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Bhagwad Gita

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Chapter 16 Chapter 17 Chapter 18  

Chapter 18


Arjuna said: I wish to know the nature of renunciation and sacrifice, and the difference between the two, O Lord Krishna.


Lord Krishna said: The sages define renunciation as abstaining from all work for personal profit. The wise define sacrifice as the sacrifice of, and the freedom from, the selfish attachment to the fruits of all work.

Some philosophers say that all work is full of faults and should be given up, while others say that acts of sacrifice, charity, and austerity should not be abandoned.

O Arjuna, listen to My conclusion about sacrifice. Sacrifice is said to be of three types.

Acts of service, charity, and austerity should not be abandoned, but should be performed, because service, charity, and austerity are the purifiers of the wise.

Even these obligatory works should be performed without attachment to the fruits. This is My definite supreme advice, O Arjuna.


Giving up one's duty is not proper. The abandonment of obligatory work is due to delusion, and is declared to be in the mode of ignorance.

One who abandons duty merely because it is difficult, or because of fear of bodily trouble, does not get the benefits of sacrifice by performing such a sacrifice in the mode of passion.

Obligatory work performed as duty, renouncing selfish attachment to the fruit, is alone regarded to be sacrifice in the mode of goodness, O Arjuna.

The one who neither hates a disagreeable work, nor is attached to an agreeable work, is considered a renunciant (Tyagi), imbued with the mode of goodness, intelligent, and free from all doubts about the Supreme Being.

Human beings cannot completely abstain from work. Therefore, the one who completely renounces the selfish attachment to the fruits of all works is considered a renunciant.

The threefold fruit of works — desirable, undesirable, and mixed ¾ accrues after death to the one who is not a renunciant (Tyagi), but never to a Tyagi.


Learn from Me, O Arjuna, the five causes, as described in the Sankhya doctrine, for the accomplishment of all actions. They are: The physical body, the seat of Karma; the modes of material Nature, the doer; the eleven organs of perception and action, the instruments; various bioimpulses; and the fifth is the presiding deities of the eleven organs.

Whatever action, whether right or wrong, one performs by thought, word, and deed; these are its five causes.

Therefore, the ignorant one who considers one’s body or the soul as the sole agent due to imperfect knowledge does not understand.

The one who is free from the notion of doership, and whose intellect is not polluted by the desire to reap the fruit; even after slaying these people, he or she neither slays nor is bound by the act of killing.

The subject, the object, and the knowledge of the object are the threefold driving force to an action. The eleven organs; the act, and the agent or the modes of material Nature are the three components of action.


Self-knowledge, action), and agent are said to be of three types according to Sankhya doctrine. Hear duly about these also.

The knowledge by which one sees a single immutable Reality in all beings as undivided in the divided; such knowledge is in the mode of goodness.

The knowledge by which one sees different realities of various types among all beings as separate from one another; consider that knowledge to be in the mode of passion.

The irrational, baseless, and worthless knowledge by which one clings to one single effect (such as the body) as if it is everything; such knowledge is declared to be in the mode of darkness of ignorance


The obligatory duty performed without likes and dislikes, and without selfish motives and attachment to enjoy the fruit, is said to be in the mode of goodness.

Action performed with ego, with selfish motives, and with too much effort; is declared to be in the mode of passion.

Action that is undertaken because of delusion; disregarding consequences, loss, injury to others, as well as one’s own ability is said to be in the mode of ignorance.


The agent who is free from attachment, is non-egotistic, endowed with resolve and enthusiasm, and unperturbed in success or failure is called good.

The agent who is impassioned, attached to the fruits of their work, greedy, violent, impure, and is affected by joy and sorrow is called passionate.

The undisciplined, vulgar, stubborn, wicked, malicious, lazy, depressed, and procrastinating agent is called ignorant.


Now hear the threefold division of intellect and resolve, based on modes of material Nature, as explained by Me fully and separately, O Arjuna.

O Arjuna, the intellect by which one understands the path of work and the path of renunciation, right and wrong action, fear and fearlessness, bondage and liberation, that intellect is in the mode of goodness.

The intellect by which one cannot distinguish between righteousness (Dharma) and unrighteousness (Adharma), and right and wrong action; that intellect is in the mode of passion, O Arjuna.

The intellect ¾ when covered by ignorance ¾ accepts unrighteousness (Adharma) as righteousness (Dharma), and thinks everything to be that which it is not, is in the mode of ignorance, O Arjuna.


The resolve by which one manipulates the functions of the mind, Prana (bioimpulses), and senses for God-realization only; that resolve is in the mode of goodness, O Arjuna.

The resolve by which a person, craving for the fruits of work, clings to duty, accumulating wealth, and enjoyment with great attachment; that resolve, O Arjuna, is in the mode of passion.

The resolve by which a dull person does not give up sleep, fear, grief, despair, and carelessness; that resolve is in the mode of ignorance, O Arjuna.


And now hear from Me, O Arjuna, about the threefold pleasure. The pleasure one enjoys from spiritual practice results in cessation of all sorrows.

The pleasure that appears as poison in the beginning, but is like nectar in the end, comes by the grace of Self-knowledge, and is in the mode of goodness.

Sensual pleasures appear as nectar in the beginning, but become poison in the end; such pleasures are in the mode of passion.

Pleasure that confuses a person in the beginning and in the end; which comes from sleep, laziness, and carelessness; such pleasure is said to be in the mode of ignorance.

There is no being, either on the earth or among the celestial controllers in the heaven, who can remain free from these three modes of material Nature.


The division of human labor is also based on the qualities inherent in peoples’ nature or their make up.

Those who have serenity, self control, austerity, purity, patience, honesty, transcendental knowledge, transcendental experience, and belief in God are labeled as intellectuals (Braahmans).

Those having the qualities of heroism, vigor, firmness, dexterity, not fleeing from battle, charity, and administrative skills are called leaders or protectors (Kshatriyas).

Those who are good in cultivation, cattle rearing, business, trade, finance, and industry are known as business men (Vaishyas). Those who are very good in service and labor type work only are classed as workers (Shudras).


One can attain the highest perfection by devotion to one’s natural work. Listen to Me how one attains perfection while engaged in one’s natural work.

One attains perfection by worshipping the Supreme Being ¾ from whom all beings originate, and by whom all this universe is pervaded ¾ through performance of one’s natural duty for Him.

One’s inferior natural work is better than superior unnatural work even though well performed. One who does the work ordained by one’s inherent nature, without any selfish motive, incurs no sin (or Karmic reaction).

One’s natural work, even though defective, should not be abandoned; because all undertakings are enveloped by defects as fire is covered by smoke, O Arjuna.

The person whose mind is always free from selfish attachment, who has subdued the mind and senses, and who is free from desires attains the supreme perfection of freedom from the bondage of Karma by renouncing selfish attachment to the fruits of work.

Learn from Me briefly, O Arjuna, how one who has attained such perfection, or the freedom from the bondage of Karma, attains Supreme Being, the goal of transcendental knowledge.

Endowed with purified intellect, subduing the mind with firm resolve, turning away from sound and other objects of the senses, giving up likes and dislikes; living in solitude, eating lightly, controlling the mind, speech, and organs of action, ever absorbed in yoga of meditation, taking refuge in detachment; and after relinquishing egotism, violence, pride, lust, anger, and proprietorship; one becomes peaceful, free from the notion of "I, me, and my", and fit for attaining oneness with the Supreme Being.

Absorbed in the Supreme Being, the serene one neither grieves nor desires; becoming impartial to all beings, one obtains the highest devotional love for God.

By devotion one truly understands what and who I am in essence. Having known Me in essence, one immediately merges with Me.

A Karma-yogi devotee attains the eternal immutable abode by My grace ¾ even while doing all duties ¾ just by taking refuge in Me (by surrendering all action to Me with loving devotion).

Sincerely offer all actions to Me, set Me as your supreme goal, and completely depend on Me. Always fix your mind on Me, and resort to Karma-yoga.

You shall overcome all difficulties by My grace when your mind becomes fixed on Me. But, if you do not listen to Me due to ego, you shall perish.


If due to ego you think: I shall not fight; this resolve of yours is vain. Because your own nature will compel you to fight.

O Arjuna, you are controlled by your own nature-born Karmic impressions. Therefore, you shall do ¾ even against your will ¾ what you do not wish to do out of delusion.


The Supreme Lord — as the controller abiding in the inner psyche of all beings — causes them to work out their Karma like a puppet (of Karma created by the free will) mounted on a machine.

Seek refuge in the Supreme Lord alone with loving devotion, O Arjuna. By His grace you shall attain supreme peace and the Eternal Abode.

Thus the knowledge that is more secret than the secret has been explained to you by Me. After fully reflecting on this, do as you wish.


Hear once again My most secret, supreme word. You are very dear to Me, therefore, I shall tell this for your benefit.

Fix your mind on Me, be devoted to Me, offer service to Me, bow down to Me, and you shall certainly reach Me. I promise you because you are My very dear friend.

Set aside all meritorious deeds and religious rituals, and just surrender completely to My will with firm faith and loving devotion. I shall liberate you from all sins, the bonds of Karma. Do not grieve.

This knowledge should never be spoken by you to one who is devoid of austerity, who is without devotion, who does not desire to listen, or who speaks ill of Me.


The one who shall propagate this supreme secret philosophy ¾ the transcendental knowledge of the Gita ¾ amongst My devotees, shall be performing the highest devotional service to Me, and shall certainly come to Me. No other person shall do a more pleasing service to Me, and no one on the earth shall be more dear to Me.


I promise the study of this sacred dialogue of ours will be equivalent to worshipping Me with knowledge-sacrifice.

Whoever hears this sacred dialogue with faith and without cavil becomes free from sin, and attains heaven ¾ the higher worlds of those whose actions are pure and virtuous.

O Arjuna, did you listen to this with single-minded attention? Has your delusion born of ignorance been completely destroyed?

Arjuna said: By Your grace my delusion is destroyed, I have gained Self-knowledge, my confusion with regard to body and Spirit is dispelled and I shall obey Your command.

Sanjaya said: Thus I heard this wonderful dialogue between Lord Krishna and Arjuna, causing my hair to stand on end.

By the grace of sage Vyasa, I heard this most secret and supreme yoga directly from Krishna, the Lord of yoga, Himself speaking to Arjuna before my very eyes of clairvoyance granted by sage Vyasa.

O King, by repeated remembrance of this marvelous and sacred dialogue between Lord Krishna and Arjuna, I am thrilled at every moment;

Recollecting again and again, O King, that marvelous form of Krishna I am greatly amazed and I rejoice over and over again.


Wherever there will be both Krishna, the Lord of yoga, or Dharma in the form of the scriptures, and Arjuna with the weapons of duty and protection; there will be everlasting prosperity, victory, happiness, and morality. This is my conviction.

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