Numbered Text Translation and Commentary by Dr. Radhakrishnan
Sanskrit Text, Transliteration and word to word Translation: Veeraswamy Krishnaraj
Renunciation is to be practiced not towards Work but to the Fruits of Work.
संन्यासस्य महाबाहो तत्त्वमिच्छामि वेदितुम् ।
त्यागस्य च हृषीकेश पृथक्केशिनिषूदन ॥१८- १॥
arjuna uvāca = Arjuna said: mahābāho2 = O mighty-armed one; hṛṣīkeśa9 = O Killer of Demon Kesi; icchāmi4 = I desire; veditum5 = to know; tattvam3 = the truth; sannyāsasya1 = of asceticism or renunciation; ca7 = and; tyāgasya6 = of Tyaga; pṛthak9 = severally [one by one, individually and comparatively = compare and contrast ]; keśi-niṣūdana10 = O Killer of Demon Kesi. 18.1
18.1. I desire, O Mighty-armed (Kṛṣṇa), to know the true nature of renunciation and of relinquishment, O Hṛṣīkeśa (Kṛṣṇa), severally, O Keśiniṣūdana (Kṛṣṇa). Dr. Radhakrishnan.
The Gītā insists not on renunciation of action but on action with renunciation of desire. This is true saṁnyāsa, In this verse, saṁnyāsa is used for the renunciation of all works and tyāga for the renunciation of the fruits of all works. Not by karma, not by progeny or wealth but by tyāga or relinquishment is release obtained. I Dr. Radhakrishnan.
The Gītā urges that the liberated soul can remain in service even after liberation and is opposed to the view which holds that, as all action springs from ignorance, when wisdom arises, action ceases. The teacher of the Gītā considers the view, that he who acts is in bondage and he who is free cannot act, to be incorrect. Dr. Radhakrishnan.
1 Na karmaṇā na prajayā dhanena tyāgam aike amṛtatvam ānaśtuḥ
काम्यानां कर्मणां न्यासं संन्यासं कवयो विदुः ।
सर्वकर्मफलत्यागं प्राहुस्त्यागं विचक्षणाः ॥१८- २॥
The Blessed Lord said:
śrībhagavān uvāca = Sri Bhagavan said: kavayaḥ5 = the learned; viduḥ6 = know; sannyāsam4 = renunciation; [is] nyāsam3 = renunciation; karmaṇām2 = of actions; kāmyānām1 = attached to desire; vicakṣaṇāḥ10 = the wise (the experienced); prāhuḥ8 = declare; tyāgam9 = Tyaga; [is] sarva7A-karma7B-phala7C-tyāgam7D = giving up7D the fruits7C of all7A actions7B.18.2
18.2. The wise understand by renunciation the giving up of works prompted by desire: the abandonment of the fruits of all works, the learned declare, is relinquishment. Dr. Radhakrishnan.
Inertia or non-action is not the ideal. Action without any selfish desire or expectation of gain, performed in the spirit that "I am not the doer, I am surrendering myself to the Universal Self" is the ideal set before us. The Gītā. does not teach the complete renunciation of works but the conversion of all works into niṣkāma karma or desireless action.
Saṁkara however, contends that tyāga as taught here is applicable only to karmayogins, while for j˝ānins complete abandonment of works is imperative. He holds that knowledge is incompatible with work. Dr. Radhakrishnan.
त्याज्यं दोषवदित्येके कर्म प्राहुर्मनीषिणः ।
यज्ञदानतपःकर्म न त्याज्यमिति चापरे ॥१८- ३॥
doṣavad ity eke karma prāhur manīṣiṇaḥ
tyājyam1 doṣavat2 iti3 eke4 karma5 prāhuḥ6 manīṣiṇaḥ7
eke4 = Some; manīṣiṇaḥ7 = wise men; prāhuḥ6 = say or declare; karma5 = work or action; doṣavat2 = laden with evil; iti3 tyājyam1 = should be renounced1 thus3; ca12 = and; apare13 = others; [say] yaj˝a8A-dāna8B-tapaḥ8C-karma8D = acts8D of sacrifice8A, charity8B & penance8C; [should] na9 tyājyam10 = not be relinquished; iti11 = thus.18.3
18.3. Action should be given up as an evil, ' say some learned men: others declare that 'acts of sacrifice" gift and penance are not to be given up.' Dr. Radhakrishnan.
निश्चयं शृणु मे तत्र त्यागे भरतसत्तम ।
त्यागो हि पुरुषव्याघ्र त्रिविधः संप्रकीर्तितः ॥१८- ४॥
niścayaṁ śṛṇu me tatra
niścayam1 śṛṇu2 me3 tatra4 tyāge5 bharata-sattama6
bharata-sattama6 = O the Best of Bharatas; niścayam1 = certainly; śṛṇu2 = hear; me3 = from Me; tatra4 = with regards to; tyāge5 = renunciation; tyāgaḥ7 = renunciation; hi8 = indeed; puruṣa-vyāghra8 = O tiger among men; saṁprakīrtitaḥ10 = is declared to be; trividhaḥ9 = of three kinds. 18.4
18.4.á Hear now from Me, O Best of the Bharatas (Arjuna), the truth about relinquishment: relinquishment" O Best of men (Arjuna), has been explained as threefold. Dr. Radhakrishnan.
Rāmānuja divides relinquishment into (I) relinquishment of fruit, (2) relinquishment of the idea that the self is the agent and so of attachment also, and (3) relinquishment of all idea of agency with the realization that the Lord is the author of all action. Dr. Radhakrishnan.
यज्ञदानतपःकर्म न त्याज्यं कार्यमेव तत् ।
यज्ञो दानं तपश्चैव पावनानि मनीषिणाम् ॥१८- ५॥
yaj˝adānatapaḥkarma na tyājyaṁ
kāryam eva tat
yaj˝a1 dāna2 tapaḥ3 karma4 na5
tyājyam6 kāryam7 eva8 tat9
karma4 = Acts;
[of] yaj˝a1 =sacrifice; dāna2 = charity; [and =
should not be renounced; =
indeed; = that [these]; =
should be done; =
sacrifice; = charity; =
austerity; [are] = =
of the wise.
= charity; [and] tapaḥ3
= penance;na5 tyājyam6
= should not be renounced;
= that [these];kāryam7
= should be done;
= austerity; [are]pāvanāni15
= of the wise.18.5
18.5 . Acts of sacrifice, gift and penance are not to be relinquished but should be performed. For sacrifice, gift and penance are purifiers of the wise. Dr. Radhakrishnan.
Against the view that all action should be abandoned, since it leads to bondage, the Gītā asserts that sacrifice, gift and penances should not be abandoned. Dr. Radhakrishnan.
एतान्यपि तु कर्माणि सङ्गं त्यक्त्वा फलानि च ।
कर्तव्यानीति मे पार्थ निश्चितं मतमुत्तमम् ॥१८- ६॥
etāny api tu karmāṇi saṅgaṁ
tyaktvā phalāni ca
etāni1 api2 tu3 karmāṇi4 saṅgam5 tyaktvā6
tu3 = But; etāni1 = these; karmāṇi4 = actions; api2 = indeed; kartavyāni9 = should be performed; tyaktvā6 = by renouncing; saṅgam5 = attached; phalāni7 = fruits; ca8= and; iti10 = thus; [it is] me11 = My; niścitam13 = firm/decided/entrenched; [and] uttamam15 = the best/the highest; matam14 = opinion; pārtha12 = O Pārtha .18.6
18.6. But even these works ought to be performed, giving up attachment and desire for fruits. This, O Pārthaá (Arjuna), is my decided and final view. Dr. Radhakrishnan.
The teacher is decidedly for the practice of Karmayoga. Actions are not to be set aside: only they have to be done without selfish attachment or expectation of rewards. Salvation is not a matter of outward action or inaction. It is the possession of the impersonal outlook and inner renunciation of ego.
Saṁkaraĺs observation that this does not refer to the devotees of wisdom who renounce all works (j˝ānaniṣṭāḥ sarvakarma-saṁnyāsinaḥ)is not borne out by the text. Cp. Bṛhadāraṇyaka Up, IV, 4, 22. "It is the Brahman whom the Brahmins wish to know by the study of the Vedas, and also by means of sacrifice, gift, and austerities performed without attachment."
नियतस्य तु संन्यासः कर्मणो नोपपद्यते ।
मोहात्तस्य परित्यागस्तामसः परिकीर्तितः ॥१८- ७॥
niyatasya tu saṁnyāsaḥ karmaṇo
niyatasya1 tu2 saṁnyāsaḥ3 karmaṇaḥ4 na5 upapadyate6
tu2 = But; saṁnyāsaḥ3 = renunciation; niyatasya1 = of prescribed/obligatory; karmaṇaḥ4 = acts/duty; [is] na5 = not; upapadyate6 = proper. parityāgaḥ9 = renunciation; tasya8 = of them [obligatory acts]; mohāt7 = because of delusion; parikīrtitaḥ11 = is said to be; tāmasaḥ10 = due to ignorance.18.7
18.7. Verily the renunciation of any duty that ought to be done is not right. The abandonment of it through ignorance is declared to be of the nature of "dullness." Dr. Radhakrishnan.
दुःखमित्येव यत्कर्म कायक्लेशभयात्त्यजेत् ।
स कृत्वा राजसं त्यागं नैव त्यागफलं लभेत् ॥१८- ८॥
duḥkham ity eva yat karma
duḥkham1 iti2 eva3 yat4 karma5 kāya-kleśa-bhayāt6 tyajet7
yat4 = Whatever; karma5 = work; tyajet7 = one renounces; iti2 eva3 = thus indeed from [on account of'] duḥkham1 = difficulty; [and] kāya-kleśa-bhayāt6 = for fear of bodily pain; saḥ8 = he; kṛtvā9 = having done; rājasam tyāgam10 = renunciation based on passion; na11 = does not; eva12 = indeed; labhet14 = gain; tyāga-phalam13 = the fruits of renunciation 18.8
18.8. He who gives up a duty because it is painful or from fear of physical suffering, performs only the relinquishment of the "passionate' kind and does not gain the reward of relinquishment. Dr. Radhakrishnan.
कार्यमित्येव यत्कर्म नियतं क्रियतेऽर्जुन ।
सङ्गं त्यक्त्वा फलं चैव स त्यागः सात्त्विको मतः ॥१८- ९॥
kāryam ity eva yat karma niyataṁ kriyaterjuna
yat4 = Whatever; niyatam6 = obligatory; karma5 = action/duty; kriyate7 = is done; iti2 = thus; eva3 = indeed; [is] kāryam1 = prescribed duty; arjuna8= O Arjuna; tyaktvā10 = giving up; saṅgam9 = attachment; ca12 = and; phalam11 = fruits; saḥ14 = that; eva13 = indeed; mataḥ17 = is regarded; sāttvikaḥ16 = Sattvic; tyāgaḥ15 = renunciation.18.9
18.9. But he who performs a prescribed duty as a thing that ought to be done, renouncing all attachment and also the fruit-his relinquishment is regarded as one of "goodness." Dr. Radhakrishnan.
What ought to be done is what is in harmony with the cosmic purpose. Dr. Radhakrishnan.
न द्वेष्ट्यकुशलं कर्म कुशले नानुषज्जते ।
त्यागी सत्त्वसमाविष्टो मेधावी छिन्नसंशयः ॥१८- १०॥
na dveṣṭy akuśalaṁ karma kuśale nānuṣajjate
[He who] na1 = neither; dveṣṭi2 = hates; akuśalam3 = disagreeable; karma4 = action; na6 = nor; anuṣajjate7 = is attached to; kuśale5 = agreeable; [action] [is] tyāgī8 = a renouncer; samāviṣṭaḥ10 = full of; sattva9 = Sattva/goodness; medhāvī11 = a wise man; chinna12 = having cut off; saṁśayaḥ13 = doubts. 18.10
न हि देहभृता शक्यं त्यक्तुं कर्माण्यशेषतः ।
यस्तु कर्मफलत्यागी स त्यागीत्यभिधीयते ॥१८- ११॥
na hi dehabhṛtā śakyaṁ tyaktuṁ karmāṇy
[It is] na1 = never; hi2 = indeed; śakyam4 = possible; [for] deha-bhṛtā3 = the corporeal being; [to] tyaktum5 = renounce; karmāṇi6 = actions; aśeṣataḥ7= entirely; tu9 = but; yaḥ8 = whoever; karma10A-phala10B-tyāgī10C = renounces10C fruits10B of actions10A; saḥ11 = he; abhidhīyate14 = is said to be; iti13 = thus; tyāgi12 = the renouncer. 18.11
18.11.It is indeed impossible for any embodied being to abstain from work altogether. But he who gives up the fruit of action he is said to be the relinquisher,
अनिष्टमिष्टं मिश्रं च त्रिविधं कर्मणः फलम् ।
भवत्यत्यागिनां प्रेत्य न तु संन्यासिनां क्वचित् ॥१८- १२॥
aniṣṭam iṣṭaṁ miśraṁ ca trividhaṁ
aniṣṭam1 = The undesirable (hell); iṣṭam2 = the desirable (gods); ca4 = and; miśram3 = mixed (humans): trividham5 = three kinds; [of] phalam7 = fruits/results; karmaṇaḥ6 = of actions; [that] bhavati8 = happen; pretya10 = after death; atyāginām9 = to the non-renouncer; tu12 = but; na11 = not; sannyāsinām13 = to the Sannyasis or renouncers; kvacit14 = at any time. 18.12
18.12. Pleasant, unpleasant and mixed-threefold is the fruit of action accruing after death to those who have not relinquished: there is none whatever foráááá those who have renounced.
S. considers atyāgins to be karmayogins and saṁnyāsins to be those who have renounced all work except that which is essential for the maintenance of the body.
पञ्चैतानि महाबाहो कारणानि निबोध मे ।
सांख्ये कृतान्ते प्रोक्तानि सिद्धये सर्वकर्मणाम् ॥१८- १३॥
pa˝caitāni mahābāho kāraṇāni nibodha me
nibodha5 = Learn; me6 = from Me; mahābāho3 = O Mighty-armed one; etāni2 = these; pa˝ca1 = five; kāraṇāni4 = factors/causes; siddhaye10 = for fulfillment; sarva-karmaṇām11 = of all actions; proktāni9 = as said; sāṁkhye7 = in Sāṁkhya doctrinal; kṛtānte8 = conclusions. 18.13
18.13.O Mighty-armed (Arjuna), learn of Me, these five factors .. for the accomplishment of all actions, as stated in the Sāṁkhya doctrine.
Sāṁkhya here means the Vedanta. S.
kṛtānte is interpreted as the end of the kṛta age, that is, as taught in the original Sāṁkhya.
अधिष्ठानं तथा कर्ता करणं च पृथग्विधम् ।
विविधाश्च पृथक्चेष्टा दैवं चैवात्र पञ्चमम् ॥१८- १४॥
adhiṣṭhānaṁ tathā kartā karaṇaṁ
adhiṣṭhānam1 = The place (the body); tathā2 = also; kartā3 = the doer/the agent/the experiencer/the enjoyer; pṛthak6 = different; vidham7= kinds; karaṇam4 = of the organs/instruments; ca5 = and; vividhāḥ8 = various; ca9 = and; pṛthak10 = different; ceṣṭāḥ11 = efforts; ca13 = and; eva14 = indeed; daivam12 = divinity; [are] atra15 = here; pa˝camam16 = the fifth. 18.14 (the body1, the doer2, the organs3, efforts4 and divinity5)
18.13. The seat of action and likewise the agent, the instruments of various sorts, the many kinds of efforts and providence being the fifth.
adhiṣṭhāna or the seat refers to the physical body.
kartā: agent. He is, according to S., the phenomenal ego, upādhilakṣaṇo avidyākalpito bhoktā, the psychophysical self which mistakes the organism for the true self; for R. it is the individual self, the Jīvātman; for Madhva, it is the supreme Lord Viṣṇu.
The kartā or the agent is one of the five causes of action. According to the Sāṁkhya doctrine, Puruṣa or the self is a mere witness. Though, strictly speaking, the self is akartṛ or non-doer, still its witnessing starts the activities of prakṛti and so the self is included among the determining causes.
cheṣṭā: efforts: functions of the vital energies within the body.
daivam: providence: represents the non-human factor that interferes and disposes of human effort. It is the wise, all-seeing will that is at work in the world. In all human actions, there is an unaccountable element which is called luck, destiny, fate or the force accumulated by the acts of one's past lives. It is called here daiva.1 The task of man is to drop a pebble into the pond of time and we may not see the ripple touch the distant shore. We may plant the seed but may not see the harvest which lies in hands higher than our own. Daiva or the superpersonal fate is the general cosmic necessity, the resultant of all that has happened in the past, which rules unnoticed. It works in the individual for its own incalculable purposes.
Belief in daiva should not be an excuse for quiescence. Man is a term of transition. He is conscious of his aim, to rise from his animal ancestry to the divine ideal. The pressure of nature, heredity, and environment can be overcome by the will of man.
1 Cp, pūrvajanmakṛtaṁkarma tad daivam iti kathyate. Hitopadesa.
शरीरवाङ्मनोभिर्यत्कर्म प्रारभते नरः ।
न्याय्यं वा विपरीतं वा पञ्चैते तस्य हेतवः ॥१८- १५॥
śarīravāṅmanobhir yat karma prārabhate naraḥ
yat2 = Which [whatever]; karma3 = action; naraḥ5 = man; prārabhate4 = performs/does; śarīra-vāṅ-manobhiḥ1 = by body, speech and mind; nyāyyam6 = proper; vā7 = or; tasya12 = its; viparītam8 vā9 = opposite/reverse/contrary/perverse; ete11 = these; pa˝ca10 = five; [are] hetavaḥ13 = the causes.18.15
18.14. Whatever action a man undertakes by his body, speech or mind, whether it is right or wrong, these five are its factors.
तत्रैवं सति कर्तारमात्मानं केवलं तु यः ।
पश्यत्यकृतबुद्धित्वान्न स पश्यति दुर्मतिः ॥१८- १६॥
tatraivaṁ sati kartāram ātmānaṁ kevalaṁ
tu7 = But; tatra1 evam2 sati3 = that being so; yaḥ8 = he; paśyati9 = sees; kevalam6 = the pure; ātmānam5 = his own Self; kartāram4 = As the doer; saḥ12 = he; akṛta-buddhitvāt10 = due to lack of intelligence; na11 = never; paśyati13 = sees; [ and thus he is] durmatiḥ14 = one with perverse intellect. 18.16.
18.16.Such being the case, the man of perverse mind who, on account of his untrained understanding, looks upon himself as the sole agent, he does not see (truly).
The agent is one factor among five and so he misapprehends the facts when he looks upon the agent as the sole cause.
S. reads "looks on the pure self as the doer." If he attributes agency to the pure self, he misapprehends the facts. The ego is generally taken to be the doer but it is only one of the main determinants of human action, which are all the products of nature. When the ego is recognized as such, we are freed from its binding influence and we live in the greater knowledge of the Universal Self, and in that self-vision all acts are the products of prakṛti.
यस्य नाहंकृतो भावो बुद्धिर्यस्य न लिप्यते ।
हत्वापि स इमाँल्लोकान्न हन्ति न निबध्यते ॥१८- १७॥
yasya nāhaṁkṛto bhāvo buddhir yasya na lipyate
yasya6 na7 lipyate8
yasya1 = He who; na2 = does not; [have] bhāvaḥ4 = the state of mind; [of] ahaṅkṛtaḥ3 = doership; yasya6 = whose; buddhiḥ5 = intelligence; [is] na7 = not; lipyate8= attached or tainted; api10 = even; hatvā9 = by killing; imān12 = these; lokān13 = beings; saḥ11 = he; na14 = does not; hanti15 = kill; na16 = nor; nibadhyate17 = is bound.18.17
18.17. He who is free from self-sense, whose understanding is not sullied, though he slay these people, he slays not nor is he bound (by his actions).
The freed man does his work as the instrument of the Universal Spirit and for the maintenance of the cosmic order. He performs even terrific deeds without any selfish aim or desire but because it is the ordained duty. What matters is not the work but the spirit in which it is done. "Though he slays from the worldly standpoint" he does not slay in truth." S.1
This passage does not mean that we can commit crimes with impunity. He who lives in the large spiritual consciousness will not feel any need to do any wrong. Evil activities spring from ignorance and separatist consciousness and from consciousness of unity with the Supreme Self, only good can result.
1 laukikīm dṛṣṭim āśritya ha vāpiůpāramrthikīṁ dṛṣṭim āśritya na hanti.
Knowledge and Action
ज्ञानं ज्ञेयं परिज्ञाता त्रिविधा कर्मचोदना ।
करणं कर्म कर्तेति त्रिविधः कर्मसंग्रहः ॥१८- १८॥
j˝ānaṁ j˝eyaṁ parij˝ātā
j˝ānam1 = Knowledge; j˝eyam2 = object of knowledge; [and] parij˝ātā3 = the knower; [are] trividhā4 = three kinds; [of] karma-codanā5 = impeller to action. karaṇam6 = The sense organs; karma7 = the action; [and] karta8 = the doer; iti9 = thus; [are] trividhaḥ10 = three kinds; karma-saṅgrahaḥ11 = components of action [forming the aggregate].18.18
18.18. Knowledge, the object of knowledge and the knowing subject, are the threefold incitement to action: the instrument, the action and the agent are the threefold composite of action.
See XIII.20. Nature is said to be the cause of effect, instrument and agent (ness) and the soul is said to be the cause, in regard to the experience of pleasure and pain.
Karmacodanā refers to the mental planning anti karmasaṁgraha to the actual execution of the action and each has three aspects.
ज्ञानं कर्म च कर्ता च त्रिधैव गुणभेदतः ।
प्रोच्यते गुणसंख्याने यथावच्छृणु तान्यपि ॥१८- १९॥
j˝ānaṁ karma ca kartā ca tridhaiva guṇabhedataḥ
Knowledge, action and the agent are said, in the science of modes, to be of three kinds only, according to difference in the modes. Hear thou duly of these also.
The Sāṁkhya system is referred to and it is authoritative in some matters though not in regard to the highest truth.
Three Kinds of Knowledge
सर्वभूतेषु येनैकं भावमव्ययमीक्षते ।
अविभक्तं विभक्तेषु तज्ज्ञानं विद्धि सात्त्विकम् ॥१८- २०॥
sarvabhūteṣu yenaikaṁ bhāvam
sarvabhūteṣu1 yena2 ekam3 bhāvam4 avyayam5 īkṣate6
īkṣate6 = One sees; sarvabhūteṣu1 = all beings; [in] ekam3 = One; avyayam5 = imperishable; bhāvam4 = Being; yena2 = by which; [that Being remains] avibhaktam7 = undivided; vibhakteṣu8 = in the divided; viddhi11 = know; tat9 = that; j˝ānam10 = knowledge; [is] sāttvikam12 = goodness.18.20
18.20. The knowledge by which the one Imperishable Being is seen in all existences, undivided in the divided, know that that knowledge is of "goodness."
पृथक्त्वेन तु यज्ज्ञानं नानाभावान्पृथग्विधान् ।
वेत्ति सर्वेषु भूतेषु तज्ज्ञानं विद्धि राजसम् ॥१८- २१॥
pṛthaktvena tu yaj j˝ānaṁ
tu2 = But; j˝ānam4 = knowledge; yat3 = which; vetti7 = knows or sees; sarveṣu8 = among all; bhūteṣu9 = beings; pṛthaktvena1 = because of separateness or individuality; nānā-bhāvān5 = distinct nature; [and] pṛthagvidhān6 = diverse condition; viddhi12 = know; tat10 = that; j˝ānam11 = knowledge; [comes] rājasam13 = from Rajas.18.21 Rajas: The principle of motion, activity and disharmony constituent of Prakrti.
(18.21) The knowledge which sees multiplicity of beings in the different creatures, by reason of their separateness, know that that knowledge is of the nature of "passion.''
यत्तु कृत्स्नवदेकस्मिन्कार्ये सक्तमहैतुकम् ।
अतत्त्वार्थवदल्पं च तत्तामसमुदाहृतम् ॥१८- २२॥
yat tu kṛtsnavad ekasmin kārye saktam ahetukam
tu2 = But; tat11 = that; udāhṛtam13 = is said to be; tāmasam12 = of the nature of Tamas; yat1 = which is; saktam6 = clinging/attached; ekasmin4 = to one; kārye5 = act; kṛtsnavat3 = as if it were the whole; ahaitukam7 = without regard to the cause; ca10 = and; a-tattva-artha-vat8 = without regard to knowledge of the Reality or Truth; [and therefore] alpam9 = is frivolous. 18.22
(18.22) But that which clings to one single effect as if it were the whole, without concern for the cause, without grasping the real, and narrow is declared to be of the nature of á''dullness.''
नियतं सङ्गरहितमरागद्वेषतः कृतम् ।
अफलप्रेप्सुना कर्म यत्तत्सात्त्विकमुच्यते ॥१८- २३॥
niyataṁ saṅgarahitam arāgadveṣataḥ kṛtam
tat8 = That; karma6 = action; yat7 = which; kṛtam4= is performed; [as] niyatam1 = obligation; saṅga-rahitam2 = free from attachment; arāga-dveṣataḥ3 = without love or hatred; aphala-prepsunā5 = by one without attachment to fruits; ucyate10 = is called; sāttvikam9 = Sattva.18.23 Sattva = goodness.
(18.23) An action which is obligatory, which is performed without attachment, without love or hate by one undesirous of fruit, that is said to be of "goodness."
यत्तु कामेप्सुना कर्म साहंकारेण वा पुनः ।
क्रियते बहुलायासं तद्राजसमुदाहृतम् ॥१८- २४॥
yat tu kāmepsunā karma sāhaṁkāreṇa
tu2 = But; karma4 = action; yat1 = which; kriyate8 = is done; kāmepsunā3 = by one attached to fruits; [and] sa-ahaṅkāreṇa5 = an egoistic person; vā6 = or; punaḥ7 = again; bahula-āyāsam9 = with extraordinary effort; tat10 = that; udāhṛtam12 = is declared to be; rājasam11 = imbued with Rajas. 18.24
(18.24) But that action which is done in great strain by one who seeks to gratify his desires or is impelled by self-sense, is said to be of the nature of "passion."
bahulāyāsam: with great strain. The consciousness of suffering, the sense that we are doing something disagreeable, that we are passing through grim suffering and toil takes away from the value of the act. To feel consciously that we are doing something great, that we are sacrificing something vital is a failure of the sacrifice itself. But when the work is undertaken for the cause, it is a labor of love and sacrifice itself is not felt as a sacrifice. Doing unpleasant things from a sense of duty, feeling the unpleasantness all the time is of the nature of "passion," but doing it gladly in utter unself-consciousş ness, with a smile on the lips, as Socrates drank hemlock, is of the nature of "goodness." It is the difference between an act of love and an act of law, an act of grace and an act of obligation.
अनुबन्धं क्षयं हिंसामनवेक्ष्य च पौरुषम् ।
मोहादारभ्यते कर्म यत्तत्तामसमुच्यते ॥१८- २५॥
anubandhaṁ kṣayaṁ hiṁsām anapekṣya ca
anapekṣya4 ca5 pauruṣam6
tat11 =That; karma9 = work; yat10 = which; ārabhyate8 = is undertaken; mohāt7 = with delusion; anapekṣya4 = without regard to; anubandham1 = bondage/consequence; kṣayam2 = loss; hiṁsām3 = injury; ca5 = and; pauruṣam6= capability; ucyate13 = is regarded; tāmasam12 = Tamas.18.25
(18.25) The action which is undertaken through ignorance, without regard to consequences or to loss and injury and without regard to one's human capacity, that is said to be ofá ''dullness. "
The effects of actions on others must always be considered; only selfish aims are to be renounced.
Three Kinds of Doer
मुक्तसङ्गोऽनहंवादी धृत्युत्साहसमन्वितः ।
सिद्ध्यसिद्ध्योर्निर्विकारः कर्ता सात्त्विक उच्यते ॥१८- २६॥
kartā6 = The doer/agent; [who] muktasaṅgaḥ1 = is liberated from attachment; anahaṁvādī2 = is not egoistic in speech; dhṛti-yutsāha-samanvitaḥ3 = is endowed with determination and enthusiasm; [and] nirvikāraḥ5 = is unaffected by; siddhi-asiddhyoḥ4 = success and failure; ucyate8 = is said to be; sāttvika7 = imbued with Sattva. 18.26
(18..26) The doer who is free from attachment, who has no speech of egotism, full of resolution and zeal and who is unmoved by success or failure-he is said to be of the nature of "goodness."
रागी कर्मफलप्रेप्सुर्लुब्धो हिंसात्मकोऽशुचिः ।
हर्षशोकान्वितः कर्ता राजसः परिकीर्तितः ॥१८- २७॥
rāgī karmaphalaprepsur lubdho hiṁsātmakośuciḥ
kartā7 =The doer/agent; rāgī1 = who is attached; karma-phala-prepsuḥ2 = who desires for fruits of actions; [is] lubdhaḥ3 = greedy; hiṁsa-ātmakaḥ4 = injurious by nature; aśuciḥ5 = impure/unclean; [and] harṣa-śoka-anvitaḥ6 = who is subject to joy and sorrow; parikīrtitaḥ9 = is proclaimed to be; rājasaḥ8 = imbued with Rajas .18.27 Rajas = motion and passion.
(18.27) The doer who is swayed by passion, who eagerly seeks the fruit of his works, who is greedy, of harmful nature, impure, who is moved by joy and sorrow-he is said to be of "passionate" nature.
अयुक्तः प्राकृतः स्तब्धः शठो नैष्कृतिकोऽलसः ।
विषादी दीर्घसूत्री च कर्ता तामस उच्यते ॥१८- २८॥
ayuktaḥ prākṛtaḥ stabdhaḥ śaṭhao
kartā10 = Doer/agent; [who] ayuktaḥ1 = is unbalanced; prākṛtaḥ2 = uncultivated; stabdhaḥ3 = stubborn; śaṭhaḥ4 = deceitful; naiṣkṛtikaḥ5 = usurping; alasaḥ6 = lazy; viṣādī7 = despondent; ca9 = and; dīrghasūtrī8 = procrastinating; ucyate12 = is said to be; tāmasa11 = imbued with Tamas.18.28
(18.28) The doer who is unbalanced, vulgar, obstinate, deceitful, malicious, indolent, despondent and procrastinating he is said to be of the nature of ''dullness."
prākṛtaḥ,: "quite uncultured in intellect and like a child." Saṁkara.
बुद्धेर्भेदं धृतेश्चैव गुणतस्त्रिविधं शृणु ।
प्रोच्यमानमशेषेण पृथक्त्वेन धनंजय ॥१८- २९॥
buddher bhedaṁ dhṛteś caiva guṇatas trividhaṁ
ca4 eva5 guṇataḥ6
śṛṇu8= Hear; trividham7 = the three kinds; [of] bhedam2 = differences; buddheḥ1 = of intellect; ca4 = and; dhṛteḥ3 = of steadiness; eva5 = indeed; guṇataḥ6 = according to the Gunas; procyamānam9 = that being said; aśeṣeṇa10 = fully; [and] pṛthaktvena11 = severally; dhana˝jaya12 = O Dhananjaya. 18.29
(18.29) Hear now the threefold distinction of understanding as also of steadiness, O winner of wealth (Arjuna), according to the modes, to be set forth fully and separately.
प्रवृत्तिं च निवृत्तिं च कार्याकार्ये भयाभये ।
बन्धं मोक्षं च या वेत्ति बुद्धिः सा पार्थ सात्त्विकी ॥१८- ३०॥
pravṛttiṁ ca nivṛttiṁ ca
buddhiḥ12 = Intellect;yā10 = by which;[ one] vetti11 = knows; pravṛttim1 = Pravrrti Marga; ca2 = and; nivṛttim3 = Nivrrti Marga; ca4 = and; kārya-ākārye5 = duty and unduteousness; bhaya-abhaye6 = fear and fearlessness; bandham7 = bondage; ca9 = and; mokṣam8 = liberation: sā13 = that [Buddhi]; pārtha14 = O Pārtha ; sāttvikī15 = is imbued with Sattva.18.30. Sattva = virtue and goodness. kārya-ākārye5 = right action and wrong action; 'enjoined and prohibited action'. (Sankara). pravṛttim1 = Path of worldly action; nivṛttim3 = Path of spirituality or renunciation, the path that leads through unfolding back to the spiritual worlds; often called the path of light or luminous arc. (Theosophical dictionary).
(18.30) The understanding which knows action and non-action, what ought to be done and what ought not to be done, what is to be feared and what is not to be feared, what binds and what frees the soul (that understanding), O Pārthaá (Arjuna), is of the nature of "goodness."
यया धर्ममधर्मं च कार्यं चाकार्यमेव च ।
अयथावत्प्रजानाति बुद्धिः सा पार्थ राजसी ॥१८- ३१॥
yayā dharmam adharmaṁ ca kāryaṁ cākāryam
dharmam2 adharmam3 ca4 kāryam5
ca6 akāryam6 eva7
buddhiḥ11 = Intellect; yayā1 = by which; prajānāti10 = it knows; ayathāvat9 = imperfectly/wrongly; dharmam2 = virtue; ca4 = and; adharmam3 = vice; ca6 = and; kāryam5 = permitted action; eva7 ca8 = as also; akāryam6 = prohibited action: sā12 = that [intellect]; pārtha13 = O Pārtha ; rājasī14 = is imbued with Rajas.18.31 Rajas = passion and motion.
(18.3I) That by which one knows in a mistaken way the right and the wrong, what ought to be done and what ought not to be doneŚthat understanding, O Pārthaá (Arjuna), is of the nature of "passion."
अधर्मं धर्ममिति या मन्यते तमसावृता ।
सर्वार्थान्विपरीतांश्च बुद्धिः सा पार्थ तामसी ॥१८- ३२॥
adharmaṁ dharmam iti yā manyate tamasāvṛtā
dharmam2 iti3 yā4 manyate5 tamasā6
buddhiḥ11 = Intellect; yā4 = which; manyate5 = thinks; adharmam1 = vice; iti3 = thus; [as] dharmam2 = virtue; āvṛtā7 = is covered; tamasā6 = by darkness or ignorance; ca10 = and; [sees] sarva-arthān8 = all objects; viparītā˝9 = contrary [to truth]: sā12 = that [intellect]; pārtha13 = O Pārtha ; tāmasī14 = is imbued with Tamas.18.32
(18.32) That which, enveloped in darkness, conceives as right what is wrong and sees all things in a perverted way (contrary to the truth), that understanding, O Pārthaá (Arjuna), is of the nature of "dullness."
Three Kinds of Steadiness
धृत्या यया धारयते मनःप्राणेन्द्रियक्रियाः ।
योगेनाव्यभिचारिण्या धृतिः सा पार्थ सात्त्विकी ॥१८- ३३॥
dhṛtyā yayā dhārayate manaḥprāṇendriyakriyāḥ
avyabhicāriṇyā9 = Unswerving, unfailing; dhṛtyā1 = determination; yayā2 = by which; dhārayate3 = one controls; manaḥ4 prāṇa5 indriya6 kriyāḥ7 = actions7 of mind4, breath5 and sense organs6; yogena8 = by Yoga: sā11 = that; dhṛtiḥ10 = firmness/steadiness of attention; pārtha12 = O Pārtha ; sāttvikī13 = is imbued with Sattva.18.33
(18.33) The unwavering steadiness by which, through concentration, one controls the activities of the mind, the life breaths and the senses, that, O Pārthaá (Arjuna), is of the nature of "goodness."
dhṛtiḥ,: steadiness of attention which makes us aware of much that our ordinary vision is not able to observe. Its power is proportional to our detachment from regrets over the past and anxieties for the future.
यया तु धर्मकामार्थान्धृत्या धारयतेऽर्जुन ।
प्रसङ्गेन फलाकाङ्क्षी धृतिः सा पार्थ राजसी ॥१८- ३४॥
yayā tu dharmakāmārthān dhṛtyā
arjuna6 = O Arjuna; tu2 = but; dhṛtyā4 = determination; yayā1 = by which; [one] dhārayate5 = holds fast; dharma-kāma-arthān3 = duty, desire and wealth; prasaṅgena7 = with attachment; phala-ākāṅkṣī8 = desirous of fruits:; sā10 = that; dhṛtiḥ9 = determination; pārtha11 = O Pārtha; rājasī12 = is imbued with Rajas.18.34
(18.34) The steadiness by which one holds fast to duty, pleasure, and wealth desiring the fruit in consequence thereof-that, O Pārtha (Arjuna), is of the nature of "passion."
यया स्वप्नं भयं शोकं विषादं मदमेव च ।
न विमुञ्चति दुर्मेधा धृतिः सा पार्थ तामसी ॥१८- ३५॥
yayā svapnaṁ bhayaṁ śokaṁ viṣādaṁ
madam eva ca
svapnam2 bhayam3 śokam4
viṣādam5 madam7 eva8 ca9
dhṛtiḥ13 = Determination; yayā1 = by which; durmedhā12 = a fool; na10 = never; vimu˝cati11 = gives up; svapnam2 = dream; bhayam3 = fear; śokam4 = grief; viṣādam5 = despondence; ca9= and; madam7 = conceit: eva8 = indeed; sā14 = that [determination]; pārtha15 = O partha; tāmasī16 = is imbued with Tamas.18.35
(18.35) That steadiness by which a fool does not give up sleep, fear, grief, depression and arrogance, that, O Partha (Arjuna), is of the nature of dullness.
सुखं त्विदानीं त्रिविधं शृणु मे भरतर्षभ ।
अभ्यासाद्रमते यत्र दुःखान्तं च निगच्छति ॥१८- ३६॥
sukhaṁ tv idānīṁ trividhaṁ śṛṇu
tu2 = But; idānīm3 = now; śṛṇu5 = hear; me6 = from Me; bharatarṣabha7
= O the Best of Bharatas; sukham1 = happiness; [is of] trividham4 = three kinds; yatra10 = which; ramate9 = one enjoys; abhyāsāt8 = by practice;
ca12 = and; nigacchhati13 = attains; duḥkhāntam11 = end of suffering. 18.36
(18.36) And now hear from Me, O Best of the Bharatas (Arjuna), the three kinds of happiness, That in which a man comes to rejoice by long practice and in which he reaches the end of his sorrow.
यत्तदग्रे विषमिव परिणामेऽमृतोपमम् ।
तत्सुखं सात्त्विकं प्रोक्तमात्मबुद्धिप्रसादजम् ॥१८- ३७॥
yat tadagre viṣam iva pariṇāmemṛtopamam
tat2 = That; sukham10 = happiness; yat1 = which; [is] iva5 = like; viṣam4 = poison; agre3 = at the outset; [and] pariṇāme6 = at the end; upamam8
= comparable to; amṛta7 = nectar: tat9 = that [happiness];
sāttvikam11 = imbued with
Sattva; proktam12 = is said; ātma-buddhi-prasādajam13 = to arise from the Grace of the intellect of the Self. 18.37
(18.37) That happiness which is like poison at first and like nectar at the end, which springs from a clear understanding of the Self is said to be of the nature of "goodness."
परिणामे विषमिव तत्सुखं राजसं स्मृतम् ॥१८- ३८॥
viṣayendriyasa˝yogād yat tad agremṛtopamam
tat5 = That; sukham12 = happiness; yat4 = which; [arises from] viṣaya1 indriya2 saṁyogāt3 = contact3 between sense organs2 and objects of the senses1; [is] amṛtopamam7 = like ambrosia; agre6 = at the outset; [and] iva10 = like; viṣam9 = poison; pariṇāme8 = at the end: tat11 = that [happiness]; smṛtam14 = is said to be; rājasam13 = imbued with Rajas.18.38
(18.38) That happiness which arises from the contact of the senses and their objects and which is like nectar at first but like poison at the end-such happiness is recorded to be ''passionate. "
यदग्रे चानुबन्धे च सुखं मोहनमात्मनः ।
निद्रालस्यप्रमादोत्थं तत्तामसमुदाहृतम् ॥१८- ३९॥
yad agre cānubandhe ca sukhaṁ mohanam ātmanaḥ
tat13 = That; sukham6 = happiness; yat1 = which; [is] mohanam7 = delusive; ātmanaḥ8 = of the self; agre2 = in the beginning; ca3 = and; anubandhe4 = at the end; [which] uttham12 = rises; [from] nidrā9 = sleep; ālasya10 = laziness; ca5 = and; pramāda11 = negligence; udāhṛtam15 = is declared to be; tāmasam14 = imbued with Tamas.18.39
(18.39) That happiness which deludes the soul both at the beginning and at the end and which arises from sleep, sloth and negligenceŚthat is declared to be of the nature of ''dullness."
Happiness is the universal aim of life. Only it is of different kinds according to the modes which dominate our nature. If the tamas predominates in us, we are satisfied with violence and inertia, blindness and error. If rajas prevails, wealth and power, pride and glory give us happiness. True happiness of human beings lies not in the possession of outward things but in the fulfilment of the higher mind and spirit, in the development of what is most inward in us. It may mean pain and restraint but it will lead us to joy and freedom. We caná pass from the happiness of knowledge and virtue to the eternal calm and joy, ānanda of the spirit, when we become one with the Highest Self and one with all beings.
न तदस्ति पृथिव्यां वा दिवि देवेषु वा पुनः ।
सत्त्वं प्रकृतिजैर्मुक्तं यदेभिः स्यात्त्रिभिर्गुणैः ॥१८- ४०॥
na tad asti pṛthivyāṁ vā divi deveṣu vā
asti3 = There is; na1 = no; tat2 = such; sattvam10 = being or entity; pṛthivyām4 = on earth; vā5 = or; divi6 = in heaven; vā8 = or; punaḥ9 = again; deveṣu7 = among the gods; yat13 = who/which; syāt15 = is/can be; muktam12 = free; ebhiḥ14 = from these; tribhiḥ16 = three; guṇaiḥ17 = Gunas; prakṛti-jaiḥ11 = born of Nature.18.40
(18.40) There is no creature either on earth or again among the gods in heaven, which is free from the three modes born of nature.
ब्राह्मणक्षत्रियविशां शूद्राणां च परन्तप ।
कर्माणि प्रविभक्तानि स्वभावप्रभवैर्गुणैः ॥१८- ४१॥
śūdrāṇāṁ ca paraṁtapa
karmāṇi3 pravibhaktāni4 svabhāva-prabhavaiḥ5 guṇaiḥ6 18.41
= O Parantapa; brāhmaṇa1A-kṣatriya1B-viśām1C-ca1D-śūdrāṇām1E
= of the Brahmanas1A, Ksatriyas1B, Vaisyas1C, and1D Sudras1E: karmāṇi3 = their activities; pravibhaktāni4 = are separated/distinguished;
[according to] guṇaiḥ6 = Gunas; svabhāva-prabhavaiḥ5 = born of their own inherent disposition.18.41
(18.4I) Of Brahmins, of Kṣatriyas, and Vaiśyas as also of Śūdras, O Conqueror of the foe (Arjuna), the activities are distinguished, in accordance with the qualities born of their nature.
The fourfold order is not peculiar to Hindu society. It is of universal application. The classification depends on types of human nature. Each of the four classes has certain well-defined characteristics though they are not to be regarded as exclusive. These are not determined always by heredity. The Gītā cannot be used to support the existing social order with its rigidity and confusion. It takes up the theory of the four orders and enlarges its scope and meaning. Man's outward life must express his inward being; the surface must reflect the profundity. Each individual has his inborn nature, svabhāva, and to make it effective in his life is his duty, svadharma. Each individual is a focus of the Supreme, a fragment of the Divine. His destiny is to bring out in his life this divine possibility. The one Spirit of the universe has produced the multiplicity of souls in the world, but the idea of the Divine is our essential nature, the truth of our being, our svabhāva, and not the apparatus of the guṇas, which is only the medium for expression. If each individual does what is appropriate to him, if he follows the law of his being, his svadharma, then God would express Himself in the free volitions of human beings. All that is essential for the world will be done without a conflict. But men rarely do what they ought to do. When they undertake to determine events believing that they know the plan of the whole, they work mischief on earth. So long as our work is done in accordance with our nature, we are righteous, and if we dedicate it to God, our work becomes a means of spiritual perfection. When the divine in the individual is completely manifested, he attains the eternal imperishable status, śāsvataṁ padam avyayam.1 The problem that human life sets to us is to discover our true self and live according to its truth; otherwise we would sin against our nature. The emphasis on svabhāva indicates that human beings are to be treated as individuals and not as types. Arjuna is told that he who fights gallantly as a warrior becomes mature for the peace of wisdom.
There are four broad types of nature and answering to them are four kinds of social living. The four classes are not determined by birth or colour but by psychological characteristics which fit us for definite functions in society.
I XVIII, 56.
शमो दमस्तपः शौचं क्षान्तिरार्जवमेव च ।
ज्ञानं विज्ञानमास्तिक्यं ब्रह्मकर्म स्वभावजम् ॥१८- ४२॥
śamao damas tapaḥ śaucaṁ kṣāntir
ārjavam eva ca
śamaḥ1 damaḥ2 tapaḥ3 śaucam4 kṣāntiḥ5 ārjavam6 j˝ānam9 vij˝ānam10 ca8 eva7 āstikyam11 = Tranquility1, self-control2, austerity3, purity4, patience5, honesty6, knowledge9, wisdom10, and8 indeed7 belief in God11; [are] brahma-karma12 = duty of Brahmana; svabhāvajam13 = born of his innate disposition. 18.42
(18.42) Serenity, self-control, austerity, purity, forbearance and uprightness, wisdom, knowledge and faith in religion, these are the duties of the Brahmin, born of his nature.
Those who belong to the order of Brahminhood are expected to possess mental and moral qualities. Cp, Dhammapada, 393: "Not by matted hair, nor by lineage, nor by birth is one a Brahmin. He is a Brahmin in whom there are truth and righteousness." Power corrupts and blinds insight. Uncontrolled power is fatal to mental poise. So the Brahmins eschew direct power and exercise a general control through persuasion and love and save the wielders of power from going astray.
शौर्यं तेजो धृतिर्दाक्ष्यं युद्धे चाप्यपलायनम् ।
दानमीश्वरभावश्च क्षात्रं कर्म स्वभावजम् ॥१८- ४३॥
śauryaṁ tejo dhṛtir dākṣyaṁ yuddhe cāpy
śauryaṁ tejo dhṛtir dākṣyaṁ yuddhe
śauryam1 = Heroism; tejaḥ2 = boldness; dhṛtiḥ3 = determination; dākṣyam4 = skill; ca6 = and; api7 = also; apalāyanam8 = not running away; yuddhe5 = from battle; dānam9 = generosity; ca11 = and; īśvarabhāvaḥ10 = lordliness; [are] karma13 = the duty; kṣātram12 = of a Ksatriya; svabhāvajam14 = born of his inherent disposition.18.43
(18.43) Heroism, vigour, steadiness, resourcefulness, not fleeing even in a battle, generosity and leadership, these are the duties of a Kṣatriya born of his nature.
Though the Kṣatriyas cannot claim to be spiritual leaders, they have the qualities which enable them to adapt spiritual truths to the requirements of action.
कृषिगौरक्ष्यवाणिज्यं वैश्यकर्म स्वभावजम् ।
परिचर्यात्मकं कर्म शूद्रस्यापि स्वभावजम् ॥१८- ४४॥
kṛṣi-gaurakṣya-vāṇijyam1 = Cultivation, cow protection, and trade; vaiśya-karma2 = duties of Vaisya; [are] svabhāvajam3 = born of his own nature; paricaryātmakam4 = the nature of service; [and] karma5 = duty; śūdrasya6 = of the Sudra; api7 = also; [are] svabhāva-jam8 = born of his own inherent disposition. 18.44