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#Gita Chapter 18 (English translation)

November 13, 2017

Introduction, Acknowledgements, Translation notes


Chapter 18





Arjuna speaks:

I wish to know the truth of sannyaasa (renunciation) and tyaaga (abandonment), Mahabaaho, Hrishikesha, Keshisudhana (mighty-armed, the Lord of all senses, killer of the demon Keshi, Sri Krishna). II18.1II


Sri Krishna Bhagavan speaks:

The sages understand sannyaasa to be renunciation of desire-prompted actions (which take place in the present); and tyaaga to be abandonment of the fruits of the action (which are anticipated in the future). II18.2II

(Note: Abandonment is the means. Renunciation is the goal.)


Some philosophers (referring to Saankhya philosophy) declare that all actions should be abandoned as evil; while others say that acts of sacrifice, charity, and austerity should not be given up. II18.3II


Bharatasattama (the best of the Bharata dynasty, Arjuna), hear conclusively from Me about the three kinds of abandonment that have been declared, Purushavyaagraha (the best of men, Arjuna). II18.4II


Acts of sacrifice, charity, and austerity should not be abandoned. Sacrifice, charity, and austerity should surely be undertaken as a means of purification even of the wise. II18.5II


But these actions should be undertaken surrendering the fruits of the action. This is My firm and best resolve, Partha (Arjuna). II18.6II


Giving up of nityakarma (obligatory duties) is not right. Abandoning them is the result of taamasic delusion. II18.7II


Giving up action because it is inconvenient does not obtain the merit of renunciation. This arises out of rajas. II18.8II


Giving up all personal desire for the fruits of the action, performing the action as an obligatory duty without attachment is considered saatvic. II18.9II


The wise man who has attained purity is free from doubts and is intelligent; he does not avoid action because it disagreeable nor does he desire action because it is agreeable. II18.10II


It is not really possible for an embodied being to completely avoid action. In this case, he who abandons of the fruits of the action is considered a renunciate. II18.11II


The three distinct kinds of the fruit of action–unpleasant, pleasant, and mixed (both pleasant and unpleasant)–continue to accrue even after death for those who do not renounce, but not for those who do resort to renunciation. II18.12II


Learn from Me, Mahabaaho (Arjuna), these five causes for the accomplishment of all actions, as declared in the Saankhya (Upanishadic) system–Vedanta, which imparts to us the knowledge that is the end of all actions: II18.13II

(Refer to Swami Chinmayananda, The Holy Geeta)


  • The body (which is the locus of desire)

  • The agent (the doer of the action – the ego) …

  • the organs of perception (eyes, ears, nose, tongue, and skin)

  • the organs of action (hands, feet, tongue, organs of excretion and reproduction)

  • The divine (the five elemental forces that preside over the organs of perception) II18.14II

(Refer to Swami Chinmayananda, The Holy Geeta)


Whatever action a man performs using his body, speech, and mind–whether it is a right action or not–these five are the cause. II18.15II


This being the case, whoever sees the Supreme Self (which is indwelling in the body) as the agent has a warped view due to his untrained understanding. II18.16II


He who is free from the egotistical notion (that he is the doer), whose intelligence is not tainted, he is not bound by his action–though he kills, he does not kill. II18.17II


Knowledge, the known, and the knower form the three-fold ‘impulse to action’; the organs, the action, the agent, form the three-fold ‘basis of action’. II18.18II

(Verbatim from Swami Chinmayananda, The Holy Geeta)


Knowledge, the action, and the actor (the agent) are declared in the study of the gunas (temperaments) to be of three kinds based on the difference in temperament. Hear of them: 18.19II


That knowledge is saatvic which perceives in all beings a single, indestructible, undivided Reality. II18.20II


That knowledge is raajasic which sees in all beings distinct entities of various kinds, different from one another. II18.21II


That knowledge is taamasic which clings blindly to one idea as if it were the whole, without reason, trivial, and without foundation in truth. II18.22II


That action is saatvic which is performed without like or dislike, or without expectation for the result. II18.23II


That action is raajasic which is performed with desire for the result, or by one who is egotistical, and involves much effort. II18.24II


That action is taamasic which is performed out of delusion, without regard for the consequence, the loss (of energy), the harm it may cause others, or the ability (of the actor). II18.25II


That actor (agent) is saatvic who is free from attachment, non-egotistic, endowed with firmness and enthusiasm, unaffected in success or failure. II18.26II


That actor (agent) is raajasic who desires the fruit of his actions, is greedy, who is cruel by nature, is impure, and is overpowered by the pairs of opposites (likes and dislikes). II18.27II


That actor (agent) is taamasic, who is unsteady, vulgar, stubborn, deceitful, malicious, lazy, despondent, and procrastinating. II18.28II


Dhananjaya (Arjuna), listen to the three kinds of understanding (buddhi) and of determination (dhrithi), according to the dominant temperament. I will explain them fully and distinctly. II18.29II


That understanding is saatvic, Partha, which knows the path of work and of renunciation, what actions should be done and not be done, fear and fearlessness, bondage and liberation. II18.30II


That understanding is raajasic, Partha, which wrongly understands the scriptural injunctions of right and wrong and what is duty and what is not duty. II18.31II


That understanding is taamasic, Partha, which enveloped in darkness, perceives wrong as right, and all things contrary to what they are. II18.32II


That determination is saatvic, Partha, which–through effort–holds firm the functions of the mind, the vital breath, and the senses. II18.33II


That determination is raajasic, Arjuna, which–due to attachment and desire for the fruits of the action–holds firm to duty, desire, and wealth. II18.34II


That determination is taamasic, Partha, which–due to a corrupt understanding–holds firm to sleep, fear, sorrow, despair, and sense gratification. II18.35II


And now hear the three distinct kinds of pleasure (the purpose of all action), Bharatarshabha (Arjuna). Through practice you can rejoice in pleasure and end all sorrows. II18.36II


That pleasure is saatvic which–born of the serenity of the soul and intellect–is like poison in the beginning, but nectar at the end. II18.37II


That pleasure is raajasic which–arising from contact of the sense organs with the object–is like nectar in the beginning, but poison at the end. II18.38II


That pleasure is taamasic which–arising from sleep, laziness, and heedlessness–is deluding both in the beginning and at the end. II18.39II


There is nothing anywhere on earth or in the higher worlds which is free from these three temperaments because they are born of matter. II18.40II


According to the temperaments born of their own nature, the duties of the thinkers (Brahmanas), the leaders (Kshatriyas), the traders (Vaishyas), and the laborers (Shudras) are distributed. II18.41II


The duties arising from a Brahmana-nature are serenity, self-control, austerity, purity, forgiveness, uprightness, knowledge, wisdom, and belief in God as well. II18.42II


The duties arising from a Kshatriya-nature are prowess, splendor, determination, and vigilance, never-retreating in battle, generosity, and the ability to rule. II18.43II


The duties arising from a Vaishya-nature are agriculture, cattle-rearing, and trade. The duties arising from a Shudra-nature are service and work. II18.44II


Man gains perfection when he is devoted to his own duty. Listen, I will tell you how you find this (perfection). II18.45II


Man attains perfection by dedicating his actions to God, the Source of all beings, the All-pervading. II18.46II


It is better to do your own duty, however defective it may be, than to do the duty of another, however well it may be performed. He who does his duty according to his own nature never incurs sin. II18.47II


You should not give up the duty to which you are born, even though it is flawed, Kaunteya (Arjuna). All undertakings are marred by defects, just like fire is obscured by smoke. II18.48II


He whose intellect is completely detached, who has controlled his internal organs, and who has no desires, through renunciation he attains the Supreme perfection of freedom in action. II18.49II


Having attained this success (freedom in action), hear from Me the process by which he attains Brahman, the Supreme consummation of knowledge. II18.50II


Endowed with a pure intellect, controlling yourself with determination, rejecting the senses, and eliminating attachment and hatred … II18.51II


… dwelling in solitude, eating minimally, subduing speech, body, and mind, engaged in meditation and concentration, always taking shelter in dispassion … II18.52II


… giving up the ego, force, arrogance, desire, anger, and the need to acquire, minus the “I”-ness, at peace, he is capable of being Brahman. II18.53II


Being the bliss of Brahman, he does not grieve nor desire. Remaining the same to all beings, devoted to Me, he gains the Supreme. II18.54II


Devoted to Me, he knows in truth what and who I am. Consequently, knowing this, he enters Me. II18.55II


Performing his actions always taking refuge in Me, he attains the Indestructible, Eternal Abode by My grace.  II18.56II


Mentally surrendering all actions in Me, having Me as the highest goal, with the yoga of discrimination, let your mind be fixed on Me always. II18.57II


With your mind fixed on Me, you will overcome all obstacles. Now, if you will not listen because of your ego, you will be destroyed. II18.58II


If, having taken refuge in your ego, you think ‘I will not fight’, this resolve of yours is in vain. Your nature impels you (to fight). II18.59II


Being securely bound by your own duty born of your nature, Kaunteya (Arjuna), you are helpless. Owing to the lack of discrimination, you will do that very duty that you do not wish to do. II18.60II


The Lord dwells in the hearts of all beings, Arjuna, whirling by Maaya all beings (as if) mounted on a machine. II18.61II

(Verbatim from Alladi Mahadeva Sastry)


Take refuge in Him alone, with your whole being, Bhaarata (Arjuna). Through His grace you will attain Supreme Peace and the Eternal Abode. II18.62II


I have imparted this knowledge to you which is more secret than any secret. Comprehend it fully and then act as you wish. II18.63II


Listen again to the most secret of all–My Supreme Word. Beloved as you are to Me, I will tell you what is good. II18.64II


With your mind fixed on Me, devoted to Me, offering to Me, bowing down to Me, you will come to Me alone. This truth I do promise you, for you are dear to Me. II18.65II


"Renouncing all works," take refuge in Me alone. I will liberate you from all your sins. Grieve not. II18.66II

(Quote from Alladi Mahadeva Sastry's translation of Adi Shankaracharya's Sankara Bhashya)


This (that I have taught you) should not be taught to one who is devoid of austerities or one who is not devoted; not to one who does not render service or one who does not want to listen; or one who doubts. II18.67II


He who teaches with supreme devotion this highest secret to My devotees, he will no doubt come to Me. II18.68II


There is none among men who does dearer service than him, nor any man on earth dearer to Me than him. II18.69II


He who studies this spiritual dialogue of ours that is conducive to virtue worships Me in the form of knowledge. Such is My conviction. II18.70II


He who listens to it with faith and without doubt, even he, freed from evil, will rise to the worlds which the virtuous attain through righteous deeds. II18.71II

(Closely verbatim to Purohit Swami)


Partha (Arjuna), you have listened with a single-pointed mind. Dhananjaya (Arjuna), has your strong delusion born of ignorance been dispelled? II18.72II


Arjuna speaks:

Achyutha (Sri Krishna), my delusion has been destroyed and my memory regained by Your grace. I stand firm, free from doubt. I will follow Your word. II18.73II


Sanjaya speaks:

Thus I have heard this wonderful and unique dialogue between Krishna and Arjuna that makes my hair stand on end. II18.74II


Through the grace of Vyasa (author of the Mahabharata in which the Bhagavad Gita is expounded) I have heard this supreme and most secret yoga direct from Krishna, the Lord of Yoga, Himself declaring it. II18.75II

(Verbatim from Alladi Mahadeva Sastry)


King (referring to the blind King Dhritarashtra), by remembering and repeating this wonderful and pious dialogue of Keshava (Sri Krishna) and Arjuna, I rejoice again and again. II18.76II


King, repeatedly recollecting that extraordinary form (The Cosmic Form) of Hari (Sri Krishna), I am wonder-struck and rejoice again and again. II18.77II


Where Sri Krishna, the Lord of Wisdom is, where the great archer Partha (Arjuna) is, prosperity, victory, happiness, and statesmanship are established. This is my conviction. II18.78II


Concluding verse:

Om! Such is the Truth in the Bhagavad Gita and the Upanishads. This is the knowledge of Supreme Consciousness. It is a scripture of union; a dialogue between Sri Krishna (the teacher) and Arjuna (the student). The eighteenth discourse ends, titled “Yoga of Liberation through Renunciation–Moksha Sannyaasa Yoga”.

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