accomplished by the just quoted five causes. The self remains above everything.

The Lord now continues his Guna classification extending it to many more human activities starting with Dnyăna.

The knowledge, the object of knowledge and the knower; these three inspire action (by generating a mental design) The instument, the act and the doer; these three form the action (executing the mental design)

The sănkhya theory of Gunas proclaims that knowledge, action and doer have three kinds each according to Guna - difference.

Knowledge By which is seen only One Imperishable Existence in all living and non living entities, staying undivided in divided many, is to be known as săttvik. Knowledge by which is seen difference and multifarious forms in all creatures is to be known as răjasik.

Knowledge by which one who is ignorant about the truth is involved in one kind of work thinking it as everything and having no other cause that meagre knowledge is known as tămasik.

‘One - in all’, ‘difference everywhere ‘ and ‘mine everything’ are the three attitudes falling under sattva, raja and tama respectively.

The action prescribed by law or innate nature when performed by him who has no desire for fruits, having no attachment, love or hatred is said to be săttvik.

The action performed egoistically, with strong desire for fruits employing hard efforts is said to be răjasik.

The action performed under delusion created by ignorance without caring for destruction, violence and other bindings and without judging own strength is said to be tămasik.

The doer who is free from attachment, not boasting of his deeds, who is full of courage and enthusiasm and who remains undisturbed in the hour of success or failure is said to be săttvik.

The door who is passionately attached and desirous of fruits of his actions, who is greedy, brutal and impure and who gets quickly influenced by joy and sorrow is said to be răjasik.

The doer who is mentally imbalance, uncultured, rude, arrogant, cheat, malicious, lazy, dejected and idler is said to be tămasik.

Verses 29 to 39

The Lord applies this threefold classification to some abstract human qualities like intelligence, determination etc. and asks Arjuna to listen to their full details being told separately.

That intellect which knows what is activity and what is renunciation what is worthy of doing and what is unworthy, What is to be feared and what is bondage and what is liberation is sattwik. That intellect which fails to understand what is right and what is not, what is just and what is not, what is right action and what is not is răjasik.

And that intellect which under the spell of darkness of ignorance considers unrighteous to be righteous and sees all things in distorted form is tămsik.

That determination which remains steadfast due to Yőga practice and controls the activities of the mind, life breath and the senses is săttvik.

That determination by which one remains firmly attached to duty, desires and wealth expecting benefits is rajasik.

And that determination by which the fools do not give up sleep, fear, grief, dejection and pride is tămasik.

This determination is more on mental plane rather than physical one and it can be good, bad or worst according to the work in which it is used. The Lord talks about the nature of happiness which is of three kinds.

That happiness in which one takes delight by constant study and where ends the sorrow, which is like poison first but becomes nectar in the end, and which is born out of calmness of intellect being absorbed in Ătman is săttvik:

That happiness which is born from the contacts of the senses with the sense objects, which is like nectar first but becomes a poison in the end is răjasik.

And that happiness which from the beginning to the end keeps the self in delusion and which arises from sleep, laziness and folly is tămasik.

Intellect joyfully involved in search of Ătman is very important instrument in obtaining săttvik happiness. Intellect is a powerful instrument available to a man. It can dispassionately see the interplay of three Gunas and at the same time has the capacity to realise Ătman. Purity and transparency of the intellect being an important power all the different paths leading to God invariably cherish its help in their accomplishment.

Among these threefold Guna-classifications the Lord stresses the greatness of săttvik nature which ultimately culminates into the state that transcends all Gunas. The discussion now shifts to fourfold classification of the social structure which is based upon s-differenciation. The Lord continues explaining what is innate nature i.e. swaDharma and how the society performs its fourfold functions through swaDharma.

Neither in this world nor among gods in heavens, there is any creature who is absolutely free from these three Gunas that spring from Prakriti.

The duties of Brahmins, the enlightened seers; kshatriyas, the warriors; the vaishyas, the providers and shudras, the servers are differentiated by their nature born of the Gunas.

Brahmin’s duty consists of tranquillity, restraint, austerity, purity, patience, uprightness, knowledge of self, knowledge of universe and faith in God. All these coming out of his nature.

Kshatriya’s duty consists of valour, splendour, determination, alertness fearlessness in battle, generosity, leadership, all these coming from his nature.

Vaishya’s duty consists of farming, cattle rearing and trade, all these arising out of his nature.

And shudra’s duty consists of the work of service ordained by his nature.

The four caste system in Hinduism is thus born out of Guna-dominated variety of human nature. The Lord has not given any gradation calling one high or the other low, one pure and other impure . No such distinction is made. On the contrary the Lord gives equal importance to all four. To achieve salvation each one has to perform his duty selflessly and offering it as worship to God. One can reach perfection by following his own duty. Nothing else is required. Thus says the Lord:

" A man engrossed in doing his work attains perfection. I shall tell you how he gains perfection by doing his duty, please listen."

"A man reaches perfection when he worships God by offering his actions to Him from whom all creatures along with their duties are born and by whom everything is pervaded."

This stanza appears to be the key verse of the Lord’s teachings. The first line categorically and clearly states the spiritual truth, and the final goal of the man and the means to be adopted are mentioned in the second line.

The Lord further explains why one should stick to his own duty even if it is imperfect or faulty one. Man’s own duty born out of his innate nature i.e. SwaDharma is better than the duty of others. Duty performed according to one’s own innate nature does not invite any sin.

Thus reassuring, the Lord insists on not giving up one’s duty though tainted with fault because he says all actions are some way or the other involved in some faults just as fire is covered by smoke.

Therefore by detachment, control of the mind, desirelessness and renunciation of fruits one attains the highest perfection of bondage-free non-action.

According to the Lord all actions have equal merit and fourfold order of social functions is an integral part of every society all over the world. Therefore renouncement of actions is not advised.

Duty whether difficult or disagreeable performed with non-attached mind certainly leads the doer to perfection. Such are the experiences of saints and sages all over the world. The Lord continues explaining how does one attain union with Brahman, the supreme state of knowledge after achieving the perfect stage of bondage-free non - action i. e. NaishKarma.

With his intelligence purified, mind brought under control with determination, giving up objects like sound etc. of sense pleasures, attachment and hatred setting aside;

Living in seclusion, eating but little, curbing his speech, body and mind always absorbed in meditation, taking the shelter of detachment.

And discarding ego, power, pride, lust, anger and possessions he who is unselfish and tranquil, becomes fit to be one with Brahman.

Once united with Brahman and his self becoming serene and calm he does not indulge in grief or hope. Being equal to all creatures he attains the highest devotion of the Lord.

Through devotion he knows the Lord as He is in his real nature. Thereafter knowing Him truly he enters into the Lord.

Love Him, know Him, and then enter into Him, this is a step by step evolution of the self in the process of realisation. The Lord wants Arjuna to follow that path.

Verses 57 to 66

Surrendering into Him, always doing His activities, he obtains the eternal and changeless place through the grace of the Lord.

Thus explaining the importance of non attached action performed with most devotion, at the end of his prolonged discourse the Lord focuses His attention on his friend-disciple Arjuna and delivering his final divine message concludes his teaching.

The Lord utters his guiding words: "Mentally repose all your actions into Me, and getting absorbed in Me, practising the Yoga discipline to stabilise the intellect, concentrate all your attention in Me.

Once your mind is full of my consciousness you shall overcome all the obstacles by My grace. And if you do not listen to what I say out of egoistic pride your ruin is certain.

If filled with pride you say, "I will not fight’, that resolve of yours is in vain. Your nature will compel you to fight.

Due to delusion created by your ignorance whatever you wish to avoid, you will be helplessly doing the same, because, oh Arjuna, you are bound by your own action born of your nature.

The Supreme Lord resides in the hearts of all creatures and turns them who are ridden on a machine, round and round by his divine power called Măya."

Therefore surrender yourself to Him totally so that through His grace you shall obtain highest peace and eternal abode.

I have taught to you that knowledge which is the secret of all secrets. Pondering over it from all sides do what you wish to do.

Ătman is free but the actions are not free. They depend on many factors; the chief motivating force being the Prakriti. Actions can be purified by pure intellect and pure devotion. Prakriti is the power of the Supreme Lord. Ultimately He is the grand performer. So one has to surrender fully to Him. Arjuna is granted full freedom to act.

At the close of his teaching the Lord told Arjuna to take his own decision and again started persuading him to follow his words.

" Listen once again to my last words that consist of the most confidential secret. Because you are so dear to me, I shall tell you what is good for you.

"Fix your mind in Me. Be my devotee. Always worship Me, bow down to Me. Then you shall come to Me. Really this is my promise to you since you are so dear to me"

"Leaving aside all duties just surrender into Me alone. I shall liberate you from all sins; worry no more."

The Lord expects that this divine knowledge should continue flowing.

Warning Arjuna, the Lord tells about the reward one gets by absorbing this knowledge

"This divine secret is never to be disclosed to anyone who has no austerity and devotion, also not to him who disobeys his teacher and who despises Me.

But he who teaches this supreme secret to my devotees; and thus offers to Me his great devotion will certainly come to Me.

Amongst men there is no one greater than him who is doing such a good service to Me. And in this world there can be no one dearer to Me.

And if anyone studies this holy conversation of ours I consider as if he is worshipping Me by offering the sacrifice of knowledge.

Even if a man who does listen this with faith and without envy, he will be liberated and placed in the auspicious abode of righteous people."

Finally the Lord wants to know from Arjuna his response, so he asks: "Oh Arjuna, have you listened this with concentrated mind? Oh Dhananjay, has your delusion created by ignorance disappeared?

Without any hesitation Arjuna promptly answers:

Oh Lord, By your grace my delusion is destroyed. I have regained my memory, I am now firm with my doubts totally gone oh Krishna. I shall follow your words."

Here ended the dialogue between the Lord and Arjuna. Sanjay who was reporting this dialogue between two great souls to king Dhirtarashtra concluded this adhyăya as well as Gita by expressing his joyful reaction to what he heard and saw. He exclaims:-

"Thus I heard the dialogue between Lord Krishna and Arjuna the great. It was so wondrous that I am extremely thrilled with my hair getting erect.

By the grace of Vyăsa, I heard this highly mysterious Yőga at the time when it was delivered directly by the Lord Krishna, the master of Yoga.

0 King, recalling that wonderful and holy dialogue held between Keshava and Arjuna, I rejoice again and again."

His great astonishment and joy overcoming him again and again at the repeated remembrance of Lord Krishna’s most wondrous universal form, made Sanjaya to proclaim his judgement at the close of this celestial song.

"Wherever there is Krishna, the master of Yoga and wherever there is Arjuna, the master of archery, only there I know for certain will be fortune, victory, welfare and morality.

Here ends the science that combines the knowledge of being one with the Supreme Lord and the skill of active participation in the process of evolution that keeps the Lord’s creation progressing.


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